What Does Ron Paul Want?

This is the question puzzling Paul’s friends, as well as his enemies. A recent announcement by the campaign that the anti-interventionist Congressman and presidential candidate is not spending money in the remaining primary states provoked a Drudge headline: "Paul Out." That is the GOP Establishment’s fondest wish, but the reality is that Paul is far from "out": his campaign is merely recalibrating its tactics, concentrating on getting delegates through the complicated and often arcane process of party caucuses and state conventions. In short, Paul is pursuing the very same strategy he’s been talking about since Day One of his remarkably successful campaign: harnessing the enthusiasm and discipline of his supporters to enter a basically hostile entity – the pro-war, pro-Big Government Republican party – and challenging the Powers That Be.

There has been all kinds of loose talk about a "deal" being struck with the Romneyites, an impression pushed by the "mainstream" media and other clueless individuals who know little or nothing of Ron and imagine he’s just another politician. They are wrong. There will be no endorsement of Mitt Romney, and, because of that, no quarter will be given – or is being given – to Paulians intent on embedding themselves within the Grand Old Party.

The "go local" strategy of the Paul camp has recently met with a string of high profile successes: they took over the party in Alaska, Nevada, Iowa, Minnesota, Maine, and Colorado, and their delegate count is skyrocketing. Precinct by precinct, county by county, state by state, the Ron Paul Revolution is racking up victories – and the Romneyites are in a panic. Due to that panic, they are employing hard-line tactics, often simply closing down local conventions when it becomes clear the Paulians have a majority. They cut off the microphones, call the cops, and whine that the insurgents are "disrupting" a process the party bosses have controlled for as long as anyone can remember. At one point, attendees at a state Republican convention saw the walls literally closing in on them, as Rachel Maddow reported in a segment on MSNBC.

Using force, fraud, and their friends in the media, the Romneyites are determined to block Paul and his movement from having any visibility at the August national GOP convention, to be held in Tampa, Florida. What they want is a coronation: what they will get is a full-blown insurgency in their midst.

The key tactical question is this: will the Establishment even allow Paul’s name to be placed in nomination? GOP rules requires that, in order to do so, the Paul camp must have a plurality of the delegates in at least five states. Given the series of Paul victories at the local level, one would think this threshold has already been reached – but that’s not at all clear, given two factors. The first is that, in some states where the Paulians took control of the proceedings, many of those delegates legally bound to vote for Romney on the first ballot are actually Paul supporters. If they rebel in Tampa, however, there’s no telling what might happen. There seems to be no rule forbidding them from abstaining on the first ballot, and that, in itself, would be a very visible and powerful protest – precisely the sort of dissent the Romneyites justifiably fear.

The second factor is the attitude of the Romney camp. Relatively good personal relations between Romney and Paul to the contrary notwithstanding, top officials in the Romney campaign are reportedly taking a hard line against the Paulians – and are disinclined to allow Paul to even be nominated from the floor. Although by the time the party convenes in Tampa Romney will presumably attain the magic number of delegates required for nomination, even the formality of allowing opposition to manifest itself during the proceedings could cause a stampede – like a bank run. Conservatives have been very reluctant to get on the Romney bandwagon and make their peace with the Flip-Flopper, and the sight of open resistance could be the spark that sets off a prairie fire. You can’t blame them for not wanting to take that chance – which is why I believe the anti-Paul hard-liners in the Romney camp will prevail over the more reasonable types who don’t want to unduly alienate the Paulistas. Forget the formal rules, forget parliamentary procedure – the Romneyites are ready to throw out the rule book and take organizational measures against the last gasp of dissent within the party.

If that happens – if the Romneyites lock out the Paul people, and refuse to permit Ron’s name to be entered in nomination – there is going to be trouble in Tampa. Given the security arrangements, and the volatile atmosphere, it won’t take much for the GOP Establishment to play their favorite trump card: brute force. They’ve done it at several Republican state conventions, when the Paulians turned out in such numbers as to constitute a majority, and they certainly won’t hesitate to do so on the national stage.

