July 22, 2007
The Antiwar, Anti-Abortion, Anti-Drug-Enforcement-
Administration, Anti-Medicare Candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul
By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
Whipping westward across Manhattan in a limousine sent by Comedy
Central's "Daily Show," Ron Paul, the 10-term Texas congressman and
long-shot Republican presidential candidate, is being briefed. Paul
has only the most tenuous familiarity with Comedy Central. He has
never heard of "The Daily Show." His press secretary, Jesse Benton, is
trying to explain who its host, Jon Stewart, is. "He's an affable
gentleman," Benton says, "and he's very smart. What I'm getting from
the pre-interview is, he's sympathetic."
"GQ wants to profile you on Thursday," Benton continues. "I think it's
"GTU?" the candidate replies.
"GQ. It's a men's magazine."
"Don't know much about that," Paul says.
Thin to the point of gauntness, polite to the point of daintiness, Ron
Paul is a 71-year-old great-grandfather, a small-town doctor, a
self-educated policy intellectual and a formidable stander on
constitutional principle. In normal times, Paul might be indeed, has
been the kind of person who is summoned onto cable television around
April 15 to ventilate about whether the federal income tax violates
the Constitution. But Paul has in recent weeks become a sensation in
magazines he doesn't read, on Web sites he has never visited and on
television shows he has never watched.
Alone among Republican candidates for the presidency, Paul has always
opposed the Iraq war. He blames "a dozen or two neocons who got
control of our foreign policy," chief among them Vice President Dick
Cheney and the former Bush advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle,
for the debacle. On the assumption that a bad situation could get
worse if the war spreads into Iran, he has a simple plan. It is: "Just
leave." During a May debate in South Carolina, he suggested the 9/11
attacks could be attributed to United States policy. "Have you ever
read about the reasons they attacked us?" he asked, referring to one
of Osama bin Laden's communiqués. "They attack us because we've been
over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years." Rudolph Giuliani
reacted by demanding a retraction, drawing gales of applause from the
audience. But the incident helped Paul too. Overnight, he became the
country's most conspicuous antiwar Republican.
Paul's opposition to the war in Iraq did not come out of nowhere. He
was against the first gulf war, the war in Kosovo and the Iraq
Liberation Act of 1998, which he called a "declaration of virtual
war." Although he voted after Sept. 11 to approve the use of force in
Afghanistan and spend $40 billion in emergency appropriations, he has
sounded less thrilled with those votes as time has passed. "I voted
for the authority and the money," he now says. "I thought it was misused."
There is something homespun about Paul, reminiscent of "Mr. Smith Goes
to Washington." He communicates with his constituents through birthday
cards, August barbecues and the cookbooks his wife puts together every
election season, which mix photos of grandchildren, Gospel passages
and neighbors' recipes for Velveeta cheese fudge and Cherry Coke
salad. He is listed in the phone book, and his constituents call him
at home. But there is also something cosmopolitan and radical about
him; his speeches can bring to mind the World Social Forum or the
French international-affairs periodical Le Monde Diplomatique. Paul is
surely the only congressman who would cite the assertion of the
left-leaning Chennai-based daily The Hindu that "the world is being
asked today, in reality, to side with the U.S. as it seeks to
strengthen its economic hegemony." The word "empire" crops up a lot in
This side of Paul has made him the candidate of many people, on both
the right and the left, who hope that something more consequential
than a mere change of party will come out of the 2008 elections. He is
particularly popular among the young and the wired. Except for Barack
Obama, he is the most-viewed candidate on YouTube. He is the most
"friended" Republican on MySpace.com. Paul understands that his
chances of winning the presidency are infinitesimally slim. He is
simultaneously planning his next Congressional race. But in Paul's
idea of politics, spreading a message has always been just as
important as seizing office. "Politicians don't amount to much," he
says, "but ideas do." Although he is still in the low single digits in
polls, he says he has raised $2.4 million in the second quarter,
enough to broaden the four-state campaign he originally planned into a
Paul represents a different Republican Party from the one that Iraq,
deficits and corruption have soured the country on. In late June,
despite a life of antitax agitation and churchgoing, he was excluded
from a Republican forum sponsored by Iowa antitax and Christian
groups. His school of Republicanism, which had its last serious
national airing in the Goldwater campaign of 1964, stands for a
certain idea of the Constitution the idea that much of the power
asserted by modern presidents has been usurped from Congress, and that
much of the power asserted by Congress has been usurped from the
states. Though Paul acknowledges flaws in both the Constitution (it
included slavery) and the Bill of Rights (it doesn't go far enough),
he still thinks a comprehensive array of positions can be drawn from
them: Against gun control. For the sovereignty of states. And against
foreign-policy adventures. Paul was the Libertarian Party's
presidential candidate in 1988. But his is a less exuberant
libertarianism than you find, say, in the pages of Reason magazine.
