Paulís Task: Build Up the Remnant
by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.: Thereís
Nothing Wrong with ĎPreaching†to†the†Choirí
in public life ever stray from the three-by-five card of approved
opinion. On those rare occasions when they do, a macabre ritual
of clarifications, retractions, and apologies Ė a veritable liturgy
of expiation Ė invariably follows. Forgive me, for I have contradicted
the holy mainstream. Never again shall I stray from the Biden-to-Romney
The world changed
on May 15, 2007. Someone strayed from Establishment opinion, and
then not only declined to do penance, but actually stood his ground
and refused to be intimidated into silence.
That day, in
a Republican presidential debate, Ron Paul said things Americans
were not supposed to hear about their governmentís foreign policy.
When Rudy Giuliani demanded a retraction, Dr. Paul wouldnít give
him the satisfaction. He instead pressed his point even harder.
a regular American who happened to be watching, was instantly converted
to the Paul cause.
without a friend in the world, nothing but hostility aimed at
him from all directions, stood his ground and did not back down.
Just reiterated his points even stronger. I was blown away. I
felt at that moment that the world changed forever, that here
had been this massive shift in reality and what could happen.
be the last such moment. In a GOP debate in Florida of all places,
Ron Paul said the U.S. government should normalize trade relations
with Cuba. In a South Carolina debate he stuck by his guns on the
drug war. At a meeting of an Arab-American association, he was asked
if he had a special speech tailored to their group. No, he said.
It would be the same speech he gives everywhere.
Ron Paul is.
Why did he
do these things? Why didnít he take the path of least resistance
by speaking in slogans and taking no political risks?
is obvious: heís an honest man.
The other reason
may not be so obvious: he was seeking out the Remnant.
Once in a while
we hear Ron Paul speak of the Remnant Ė how heís been trying to
find it, speak to it, build it up. What does he mean by it?
Job," a famous essay by Albert Jay Nock. In that essay,
Nock borrowed the example of the prophet Isaiah to describe the
task of the honest man in public life. (I think the example of Elijah
is a bit closer to what Nock had in mind, but thatís not the point.)
Listen as Nock
adapts the Lordís instructions to Isaiah into a modern vernacular:
what is wrong, and why and what is going to happen unless they
have a change of heart and straighten up. Don't mince matters.
Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance.
Give it to them good and strong and keep on giving it to them.
I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you," He added, "that it won't
do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will
turn up their noses at you and the masses will not even listen.
They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything
down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get
out with your life."
not been reluctant to take on his divinely appointed task, but when
it was put to him like that, it seemed like a fruitless task indeed.
What was the point of embarking on a mission that was doomed to
Lord said, "you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there
that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate,
each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged
and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the
dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new
society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and
keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant,
so be off now and set about it."
what Dr. Paul has been doing. Heís been looking for this heretofore
invisible Remnant, giving them comfort, making them aware of themselves,
providing them a rallying point. Selling out for the sake of mainstream
respectability would defeat his purpose entirely. Those approaches
repel the Remnant, Nock said. On the other hand, the truth teller
who appeals to the Remnant will find them.
To be sure,
Ron Paul has wanted to make his message as appealing to as many
people as possible. He never gratuitously drives anyone away. But
he has accomplished this task not by the usual method, which is
to water down the message according to focus-group results. He has
simply explained himself, boldly and without retreat.
And thus Nock:
preached to the masses only in the sense that he preached publicly.
Anyone who liked might listen; anyone who liked might pass by.
He knew that the Remnant would listen; and knowing also that nothing
was to be expected of the masses under any circumstances, he made
no specific appeal to them, did not accommodate his message to
their measure in any way, and did not care two straws whether
they heeded it or not. As a modern publisher might put it, he
was not worrying about circulation or about advertising. Hence,
with all such obsessions quite out of the way, he was in a position
to do his level best, without fear or favor, and answerable only
to his august Boss.
A lot of people,
possibly even the majority, donít want their worldviews challenged.
They want endless goodies. They want checks with their names on
them. They want to be flattered. They want: "You are the awesomest
of the awesome, and thatís why your government is hated around the
world. Because of your awesomeness."
this level of moral and intellectual development is not going to
understand Ron Paul, much less support him.
It is frustrating
and fruitless to appeal to such people, says Nock.
you to give them what they want, they insist upon it, and will
take nothing else; and following their whims, their irrational
changes of fancy, their hot and cold fits, is a tedious business,
to say nothing of the fact that what they want at any time makes
very little call on oneís resources of prophesy. The Remnant,
on the other hand, want only the best you have, whatever that
may be. Give them that, and they are satisfied; you have nothing
more to worry about.
Ron Paul has
had so much fundraising success because the Remnant had rarely if
ever been sought out by a presidential candidate before. Here was
a man of intelligence who defied all political convention, taught
the public about things they didnít even realize they should be
interested in, and could boast a record of consistency that impressed
even the most hardened cynic. That got their attention.
Nock had things
mostly right, but I would amend his presentation just a bit. He
appeared to speak as if the Remnant were a fixed number of people.
They might be sought out, but thatís it. Dr. Paul has shown that
the Remnant can be increased, not just found and inspired.
Dr. Paulís commitment to the truth, even when it seemed to yield
him only grief, seized the attention of a great many apathetic Americans,
and added them to the ranks of the Remnant.
described the task of finding the Remnant as a largely thankless
one, a job for which one would search in vain for tangible results.
In any given
society the Remnant are always so largely an unknown quantity....
You do not know, and will never know, who the Remnant are, nor
what they are doing or will do. Two things you do know, and no
more: First, that they exist; second, that they will find you.
Except for these two certainties, working for the Remnant means
working in impenetrable darkness.
before the Internet. Ron Paul now knows who the Remnant are. He
has a sense of their numbers. He knows some of the things theyíre
doing. He knows he has had an impact. Nock didnít think this was
possible. In his day, it wasnít.
Today we live
at a moment of opportunity none of us could have imagined a generation
ago. A revolution in information transmission is under way. Anyone
can express his ideas before the whole world. All of a sudden, ideas,
books, and people shunned by the Biden-to-Romney spectrum can get
a worldwide hearing. Next to this, Gutenberg looks like a lazy bum.
Ron Paul did
his job. He found and built up the Remnant. And there, rather than
in the fleeting passage of legislation, is where genuine, long-term
change will emerge.
E. Woods, Jr. [send him
mail; visit his
website], a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute,
is the creator of Tom
Woodsís Liberty Classroom, a libertarian educational
resource. He is the author of eleven books, including the New
York Times bestsellers Meltdown
(on the financial crisis; read Ron Paulís foreword)
Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, and most
© 2012 Thomas
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