I don’t envy the Paul delegates. Given the highly militarized "security" being prepared for the convention, Tampa will be swarming with cops, Homeland Security thugs, and private agents provocateurs, all just itching for an incident – a defining moment, if you will – that will frame the Paulians as kooky disruptors and assert Romney’s hegemony over the party in a symbolic – and violent – way. I wouldn’t be surprised if even the act of wearing a Paul button is grounds for harassing delegates and their guests. Anyone who acts or looks out of place, who isn’t wearing a suit and tie and exhibits other tell-tale signs of not having the correct political leanings is bound to find themselves under intense scrutiny, and worse.

Ron Paul’s revolution has been so successful because the GOP Establishment it is fighting is intellectually bankrupt and politically hollow: the neoconservatives who dominate the party’s "idea shop" are basically hostile to the radical anti-government elements on the rise in the GOP, and Romney has zero grassroots support. This is why the Paulians have been able to easily overwhelm the party Establishment at the level of local and state conventions. What makes the Romneyites hopping mad is that the genuine passion generated by the Paul movement underscores the utter emptiness of their candidate and the party apparatus. That the Romney campaign has had to resort to fraud – ballot-box stuffing, distributing phony lists of delegate slates, abruptly adjourning when they’re outnumbered – has been amply documented by Paul’s supporters: this particularly riles the Romneyites because it shows the lack of character in their candidate and his campaign.

Eager to get on to the main business of seizing power from Barack Obama, the Romney people are impatient with this business of party democracy – and they can be expected to short circuit the rules in order to brush Paul and his supporters aside. As I said above: there’s going to be trouble in Tampa – not only outside the fortress-like compound in which the proceedings will take place, on the streets, where protesters of every stripe are expected in full force, but in the inner sanctum itself.

With all this drama building to a crescendo in August, Ron Paul is taking the long view – he’s said this at every turn. What Romney’s strategists, the media, and the party Establishment don’t get is that what they’re dealing with here is not a political campaign but a political movement. Campaigns culminate in either victory or defeat: they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Ideological movements, on the other hand, develop over a longer period of time, and evolve in response to changing circumstances.

The movement currently energized by Paul’s candidacy has been a part of the Republican coalition since the early 1990s: it is a movement that, as Paul has often pointed out, traces its roots back to the days when Sen. Robert A. Taft earned the sobriquet "Mr. Republican." Contrary to what the Washington pundits will tell you, the modern GOP has had an anti-interventionist wing since the first Gulf war, when Pat Buchanan and his supporters wondered aloud if the Emir of Kuwait’s throne was worth the life of a single American soldier. The movement was small back then, but – like today – both vocal and energetic. A libertarian contingent led by Murray Rothbard and his followers, who had left the Libertarian Party, provided much of the ideological and tactical rationale for this early manifestation of the Paulian tendency in the GOP. Indeed, in 1992, Paul was getting ready to enter the Republican presidential primary but stepped aside when he got word of Buchanan’s decision to launch a White House bid.

Paul’s 2012 campaign is a watershed for this movement: the Good Doctor has expanded its numbers and influence far beyond what any of us imagined possible back in the day. The scope and significance of his political achievement is literally a dream come true – and the dream will not die in Tampa. Far from it. The movement led by Paul will continue in many forms, and not only in the world of pure politics.

This web site, for one, is a key part of one important aspect of the broad anti-interventionist/pro-civil liberties/"anti-government" movement – it’s intellectual and journalistic manifestation. A movement has many moving parts, which are usually not organizationally connected: as in the market economy, the marketplace for ideas is ruled by the need for a division of labor. There are the political actors, the thinktanks, the activist organizations: some are local phenomena, others have national – and even international – scope. Most specialize in domestic policy issues: the Federal Reserve, tax policy, the preservation of civil liberties. Antiwar.com is the only "movement" institution that focuses on the foreign policy realm.

The irony here is that Paul himself emphasizes his anti-interventionist foreign policy views at every opportunity. One of the charming things about watching him in action is his penchant for going off on a riff about the costs of war in Afghanistan when he’s asked how we solve the debt crisis. Paul’s answer is invariably: get rid of the Empire! It’s fun to watch the Washington pundits look nonplussed whenever he refers to "the Empire." Yes, you can hear the capitalization in his ironic tone of voice.

Paul has made an important concession for a libertarian, and that is his pledge to refrain from cutting domestic welfare programs on which the most vulnerable members of our society have come to depend. His budget proposal – cutting $1 trillion in the first year – depends heavily on cuts in the military, "foreign aid," and other instruments of our hegemonic foreign policy.