Over the years, this vision has won most favor from those convinced
the country is going to hell in a handbasket. The attention Paul has
captured tells us a lot about the prevalence of such pessimism today,
about the instability of partisan allegiances and about the
seldom-avowed common ground between the hard right and the hard left.
His message draws on the noblest traditions of American decency and
patriotism; it also draws on what the historian Richard Hofstadter
called the paranoid style in American politics.
Paul grew up in the western Pennsylvania town of Green Tree. His
father, the son of a German immigrant, ran a small dairy company.
Sports were big around there one of the customers on the milk route
Paul worked as a teenager was the retired baseball Hall of Famer Honus
Wagner and Paul was a terrific athlete, winning a state track meet
in the 220 and excelling at football and baseball. But knee injuries
had ended his sports career by the time he went off to Gettysburg
College in 1953. After medical school at Duke, Paul joined the Air
Force, where he served as a flight surgeon, tending to the ear, nose
and throat ailments of pilots, and traveling to Iran, Ethiopia and
elsewhere. "I recall doing a lot of physicals on Army warrant officers
who wanted to become helicopter pilots and go to Vietnam," he told me.
"They were gung-ho. I've often thought about how many of those people
never came back."
Paul is given to mulling things over morally. His family was pious and
Lutheran; two of his brothers became ministers. Paul's five children
were baptized in the Episcopal church, but he now attends a Baptist
one. He doesn't travel alone with women and once dressed down an aide
for using the expression "red-light district" in front of a female
colleague. As a young man, though, he did not protest the Vietnam War,
which he now calls "totally unnecessary" and "illegal." Much later,
after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, he began reading St.
Augustine. "I was annoyed by the evangelicals' being so supportive of
pre-emptive war, which seems to contradict everything that I was
taught as a Christian," he recalls. "The religion is based on somebody
who's referred to as the Prince of Peace."
In 1968, Paul settled in southern Texas, where he had been stationed.
He recalls that he was for a while the only obstetrician "a very
delightful part of medicine," he says in Brazoria County. He was
already immersed in reading the economics books that would change his
life. Americans know the "Austrian school," if at all, from the work
of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, two economists who fled the
Nazis in the 1930s and whose free-market doctrines helped inspire the
conservative movement in the 1950s. The laws of economics don't admit
exceptions, say the Austrians. You cannot fake out markets, no matter
how surreptitiously you expand the money supply. Spend more than you
earn, and you are on the road to inflation and tyranny.
Such views are not always Republican orthodoxy. Paul is a harsh critic
of the Federal Reserve, both for its policies and its
unaccountability. "We first bonded," recalls Barney Frank, the
Massachusetts Democrat, "because we were both conspicuous
nonworshipers at the Temple of the Fed and of the High Priest
Greenspan." In recent weeks, Paul's airport reading has been a book
called "Financial Armageddon." He is obsessed with sound money, which
he considers along with the related phenomena of credit excess,
bubbles and uncollateralized assets of all kinds a "sleeper issue."
The United States ought to link its currency to gold or silver again,
Paul says. He puts his money where his mouth is. According to Federal
Election Commission documents, most of his investments are in gold and
silver and are worth between $1.5 and $3.5 million. It's a modest sum
by the standards of major presidential candidates but impressive for
someone who put five children through college on a doctor's (and later
a congressman's) earnings.
For Paul, everything comes back to money, including Iraq. "No matter
how much you love the empire," he says, "it's unaffordable." Wars are
expensive, and there has been a tendency throughout history to pay for
them by borrowing. A day of reckoning always comes, says Paul, and one
will come for us. Speaking this spring before the libertarian Future
of Freedom Foundation in Reston, Va., he warned of a dollar crisis.
"That's usually the way empires end," he said. "It wasn't us forcing
the Soviets to build missiles that brought them down. It was the fact
that socialism doesn't work. Our system doesn't work much better."
