Ask any blogger, politician or journalist. The minute one raises any questions about Ron Paul's ideas keyboards start clicking as if on auto-start and disagreement rains down like arrows in Braveheart. On the other hand, if you speak highly of Dr. Paul, any number of his fan sites will spread your words far and wide.
So in order to set this discussion in proper perspective for his millions of excitable fans let me first say that I assign no negatives to any of the questions I am about to raise. It's just that considering the facts, I think it is a legitimate question to ask whether the Ron Paul movement is a John Birch movement by another name.
For some of the younger readers out there the "John Birch Society" might not be a familiar group. I could spend pages describing them but think it would be better if they educated themselves. Remember the brilliant slogan "Google Ron Paul"? Well, "Google John Birch Society", and I think you will find plenty of information. But here's a thumbnail sketch.
The John Birch Society was founded in Indianapolis in 1958 by Robert Welch. He named the group after John Birch, a Baptist missionary and Army Intelligence Officer who was killed by the Communist Chinese in 1945. One of the founding members was Fred Koch. You might have heard of the Koch Brothers. They are the current heirs of the industry founded by Fred Koch.
Here is what the John Birch Society stands for. They are anti-communist, oppose the Federal Reserve, advocate for a limited government, advocate for an originalist Constitutional Republic based upon Christian values, argue for more personal freedom, oppose the UN and believe that it could be the nucleus of a "One World Government". They oppose wealth re-distribution, economic interventionism and opposed the Civil Rights movement because of alleged Communist ties and upon grounds that it violated the 10th amendment. The group opposes socialism and NAFTA.
While the John Birch Society has been labeled by its detractors as "ultraconservative", "far right", "extremist" its leaders have said that the John Birch Society belongs to the "Old Right" rather than the "New Right".
The "New Right" is called by many Birchers "Neoconservatism". They label those like George Bush, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as "neo-cons".
Neoconservatism is phrase which, though rooted in a group of former liberals, combines features of traditional "conservatism" with individualism and free markets. During the administration of George W. Bush, the term found wider use and the "Bush Doctrine" was added to its definition.
The phrase "Bush Doctrine" was originally used by Charles Krauthammer to describe various foreign policy positions adopted by then president George W. Bush, namely that the US had the right to secure itself against countries that harbor or give aid to terrorists. Later other pundits added to the definition such things as the controversial belief that the USA had the right to launch "pre-emptive" war which included the right to depose foreign regimes that represented a potential threat the the security of the United States even if the threat was not immediate, including a policy of unilaterally pursuing military interests. The largest umbrella under which the "Bush Doctrine" can be found is the belief that the United States is locked in a "global war" against terrorism.
In addition to its non-intervention views in opposition to the "Bush Doctrine" and the "neo-cons" who support it, in modern times the John Birch Society has taken a very strong stand against the Federal Reserve and has argued that the Federal Government has overstepped its authority by creating "fiat money", that is paper money not backed by gold or silver.
In 2010 the John Birch Society emerged from a long period of quiet behind the scenes work to sponsor the CPAC convention. At that convention, you will recall, Ron Paul won big.
As we listen to Ron Paul's views on some of the topics mentioned above, it would appear that his thinking is very much in line with that of the John Birch Society. Yet he is often more closely identified with the libertarian movement. Some might question if there is any daylight between the modern day libertarian movement and the John Birch Society, but that would be a distraction. Regardless whether people label Ron Paul a libertarian or not, he clearly has a close relationship with the John Birch Society.
To many who consider themselves establishment republicans "Birchers" are considered too far right. They have often been called the "black helicopter" bunch. For those republicans who do not understand them fully, they appear to be a dangerous group of potentially racist, anti-semitic, neo-nazi Klan members. Do any of these attacks sound familiar in the context of things being said about Ron Paul?
So the question isn't really whether the John Birch Society can gain any respect in the modern world of politics, the question is whether Ron Paul is able to enhance its respectability with his candidacy for president, or whether his connection with a group which does not enjoy much in the way of a favorable public image will drag down his chances.
Recently I questioned Ron Paul's positions regarding Iran. I only published a few of the many comments I received because though listed as having been from a number of different people, many of them were nearly identical. I said that Ron Paul was a pacifist and was quickly taken to task.
As they argued against my position, Paul supporters drew a distinction between pacifism and non-interventionism coupled with the need for a constitutionally required mandate that no armed action can take place without a congressional declaration of war. Of course those things don't directly address whether Ron Paul is a pacifist or not. What they address instead, but only obliquely, is whether the War Powers Act which limits the President's ability to take military action is or is not constitutional.
I was supplied with a very scholarly article which made the case for why we should not even consider any armed conflict with Iran, war powers act or not. In a nutshell the article made the point that Iran poses no real threat to us. (Read article here) That article is what got me interested in writing this column today. You see, that article which was sent to me was published in The New American, a product of the John Birch Society.
Might many of the ideas, principles and logic of the John Birch Society make sense in today's world? That is up to you to decide. In fact, ignoring for a minute the irritating nature of their intransigence, aren't many of the arguments of the John Birch Society the same ones being advocated by some in the TEA party? Don't those arguments track pretty closely to what Ron Paul says? And might not this adoption of ideals by the TEA party explain why it too has been painted in some quarters as racist?
I would encourage you to educate yourself. I for one still believe that you have the right to believe whatever you want.
So after you have explored these topics on your own, I'd appreciate your comment in answer to the question posed in the title to this article. Is there any daylight between Ron Paul and the John Birch Society?
It might be a bit of a snowy weekend here in the midwest and a good time to look at some of the links I put into the article above, as well as finding some more on your own.
Let me hear from you. I really am interested in what you have to say.