(Scenes from the Ron Paul Revolution: The rise of an eclectic anti-statist movement. Reason, 2/2008)
Paul’s surprising campaign. It featured a powerful show of grassroots support, respect from unexpected places, and an infiltration of radical ideas into American mainstream culture. There was the aging iconoclast Rotten, mixing the anarchy he stood for as a kid and the market capitalism he lived out as an adult (the Pistols had reunited to help promote the video game Guitar Hero III), symbolizing the range of liberties Paul represents to a movement that includes both Christian homeschoolers and heathen punks. And there was the question so many Americans want answered, the question central to Paul’s campaign as the only Republican candidate opposed to the war: When are we getting out of Iraq?
When the Paul campaign began, most of the political cognoscenti considered it a quixotic joke. Now it’s one of the hottest stories of the season. The reason for the turnaround is money. On November 5 alone, Paul took in a gigantic haul of $4.3 million. His third quarter 2007 draw nearly matched that of the far more famous John McCain, and his net cash on hand going into the primaries exceeded that of everyone but front-runner Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson (though millionaire Mitt Romney has his personal reserves to fall back on). As of press time, in the fourth quarter of 2007, Paul had collected $10.7 million, generally in amounts well below the legal $2,300 maximum for individual donations.
By November, Ron Paul was getting respect from surprising and prominent places. Conservative bigthinker George Will called Paul “my man” on ABC. Texas singer-songwriter-novelist Kinky Friedman told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Paul is “probably telling the truth.” Singer-songwriter John Mayer was caught on video informing a pal that “Ron Paul knows the Constitution, and I’m down with that.” Even Eleanor Clift, conventional wisdom on the hoof, said on The McLaughlin Group that “Ron Paul with his antiwar libertarian message will be the story coming out of New Hampshire for the Republicans.”
Paul is also the wonder of the Internet, with campaign mojo fueled almost entirely by his shockingly large number of fans on Meetup.com...
If news is the unexpected, Ron Paul’s rise was the news of the presidential campaign last fall. But Paul himself is not news. He’s been pushing his libertarian values, derived from his love of the U.S. Constitution and the Austrian school of free market economics, through all of his 10 terms in Congress and in between. (He has served in Congress three times: from 1976 to 1977, from 1979 to 1983, and from 1997 to the present. He ran for president as a Libertarian in 1988.) What’s news is the self-styled Ron Paul Revolution—his mass of self-coordinating supporters. The candidate’s critics invented the term “Paulistas” to mock those supporters as wild-eyed radicals. Many of them then claimed the word for themselves, adopting it as a badge of honor...
As this is written, before a single primary vote has been cast, it’s difficult to predict this movement’s future, especially when you remember how Dean’s campaign imploded after the Iowa caucus. But Paul’s backers are confident their man will at the very least be a new Goldwater.
But Barry Goldwater was not an isolationist. He thought (like McCain) that we weren't fighting hard enough in Vietnam.