Dr. Ron Paul, a 73 year old Republican Congressman from Texas, is injecting the principles of individual liberty and limited government back into the Republican Party. His belief that personal freedom is of paramount importance because it is “the only way to spread compassion” is resonating with Americans from all over the political spectrum and aligning disenchanted Ralph Nader liberals and marginalized Goldwater conservatives behind a vision of weaker government and stronger communities.
It’s popular these days to blame our current economic problems on an ‘out of control free-market’ but Dr. Paul sees things differently. He sees a world in which the Federal Government and multinational corporations have taken unprecedented control of our economy and society, suppressing our economic freedoms and individual liberty. Our money supply is constantly manipulated and inflated by a clandestine central bank, our schools are controlled by a massive Federal bureaucracy and nearly every profession, from plumber to barber to lawyer to cook, is heavily regulated by a plethora of government agencies. Our problems, Dr. Paul contends, come from our complicated, and often corrupt, government restrictions on economic freedom as well as a willful neglect of our Constitution by politicians without principle.
Ron Paul explains his simple yet inspiring political philosophy of freedom, free markets and community engagement in his splendid (and extremely popular) Talk @ Google, delivered when he was running for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008. His thorough understanding of Austrian free market economics and unshakable faith in the US Constitution are refreshing and contagious.
In our majority rules culture, alternative thinkers are often marginalized. Dr. Paul qualifies. The mainstream media laughs at him for attacking sacred cows like the Federal Reserve Bank and his party ignored his vehement opposition to invading Iraq. Despite virtually zero media coverage and no GOP support, Ron Paul’s candidacy for President, which he assumed at the onset would go unnoticed, was amplified by self-organized grassroots supporters on the internet. This decentralized group of supporters completely unaffiliated with the campaign “set a one-day GOP record by raising $4.3 million on the Internet from 38,000 donors on Nov. 5 – Guy Fawkes Day.”
The first of many grassroots money bombs did not garner the mainstream media spotlight but Dr. Paul’s first performance in the Republican debates did. He won MSNBC’s online poll a wide margin. Since he wasn’t anointed by the media as a ‘legitimate’ candidate before that debate, most commentators assumed the poll was an anomaly. When Dr. Paul nearly won the second debate, commentators were visibly shocked and openly hostile towards him. When polls showed he overwhelmingly won the third debate the media still couldn’t understand what was going on, as this CNN results page shows. Despite his amazing debate performances and top tier fund raising Paul never received the TV air time necessary to become a mainstream candidate.
Things change. Ever since the economy collapsed in the way Dr. Paul had predicted over a decade ago, he has enjoyed more exposure on financially focused news shows. While he’s still painted as a quirky commentator, his words continue to win support which he uses to strengthen his political movement: the Campaign for Liberty. This organization is quickly, quietly and patiently building a grassroots political network that advances the philosophy of libertarianism within the GOP. The mainstream GOP has noticed Paul’s success and has tried to steal some of his movement’s successful political tactics. In 2008, Paul supporters celebrating the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party by raising money bombs. The mainstream GOP though this was a great idea and, on Tax Day, created ‘tea bagger’ parties to protest taxes. They succeeded in polluting one of his movement’s symbols and becoming the laughing stock of liberals and the mainstream media. Ralph Nader, the uber-liberal, wasn’t laughing. He and Dr. Paul are in constant contact and have signed an agreement on principles. The far-right and far-left are unifying around the idea of restraining an out of control, imperial Federal government.
Barack Obama has neutralized the ‘culture war’ rhetoric and defeated the tactics of the mainstream GOP, leaving the Republicans with virtually no other relevant leaders except for Dr. Paul. His decades long dedication to small, constitutionally restrained government is the best platform an opposition party can stand on to oppose Obama’s policy of larger, more engaged government. A renewed focus on limited government and decentralized power is creating a political realignment worth celebrating.
Studies show that most Americans agree about the sociey they want to live in but disagree about the way to create that society. This is a healthy disagreement that should be the focus of our nation’s political debate: what should the government do and what should the government leave undone? This debate that has been raging in America, either overtly or covertly, for centuries. Despite our irresponsible media’s amazing ability to avoid the question, people are still wondering aloud who should hold the power: central institutions such as the Federal government or decentralized ones like individuals, families, communities and states. A competition between the principled ideas of the progressive, big-government Obama and the libertarian, limited-government Paul will produce a fantastic discourse and a stronger nation.