The Significance of Ron Paul

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Rep. Ron Paul, Republican of Texas, is once again running for president.

No member of the House of Representatives has run for president and won since James A. Garfield in 1880 (and Garfield had been elected to the Senate just before his election as president). No one as old as Paul has been elected president. He would be 77 when he took the oath of office. Ronald Reagan was 69.

Most of all, no one as radical as Paul has been elected president during the modern era.

There are hopes that this time around, Paul will break through to mainstream America because his argument against foreign war, for a sound currency, and for large cuts in spending will catch fire. It will with some voters, but political ideas acceptable to the American public don’t change that fast.

I said this two weeks ago in a talk to my state’s conservative activists — an audience that included Paul supporters. I said I agreed with Paul on some important things, but that he could not win. One came up to me afterward and said, “You know, every time you say that, you hurt his movement. He got as far as he did last time because thousands of people thought he could win.”

And they were mistaken. But he changed some minds. He made arguments that nobody else would have made — and some of those arguments look better four years later.

In 2007, no Republican candidates were arguing against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan except Paul. Now the Politico website reports a rise of war weariness and even “isolationism” among the Republicans in Congress. They are far from a majority, but they are a faction. And there is another libertarian candidate in the race, former governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico, who also calls for getting out of the foreign wars immediately.

Four years ago, no Republican candidates other than Paul were talking about protecting the value of the dollar. I still haven’t heard them doing it — but gold is above $1,500 an ounce, and the US dollar is below the Canadian and Australian dollars. The topic ripens.

Four years ago, there was no quasi-libertarian Tea Party movement, and Ron Paul’s quasi-libertarian son Rand Paul was not in the US Senate.

The ground has changed.

Still, it has not changed enough to elect Ron Paul as president. There is no point collecting dandelion seeds, such as the CNN/Opinion Research poll last week, which showed Paul running stronger against President Obama than any other Republican candidate. I have heard that poll cited several times, never mentioning that the split was Obama, 52%, Paul, 45%. Anyway, it was a poll taken 15 months before the election, which means it was a poll of a public not paying attention. Paul, in particular, had not been seriously attacked.

A few days later, he was. Conservative columnist Michael Gerson of the Washington Post ripped into him for his answer to a reporter’s question. The question was whether Paul favored the legalization of heroin.

There is a purpose in questions like that. It is to see whether the reporter can catch the candidate saying something crazy — not crazy, maybe, to a social scientist or a philosopher, but crazy to a political operative, or Joe Sixpack.

The role of the radical candidate is to take the taboo stands, fight valiantly, lose, and change the political ground.

In his answer, Paul compared freedom to use drugs to freedom of religion. Here is how Gerson paraphrased it: “If you tolerate Zoroastrianism, you must be able to buy heroin at the quickie mart.” This, Gerson sneered, is the essence of libertarianism.

But Paul had said more than that. Wrote Gerson: “Paul concluded his answer by doing a jeering rendition of an addict’s voice: ‘Oh yeah, I need the government to take care of me. I don’t want to use heroin, so I need these laws.’ Paul is not content to condemn a portion of his fellow citizens to self-destruction; he must mock them in their decline.”

Gerson concluded that any candidate who supports “the legalization of heroin while mocking addicts” is marginal and unserious. His column was a way of looking at the Republican list and scratching out the name of Ron Paul.

Libertarians can rail against Gerson as biased, which of course he is. He is an opinion columnist. Bias is part of his job description. But if your candidate is taken seriously, which Paul was not in 2008, this is the kind of attention he is going to get — and here it is attention from a conservative. If Paul became the Republican frontrunner, the pundits of the Left would go after him with machetes and crowbars.

They haven’t, because they delight in schism on the Right. But if he becomes the frontrunner, they will. And Paul has said plenty of things they can use to make a bogeyman out of him. Legalize heroin. Imagine what they could do with that.

Here is the reality. Certain political stands are safe, others are daring, and some are taboo. The role of the radical candidate is to take the taboo stands, fight valiantly, lose, and change the political ground. It is a valuable role to play: it is changing the field so that other good candidates, later on, can win.

