It's hard for outsiders to understand the world of Ron Paul. Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard — Austrian School economists whose ideas form the basis of Paul's ideology — are not exactly household names, and the vast majority of us make it out of high school (and college for that matter) without hearing one word about the Federal Reserve.
It's not surprising, then, that it takes a certain skill to whip a Ron Paul rally into a frenzy. So if you're looking to please a crowd of a couple thousand people holding Ron Paul signs in front of the Texas Capital and don't know exactly what to say, here's a start: Don't just stand there bashing Barack Obama. Paul supporters have bigger fish to fry.
Last Sunday, Ron Paul was back in Austin headlining a Tea Party rally on the steps of the Capitol. Paul's supporters launched the Tea Party movement back in the 2008 election cycle, but, by the 2010 midterm elections, the Party (or at least a large segment of it) had been co-opted by the traditional right.
Amy Kremer, spokesperson for the Tea Party Express — which was organizing Sunday's rally — and one of the emcees for the event, rattled off the traditional Tea Party rhetoric (Obama is evil, Obama sucks, Obamacare is an unconscionable travesty). The crowd was almost comically un-enthused by her tired Republican talking points; by the end of her speech, Kremer couldn't go a minute without the crowd erupting into chants of "Ron Paul, Ron Paul, Ron Paul!"
As a general rule in life, you should do everything in your power not to rub Ron Paul supporters the wrong way. This can occur A) at rallies where Dr. Paul is to speak, and B) on the Internet, which, if comment boards are to be trusted, is populated entirely by Paul diehards.
Amy Kremer made the first mistake, fighting against the tide when all everyone really wanted to do was chant "End the Fed!"
Ron Paul is misunderstood, and it's time to address these misunderstandings.
I made the second mistake, last week when I wrote an article about Paul's visit to UT.
If you only have time to read one more article on Paul today, skip that one and head right to the comments. They are much more enjoyable (and much more informative) than anything I had to say.
Basically, some readers felt that I was dismissive of Dr. Paul and that my article was "condescending," "uninformed" and "bloviated" (suggestion: calling someone's writing "bloviated" is pretty much automatically, well, bloviating).
There was talk of unsubscribing from CultureMap. There was talk of sticking firecrackers up my "Soviet, Mainstream Media ass."
But here's the kicker with all of this (and why I was caught so off guard): I like Ron Paul.
I publicly supported the good doctor while in college, and I still like him. (Don't believe me? Take a look at this, or this). My 2008 student rhetoric notwithstanding, I've continued to follow Paul's candidacy as he injected worthwhile arguments into a Republican primary that would have otherwise been focused solely on Newt Gingrich's marital trysts, Rick Santorum's religious fervor and Mitt Romney's tax return.
Paul is misunderstood, and it's time to address these misunderstandings. To his detractors, Ron Paul is a kook from a century back who hoards gold, courts racists and wants to isolate America from the rest of the world. With this in mind, they ignore him and his ideas like they do their crazy uncle at Christmas.
To his supporters, Paul is Thomas Jefferson incarnate, the unappreciated truth-teller crusading against tyranny, oppression and collapse. This idealized assessment gives an "us vs. them" mentality that so often steals the spotlight away from the very ideas they are trying to promote.
Both sides need to reconsider the liberty-loving Congressman from Texas. Here's where to start:
To Ron Paul's Detractors
First and foremost, Paul is not a politician. He does not entertain lobbyists, never (ever) flip flops and doesn't tell crowds what they want to hear. His honesty and conviction are, in my opinion, the most refreshing breath of fresh air in American politics since George Washington came clean about the cherry tree. There is no media-speak with Paul; every sentence from his mouth is a well thought out piece of his philosophy rather than a focus group-tested phrase developed by a New York PR firm.
Ron Paul is not a politician. He does not entertain lobyists, never (ever) flip flops and doesn't tell crowds what they want to hear.
Moreover, the guy is an honest-to-goodness sweetheart. He is gentle, sincere and honest. He is your grandpa (or at least what your grandpa would be if he laid off the booze).
Paul does not want to run your life. He does not want to tell you who you can marry, what you can smoke or how to educate your children. He is a vision of the Republican Party without the likes of Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum.
Paul believes in freedom — economic freedom and individual freedom.
Ultimately, the arguments against both economic and individual freedom are that we are not ready for them. With every new social policy comes the bold statement that we as Americans cannot handle individual freedom. If left to ourselves, we will gamble off our money, save nothing for retirement, become addicted to drugs, live without health insurance and abuse our children.
We as Americans enjoy the greatest freedom that has ever been given to a people in the history of civilization. It is our duty as Americans to live up to the ideals of freedom, and it is the responsibility of our leaders to inspire us to achieve those ideals. Paul presents us with the standard that he believes we must never lose sight of: The moment we begin to believe that the populace cannot take care of itself is the moment when it truly won't be able to.
