There is no doubt in my mind that Representative Ron Paul is currently the most important figure in the liberty movement today. His actions over the last several years have awakened a multitude of activists and cured the apathy of countless others. However, we must keep in mind that it is likely that Ron Paul’s spotlight will diminish once his current House of Representatives term expires next year.
It’s time for a bit of history. For those who don’t recall, late 2006-2007 was a bleak time for many conservatives. The Democratic Party captured both the House and the Senate, establishing the Pelosi/Reid era in Congress. Although a Republican still sat in the White House, it became increasing apparent that George W. Bush had little desire for promoting conservative principles like a constitutionally limited government, rolling back the size and scope of federal agencies and departments, and reducing the ever inflating national debt. It seemed as if many of my fellow conservatives turned a blind eye toward many odious policies, even though they ran contrary to our principles, simply because a Republican leader promoted them. Many of the same conservatives who once opposed the military adventures of President Bill Clinton now applauded Bush for an even more aggressive policy of nation building. In short, principle had taken a back seat to party.
As for myself, I was feeling pretty depressed about the direction of my party and the state of politics in America in general. Early 2007 found me in Tennessee, working a three-month contract with Students for Life of America, a pro-life organization based in Northern Virginia. Promoting important causes, like the pro-life issue, allowed me to advanced my principles, even when it seemed as if my party had lost its way.
After this position ended, I considered returning to campaign work. In 2006, I was employed by the Republican Party of Virginia. Prior to that time, I had volunteered on many campaigns and so I felt as if I had a pretty good understanding of the ins and outs of campaigning. I had never worked on a presidential campaign and considered it to be a logical conclusion to my time in the field. But who was the best choice? Who was the candidate who best advocated my principles, the values of a liberty-minded conservative?
Based upon familiarity, I first considered former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore. But I quickly found a few key areas of policy disagreement. Next on the list came pro-life favorite Senator Brownback of Kansas. But again, he was less than ideal. Well-known politicians like Mitt Romney, John McCain, or Rudy Giuliani, didn’t seem like very good choices either.
Digging deeper into the field I came across Representative Ron Paul. I must confess that I didn’t know too much about him at that time. Given the fairly establishment circles in which I ran, I believed what I was told, that Dr. No was little more than a cantankerous old man from Texas who didn’t get along with most of his fellow Republicans. But the more that I read about him, the more I realized that he represented just what my party needed and my principles demanded. He fought against the expansion of the federal government and sought to shrink it, he cherished the Constitution and the rule of law, he was a voice for the unborn, and opposed installing leaders of other nations and meddling in their domestic affairs.
These were some of my thoughts before Paul. You may find it odd that I use the term “before Paul” given that he has been in elected office since the mid 1970’s. But let me explain. Although it is true that Ron Paul has been involved in politics since before many of us were born, his greatest impact in the national political dialogue began with his 2007/2008 run for the GOP nod for president. This primary catapulted him to the forefront of the liberty movement and established a near cult-like following among some of the faithful.
But now, after five years, we are faced with the grim reality of a movement without Paul. After all, he is not running for re-election to the House of Representatives in November and, unfortunately, will not be the Republican nominee for president. I won’t say that I know his plans, he could host a talk show or be a regular on Fox News like Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin, but I expect that his role will diminish as the years pass.
I wish I could say that the movement has transcended national leaders, that a sufficient portion of the population is educated and energized to take back their country from the statists who have led us down this troubled path. I wish I could also say that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were the GOP leaders who fully embraced our philosophy, but neither statement would be true.
Fortunately, there are other leaders in Congress, leaders like Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey, or Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina who have been fighting the good fight for liberty. The best well known, Senator Rand Paul, has also drawn a good bit of flak, tarnishing him in the eyes of some Ron Paul supporters for endorsing Mitt Romney recently. I won’t go into that argument again, but you can find my thoughts here.
I suppose my take home point here is that there has been a time before Ron Paul was there to share his wisdom, inspiration, and leadership. Whether it happens today, tomorrow, next year, or fifty years from now, there will come a time when Ron Paul is no longer with us. Therefore, although Ron Paul is currently an important force and should be remembered and honored as such, for the sake of the future of the movement, we must become something more than a cult of personality based around Dr. Paul. When he leaves us, we cannot allow ourselves to be lost in the wilderness once more, waiting for the next great leader to serve as our guide.
The future belongs to all of us. Ron Paul has made his mark and, God-willing, he will continue to do so for a long time to come. But, like Barry Goldwater before him, the time of Ron Paul is coming to a close. So what will you accomplish to further the ideals of liberty in this great nation of ours?