For anyone who follows what I write, it should be obvious that I enjoy making libertarians question the movement they are in. I do this because I think it’s time for compromise and moderation in our approach to achieve greater success.
This anti-Gary Johnson trend in libertarianism is, in my view, just a belching contest for anarchists to go “Oh, he thinks he’s a big libertarian? Check this out!” They wrongfully worship Rothbard, despite a clear lack of career success and making some of the worst alliances in history. I also think many libertarians are over-reactionaries who don’t think calmly, and say things such as “If we don’t fix shit now, it’s all going to collapse! We are done for!” I am critical of them for this, but I blame one man for it. That man is someone for whom I have a lot of respect, have voted for, donated towards, and still think he is awesome. He is, of course, the former congressman, Dr. Ron Paul. A guy who clearly has a legacy to remember, but a man who I think it’s time to move on from.
Despite this article, I have and will continue to look up to Paul.
When I was 15 years old, I went to Washington DC for a trip and found myself waiting for four hours to meet the man outside of his office. I did, and he was a true gentleman. He was the only congressman I ever met who would ask “So, where are you from?” and he invited me to walk with him and his staff to a vote on the floor of the House, where I hung out with him for about 20 minutes. Before his 2012 campaign even stared, I attended his book signings (I usually arrived two hours early to ensure I was in the front of the line) because Paul was honest, principled, and I agreed with him on almost everything. He was a great member of Congress and I wish him well as an activist of liberty, to this day.
However, we are a movement which needs to grow. And with that in mind, we need to learn from the past. Learning from the past and saying what we need to go forward, it’s time to move on from the Ron Paul movement, into something bigger.
The approach and method of the Ron Paul movement simply does not work. And it certainly does not win.
In 2008 Paul built up momentum. But despite him being one of the better fundraisers in the GOP primary – having one of the highest volunteer numbers and getting national attention – he never actually polled that well. Doomed to fail candidates, such as Duncan Hunter, Tommy Thompson and Tom Tancredo, actually out-polled him and his score being above them really just stems from him staying around the longest of any candidate besides McCain.
In 2012, with four years of planning, an extremely weak GOP primary field, and the ability to raise $40 million, he still did considerably poorly. He never held a national poll position above 15%. Paul out-raised Rick Santorum by more than 2 to 1 and still managed to get 70% fewer votes than him, despite staying in the race for twice as long.
It was a failed campaign, and while libertarians should be proud of the results, losing to the boring Mormon, the disgraced speaker, and the senator who couldn’t even win a reelection, shows the results aren’t much to be proud of. And for the Ron Paul legacy, I’d argue it exists as a club on the Internet, and nothing more. This idea of the ‘Ron Paul vote’ has produced one senator who is now shunned by the very movement that helped get him elected, because of minor compromises. It also produced two congressmen who the movement barely likes, and a bunch of people who ended up voting for Donald Trump, anyway, when the primaries began. The movement had no longevity, and it was more of a Ron Paul cult, than a libertarian movement.
This needs to stop!
The question then becomes “What do we become, if not the Ron Paul movement?”
I’d say we start by embracing social issues a bit more enthusiastically. We shouldn’t just say gay marriage should be legal, but let’s have libertarian leaders openly say homosexuality is a natural thing, and while people have a right to be bigoted, it’s morally wrong to do so. We should also make a greater effort in accommodating the underrepresented atheist culture. As an atheist I’ve recognized nearly my entire life that the idea of religion is ridiculous, along with another 5% of Americans, and about 10-30% of Americans who are either agnostic or non-practicing in any form of belief. We should say that religious tax exemptions are a scam, the government overuses Christian influence, and even things such as our money being produced with the word “God” on it, is insulting to a large segment of the population. Let’s actually go out and find the less religious. Being a Texas congressmen, I feel that Ron Paul was always under pressure to vote in favor of walls, ending birthright citizenship, and was even open to banning immigrants themselves from certain regions. Let’s actually have libertarianism embrace amnesty. Let’s embrace the idea that millions of people want to come to capitalist America and create a home to thrive in. Let’s tell that narrative and make it the libertarian one.
With this and more, there were tons of issues in which I feel Ron Paul skirted around to win over social conservatives, and instead it created kind of a mesh of people who hated the establishment and were fine to adopt someone as insane as Donald Trump, soon after Paul left. Let’s embrace the gay-loving immigrant atheist who wants legal marijuana and abortions! Let’s be a socially inclusive movement!
The next thing with Paul which is key, is going to be some stabilization on economics.
Let me give an unpopular opinion here: When Ron Paul does something such as go “Oh, I’d cut the government in half overnight!” or “I’d be happy to walk into office and end the Fed on the first day!” it is, rightfully so, the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
As much as I agreed with Paul on economics, I feel he was often a shamrock economist, rather than an actual economist. The economy is perpetually about to collapse, people need to buy gold, and it’s all thanks to the shysters at the Fed. There is also this ridiculous idea that we could just cut these departments, lay off millions, and everything is going to be fine. It’s a joke.