What other candidate? Maybe Rand Paul in 2016 or 2020. Maybe Gary Johnson. One can imagine a Mitch Daniels-Gary Johnson ticket in 2012, with Johnson running in the top position later. Once a libertarian faction has been established in the Republican Party and is built into a substantial faction, room is made for other candidates, ones aiming more directly at winning, to have a go.

On the day that Paul announced, I had lunch with his 2008 campaign manager, Lew Moore. The timing was accidental; I had met Moore among the conservative activists two weeks before, and I hadn’t seen him in years. I asked him: when Paul ran in 2008, did the congressman seriously think he could win, or was it mostly to change the debate?

Without denying that Paul had had some chance of winning, Moore said the campaign was mostly about changing the debate. He said, “That is what his whole life has been about.”

And, at 75, Paul is not done. You have to admire the man. A lone congressman from Texas, never enjoying the support of his party’s establishment, has changed the political ground within the Republican Party.

And maybe he will change it some more.




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Visitor

Bruce Ramsey from Seattle who pays for your meals?

Bruce Ramsey

I do, last I looked.

Doug

By the way, Gerson is a former speechwriter for GW Bush, I believe. In addition, about 6 months ago, he wrote in a Wash. Post op-ed that John Wilkes Booth had been hanged for assassinating Lincoln. Anyone with a passing knowledge of American history or Lincoln knowns that Booth wasn't hanged - he was captured/shot at the Garrett farm in/near Bowling Green, Va. Of course, a subtle correction was published in the Post. This may not seem like a big deal but it illustrates what a political hack Gerson was and still is.. nothing more, nothing less.

Evan Farmer

I wonder if this author has a little more hope in the possibility of electing Ron Paul since the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement? It's too bad this site isn't a little more "social" and widely read. Seems like a good place to have some more timely discussions.

Scott Hutchinson

The only purpose and/or effect of Ramsey here is to further some untruths: that Ron Paul can't win, and that winning the presidency isn't his goal. In doing so he insinuates that Ron Paul is a liar, and Ramsey advances several more untruths.

For myself, I choose to believe the words and actions of Ron Paul. Just one direct quote: "I am in this to win".

If Ramsey refuses to believe Ron Paul's words, I will also quickly mention some irrefutable actions: 1. Several speaking engagement trips by Paul to both NH and IA in recent months. 2. A viewing of Paul's recent million dollar commercial currently running in NH and IA (posted below) reveals only an intent to win over voters in the early states, not any ideological posturing. 3. He recently paid the highest price and won the auction for the most coveted spot at the Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa taking place Saturday August 13.

I have heard RP say this, so I will believe it. Ramsey has an option. Paul has never used the word heroin in stating his position on drug policy, which is simply that it should be up to the states to decide. When heroin has been often thrown at him in questions, he's been truthful about his opinion, which is that the more compassionate and fiscally conservative choice for the many states would be to make it legal, as it is in other parts of the world.

On marijuana he has the same policy position, and he recently filed a bill in congress along with Barney Frank in line with that position on marijuana: give it to the states to decide, and stop the recent on again/off again/maybe federal enforcement. My hope, even though I do not use marijuana, is that many states would decide to stop incarcerating and ruining the lives of so many young Americans.

Ramsey says that being biased is part of the job description of an opinion writer. If he were as honest as Ron Paul he would have also said that the job description includes filling a page with verbiage, and that any successful opinionist is always catering to an audience. That audience is probably not here at libertyunbound, so his motives are obvious. See paragraph one.

I am reminded here of the adage that opinion's are like a___oles and everybody's got one. It has struck me that perhaps along with the Federal Reserve, one of America's biggest problems is the proliferation of writers who become opinionists instead of the more difficult journalistic job of searching for truth.

Ramsey has taken a flawed analysis of Paul's answer to a debate question to try to convince us that America would believe this untruth over Paul himself. I have seen Paul's response to the debate question and the news coverage of it, as have many other Americans. In Paul's portrayal of a quivering addict he was obviously not mocking any addict, he was mocking anyone in the audience who would need the government to protect themselves from themselves. He got a rousing round of applause and laughter.