Under the banner of "Freedom, Honesty and Sound Money," Paul ran for
Congress in 1974. He lost but took the seat in a special election in
April 1976. He lost again in November of that year, then won in 1978.
On two big issues, he stood on principle and was vindicated: He was
one of very few Republicans in Congress to back Ronald Reagan against
Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination. He was also one of the
representatives who warned against the rewriting of banking rules that
laid the groundwork for the savings-and-loan collapse of the 1980s.
Paul served three terms before losing to Phil Gramm in the Republican
primary for Senate in 1984. Tom DeLay took over his seat.
Paul would not come back to Washington for another dozen years. But in
the time he could spare from delivering babies in Brazoria County, he
remained a mighty presence in the out-of-the-limelight world of those
old-line libertarians who had never made their peace with the steady
growth of federal power in the 20th century. Paul got the Libertarian
Party nomination for president in 1988, defeating the Indian activist
Russell Means in a tough race. He finished third behind Bush and
Dukakis, winning nearly half a million votes. He tended his own
Foundation for Rational Economics and Education (FREE) and kept up his
contacts with other market-oriented organizations. What resulted was a
network of true believers who would be his political base in one of
the stranger Congressional elections of modern times.
A Lone Wolf
In the first days of 1995, just weeks after the Republican landslide,
Paul traveled to Washington and, through DeLay, made contact with the
Texas Republican delegation. He told them he could beat the Democratic
incumbent Greg Laughlin in the reconfigured Gulf Coast district that
now included his home. Republicans had their own ideas. In June 1995,
Laughlin announced he would run in the next election as a Republican.
Laughlin says he had discussed switching parties with Newt Gingrich,
the next speaker, before the Republicans even took power. Paul
suspects to this day that the Republicans wooed Laughlin to head off
his candidacy. Whatever happened, it didn't work. Paul challenged
Laughlin in the primary.
"At first, we kind of blew him off," recalls the longtime Texas
political consultant Royal Masset. " `Oh, there's Ron Paul!' But very
quickly, we realized he was getting far more money than anybody." Much
of it came from out of state, from the free-market network Paul built
up while far from Congress. His candidacy was a problem not just for
Laughlin. It also threatened to halt the stream of prominent Democrats
then switching parties for what sane incumbent would switch if he
couldn't be assured the Republican nomination? The result was a
heavily funded effort by the National Republican Congressional
Committee to defeat Paul in the primary. The National Rifle
Association made an independent expenditure against him. Former
President George H.W. Bush, Gov. George W. Bush and both Republican
senators endorsed Laughlin. Paul had only two prominent backers: the
tax activist Steve Forbes and the pitcher Nolan Ryan, Paul's
constituent and old friend, who cut a number of ads for him. They were
enough. Paul edged Laughlin in a runoff and won an equally narrow
Republican opposition may not have made Paul distrust the party, but
beating its network with his own homemade one revealed that he didn't
necessarily need the party either. Paul looks back on that race and
sees something in common with his quixotic bid for the presidency. "I
always think that if I do things like that and get clobbered, I can
excuse myself," he says.
Anyone who is elected to Congress three times as a nonincumbent, as
Paul has been, is a politician of prodigious gifts. Especially since
Paul has real vulnerabilities in his district. For Eric Dondero, who
plans to challenge him in the Republican Congressional primary next
fall, foreign policy is Paul's central failing. Dondero, who is 44,
was Paul's aide and sometime spokesman for more than a decade.
According to Dondero, "When 9/11 happened, he just completely changed.
One of the first things he said was not how awful the tragedy was . .
. it was, `Now we're gonna get big government.' "
Dondero claims that Paul's vote to authorize force in Afghanistan was
made only after warnings from a longtime staffer that voting otherwise
would cost him Victoria, a pivotal city in his district. ("Completely
false," Paul says.) One day just after the Iraq invasion, when Dondero
was driving Paul around the district, the two had words. "He said he
did not want to have someone on staff who did not support him 100
percent on foreign policy," Dondero recalls. Paul says Dondero's
outspoken enthusiasm for the military's "shock and awe" strategy made
him an awkward spokesman for an antiwar congressman. The two parted on
A larger vulnerability may be that voters want more pork-barrel
spending than Paul is willing to countenance. In a rice-growing,
cattle-ranching district, Paul consistently votes against farm
subsidies. In the very district where, on the night of Sept. 8, 1900,
a storm destroyed the city of Galveston, leaving 6,000 dead, and where
repairs from Hurricane Rita and refugees from Hurricane Katrina
continue to exact a toll, he votes against FEMA and flood aid. In a
district that is home to many employees of the Johnson Space Center,
he votes against financing NASA.
