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Ron Paul is not a breath of fresh air in the Republican Party. He’s not a speaker of truth to power. He’s not the heir to Reagan or the face of conservatism for the next generation.

Ron Paul can’t win the Republican primary and certainly can’t win the presidency. More importantly, he shouldn’t win. He is not a conservative and his style and his supporters make him a particularly bad candidate to set the terms of the future GOP debate.

In debate, Paul and his partisans have become shrill. Paul is fond of proclaiming with exasperated insistence that he is the only true conservative in the race. As a general rule, conservatives who are unlikely to win a race don’t say this about their competition.

Paul’s views on foreign policy are another significant point of departure from conservatism as it is traditionally understood. While not every conservative comes to the same conclusions on foreign policy, conservatives have generally assumed good intentions and a fundamentally positive role for America in the world. Paul has made it clear that he does not believe this to be true. Paul’s views on foreign policy are well to the left of President Barack Obama’s and he is at odds with what the base of his party believes about America’s role in the world.

Paul’s annoying insistence that liberty is “what he says it is” has become more grating as the election season wears on. His premise — that liberty is all and protecting it is all the government should do — is thin. Traditional conservatism balances liberty with virtue and understands that removing all restraint from society leads to more than freedom.

Paul’s many deviations from conservative principles are only part of the reason he needs to go away. More significantly, his willingness to entertain the worst instincts and wildest conspiracies of his fans make him a continued embarrassment on the national stage.

From newsletters penned by a “ghostwriter” to indulging nutty conspiracy theories on trade and 9/11, Paul has never exhibited the character or dignity required of a national leader.

If the future of the conservative movement belongs to Paul, then the future belongs to his fans. This, if nothing else, should give conservatives pause.

He’s an incoherent, imprecise candidate attended by a loud chorus of the young, arrogant and misinformed. In a weak field of candidates and in a party that is still struggling to decide how it will be relevant to the next generation, this has been enough to make him a remarkably potent political figure for the last two presidential elections.

But enough is enough. Ron Paul can’t be the standard bearer for the Republican Party. Every strong finish in a GOP primary, like Tuesday’s second-place finish in New Hampshire, is a testament to the continuing weakness of the modern GOP.


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