As expected, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains the clear Republican frontrunner after five more GOP primary victories in Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Texas Representative Ron Paul, however, continues to improve upon his 2008 election bid, pushing his total delegate count (which stood at 72 prior to Tuesday’s primaries) well past the 40 Republican delegates he won in his 2008 presidential bid.
Even while Romney inches closer to achieving the total number of delegates he needs to win the Republican nomination, Paul’s prominence in the primaries thus far has accentuated the ideological differences between the two candidates. Paul’s success in 2012 demonstrates the growing appeal of truly limited government and devotion to the protection of individual rights, which distinguish Paul’s libertarianism from Romney’s more traditional Republican conservatism.
For starters, Paul decried the cost in lives and dollars of an “undeclared, unnecessary war” in Iraq, and has supported a U.S. withdrawal from a war in Afghanistan that has taken the lives of over 1,900 American soldiers , 3,021 Afghan civilians in 2011 alone, and cost the U.S. hundreds of billions . Romney, on the other hand, has criticized the Obama administration’s plan to draw down the amount of American troops committed to this war in Afghanistan that is adding to the U.S. debt and destroying its reputation abroad.
The candidates’ differences on the drug war also highlight Paul’s commitment to limited government and fiscal responsibility. Paul opposes anti-drug policies that cost government over $40 billion annually and fill prisons with millions of drug offenders, to the point that over half of federal inmates are in prison due to drug crimes. Romney refuses to acknowledge the fiscal and social problems inherent in America’s drug war policies, and continues to support a war on drugs waged by law enforcement.
In a 2008 debate, Romney proclaimed that government’s role in policing political dissidents in the U.S. trumps civil liberties.
“I hear, from time to time, people say -- ‘Hey, we have civil liberties we have to worry about,’—but don’t forget, the most important civil liberty I expect from my government is the right to be kept alive.”
Romney implies that individual liberties ought to be sacrificed for government protection from national security concerns. Paul, on the other hand, has made no such exception, and has steadfastly fought for the civil liberties that protect individuals, including unpopular political minorities, from the powers of government. Paul was one of three Republicans to vote against the PATRIOT Act and its expansion of government surveillance powers, such as Section 206 that allows police to use “roving wiretaps” for surveillance without specifying what person or place is to be searched. No doubt the laws were made in response to a crisis, but Paul never failed to warn that rights are “more easily trampled” in such crises when government makes promises that “initially seem to exceed the cost in lost freedom,” and he was one of very few who stood up for individual liberties threatened by America’s War on Terror.
It seems the difference in delegates between Paul and Romney represents an even bigger difference in governing philosophy, at least if their previous stances on foreign policy, morality, and national security issues are any indication.
If Romney wins the nomination, as it looks like he will, Republicans will have a candidate that supports more government, not less. The good news for Paul supporters, and for Americans that find promoting liberty and limited government to be a worthwhile pursuit, is that more people have recognized and supported Paul’s candidacy in 2012.