February 3, 2012 - 2:05 am
It’s an almost immutable law of nature that government tends toward expansion, not contraction, absent a seminal event such as a revolution.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul knows this — he’s been fighting that law for nearly 40 years. And now, in the midst of his third bid for the presidency, Paul sees more reason for hope than despair.
“I think we’re seeing an opportunity now,” he said in an interview during a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center. “Are we going to do what traditionally happens, where people get frightened and ask for more government. Or are we going to say that government is too big and has failed?”
Thus far, it seems, it’s the latter. Paul has railed for decades against a government-driven economy — it was President Nixon’s final divorce of the dollar from the value of gold that drove him into politics. He’s cast votes against wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and urged the return of U.S. troops stationed overseas. He’s railed against the USA Patriot Act and the surveillance state.
But Paul sees raucous crowds during his campaign appearances, people young and old who respond to his message of smaller government, an end to imperialism and a radically re-tooled economic system. “The true believers in freedom, the numbers are growing rather rapidly,” Paul said. “We hope to make this point in Nevada and in the caucus states to show that there’s a lot of energy and a lot of support for these views.”
The question is, how can that energy translate into change? Paul is concentrating on caucus states such as Nevada, where he can collect delegates that he can parlay as the Republican convention approaches. But it’s not just a speaking slot in Tampa that Paul wants; instead, he’s trying to change minds.
“My goals would be exactly what I’ve been talking about,” he said. “I’d like people to reconsider our foreign policy, which is think is so damaging to our national defense and so damaging to our economy. Our goal is to get the delegates available if the momentum is on our side and get people to change their minds if our message is heard. And so far I think we’re doing very well.”
That’s not just spin, either. Paul’s supporters are legendary for their depth of commitment, but also for their depth of knowledge. Younger people are supposedly disconnected from politics, but those who support Paul have a working knowledge of the Federal Reserve system and its shortcomings. And they see a unified theory of politics that extends beyond a pet issue or two.
“They’re interested in the big picture. The big picture is individual liberty, lifestyles, how freedom brings people together, how economic liberty is equal to social liberty,” Paul said.
But asked about the impact of his proposals — returning to a gold standard would create some economic pain in the short term — Paul doesn’t shy away. “There would be some adjustment,” he admits. “Overall, it wouldn’t be as long as what we’re going through now, because what we’re going through now is endless.”
He likens it to a mugging: If you’re on the ground being beaten, do you want it to stop immediately or gradually? Ever the physician, Paul recommends short-term pain for long-term health.
So far, none of his fellow Republican candidates is embracing Paul’s cure. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop trying to sell it, here in Nevada and across the country, where his presidential campaign is more of a political movement, a holding action against a seemingly immutable law of nature.
Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/SteveSebelius or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or ssebelius@ reviewjournal.com.