The Victoria Advocate, an influential newspaper in the district, has
generally opposed Paul for re-election, on the grounds that a "lone
wolf" cannot get the highway and homeland-security financing the
district needs. So how does he get re-elected? Tim Delaney, the
paper's editorial-page editor, says: "Ron Paul is a very charismatic
person. He has charm. He does not alter his position ever. His ideals
are high. If a little old man calls up from the farm and says, `I need
a wheelchair,' he'll get the damn wheelchair for him."
Paul may have refused on principle to accept Medicare when he
practiced medicine. He may return a portion of his Congressional
office budget every year. But his staff has the reputation of fighting
doggedly to collect Social Security checks, passports, military
decorations, immigrant-visa extensions and any emolument to which
constituents are entitled by law. According to Jackie Gloor, who runs
Paul's Victoria office: "So many times, people say to us, `We don't
like his vote.' But they trust his heart."
In Congress, Paul is generally admired for his fidelity to principle
and lack of ego. "He is one of the easiest people in Congress to work
with, because he bases his positions on the merits of issues," says
Barney Frank, who has worked with Paul on efforts to ease the
regulation of gambling and medical marijuana. "He is independent but
not ornery." Paul has made a habit of objecting to things that no one
else objects to. In October 2001, he was one of three House
Republicans to vote against the USA Patriot Act. He was the sole House
member of either party to vote against the Financial Antiterrorism Act
(final tally: 412-1). In 1999, he was the only naysayer in a 424-1
vote in favor of casting a medal to honor Rosa Parks. Nothing against
Rosa Parks: Paul voted against similar medals for Ronald Reagan and
Pope John Paul II. He routinely opposes resolutions that presume to
advise foreign governments how to run their affairs: He has refused to
condemn Robert Mugabe's violence against Zimbabwean citizens (421-1),
to call on Vietnam to release political prisoners (425-1) or to ask
the League of Arab States to help stop the killing in Darfur (425-1).
Every Thursday, Paul is the host of a luncheon for a circle of
conservative Republicans that he calls the Liberty Caucus. It has
become the epicenter of antiwar Republicanism in Washington. One
stalwart member is Walter Jones, the North Carolina Republican who
during the debate over Iraq suggested renaming French fries "freedom
fries" in the House dining room, but who has passed the years since in
vocal opposition to the war. Another is John (Jimmy) Duncan of
Tennessee, the only Republican besides Paul who voted against the war
and remains in the House. Other regulars include Virgil Goode of
Virginia, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland and Scott Garrett of New Jersey.
Zach Wamp of Tennessee and Jeff Flake, the Arizonan scourge of
pork-barrel spending, visit occasionally. Not all are antiwar, but
many of the speakers Paul invites are: the former C.I.A. analyst
Michael Scheuer, the intelligence-world journalist James Bamford and
such disillusioned United States Army officers as William Odom,
Gregory Newbold and Lawrence Wilkerson (Colin Powell's former chief of
staff), among others.
In today's Washington, Paul's combination of radical libertarianism
and conservatism is unusual. Sometimes the first impulse predominates.
He was the only Texas Republican to vote against last year's Federal
Marriage Amendment, meant to stymie gay marriage. He detests the
federal war on drugs; the LSD guru Timothy Leary held a fundraiser for
him in 1988. Sometimes he is more conservative. He opposed the recent
immigration bill on the grounds that it constituted amnesty. At a
breakfast for conservative journalists in the offices of Americans for
Tax Reform this May, he spoke resentfully of being required to treat
penurious immigrants in emergency rooms "patients who were more
likely to sue you than anybody else," having children "who became
automatic citizens the next day." (Paul champions a constitutional
amendment to end birthright citizenship.) While he backs free trade in
theory, he opposes many of the institutions and arrangements from
the World Trade Organization to Nafta that promote it in practice.
Paul also opposes abortion, which he believes should be addressed at
the state level, not the national one. He remembers seeing a late
abortion performed during his residency, years before Roe v. Wade, and
he maintains it left an impression on him. "It was pretty dramatic for
me," he says, "to see a two-and-a-half-pound baby taken out crying and
breathing and put in a bucket."
