As he leaves elected politics, he does so in a very ungraceful way that follows the stereotypical negative political path that voters claim they are sick and tired of.
So far, in this his third run for President, instead of being a true leader who demonstrates that their can be a new way forward, and a more positive political path to take us there, Ron Paul has chosen to be a follower who takes his mighty message down the same low road that most politicians have taken. Instead of building himself up with his message and articulating actual coherent policies that can translate ideological purity into realistic accomplishments, Ron Paul has decided that he must tear others down in order for his message to succeed. So he was the first to launch highly exaggerated, brutally negative, webads first against Mitt Romney, then Rick Perry, and now Newt Gingrich.
Now Rick, and Mitt, and Newt, are big boys who should be able to defend themselves and with the exception of Newt Gingrich so far , they are not immune from their own negative ads that they have produced against each other. But Ron Paul is suppose to be a different kind of leader. He was suppose to be the non-politician, champion of the people, defender of liberty, and defender-in-chief of the U. S. Constitution. Yet his ads convey more of a very uncharacteristic first blood-like theme that is the total antithesis of his anti-war message and the noble cause he claims to represent.
Some might justify Paul’s highly negative campaign by claiming that he means business, is in this to win it, and will play by the same rules that his opponents will. That may be so. But I have yet to see Newt Gingrich produce an attack on the character of any of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. In fact with Newt, at least so far, it is quite the opposite. In Newt we see a man who is brave enough to stand behind his own record, his own ideas, and his own message, without resorting to cheap shots and investing his campaign’s money and time in to ads designed to allow him to become some sort of defacto winner because he is the last man, or woman, standing. Unlike Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich is showing himself to be a leader in this area and blazing the path for a new campaign model that is relying less on polling and polarizing language, and more on solutions, ideas, and vision.
Seeing Ron Paul exit the political stage in such a way is in many ways sad. Ron Paul deserves much credit for making sure that words and phrases like constitutional and limited government have never been left out of the political debate. He has done much to make people think twice about what role government is suppose to play in our lives. While Ron Paul has never quite been able to move his message very far within the legislative process, for the last two decades he has at least been an integral part of insuring that the question of government’s rightful role in our lives is at least an issue given consideration during the legislative process. For that I give Dr. Paul much credit. Which is why I would have prefered to see the curtain come down on his years in elected office in a much more dignified way than he has chosen. But that is Ron Paul’s decision and as he would be the first to tell you, that is his right.
But as Ron Paul does leave elected office, and yes I say leave, because while I may not be sure who the ultimately Republican nominee will be, I am positive that it won’t be him and I see little chance of him being on anyone’s short list for Vice President. So as he “leaves” elected office without seeking reelection to a thirteenth term in Congress, I can’t help but wonder who will take his place.
Who will pick up the Libertarian Party torch and lead the way?
As a political party, Libertarians are a mess. By their very nature, they are not an agreeable bunch. In many ways, they are admirably not prone to any kind of groupthink mentality, but also irritatingly unable to consider a differing opinion. As such, their independence and strong individualism makes them an inherently unruly, impossible to organize bunch. As one observer put it;
” If you get 10 libertarians into a discussion, you’ll have 10 different opinions on many things, maybe even 11″.
Legendary Libertarian stalwart, Dr. Mary Ruwart was even quoted as saying;
“I was at the 1983 convention and it was so spiteful and destructive that I was almost done with the party.”
Responsible for such reactions is the very real Libertarian quality to be disagreeable and independent. And the fact that Ron Paul was one of the few people that the vast majority of Libertarians could get behind, simply makes Ron Paul an even more valuable figure and adds to a long list of legitimate credit due him. Ron Paul is one of the few, if not the only figure that most Libertarians could ever truly unite behind. Yet at the same time, Ron Paul has not sought out their presidential nomination since 1988, when he first ran for President, and probably for good reason. While Ron Paul may be a bit, how can I say this…………unconventional. Yeah. That’s it,…… unconventional. While he may be unconventional, he is not stupid. Even he knows that he can not get elected President with only the Libertarian nomination. So he runs as a Republican.
So again, with him leaving the spotlight, who else can carry the Libertarian banner with a unified Libertarian following?
Possible popular figures include Wayne Allyn Root, the 2008 Libertarian VP nominee, and Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson who has joined Ron Paul in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, as well as beloved Libertarian candidate, Mary Ruwart. Yet while these may by leading names within the Party for various reasons, they can hardly be considered figures who can unify the Party and get their message out any more than Ron Paul has been able to.
The way I see it, aside from Ron Paul’s son, freshman Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, no one has even the slightest chance of doing that. And even Rand may fall short of being able to fill his father’s shoes among LP members. While Rand Paul is an apple that has not fallen from the tree, his Libertarian roots are not quite as solid as his fathers. Many Libertarians might even consider him to be too much of an interventionist for their tastes.
The sad fact is that as a Party, Libertarians are simply dysfunctional and they can barely be considered their own national Party.
As Dr. Walter Block, a professor of economics at Loyola University, once noted, the Libertarian Party seems to be on the verge of being taken over by conservatives. Which is part of the reason why the bombastic former conservative Republican Congressman from Georgia, Bob Barr was the Party’s presidential nominee in 2008.
Block writes that in 2008 he was struck by the fact that the Libertarian National Convention had conservative Richard Viguerie give what he called a “high profile” and “very well received speech”. Then he was struck by the designation of conservative Jim Pinkerton as the moderator of the convention’s presidential debate.
All of this has already raised some big questions regarding what is really more of Libertarian movement than a Party. Will it be taken over by conservatives and their often spoken of “neo-con” nemeses? Will we see the Libertarian movement dismembered by a division between conservative-Libertarians or libertarian-Conservatives and old guard Libertarians? Will we see the rise of Conservatarians? Or maybe we will see the Libertarian Party consumed by the TEA Party movement? These questions become even more pertinent now that Ron Paul heads off in to retirement. Having become the only widely recognized national leader of libertarianism, where do his supporters go after him? And how will his supporters vote when he fails to win the Republican presidential nomination? These questions and the lack of an answer to them are probably Ron Paul’s greatest failing as as the perceived father of contemporary, American libertarianism. His inability to look beyond his own presidential aspirations and to prepare for the future of his movement, leaves its future in great doubt. Maybe Ron Paul believes that his son will inherit the libertarian limelight. If so, the Libertarian Party will soon fade away as a political organization because as a member of the U.S. Senate, Rand Paul’s Party loyalties to the Republican Party are far greater than many may be willing to accept.
Rand Paul could however be a bridge.
He could become a bridge that finally helps lead to what really needs to be done here….the creation of coalition of Libertarians, and Republicans, and Conservatives, together in one great cause to save the principles that founded this great nation. At least until we have steered ourselves safely away from the shoals of socialism that could run our ship of state aground.
While I have these questions, I do not have the answers. But what I do know is that our nation is at a very critical juncture in its history. Our current President has taken a hard left turn that has advanced the cause of socialism in America at a pace faster than I could have ever imagined. And while Republicans, even prior to President Obama, have not always effectively stood their ground for the principles of limited government, after losing all control of government in 2008 and regaining some of it back in 2010, the hope is that they have learned their lesson. But even if they have, the non-liberal, anti-socialist voters of America are still leery of the G.O.P. So much so that in a close election in 2012, a conservative or libertarian oriented third party candidate could easily insure the reelection of President Obama. This we must avoid.
Quite unfortunately, Ron Paul’s scorched earth campaign strategy is not willing to accept that. Instead, the way he sees it, if he can’t be the Republican presidential nominee, then no one other Barack Obama can be President in 2012.
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