The Ron Paul Revolution has been the greatest distinctly libertarian phenomenon in modern American history. Ron Paul has already achieved an unsurpassed victory in electoral politics — spreading the message of individual liberty, free markets, the rule of law, sound money and peace. Now that it is certain that the Republican Party will pass up the opportunity of a lifetime and nominate another champion of the welfare/warfare state instead of the one candidate who actually stands for fiscal responsibility and limited government, it is time to consider how Ron’s campaign can reach its full potential in cultivating a freedom movement whose legacy will last far into the future.
Ron Paul should run as a third-party candidate. He has already done an immeasurable amount of good and he could retire now, with us owing him an enormous debt for his tireless efforts and sacrifice. But we ask Ron to continue his run. For the sake of his supporters, the movement, and American liberty, this country needs a credible alternative on the November ballot to the bipartisan policies of ever-expanding government and perpetual war.
Ron Paul should seek the Libertarian nomination for president. It is his logical home. He is a member of the Libertarian Party, he ran in 1988, and an overwhelming majority of party members want a chance to support him again. Should he run as an independent, he would not have the ballot access that the LP offers. He would also have less of a chance of leaving behind a cohesive mass movement for liberty.
The Libertarian Party has never had an opportunity like this. Ron Paul has polled 8% in a hypothetical general election against a Republican, Democrat and other candidate (Nader), and he gets most of those votes from non-Republicans. This poll result is gigantic, surpassing past LP results many times over. Such a turnout would benefit the movement for many years to come. Some seasoned electoral libertarians might be reluctant, thinking it cannot turn out so well, given past experience, but they must understand that this is an entirely anomalous opportunity. Nothing in the past compares. Perhaps this would explain why a plurality of LP voters have made write-in votes in California and declared themselves “uncommitted” in Missouri, instead of picking from the long list of LP candidates: A good number of them might very well be holding out for Ron.
This would not mean he would have to abandon his congressional seat. Texas has a sore loser law, meaning he would not be able to appear on the state ballot as a Libertarian running for president. But in Texas the party could nominate his wife, Carol Paul, and everybody would know what it meant.
Some might object on the grounds that Paul is not like most Libertarians on certain social issues. And yet this incongruity is not nearly as significant as it may seem. Paul’s federal plank on abortion, for example — the relegation of the issue back to the states — is identical to that of the last three Libertarian presidential campaigns. His position on immigration is nuanced, shared by a huge portion of LP members, and focused more on slashing welfare than building a Tancredo-style police state.
Indeed, in practical terms, running as a "true conservative" has not worked, regardless of how much stress was put on his pro-life and pro-borders positions. In fact, Paul has polled much better among pro-choicers — who are two to three times as likely to support him as pro-lifers — and other moderates. Conservatives, Christians and other traditional constituencies on the right are far, far more likely to back the typical candidates; it is the self-described liberals, the antiwar constituency, the moderates and other non-red-state Fascists who have been enthusiastic about the Paul campaign.
While Ron Paul should certainly not abandon cultural conservatives, or any of his natural constituencies, his campaign’s rightward strategy has failed. The Republican establishment and most GOP voters hardly gave Paul a chance. Most folks who really want less government probably left the party long ago. Every exit poll and detailed pre-polls showed Republicans were the least likely to vote for Ron Paul. States with open primaries showed him getting three to five times as many votes from Democrats and independents as from Republicans.
And why should they like him? He is not, in fact, a classic Republican at all. Yes, there was the great Robert Taft, but he was an historical aberration. From the very beginning and without much interruption, the GOP has always been a party of big government, the police state, and war.
War alone explains why so many conservatives who agree with Ron Paul on everything from taxes and gun rights to immigration and abortion have been willing to pull the lever for candidates who promise more big government, more central administration from Washington DC and piles of social spending. For them and Ron Paul alike, war is the single most important issue. It just so happens that they’re wrong on it, and he’s right.
It is telling that while these conservatives who ostensibly agree with Paul on most things except the war oppose him, many Americans who disagree with him on abortion, immigration, and other domestic policy questions energetically support him. It is the sign of a political realignment — bigger government and much smaller government finally being pitted against each other, with the paramount issue of foreign policy at last getting the central importance it deserves.
Paul has already been doing exactly what a Libertarian candidate should be doing. He has been bringing the philosophy of liberty to the masses through the electoral process. Running as a Libertarian, Ron Paul can continue to push the issues that affect mainstream Americans, the poor and middle class — a consistent libertarian program of peace, much smaller government and dramatically lower taxes, civil liberties, a restored Bill of Rights and an end to destructive central bank inflation.
Whenever Paul himself has spoken on camera, he has been able to explain principled libertarian positions, some of them esoteric and confounding, on monetary policy, foreign affairs and economics, in a sincere way that makes these positions palatable to average Americans. He has done unusually well at making the free market sound good to liberals and peace sound good to conservatives. It has been his campaign that has watered down this message, attempting to chase down Republican votes that weren’t for the taking. As a Libertarian, he could keep focusing on his principled message on war, peace and the economy — while also continuing to condemn spending, gun control, secret prisons, warrantless surveillance, attacks on habeas corpus, torture and the drug war with even more force than Republican politics often allows. His focus on regressive inflation even gives him more chance to reach out to the left on economics than other campaigns have offered.
It has always been his libertarian radicalism, delivered calmly in the spirit of traditional Americanism and down-to-earth bourgeois values, that has animated his many thousands of supporters, inspiring online artists, musicians, writers, activists and people from all walks of life to unite behind his message. It has been his libertarian fire, and not his supposed Republican bona fides, that has awoken the youth — the most crucial component to any lasting movement. Now that the Republican Party has reminded us, once again, this time decisively, that it is not a party for liberty or small government — and especially not a party of peace — it is time for Ron Paul to leave that bloodthirsty, corporatist coalition and lead our movement to future victories.
We’ve all loved seeing him in the debates. Imagine him in the national spotlight in the general election. Picture him against McCain and Hillary, the one man standing for freedom and peace with two other choices clearly on the same side — the side of bureaucracy, entitlements, the prison-industrial complex and aggressive militarism.
As the primaries end, it is up to Ron Paul to ensure that it is only the beginning for his Revolution. Let us hope he decides to keep up the fight.
Eric Garris [send him mail] is webmaster for LewRockwell.com and Antiwar.com. He has been a political activist for over 40 years. Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research analyst at the Independent Institute. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.