For all of my adult life, I’ve had the luxury of enjoying a relatively unified Republican party. The closest I’ve come to seeing intra-party struggles was in the early 1990s, and that period of soul-searching was quickly replaced by the euphoria of 1994.
But today I know what it was like to be Republican in the 1960s and 1970s. The pieces of the Republican coalition are looking like a loose coalition rather than the unified juggernaut it has been for most of the last twenty-five years. Social conservatives are feuding with fiscal conservatives. Neocons feuding with paleocons.
And then there is the Ron Paul insurgency. The quirky libertarian Republican (or perhaps Libertarian republican) has succeeded in doing something that no Republican has managed to pull off before: Use the internet to transform a long-shot insurgent campaign into a legitimate second-tier candidacy. Any doubts about the strength of Paul’s online presence should be put to rest by the report that he raised about $5 million in the third quarter, roughly on par with Republican John McCain and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on the Democratic side.
As a Republican with some libertarian leanings and with a tutelage in foreign policy realism, I was intrigued by Dr. Paul’s campaign. But the deeper I dug, the more I realized that Dr. Paul is not just a libertarian-leaning Republican. His online activism brings back bad memories of what the internet was like in the 1990s, when it was the home to conspiracy theories that wouldn’t get even a first look in the political realm. In short, he’s a modern remnant of the John Birch Society, complete with ongoing conspiracy theories about the imminent demise of American sovereignty at the hands of shadowy international organizations.
Witness Paul’s obsession with the “North American Union.” The idea behind this theory is that the “Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP),” a dialogue between the United States, Mexico and Canada to address trade concerns, lays the foundation for the unification of the three countries. Why Canadians would want to join up with an America that they are none too fond of, and why either country would want to carry the deadweight that is modern Mexico are questions left unanswered.
Paul asks: “What is a ‘dialogue’? We don’t know. What we do know, however, is that Congressional oversight of what might be one of the most significant developments in recent history is non-existent.” Actually, we do know what a dialogue is. A dialogue is a conversation, or discussion between parties. It is something that the executive is empowered to engage in by the Constitution. Of course, he must then submit any product of these discussions to the Senate for ratification if they are to have any actual binding effect. How is the President supposedly planning to bypass these constitutional procedures? Well that is something we don’t know.
Indeed, the initiatives that the SPP has proposed the countries pursue (again, no evidence indicates that the initiative would not be pursued through appropriate legal means) are hardly the stuff of One World Government nightmares. Cooperation on influenza management, border security, and emergency management top the list, along with combating international terrorism. The World Order Model Project this is not.
In other words, the SPP is simply not a free trade agreement, which often do tend to impose upon national sovereignty to some degree by setting up transnational arbiters of disputes — indeed our Constitution was something of an uber-free trade agreement among the 13 original states. But not all agreements between countries represent an attempt to bring about international integration. Indeed some problems, such as terrorism and border security will require dialogues, executive agreements and treaties to succeed.
Other aspects of the supposed SPP are more outlandish. There are the persistent rumors that the United States is preparing to launch the “amero,” America’s answer to the Euro. This rumor is pretty thoroughly debunked here, and again, it is unclear what America and Canada really have to gain from tying their currencies to each other, much less to Mexico’s.
Other variants on the story include a NAFTA superhighway, in some tellings as wide as half a mile, cutting a swath across the American heartland. While some private groups and state governments have expressed interest in developing such highways along various corridors — including the I-35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota — no national plan exists. There are plans at the state level to build 400-yard private-public toll roads across the state of Texas independent of I-35, but again this is being done at the state level, not the federal level, something which conservatives should theoretically support.
The Republican Party does need to return to its limited government roots, and does need to keep its focus on the actual text of the constitution. As the conservative movement seeks to right itself, it is correct to be skeptical of attempts by multinational organizations to undermine United States sovereignty . . . where they actually exist. But such concerns too often cross the line into stories of black helicopters and other conspiracy theories, theories and stories which ultimately undermine such legitimate concerns. Concerns about the SPP and related theories are not of the legitimate variety, and need to be abandoned.
[Editor’s Note: One of the most often-heard concerns of those who propound the concept of the “North American Union” is that there is no Congressional oversight of the supposedly-secret project. Here are the papers that disprove that and other central theories behind the “NAU.” Most are the work of the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Congress. They are provided to Representatives and Senators upon request. They are comprised of:
1) CRS Report dated August 2, 2007, which says that the SPP is not a signed treaty and, “…contains no commitments or obligations,”;
2) CRS NAFTA Superhighway report dated August 1, 2007 which says that Congress hasn’t authorized or appropriated money for a NAFTA superhighway;