The Owl-God Moloch
Paul's message is not new. You could have heard it in 1964 or 1975 or
1991 at the conclaves of those conservatives who were considered
outside the mainstream of the Republican Party. Back then, most
Republicans appeared reconciled to a strong federal government, if
only to do the expensive job of defending the country against
Communism. But when the Berlin Wall fell, the dormant institutions and
ideologies of pre-cold-war conservatism began to stir. In his 1992 and
1996 campaigns, Pat Buchanan was the first politician to express and
exploit this change, breathing life into the motto "America First" (if
not the organization of that name, which opposed entry into World War II).
Like Buchanan, Paul draws on forgotten traditions. His top aides are
unimpeachably Republican but stand at a distance from the party as it
has evolved over the decades. His chief of staff, Tom Lizardo, worked
for Pat Robertson and Bill Miller Jr. (the son of Barry Goldwater's
vice-presidential nominee). His national campaign organizer, Lew
Moore, worked for the late congressman Jack Metcalf of Washington
State, another Goldwaterite. At the grass roots, Paul's New Hampshire
primary campaign stresses gun rights and relies on anti-abortion and
tax activists from the organizations of Buchanan and the state's
former maverick senator, Bob Smith.
Paul admires Robert Taft, the isolationist Ohio senator known during
the Truman administration as Mr. Republican, who tried to rally
Republicans against United States participation in NATO. Taft lost the
Republican nomination in 1952 to Dwight Eisenhower and died the
following year. "Now, of course," Paul says, "I quote Eisenhower when
he talks about the military-industrial complex. But I quote Taft when
he suits my purposes too." Particularly on NATO, from which Paul, too,
would like to withdraw.
The question is whether the old ideologies being resurrected are
neglected wisdom or discredited nonsense. In the 1996 general
election, Paul's Democratic opponent Lefty Morris held a press
conference to air several shocking quotes from a newsletter that Paul
published during his decade away from Washington. Passages described
the black male population of Washington as "semi-criminal or entirely
criminal" and stated that "by far the most powerful lobby in
Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government." Morris noted
that a Canadian neo-Nazi Web site had listed Paul's newsletter as a
laudably "racialist" publication.
Paul survived these revelations. He later explained that he had not
written the passages himself quite believably, since the style
diverges widely from his own. But his response to the accusations was
not transparent. When Morris called on him to release the rest of his
newsletters, he would not. He remains touchy about it. "Even the fact
that you're asking this question infers, `Oh, you're an anti-Semite,'
" he told me in June. Actually, it doesn't. Paul was in Congress when
Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear plant in 1981 and unlike the
United Nations and the Reagan administration defended its right to
do so. He says Saudi Arabia has an influence on Washington equal to
Israel's. His votes against support for Israel follow quite naturally
from his opposition to all foreign aid. There is no sign that they
reflect any special animus against the Jewish state.
What is interesting is Paul's idea that the identity of the person who
did write those lines is "of no importance." Paul never deals in
disavowals or renunciations or distancings, as other politicians do.
In his office one afternoon in June, I asked about his connections to
the John Birch Society. "Oh, my goodness, the John Birch Society!" he
said in mock horror. "Is that bad? I have a lot of friends in the John
Birch Society. They're generally well educated, and they understand
the Constitution. I don't know how many positions they would have that
I don't agree with. Because they're real strict constitutionalists,
they don't like the war, they're hard-money people. . . . "
Paul's ideological easygoingness is like a black hole that attracts
the whole universe of individuals and groups who don't recognize
themselves in the politics they see on TV. To hang around with his
impressively large crowd of supporters before and after the CNN debate
in Manchester, N.H., in June, was to be showered with privately
printed newsletters full of exclamation points and capital letters,
scribbled-down U.R.L.'s for Web sites about the Free State Project,
which aims to turn New Hampshire into a libertarian enclave, and
copies of the cult DVD "America: Freedom to Fascism."
