James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, October 17, 2016

The fractured Ron Paul Revolution

I got connected to most of my friends and followers on social networks through our mutual admiration of Ron Paul. Many of them, however, are now vociferous supporters (and defenders) of Donald Trump. The following is my attempt to understand why that is.

The Ron Paul Revolution started on a Republican Presidential debate stage in the spring of 2007, when Rudy Giuliani tried to disparage Ron Paul's foreign policy views. It backfired, and many people took Ron Paul's side.

Over the course of two Presidential election cycles, a movement grew from a libertarian fringe in the Republican Party to a faction. It tried to remain together under Ron's less libertarian, more conservative, and more compromising son Rand. Rand's Presidential campaign quickly folded, and the faction splintered by supporting different Republican, Libertarian, and to a lesser extent, Constitution Party candidates.

The faction contained three kinds of Ron Paul supporters:

1. People who were already libertarian, strict Constitutionalists, or otherwise 90+ percent in agreement with Ron's positions. Ron didn't teach us anything we didn't already know; we were just glad he was doing this to spread the message.

2. People for whom Ron opened a new world of libertarian ideas. They began to think like the people in group #1.

3. Populists who were drawn to Ron because he had the courage to speak his mind to the Establishment. His lack of eloquence and charisma didn't matter; what mattered is he said what he believed.

It seems, however, that Ron's ideas didn't matter, or were misunderstood. His enemies were often the same as traditional conservatives of the Pat Buchanan vein and anti-New World Order conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones: the foreign interventionists who'd give up US sovereignty for UN social engineering, security treaties, and trade agreements.

They liked Ron Paul as a person. But in terms of policy, they supported him only in the sense of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." His message of individual liberty didn't resonate with them. Ron defends American sovereignty and the Constitution in defense of liberty; populists defend it because they elevate nationalism over liberty.

These populists are militarist, pro-police flag-wavers. Their values are not Ron's, and Donald Trump appeals to them even more.    

Of course, they're not the only former Ron Paul Revolutionaries in the Trump camp. While libertarian support for Mr. Trump appears slim, some prominent libertarians cheer him because they perceive him as antiwar, or at least substantially more antiwar than Mrs. Clinton.

While Mr. Trump does speak more truth on foreign policy than Mrs. Clinton does, he provides no reason for optimism. He has a disdain for liberty and an affinity for Big Government, and war feeds both. I recall that George W. Bush seemed more antiwar than Al Gore in 2000, and how did that work out? If Mr. Trump wins, would anyone really be surprised if Bill Kristol, or some other prominent pro-war neoconservative or Democratic "internationalist," has lunch with him the day after the election?

It seems the motivation of libertarian Trump supporters is to see the interventionists lose. They want the satisfaction of a political victory for once in their lives. Their hatred of domestic political enemies "trumps" everything else. If Mr. Trump escalates current wars and starts new ones, they'll content themselves with the belief that Mrs. Clinton would have been worse.

I understand populist support for Mr. Trump. I think his libertarian supporters, however, are throwing away everything they say they hold dear: Privacy. Free markets. Free speech. All for a flimsy hope for peace when there are more principled antiwar nominees, such as Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, on the ballot.

Donald Trump offers nothing for libertarians and has done nothing to earn their support. A vote for him is the opposite of keeping the revolution ignited by Ron Paul alive. It's a vote to extinguish it.


  1. But a vote for Trump at least is a vote against Horrible, Hideous Hillary, in a way that a vote for Johnson or Stein isn't. I don't vote any more, having concluded years ago that it only tends to legitimize an illegitimate system, but if I were voting, it would probably be for Trump, just because I think HRC will steer the nation straight into WWIII.

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