The same is true for our money. All the Republican presidential candidates already agree that the federal government is out of control monetarily. But Paul is the only person on either side of the aisle willing to talk about significant cuts to the federal government. Yes, he wants to cut the Republican favorites (Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, Interior, and Housing and Urban Services), but he also is the lone voice in Congress for drastically scaling back the U.S. Military.
The moment we begin to believe that the populace cannot take care of itself is the moment when it truly won't be able to.
We have troops in 130 countries across the globe. There are only 196 countries in the world. We spend around $700 billion every year on military spending. The rest of the world spends $958 billion, combined. While this slight disadvantage might be a bit concerning if we were ever planning to declare war on the entire world at once, it’s time to reconsider our foreign policy objectives.
The philosophy of Paul is expansive and, at times, arcane, but he should not be ignored. The man has ideas, ideas that harken back to the founding of our country. Paul's true love is monetary policy (see his recent debate with Paul Krugman for a good primer), but he has enough to offer without having to delve into Austrian economics and the gold standard (although, to be perfectly honest, all of Paul's ideas are rooted in his view of the free market).
Listen to what Paul has to say. Even if you think his ideas are pie in the sky, don't we need a dose of idealism in a world of stark pragmatism? His ideas are inherently American, honestly defended, and passionately dedicated to the ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
To Ron Paul's Supporters
My dear liberty-lovers, I ask that you do not fill the comments section with accusations of what a moronic douche I am. I am not the Mainstream Media, nor am I uneducated about what Paul stands for. Methinks you abuse the comment section too freely. Manners do not need to go out the window just because we are on the internet.
With that said, there must be an understanding of both Paul the man and Paul the philosophy. I understand that a major part of the appeal of Dr. Paul is that he backs up his philosophy with his actions and that he does not try and flip flop his way to political stardom. But at the same time, Paul is not the person who will lead the liberty movement to the forefront of American politics. Paul can be the rock upon which libertarian change is brought to America. But he will not bring it himself.
Contrary to what many of you honestly and sincerely believe, Paul will not be our next president (While not unimportant, if the delegate selection process really had a chance of altering the outcome of the election, don't you think any of the other candidates would be giving it a shot?).
Paul is not the person who will lead the liberty movement to the forefront of American politics. Paul can be the rock upon which libertarian change is brought to America.
In all honesty, this is not the point. Paul is not (ultimately) running to become president. Paul believes wholeheartedly in the idea of true and all-encompassing liberty, and he has used the largest stage available to him, the Republican primary, to make his voice heard. This is OK. Ron Paul does not need to be president to be a phenomenal success.
Paul will be a success if you vote (and not just in presidential races). Paul will be a success if you run for school board, or city council, or state congress. Paul is not about calling those with whom you disagree names, he is not about shoving it in the face of pompous demagogues on Fox News. Paul is about the American ideal — what America can achieve if we stay true to the idea of freedom.
Back to the Steps of the Capitol
With Amy Kremer finally off the stage, Paul's son, the junior senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, took the stage. Of all that Ron Paul has done, Rand's election to the senate is far and away the most legitimate pragmatically. Rand's more polished speaking style loses him a bit of the sincerity that so attracts people to his father, but, for all intents and purposes, the future of the Ron Paul Revolution is on his shoulders.
Next up was Ted Cruz, the main challenger to the presumptive Republican front-runner, lieutenant governor David Dewhurst, for the senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. An endorsement by the Paul's carries a significant advantage, and don't think Cruz doesn't know it.
When Ron Paul took the stage, the crowd let loose. Their love for the seventy-six year old obstetrician is unlike anything else in American politics. His speech was sharper than it was last week at UT, but it was still classic Paul: folksy, sincere, and single-minded. Liberty, liberty and liberty. Catching site of the "RAW MILK" sign once again, Paul couldn't help but comment on the simple yet fundamental message that the freedom to drink raw milk carries.
When Ron Paul took the stage, the crowd let loose. Their love for the seventy-six year old obstetrician is unlike anything else in American politics.
To quote Paul: "A true revolution has to be ideological. Revolutions can be violent, they can overthrow a government with nothing really improved. An ideologically positive revolution is what is necessary, and that's what we have going in this country.
"We may lose a battle here or there. But ultimately we are going to win the war because we are winning the hearts and minds of the American people. The real reason for this is that I can't imagine people not wanting to maximize our chances of having peace and prosperity. That should be our goal. It can be achieved in a free society; it is never achieved in a totalitarian society.
"So often the opposition will accuse us, as Krugman said the other day, 'You want to go back 100 years!' No, authoritarians want to go back 1,000 years or 2,000 years. The dictators and the pharaohs and the kings have been around for a long, long time. Freedom is a new idea; it was really developed in this country. We have lost our way, but we can find our way again, and that is what is happening now!"