September 4, 2008
Call it the real Republican convention.
At least that is how Ron Paul, a US congressman for Texas, and his supporters billed their campaign’s Tuesday night “rally for the republic”, in which they called on the party to “return to its roots”.
From the looks of it, Paul, who suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination in June, could almost be accepting the party’s presidential nomination himself.
Almost 15,000 people came from all over the country to hear him speak.
Paul, who spoke at the gathering on Tuesday night, was joined by an ensemble of right-leaning politicians, thinkers, artists and media personalities, from US television host Tucker Carlson to Jesse Ventura, the former Minnesota governor.
Their problem? Ventura, a former pro wrestler put it quite simply: “Both parties are destroying our country.”
Lew Rockwell, a one-time staff member for Paul, was even more blunt. “If the only alternative to the socialism of the Democrats is the fascism of the Republicans then we are in serious trouble,” he said.
The solution? Paul and company believe the only way to save the party and the country is by promoting “freedom” at all costs. They want the US to stay out of people’s lives at home and stay out of overseas military entanglements, such as in Iraq.
Paul, 72, a 10-term Republican congressman, was the last of John McCain’s Republican opponents to drop out of the race, outlasting better known candidates such as Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.
Paul created headlines last year when his supporters raised more than $10m during two separate 24-hour periods, mainly via the internet.
Unlike his opponents, both Republican and Democrat, Paul in his convention speech made few promises of what he would actually accomplish in office.
Alluding to his belief in a limited government, Paul said: “I wanted to be president because of the things I didn’t want to do.”
While Paul pulled out of the campaign, his so-called “revolution” supporters continued to remain energised.
When he officially ended his presidential run, his campaign was debt free and had $5m in the bank. With a surplus of cash and supporters, he decided to launch the Campaign for Liberty advocacy group.
Its mission, the group says, is to defend the “great American principles of individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets and a non-interventionist foreign policy”.
Paul’s “Rally for the Republic” this week served as the campaign’s official kick-off.
“This is a continuation of something that was started this past year and which we are following up with because of the amount of enthusiasm out there for the message,” Paul said.
“Over the years there has been a gradual erosion and a misunderstanding of what a free society is all about, particularly among the Republicans.
“But freedom is inseparable and across the board. And the goal is to influence the philosophy of the Republican party and restore the republic.”
During the presidential campaign Paul was often excluded from forums and debates and even mocked by fellow Republican candidates. According to Paul this disrespectful treatment continues.
“If you don’t bow and pay homage to the nominee, then you’re not a Republican,” he said.
Paul said he was barred from much of the Republican National Convention.
“I can come to the floor but I have to use a special door, I can’t bring my staff, I must be chaperoned by an RNC staffer at all times and I am required to leave my credentials with the RNC,” he said.
While the RNC denied that Paul has been singled out for special treatment Jesse Benton, a Campaign for Liberty spokesmen, confirmed that Paul’s floor privileges were limited.
“The RNC spokesmen must not be speaking with the RNC operatives, because this is going on. So there is a miscommunication on their end,” he said.
Paul’s speech was the event of the day and he did not disappoint the throngs who came just for him.
He ran through a litany of offences and problems plaguing American society and its government.
When Paul explained to the cheering crowd “the fruits of your labour belong to you and not to the government”, he might as well have been reading from John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, but his supporters were whipped into a frenzy by the end of the sentence and Paul was forced to pause.
Paul reserved much of his harshest criticism for George Bush on homeland security.
“Naming a bill the ‘Patriot Act’ and voting for it doesn’t make you a patriot,” he said.
“There is never any reason to give up one ounce of freedom for the sake of security.”
And while John McCain has voiced support for an attack on Iran, Paul argues that Americans need to seriously consider the morality of pre-emptive war as US policy.
“Iran spends one per cent as much money on their defence as the US does and we’re supposed to be intimidated and scared of them? They don’t even refine their own gasoline!”
Fans such as Bob Larkin drove all the way from Connecticut to Minnesota with his daughter to hear Paul speak.
“His message is extremely important and he’s had the integrity to stick to it for years,” he said.
“I want the world to know that Americans do believe in freedom and peace.”
In fact, most Paul supporters echoed the same theme: Paul’s honesty and integrity as a major reason for their support.
Drew Ivers, the Iowa state chairman for Paul’s campaign committee, is a long time Republican. He is among many conservatives who see the Republican party as having “lost its understanding of conservatism”.
“It’s called limited government and we mean it,” Ivers said.
Paul supporters were so excited to come to Minneapolis that many organised bus groups and “Ronvoys” to help share the costs of making it to the convention.
Eric, Craig and Charles – all Texans who gave only their first names – hired two vans, which were brightly decorated with limited government slogans, for a 20-hour drive.
“Paul’s openness and honesty about the problems facing our country are huge selling points,” said Eric.
All three voiced the same idea about why Paul’s message is so important.
“Not in our name!” they said in unison.