Ron Paul Broun

Just yesterday I wrote about the continuing rise of “constitutional conservatives” in Georgia as led by Senate candidate Paul Broun, as counterpoint to the usual Beltway talk about GOP extremism being a wave of the past. So I was more than interested by the news (from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Daniel Molloy) that at this early stage of the ’14 cycle, Broun’s candidacy has been endorsed by Ron Paul.

Now from a practical point of view, this means Broun will get some additional foot soldiers for his campaign–and more importantly, access to the Paul fundraising machine, no small asset for a candidate whose main weakness (other than the ill-disguised glee of many Democrats that this Todd-Akin-Waiting-To-Happen, rather than some conventional party hack like Jack Kingston, might be the GOP’s Senate nominee) is money.

But I think the Paul/Broun alliance is significant as a window into the ideology that both men claim as their own: “constitutional conservatism.” It definitely goes beyond their shared antipathy to the Fed. Its essence is a fusion of private-property absolutism with a theocratic view of American Exceptionalism, expressed via a divinization of the Declaration of Independence and selected elements of the Constitution, all interpreted through an “originalist” filter.

I’ve written about this fusion quite a bit before, but can’t let the subject go because every time I turn around there’s another Major Pundit of the Left or Right arguing that conservatives are split between “libertarians” like the Pauls and “social conservatives” like Broun, or that the Tea Party Movement replaced the Christian Right in conservative politics, or that both movements are dead or dying. Far from representing the eclipse of the Christian Right, Ron and Rand Paul have intimate connections with the Christian Reconstructionist movement. And far from representing some atavistic Christian Right faction that is being displaced by “economic conservatives,” Paul Broun and people like him strongly believe capitalism unregulated by the state (and particularly the federal government) is as religiously justified as bans on abortion or same-sex marriage, which means an awful lot. It’s no accident a lot of conservative evangelical homeschoolers love the Pauls, or that Broun has a lifetime rating of 99% from the Club for Growth. Nobody doubts Broun’s Christian Right street cred who has seen this remarkable video of the fiery Georgian denouncing most of the teachings of modern science as “lies straight from the pit of hell”–in a speech to a Southern Baptist hunters’ club, moreover:

But Broun is also fond of boasting, as he did in a fundraising letter long before Paul’s endorsement, that “Truth be told, except for foreign policy, Ron Paul’s voting record and mine are virtually identical.”

Sure they are. They’re both “constitutional conservatives,” and despite the incomprehension and mockery of the pundits, it’s a movement that’s alive and growing in GOP politics.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.