What Should Ron Paul Do Now?

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The ‘What’s Next’ Series

By many criteria, the Ron Paul campaign has exceeded everyone’s expectations: a $20 million fourth-quarter haul, second- and third-place finishes after an initial field of eleven, and such officially anointed candidates as Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson left in the dust. But in the wake of Super Tuesday, what is the campaign’s future? We don’t know, of course, but here are a few possible routes that could be taken.

Sticking with the GOP. For the campaign to continue to raise serious money after New Hampshire (and especially now), the campaign team needed shaking up, even if only for psychological impact, and a new slate of professionals brought in. Professional Republican operatives are essential — they are loathsome and couldn’t care less about the issues, to be sure, but they know how to run a national campaign. The campaign should also bring Trevor Lyman and Vijay Boyapati into the campaign and give them veto power over ads and strategy in order to restore the grassroots approach that made the movement so successful.

An ad comparing Dr. Paul to the other candidates did finally appear in the days before Super Tuesday, but far too late. With a record like Dr. Paul’s to boast of, these ads should have wiped the floor with the other candidates. Running an amateurish ad in New Hampshire about Dr. Paul’s position on health care — health care! — is unforgivable.

When John McCain became the front-runner, it might have been nice to see an ad superimposing "New York Times endorsed" over John McCain’s head, asking: When was the last time you let the New York Times choose your president? And then perhaps a little red meat for registered Republicans: would the New York Times have endorsed Ronald Reagan?

Send a real message to the establishment: vote for the candidate who has refused to play their game. Then tick off major items from Ron Paul’s record, such as these, from the campaign website:

  • He voted against the Patriot Act.
  • He voted against regulating the Internet.
  • He voted against the Iraq war.
  • He has never voted to raise taxes.
  • He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
  • He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
  • He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
  • He has never taken a government-paid junket.
  • He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.
  • He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program.
  • He returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year.

The key message of the Ron Paul Revolution right now involves the war and the economy. That is where the emphasis should be. The phrase "none of the other candidates" needs to be employed liberally. No other Republican knows the first thing about the monetary system, the housing bubble or its causes, the falling dollar, and so on. Dr. Paul has been sounding the warning on this for years. The people he’s running against probably couldn’t define the federal funds rate if asked; how can they possibly deal with a crisis like this?

In states with open primaries, appeal to the idealism of the youth vote by making public Barack Obama’s awful foreign policy record. Obama is not antiwar. Gee whiz, he gave a speech against the Iraq war before he was in national office. The fact is, he has threatened war with Pakistan, won’t take a nuclear first strike off the table, and offers up the old establishment boilerplate about this being no time to retreat into "isolationism." American troops will stay in 130 countries. The Iraq withdrawal might be complete by 2013, but he can’t promise anything, and he’s voted to fund the war all this time. He also voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act.

This represents "change" how, exactly?

Independent Run. Should Dr. Paul choose to run as an independent, his choice of running mate could significantly energize the campaign and help it draw in still more of the disaffected. Someone with star power and name recognition, a take-no-prisoners stage presence, and a willingness to name names could make a splash. We’ve heard Judge Andrew Napolitano’s name mentioned. Napolitano is senior judicial analyst for the Fox News Channel (but don’t hold that against him; he is a great man). Napolitano has modest name recognition, but he’s written some excellent books, is very knowledgeable, and is a more powerful and energetic speaker than anyone running.

At the very least, it would be interesting to observe the Fox News Channel pretend their own senior judicial analyst doesn’t even exist.

The Paul/Napolitano ticket would need to raise enough money to reach the public via Perot-style infomercials. In those infomercials the two candidates should divide the airtime right down the middle. These points would need emphasizing:

  1. First, the phony choice the public is being offered. The establishment is insulting your intelligence with these candidates.
  2. The ways the Constitution has been trampled on.
  3. The financial crisis facing the country. We do not have the money for a $1 trillion empire that is making us less secure to boot. We do not have the money for the domestic promises we’ve made, much less the new ones all other candidates are making. We face a nearly $60 trillion shortfall! The political class — Democrats and Republicans alike — is destroying the dollar in their efforts to pay for all this extravagance with money we don’t have.
  4. The complete inability of the other candidates to deal with this crisis. Their utter ignorance of economics. If this isn’t Dr. Paul’s style, leave it to Judge Napolitano. But this part can’t be ignored.
  5. The way out. A sensible, pro-freedom, pro-Constitution vision. Make this as inspiring as possible.
  6. Then conclude: What we’ve just shared with you tonight is common sense. And yet you’ve never heard any politician, or any talking head in the media, speak to you like this or give you this kind of information. Why not? Isn’t it about time you supported someone who did?
  7. Hold up Ron Paul’s new book The Revolution: A Manifesto, and urge them to read it if they want to know what’s really going on, what they’re not being told, and what we all need to do about it.
  8. The media has already decided for you which candidates you’re supposed to vote for. Why not let them know you’ve chosen to think for yourself?

Withdrawal. Finally, Dr. Paul could leave the race altogether, focusing instead on campaigning for House and Senate candidates around the country who are committed to his platform. A minority of his supporters favor this approach.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of what Dr. Paul does, the idea behind the Liberty War Chest is a good one. If 100,000 people donated $500 over the next two years (a mere $20 per month), there would be $50 million in seed money for 2010 congressional races. And the Revolution moves forward.

We’re not sure ourselves which is the best route for Dr. Paul. We do know that we trust his judgment, and that we’ll be right by his side, at his service, no matter what he chooses. We await his orders.

Mark Thornton [send him mail] is an economist who lives in Auburn, Alabama. He is author of The Economics of Prohibition, is a senior fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and is the Book Review Editor for the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is co-author of Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War and is the editor of The Quotable Mises. Thomas E. Woods, Jr. [view his website; send him mail] is senior fellow in American history at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the author, most recently, of 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask. His other books include How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (get a free chapter here), The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy (first-place winner in the 2006 Templeton Enterprise Awards), and the New York Times bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History.

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