After a lengthy analysis of the Ron Paul influence evident at the Minnesota GOP Convention May 18-19 in St. Cloud (“Libertarian surge remakes state GOP,” May 20), the burning question for the Minneapolis Star Tribune Editorial Board was whether “a caucus-based political system that magnifies populist tides [and enabled Paul supporters to dominate the state convention] serves this state well.”
Couple that with a harsher Washington Post piece published in full online (“The party of Ron Paul?” May 24) — which labeled recently adopted planks in the Iowa Republican Party platform “wacky” and “nutty” and gleefully anticipated “a few highly visible fights” erupting over “Paulite positions in the national platform” — and it’s evident the Strib is a more than a little confused about what the Ron Paul revolution is all about.
Let me do what I can to clarify.
First, let’s understand what a “movement” or a “revolution” is. All movements — the Pat Robertson Republican coup in the 1980s, gay rights, women’s suffrage, civil rights and, yes, the Ron Paul movement — follow a common pattern.
Movements all begin at the margins with people who have little or nothing to lose. Unsuccessful movements never expand beyond the sloganeering fringe. Successful movements — those with an intellectual and moral basis — mature to attract a mainstream following.
The gay-rights movement is a great example. Shirtless hunks in leather tutus and motorcycling “Dykes on Bikes” are no longer the point of the gay-rights spear. It’s the gay lawyer/gay accountant, lesbian legislator/lesbian physician — same-sex couples with kids and fundamental concerns about faith, family and freedom — who are now the face of the movement.
Focusing commentary on the remnants of the gay-rights fringe is something the media would never do. But focusing on the fringe of the Ron Paul movement is exactly what the Strib and WaPo commentaries actually do.
Libertarians today are on that cusp between being all about the T-shirt and all about ideas. I was a libertarian before it was cool and a Republican when it wasn’t cool.
As a political force in the 1970s, libertarians had little to lose. They were the folks who couldn’t be Democrats because they believed their money was theirs to spend; but they couldn’t be Republicans because they wanted to spend it on drugs and prostitutes.
Times have changed.
Libertarians today are less about provocative issues and more about reversing the expanding scope of government. Government expansion is bad in itself, but the future consequences are worse: Without defined limits on government, our liberties, our American republic, are truly at risk.
But, says the Washington Post, Americans aren’t buying that argument. If it were, Ron Paul would get more than 15 percent of the primary vote.
The Strib offers its caucus-questioning advice to an implied majority of “voters who believe government remains a useful tool for improving people’s lives.” Unfortunately, that glass-half-empty perspective on the Ron Paul revolution misses a significant point.
In Ron Paul, you have a charisma-challenged old white guy who, without pandering or pushing prejudice, inspires young people with the always sexy message of monetary policy.
A viable presidential challenge built by sticking to principle, not telling people only what they want to hear, is a political story the Strib and the Washington Post would shout from the rooftops — if only the message were a message they wanted to hear.
The power of an idea, personal freedom, doesn’t lie in manufactured popularity.
What about that Paul-inspired “wacky,” “nutty” “constitutional fundamentalism” found in Republican Party platforms?
Sure, abolishing the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Reserve is not going to happen even under a President Paul. But a political party that seriously considers abolishing cabinet-level departments and unaccountable government entities is a political party that probably won’t advocate for a new cabinet-level “Department of the Internet” and is serious about monetary policy.
It’s a party that stands for something.
That brings us to the WaPo admonition that “Paulites” learn to compromise, lest, says the Strib, the philosophical gulf “that’s already proving difficult to bridge by those seeking to govern this state” grows even wider.
One does not compromise principle. It’s a cliché and a fallacy that, given two diametrically opposed points of view, the “truth” must necessarily lie somewhere in the middle.
The Republican problem is buying into the “compromise is good” argument and declaring victory for every move to the left that “could have been so much worse.”
Paulites won’t make that compromise.
Ron Paul delegates to the RNC will support the nominee. However, integral to that support is holding the candidate and the party to the fundamental principles of limited government and personal and economic freedom. Constancy to principle is the ultimate loyalty.
All that said, I urge our media friends to examine the default position that government is good and invite them to think for themselves. The Ron Paul revolution offers the media, the Republican Party and America that opportunity. Take it.
Craig Westover is a Republican activist and a Ron Paul delegate to the Republican National Convention. Follow him on Twitter: @CraigWestover and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/craig.westover.
This article originally appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune May 26. 2012.
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