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The Ron Paul Revolution

[digg-reddit-me]It’s becoming more and more clear between Bob Barr’s Libertarian bid for the presidency and Ron Paul’s continued campaign that George W. Bush has done more than almost any political figure to resurrect the libertarian movement.

The energy motivating this movement is still there, seeking an outlet, even as Ron Paul’s campaign has been stymied. This libertarianism will be disgusted by McCain’s visions of an American empire; and it will not be satisfied with Obama’s pragmatism, though some may hold their nose and vote for who they see as the lesser evil. The assimilation of libertarian ideas into the mainstream Democratic party 1 will not be able to satisfy the revolutionary and vaguely anarchist2 goals of this movement.

While libertarianism is necessarily mainly concerned with process, the Ron Paul Revolution, and most of the rest of the animating forces behind libertarianism today are more ideological. It is this focus on ideology, on radicalism, on a refusal to compromise that leads me to reject libertarianism proper, even as I remain sympathetic to many of its basic ideas.

What I share with more ideological libertarians today is a sense that our nation has gone far astray from it’s founding ideals – that though George W. Bush has in many ways made this problems worse, the problems go far deeper than a single two-term presidency. The problems are systematic. That’s why I feel the appeal, the pull, the emotional release of revolutionary fervor motivating the libertarian movement today:

But I also am wary of such emotionalism. The martial beat is appealing, but dangerous from a historical point of view.

Jonah Goldberg and many other conservative pundits have talked about the “fascist” potential of Obama’s campaign. They see hundreds of thousands – millions – of people motivated and inspired. They are afraid and have been trying to paint Obama as a demagogue – perhaps to justify their own loathing of him. But Obama has refrained from inciting people’s fears or darker passions; he has called on people to hope and to act to create a better tomorrow. Historically, fascism has had an ugly element to its appeal – as it stirs nativism and unthinking jingoism to achieve it’s ends. This is not Obama’s approach.

This was the approach of Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, and many other libertarians during the 1990’s as they sought to try everything to win some power to reverse the crisis they saw as imminent. As these libertarians adopted the tactics of fascists, they became even more marginalized.

Ron Paul’s campaign today succeeded because it avoided such tactics – and because the presidency of George W. Bush has demonstrated to many both how corrupt both parties are and how endangered our liberty has become. But what was evident both then and now is that ideology is the motivation behind the changes they seek. That is why Ron Paul was willing to use race-baiting as a tactic – because achieving a libertarian revolution was worth the price. That is why Ron Paul’s opinions are so simple, appealing, and revolutionary – because they are based on ideology rather than reality. The appeal of these ideas today comes from the fact that the libertarian ideology is such a relief from the neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideologies of the past sixteen years.

But what is needed is neither of these neo-ideologies. What we need is pragmatism and activism at all levels of our society. To accomplish this, we need what Lawrence Lessig has called a “process revolution.”

And that is why I support Obama.
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  1. The ideas having gained prominence in a large part due to the ascendance of Mountain West as a potential Democratic stronghold. []
  2. Which is an unfair characterization of many libertarians, but the tendency towards anarchism does color the movement as a whole. []

One reply on “The Ron Paul Revolution”

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