Having freedom of currency and market interest rates is a good thing. Ending big departments is a good thing. However, there need to be real plans that could viably pass in Congress, respect the pros and cons to ending them, and gradually phase them out. There wasn’t a clear end-the-Fed plan which wouldn’t have tanked the market, leaving us with a worse system later on. There wasn’t any talk of severance packages for laid off federal workers or retraining programs. There also wasn’t enough emphasis on the bread and butter issues of economies. The terrible occupational licensing, overuse of tariffs in our economy, burdensome regulations in paperwork and basic structures on building land. This was sadly never worked on, and that is pretty disturbing.
I would not recommend that libertarians cave on principles with economics. But they need to get a whole lot better: Talk about a negative income tax to replace welfare, talk about mass-severance packages to phase out departments peacefully and with workers not complaining, and talk about basic monetary reforms. It will help libertarians look like something other than crack-smoking, Jew banker-hating idiots!
Finally, we must be a bit clearer on foreign policy.
‘Clear’ in the sense that libertarians should, openly, say that Israel has a right to exist and that we support them.
The number of libertarians I have found with overly-pro-Palestinian rhetoric in the Ron Paul movement was completely insane. I get it. Israel often breaks the rules. I also do not support giving them foreign aid similar to all nations. I also admit they, from time to time, do things which lead to very unfortunate deaths. I even can agree that Israel being a ‘Jewish state’ is flawed on basic principles. However, they are sitting next to a ton of crazy, backwards nations with lunatics strapping bombs to their chests, and they have Sunday night terror warnings similar to how Americans have football.
Ron Paul constantly aligning with American activists who attack Israel and praise Palestine, led to an alliance of doom. It’s a dead idea, and it’s never going to benefit the world by holding those positions. The libertarian movement must call for cutting the defense budget by 70%, yes. But don’t throw ‘sympathizing with terrorists’ into the mix.
Here is what I believe, in conclusion, needs to happen for this ‘Ron Paul movement’ to evolve:
Embrace Gary Johnson: I apologize that he supports maintaining the Civil Rights Act, but he’s still now the most popular and well-known libertarian in America.
Embrace Bill Weld: Once again, he’s not perfect. However, he was the Republican governor with the balls in the early 1990s to be pro-LGBT, pro-medical marijuana, and, unlike other Republicans, is actually a fiscal conservative.
Embrace Rand Paul: The man kicks ass as a senator. He is the Robert Taft of this generation in American politics, because he can go out and work with people such as Cory Booker, Barbara Boxer, Mitch McConnell, and Ted Cruz. He is a uniter focusing on libertarian ideas which are simple, and he can get big deals done.
Embrace Milton Friedman: The Nobel prize-winning economist who worked to end the draft, was the only one advising Reagan to be against the War on Drugs, heavily influenced the Reagan amnesty, and worked on a number of reforms globally that made the world a better place. He did it by compromising, and being creative.
Embrace Mark Sanford: Awesome guy who, should, undeniably, be one of the first names called on for the 2020 presidential race. He was a great governor and is a great member of the House.
What these guys all have in common is they served in office and actually did have more while in office, compared to Ron Paul. Paul, while being a movement builder in Congress, never achieved much. We can show Rand Paul having some monumental success in prison reforms, Bill Weld cutting his state’s budget, or Gary Johnson having dozens of wins while Governor of New Mexico, but we really can’t show a single instance were Ron Paul came even close to getting something passed. And while many try and go “Oh, he was a movement builder! He got it done!”, I’d factor that in more as ‘right place and right time’. When he began, the Internet just became a thing, the market was tanking and Iraq was the biggest joke since Vietnam. With that and the age of the Internet, it let Ron Paul happen. I do, however, feel other people could have jumped in, built a similar movement and gotten farther if they moderated. If there was a Jeff Flake on stage being a Republican against the Iraq War, fiscally conservative and moderately good on marijuana, he’d have had the same cult, and likely more success in his run. Ron Paul just squeezed by and found a cult.
I do still value Ron Paul, a lot. The guy is a kind and very awesome man. However, he is the past, and a past we should value and learn from. Part of learning and admiring someone is recognizing they weren’t perfect and made mistakes. We can go on from that.
I hope all libertarians can perhaps become more of a compromise-heavy movement and by doing that, propel us towards the next level.
However, Ron Paul 2012!!! I always enjoyed saying that!
This article was edited for grammar, style, and spelling, but not for content. The views expressed are that of the author, Charles Peralo, exclusively, and do not reflect that of BeingLibertarian.com or Being Libertarian LLC
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