The reason is not just tactical: it is ideological. Because Paul — like his friend and mentor Murray Rothbard, the libertarian economist and theorist who died in 1995 — understands that war is the motor that runs the turbine of growing government power. It is in wartime that the power of the State takes a "great leap forward," and, in the holy name of "national security," overpowers the private sector and the realm of freedom.

This is the major reason why a Paul endorsement of Romney is inconceivable: every time Paul has been asked about this question he’s brought up the foreign policy issue right off the bat. No public figure in sight understands more clearly than Paul what an absolute disaster an American attack on Iran would be, and it is therefore impossible to conjure a scenario that includes Paul endorsing a man who criticizes the President for even keeping up the pretense of negotiating with Tehran.

What does Ron Paul want? In the short term, the goals of the campaign are an unknown, and indeed that’s good strategy. Why let your opponents know what you’re up to in advance? As I pointed out, the risks of the Paulians showing their hand too soon could have serious consequences in Tampa. Yet all this talk of platform planks, a prime time speaking spot for either Paul or his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), or some such palliative is beside the point – because the point is the long term strategy of the movement, not the day-to-day twists and turns of the narrative.

In the long term, the Paulians are building the political and intellectual infrastructure that is the scaffolding of any successful movement. Antiwar.com has played an important part in that unfolding story, and will continue to do so – but we can’t do it without your help.

We are now going into the fifth day of our fundraising campaign, and the results are, frankly, disappointing. We’re taking in a bit less than we usually do at this point, and that does not augur well for the future of a web site that was spotlighting Paul’s principled anti-interventionist foreign policy stance long before he skyrocketed to fame.

We never endorse candidates, and we also never give uncritical or unconditional support to any organized political movement or figure: I’ve written a lot about Paul and his movement in this space, and not all of it has been celebratory. That’s as it should be in any vital and growing movement where there is necessarily a great deal of intellectual and strategic diversity.

Now that the Paul campaign has stopped spending money on large-scale media buys in primary states, the energy of the movement, far from dissipating, is simply going in a different direction. Indeed, it is safe to say that, post-Tampa, that energy will go in many different directions, with the intention of meeting up in the same place down the road. I want to make a pitch, here, for putting a good deal of that energy into the project we at Antiwar.com have been pursuing for the past fourteen years – the campaign to change our interventionist foreign policy, to reverse America’s road to world empire and set us back on the course the Founders intended.

That is what Antiwar.com is all about. Yet we are facing a financial crisis, one that we must surmount before we can continue our work of educating the American people about the dangers of interventionism. We absolutely must raise $100,000 this quarter, just in order to survive. By the standards of similar institutions on the other side, this is a mere pittance: the War Party is never short of cash, of that you can be sure. Those who profit from war invest many millions in protecting their cash cow.

So we don’t aim to completely level the playing field: that would be impossible. Aside from that, however, such a level of fundraising – in the multi-millions – isn’t even necessary, as far as we’re concerned. Because the natural inclination of Americans, these days, is to avoid meddling in other nations’ affairs: "war-weary" doesn’t even begin to describe the depth of this popular sentiment. What has been lacking, however, is a way to mobilize this instinctual resistance to the War Party’s schemes, and respond instantaneously to the war propaganda the "mainstream" media inundates us with.

Then came Antiwar.com – the anti-interventionist movement’s answer to the War Party. With their "emergency committees," their "projects for a new American whatever," their panels of distinguished warmongers itching for a fight, their "open letters" to the powerful demanding this or that intervention – and their virtually unlimited budget – the War Party seems to be everywhere. While they may dominate the "mainstream" media they are isolated on the internet – a relatively low-cost and efficient way to spread the message and influence the battle for public opinion. On this terrain, we are winning.

Antiwar.com has been building an international audience since 1995, and we are today the world’s premier web site devoted to foreign affairs, as well as the anti-interventionist movement’s internet headquarters.

The movement for peace and liberty cannot afford to lose us. But you will lose us if we don’t make our fundraising goal. It’s as simple as that.

So please – help build the movement to reclaim America for the Founders. Help us roll back the empire and save the Republic – please make your tax-deductible donation to Antiwar.com today.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].