In 2008, Ron Paul was still considered a member of the lunatic fringe. His quixotic presence in Congress and in runs at the Presidency seemed quaint and harmless. Who, most people asked, actually believes government should be that small?
In 2012, we have an answer. Hordes of them. Call it the “Leave Me Alone” crowd if you like. Accuse Paul of being an isolationist (faintly true) or a racist (patently false) if you are particularly nasty. By all means, though, don’t underestimate what he is doing to American politics.
Paul has shown himself to be among the top three candidates in this Republican field in Iowa. Had Rick Santorum not surged in the last sprint toward the finish, we might have seen a more decisive second place by Paul. Maybe even first.
Ron Paul lacks the charisma we usually demand from our Presidents. He writes better than he speaks–not a good sign for a nation whose digestive capacity has been reduced from sound bites to sound nibbles. That in itself mutes many of his other virtues.
His ideas are consistent to a degree nearly unheard of in modern politics. Congressman Paul is an easy target precisely because he is clear about what he believes. A principled person is easy to dislike. All one need do is find one hot-button issue and focus on it. Successful politicians these days are like raw sewage–we are not sure what’s in there, but there is no doubt that it stinks. We hold our noses and vote for them every four years because we lack any other choice. Until now.
Paul is unlikely to win anything else of consequence, much as I’d like to see that. He can leave center political stage, however, having accomplished what no other candidate has accomplished in recent memory. He has brought the excruciatingly difficult issues of fiat money and crippling debt to the fore. He has openly questioned the wisdom of engaging in non-Congressionally authorized wars overseas. He has asked why government should outlaw drugs and fiddle with the economy endlessly. In short, he has forced us to stop pretending that the gargantuan entity our Founders put in place to protect individual liberty now stands menacingly over us, drooling at the next chance to take our money and tell us what to do.
That note, sour as it lands on the progressive ear, has resonated with those who sense that liberty has been treated like the “different” uncle at a family reunion. No one speaks of the matter in polite company, even when it is obvious that he has a lot more sense than the his so-called “respectable” counterparts.
For all this, I have to thank Dr. Paul. Win or lose from here until November, we will look back on his candidacy this election as a watershed event. He will be remembered as the man who forced the dirty little secrets of government-as-usual out into the general conversation. We may not have a libertarian-styled government anytime soon, but we sure are going to talk about it. And that, my friends, is where the real revolution begins.