If the feisty Libertarian, who now leads in Iowa, should win the nomination, all of us who have qualms about 21st century government will be put to a test.
With Congress tied in knots and a narrowly divided Supreme Court, we have had a sneak preview of what may be coming—-total loss of faith in a flawed system that has more or less worked for centuries and, in an election between Barack Obama and Ron Paul, the choice of a continuing struggle to repair it or dismantle it completely and start over.
The positive outcome of Republican debates has been to weed out a series of frontrunners with little to offer beyond personal ambition and narrow the contest to Mitt Romney, the Zelig-like chameleon, and Paul, whose position on every issue is strong and predictable. Unless Jeb Bush makes a last-minute entry, that is the GOP choice.
In head-to-head confrontation, Romney will no doubt attack Paul as “zany,” but some Independents and flexible Democrats may be drawn to his foreign-policy stance against endless wars as opposed to other GOP aspirants who want to annihilate Iran, confront Pakistan and get into a trade war with China.
For a party that has veered from Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann to Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, Paul has the virtues of being consistent and scandal-free.
For a nation that is reeling from a sick economy and Washington gridlock, however, he would raise a different question: Are we better off with a vacant White House than we are now?
The closest we have come to that was clueless Jimmy Carter, elected by voters after disgust over Watergate, and we know how that worked out. Paul is far from clueless, but some of his certainties would put our current unhappiness with American governance to the severest test.