Reflections on a Revolution

At this point it is clear that our next President will be a mega-government, tax-borrow-and-spend interventionist, who will be complicit in the continued erosion of our liberties and the ultimate bankruptcy of our nation.   But it didn’t have to be…

For the past 30 years Ron Paul has been a consistent and principled defender of liberty and an unshakeable advocate of small government and low taxes.  During his time in Congress he has never voted for a tax increase, never voted for an unbalanced budget, never voted for a Congressional pay raise, never taken a taxpayer-funded junket, never voted to restrict gun owership and never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.  Even when it was unpopular to do so, he voted against the Iraq War and the Patriot Act.  He refuses to participate in the lucrative Congressional pension program and he returns a portion of his Congressional budget to the Treasury every year.  An OB-GYN who has delivered over 4,000 babies, he so frequently votes No on spending bills that his colleagues gave him the nickname “Dr. No.”

I have been an admirer of Dr. Paul for many years.  I remember the evening last February when a friend sent me a message, “Just saw that your man Ron Paul is running for President.”  That was the beginning of a ride that was often exhilarating, frequently frustrating, and ultimately very disappointing.

At the beginning, of course, hardly anyone in America recognized the name Ron Paul, and he registered at or near zero in every poll.  But then something amazing began to happen.  With all those Republican candidates crowded together on the stage in the early debates, Ron Paul stood out.  He opposed the war in Iraq and called it out for the ill-advised unconstitutional federal spending orgy that it is.  While other candidates called for elimination of a few government programs, he called for elimination of entire federal departments.  While others talked about reducing income taxes, he called for eliminating them.  This was true conservatism.  People began to listen.

Ron Paul’s message of freedom and liberty spread across the internet like a wildfire.  Even though the 72 year old congressman had never even heard of myspace, or facebook, or meetup, his supporters soon dominated those sites.  Soon he had more youtube subscriptions that anyone ever before.  He began drawing larger and larger crowds, particularly on college campuses.  And with zero institutional and PAC support, he became a fundraising phenomenon, easily outpacing John McCain and the other cookie-cutter big government candidates.

Those were heady days.  Some volunteer called the movement a “Revolution,” and the name caught on. 

The first battle in the Revolution was to be the Iowa caucuses.   It was hard to be optimistic about our chances in Iowa.  After all, Ron Paul opposes farm subsidies.  And the people of Iowa still largely supported President Bush and his Iraq war.  But the volunteers worked hard, and the prospects of a strong finish began to improve.

And it was then that some of the mistakes and bad breaks that would haunt this campaign began to occur.  The official campaign, that is to say the paid staff that now controlled it, chose to make Dr. Paul’s anti-abortion record the focus in Iowa.   Yet every single Republican candidate, save Rudy Guiliani, who was essentially conceding Iowa, opposed abortion.  That issue simply didn’t set a somewhat obscure Congressman apart from the crowd.  Then on the day of the caucuses a disgruntled worker sabotaged the campaign’s data base, destroying the call lists and ride lists that had been assembled to assure that Ron Paul voters made it to the caucuses.  A charismatic former Arkansas governor won over the pro-life voters and won the caucuses.  Yet, despite all this, Ron Paul won 10% of the vote in Iowa.   It was a very respectable beginning, but I knew (as most of us did) that we would have to win New Hampshire to have a chance.

New Hampshire’s motto is Live Free or Die.  In 1992, conservative non-interventionist Pat Buchanan had won the New Hampshire primary.  It seemed to be the perfect place for the Paul campaign to make a splash. 

But it wasn’t to be.  To this day I still don’t understand that.  There were mistakes, to be sure.  The official campaign made Dr. Paul’s fight against illegal immigration the focus of the campaign, rather than his fight against the Iraq War, or his opposition to the income tax.  But because all the candidates, except John McCain, were opposed to amnesty and illegal immigration, this issue just didn’t separate him from the pack.  And then, the day before the vote, New Republic magazine published a piece essentially accusing Dr. Paul of being a racist homophobe.  The allegations were eventually debunked, but not until the crucial vote had passed.  The independents of New Hampshire chose John McCain, who received election-eve endorsements from the New York Times, the Boston Globe and every major newspaper in New Hampshire.  Senator McCain even got the endorsement of Joe Lieberman,  Al Gore’s liberal running mate, who took to the campaign trail with him.  And despite the fact that Senator McCain announced that another 100 years in Iraq would be just fine with him, he carried the day, and eventually the nomination.

There were big moments after that–such as raising over $4 million on Guy Fawkes Day, then another $6 million on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, both single day records.  But it was all over after New Hampshire.

And so, maybe the only chance we’ll have in our lifetimes to elect a true conservative president was squandered.  That is disheartening in these days when the economic consquences of our fiscal recklessness are revealing themselves, just as Ron Paul has always said they would.

But there is also hope.  Millions of people, particularly young people, heard the message of liberty and rallied to it.  Many of them will stay active politically, and will refuse to accept the borrow and tax and spend politicians that control both the Democrat and Republican parties.  After all, it took 20 years for the Goldwater revolution to bear fruit.   Sadly, twenty years from now may be too late.   But we can hope that the Ron Paul Revolution may yet prevail.

Grace and Peace