Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Ron Paul Legacy

Ron Paul is officially no longer a congressman. Gone from the Washington scene is his tendency to cast lone votes, his unique willingness to point out that government is inherently based on violence. Paul will continue to be a public spokesman for liberty—about the only part of his job as congressman he liked anyway.

He leaves behind a contested legacy. As Paul’s detractors will tediously point out, being one of 435 in Congress with views vastly different from your colleagues’ means you will neither pass many laws, nor prevent many laws from being passed, nor shape the ethos of the House. Paul did, though, succeed in shifting “Audit the Fed” from an issue no one knew or cared about to a bill that has passed the House twice.

Through his Republican presidential runs in 2008 and 2012, he conjured a large and dedicated army of libertarian activists and politicos where one hadn’t existed before, though we don’t know how many of the 2.1 million people who voted for him in GOP primaries in 2012 are as hardcore libertarian as Paul. Two thriving organizations, Campaign for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty, arose from those campaigns and survive his congressional career.

But can lasting change within our sclerotic political system arise from a movement as insurrectionist and outside the mainstream as Paul’s? And will he have any heirs to keep what he started rolling? A vote total of 2.1 million is a surprisingly impressive number, to be sure, especially for such a harsh critic of empire, drug wars, and fiat money. But it still represents a decidedly losing portion of what was, nationally in 2012, a losing party.

What the Paul revolutionaries are trying to do, they insist, has been done before. They are trying to use a rowdy, young-skewing throng to force a major party to embrace ideas that seem fanatical to existing party hierarchies. Remember the Barry Goldwater kids in 1960, uniting fervently behind a strongly anti-government author of a best-selling book of popular political philosophy, freaking out the party powers with their youth and outsider enthusiasm? It’s impossible to read a history of the Goldwater movement without seeing how similar the Goldwater and Paul stories are—the anti-state energy, the mistrust and warring with the hidebound establishment, even the streaks of weird paranoia among some of the activists.

Goldwater and Paul were both legislators known more for sternly saying “no” than passing laws. Like Paulites today, the Goldwater movement in the Republican Party in 1960 was “experienced by the old regulars as if it were an alien invasion,” in the words of Rick Perlstein in his great history of the Goldwater movement, Before The Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. When Goldwaterites took over state parties, like in Nebraska, the old party regulars fought back to change rules to blunt their opponents’ victory. Both candidates lived off a huge number of small donations, cared more about being right than being president, and were blessed with masses of young, passionate volunteers willing to overturn their lives to knock on doors for their man in bitter cold. Both even saw their delegates involved in scuffles where cops got called at state conventions. And both, their admirers insisted, were leaders of a new American revolution to purify and revive the first one.

From 1960 to 1964, Goldwater morphed from dangerous joke to candidate. And his ‘64 defeat famously bore fruit in the form of Goldwater supporter Ronald Reagan’s rise to world power 16 years later. It’s a story whose echoes sound encouragingly in the heads of many political operatives surrounding the Paul revolution.

Full article: … /the-ron-paul-legacy

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