Victor Carey, a 45-year-old, muscular, mustachioed self-described
"patriot" who wears a black baseball cap with a skull and crossbones
on it, drove up from Sykesville, Md., to show his support for Paul. He
laid out some of his concerns. "The people who own the Federal Reserve
own the oil companies, they own the mass media, they own the
International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, they're part of the
Bilderbergers, and unfortunately their spiritual practices are very
wicked and diabolical as well," Carey said. "They go to a place out in
California known as the Bohemian Grove, and there's been footage
obtained by infiltration of what their practices are. And they do mock
human sacrifices to an owl-god called Moloch. This is true. Go
research it yourself."
Two grandmothers from North Carolina who painted a Winnebago red,
white and blue were traveling around the country, stumping for Ron
Paul, defending the Constitution and warning about the new "North
American Union." Asked whether this is something that would arise out
of Nafta, Betty Smith of Chapel Hill, N.C., replied: "It's already
arisen. They're building the highway. Guess what! The Spanish company
building the highway they're gonna get the tolls. Giuliani's law
firm represents that Spanish company. Giuliani's been anointed a
knight by the Queen. Guess what! Read the Constitution. That's not
Paul is not a conspiracy theorist, but he has a tendency to talk in
that idiom. In a floor speech shortly after the toppling of the
Taliban in Afghanistan, he mentioned Unocal's desire to tap the
region's energy and concluded, "We should not be surprised now that
many contend that the plan for the U.N. to `nation-build' in
Afghanistan is a logical and important consequence of this desire."
But when push comes to shove, Paul is not among the "many" who
"contend" this. "I think oil and gas is part of it," he explains. "But
it's not the issue. If that were the only issue, it wouldn't have
happened. The main reason was to get the Taliban out."
Last winter at a meet-the-candidate house party in New Hampshire,
students representing a group called Student Scholars for 9/11 Truth
asked Paul whether he believed the official investigation into the
Sept. 11 attacks was credible. "I never automatically trust anything
the government does when they do an investigation," Paul replied,
"because too often I think there's an area that the government covered
up, whether it's the Kennedy assassination or whatever." The exchange
was videotaped and ricocheted around the Internet for a while. But
Paul's patience with the "Truthers," as they call themselves, does not
make him one himself. "Even at the time it happened, I believe the
information was fairly clear that Al Qaeda was involved," he told me.
"Every Wacko Fringe Group In the Country"
One evening in mid-June, 86 members of a newly formed Ron Paul Meetup
group gathered in a room in the Pasadena convention center. It was a
varied crowd, preoccupied by the war, including many disaffected
Democrats. Via video link from Virginia, Paul's campaign chairman,
Kent Snyder, spoke to the group "of a coming-together of the old guard
and the new." Then Connie Ruffley, co-chairwoman of United Republicans
of California (UROC), addressed the crowd. UROC was founded during the
1964 presidential campaign to fight off challenges to Goldwater from
Rockefeller Republicanism. Since then it has lain dormant but not dead
waiting, like so many other old right-wing groups, for someone or
something to kiss it back to life. UROC endorsed Paul at its spring
That night, Ruffley spoke about her past with the John Birch Society
and asked how many in the room were members (quite a few, as it turned
out). She referred to the California senator Dianne Feinstein as
"Fine-Swine," and got quickly to Israel, raising the Israeli attack on
the American Naval signals ship Liberty during the Six-Day War. Some
people were pleased. Others walked out. Others sent angry e-mails that
night. Several said they would not return. The head of the Pasadena
Meetup group, Bill Dumas, sent a desperate letter to Paul headquarters
asking for guidance:
"We're in a difficult position of working on a campaign that draws
supporters from laterally opposing points of view, and we have the
added bonus of attracting every wacko fringe group in the country. And
in a Ron Paul Meetup many people will consider each other `wackos' for
their beliefs whether that is simply because they're liberal,
conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis, evangelical Christian, etc. . . . We
absolutely must focus on Ron's message only and put aside all other
agendas, which anyone can save for the next `Star Trek' convention or
But what is "Ron's message"? Whatever the campaign purports to be
about, the main thing it has done thus far is to serve as a
clearinghouse for voters who feel unrepresented by mainstream
Republicans and Democrats. The antigovernment activists of the right
and the antiwar activists of the left have many differences, maybe
irreconcilable ones. But they have a lot of common beliefs too, and
their numbers and anger are of a considerable magnitude. Ron Paul
will not be the next president of the United States. But his candidacy
gives us a good hint about the country the next president is going to
have to knit back together.
Christopher Caldwell, a contributing writer, last wrote for the
magazine about Turkish immigrants in Germany.