It has become clear that Ron Paul will probably not win the Republican nomination. Indeed, Mitt Romney has won major victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire and latest “not Mitt”, Rick Santorum, has begun his collapse. Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman are out of the race but they just don’t know it yet. Newt Gingrich will make his final stands in South Carolina and Florida. However, Ron Paul had a stronger than expected New Hampshire performance and is making a strong move in South Carolina. Win or lose, Ron Paul may yet be the biggest winner in this election cycle. Indeed as Alex Kauffman writes, Ron Paul may yet have huge performances down the line. The question is not whether or not Ron Paul will win the nomination (he won’t), but how will the GOP will make peace with his voters and win them?
Most people who have flocked to Ron Paul have done so for the following reasons
- They feel suffocated by big government programs, regulations, and the nanny state which is emerging from Washington DC
- They’re sick of over 10 years of endless war
- They feel as if Washington DC is not listening to them and is out of touch with what the American people think
- They know the usual dog and pony show and establishment politics and solutions are not working and we need dramatic change in the way business is done in this country
- Finally, many are scared about the fiscal future for our country and demand action to avert fiscal collapse.
The challenge is to how best to get these people who have already rallied to the Ron Paul banner and to use them for a long-term movement to promote limited government, a sane foreign policy, and more federalism/localism.
Indeed, Ron Paul himself is probably not the best messenger for his movement as Doug Mataconis from Outside the Beltway points out
The personality cult, the newsletters, and Paul’s ties to Paleoconservatives who think Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant and defend the Confederacy. This is not a good recipe for a “pro-liberty movement” at all. Rather than helping advance libertarianism, I’m coming to the conclusion that Ron Paul and his supporters are doing serious damage to it.
While Doug is correct to point out the flaws of Ron Paul and the Lew Rockwell cult that he unfortunately surrounds himself with, I can’t be as pessimistic for the future of the liberty movement as he is. From talking with many Ron Paul supporters on Twitter (BTW: my handle is @kevinboyd1984), I think most of the more rational ones are in the fight for the long term. They’re going to be working to elect like minded people to Congress and to state and local governments. Ron Paul has been great for the liberty movement, but the liberty movement has also had two other great recruiters in George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It also appears that Mitt Romney will serve as just as great of a recruiter as well.
The reason why the movement will outlast Ron Paul is because the issues will not go away. The Washington establishment consensus is still for more war, more spending, and less freedom. More importantly, the Washington establishment consensus wants the American people to sacrifice more of their hard earned money through higher taxes to fund their bloated warfare/welfare state.
The person who will lead the liberty movement is the one who can best articulate ideas to promote less government and a sane foreign policy. Will that person be Rand Paul? I’m not sure. I think he’ll have to earn that leadership mantle. But the fact that we are talking about a serious leadership mantle for the libertarian movement illustrates how far we have come in the past four years.
Finally, I want to leave with a question from Alex Kauffman from the post linked above:
While Paul is certainly bringing more attention to our cause, one has to wonder what the baggage fee for this attention will be.
That is a tough question. If I thought this movement was just about Ron Paul, I would say the the baggage of the race baiting newsletters and the Lew Rockwell cult would be too much to bear. However, its not just about Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell anymore, this is a vessel of the anger and the aspirations of the American people. This is a vessel for the remnant of the Founders’ Republic that is looking for a voice and finally, this is a vessel for those of us who refuse to let our heritage of American liberty die. For those reasons alone and yes, for the fact that Ron Paul has no chance to win, I’m willing to pay the price of Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell now to get a hell of a payoff in the future.
What we need is libertarian critics like Alex and Doug to do is to be the William F. Buckleys of the libertarian movement. Potent political movements are not just made up of inclusion, but also of exclusion. William F. Buckley expelled the Birchers and the Objectivists from the conservative movement, while at the same time, worked with Frank Meyer to promote “fusionism” which is a melding of conservatism and libertarianism. We need people in the libertarian movement to step up and say there is no place for crazy conspiracy theories, racism, sexism, homophobia, and neo-Confederates in the movement. At the same time, we need to be reaching out to those who share our broad ideals, whether they be on the left or the right. That’s how we build a lasting movement to promote liberty in the future.
For now, I’ll probably vote for Ron Paul when the Mississippi primary happens because the race will be largely be over. But at the same time, I will be looking past him because its not about one man, its about preserving our heritage and passing it on intact to future generations.