The response of the conservative SC audience is self-evident, why would America's response be any different? The writer's attempt to paint Paul as disrespectful of addicts is nonsense. As shown above, just a modicum of thought would reveal this, so I don't mind labeling this untruth as a lazy lie by the opinionist, in furtherance of his objective to fill a page and cater. Shall the liars proliferate and win, as Ramsey says? We shall see.

Electable? Let's see, Ron Paul has been elected twelve times to the U.S. Congress while breaking all the rules of electability, but Donald Trump and his left coast supporter Bruce Ramsey have never been elected to squat in Suquamish. Please see the Wikipedia entry on envy and schadenfreude. My thought on this is that Trump hates the truth, it just gets in his way.

In 1964 Barry Goldwater became the republican nominee, while at this early stage he didn't even show at all in the polls. Ron Paul has consistently polled 12-15% due to his surprising showing as a purely grass roots candidate in 2008. He has twice polled the highest of all the candidates in Rasmussen's poll going heads up against Obama, who will obviously be a sitting duck against any fiscal conservative. I also heard Paul make mention early on, that establishment candidates should always be wary of any October surprise.

It is my fervent belief that Ron Paul aims to win, and it's entirely possible and credible. I am also betting that he won't compromise any of his principles to do so, as in the twelve congressional wins. Ramsey's mention that that a seated congressman hasn't become president since Garfield could just as easily signify that the time is nigh. I warn you, don't bet against him.

There is only one contender who offers anything but minute differences in the way America is run. Which would you choose:

A. Death by taxing, spending, and war?

or

B. Death by borrowing, spending, and war?

I choose to support the candidate who has the correct positions for America. Sheep for slaughter can follow Ramsey and his prediction of the influence of future opinionists, and march toward more of America's recent past, if they so choose.

I gotta go to work.

Here's my hope for peace and happy America-ing to everyone!

Here's what I see as RP's statement on whether he intends to win:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUNIeOB0whI

HUTCH

Bruce Ramsey

I was not trying to insinuate that Ron Paul is a "liar" when he says he is running to win. All candidates have to say they are running to win. Maybe they are and maybe they are not, but they all have to say it. So that they say it doesn't matter much.

You call me a "left-coast supporter" of Donald Trump. I never supported Trump, and can't recall anything I ever wrote that would give you the idea I did. In my talk to the conservative group, which was when Trump was still in the race, I said he was not a serious candidate.

Since writing the piece above last May, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination has switched from Romney to Bachmann to Perry to Cain and to Gingrich. It has not shifted to Paul. He is not the sort who attracts fans who flit around. The others are exactly of that sort.

Bruce Ramsey

Jeannette Jaquish

Of course it's possible for Ron Paul to be elected. Or a Libertarian. Sometimes hitting rock bottom is what a person or country needs to recognize what's important and logical.

The best people I know, believe in Ron Paul.

The problem is Dr. Paul is still too unknown. But spreading his message is not impossible, is it?

Is it?

acudoc

Ron Paul will not win the nomination for the Republican Party, and even if he did, he would not win the Presidency.

He is too honest and Americans love lying Presidents.

Besides, he is too decent. You have to be willing to sell your soul to get to that level in politics. As far as I can tell, Representative Paul is not for sale.

And finally, he would end foreign aid to Israel. I should have put this as the first reason he couldn't win.

Jeffrey Edelman

I'm campaigning, and voting, for Obama. He's the only sober candidate in the race and he will be. For Ron Paul to even bother to wear the mantle "Republican", when that entire party is a freak-show of pseudo-religious nonzealots, chickenhawks, and senior-citizen Medicare lifers is a betrayal of any sort of "Libertarian" identity.

Ron Paul is as much a philosopher as Stephen Colbert.

Visitor

Feel free, Jeffrey, to vote for the drunk-on-power Obama War Machine, because that's exactly what you have with that choice -- complete with its roster of treasury looters, Patriot-act-civil-rights violators and military expansionists. Correct?

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