While serving in the House, they were able to hone ideologically pure political identities because they represented safe districts. Paul became “Dr. No” by voting against legislation not expressly authorized by the Constitution. Sanders railed against the nation’s “endless wars” and opposed defense budgets while calling for actual socialism, something you can only get away with when your base is in the People’s Republic of Burlington. Both men fell into favor among anti-war activists. Post-9/11, they both opposed the Patriot Act and the National Security Agency’s surveillance program.
Then there was TARP, the $700 billion taxpayer-funded bailout for America’s failing banks. Both men opposed it—and were roundly criticized for being too ideologically immature to take the unpopular vote in favor of a needed rescue. Both also harbor deep mistrust of the Federal Reserve. Paul was perhaps best known for his campaign to “End the Fed,” and Sanders has worked with Paul and his son, Senator Rand Paul, to support legislation to audit the Federal Reserve.
Add in a healthy dose of hostility for the corporate media, and you have a pair of fellow travelers. Again, literally. In 2016, Ron Paul told Larry King, “I feel a kinship with Bernie Sanders. We’re both against corporatism. We’re both against special benefits to big business.”