July 14, 2008

If we evaluate Sunday’s Ron Paul r3VOLution March according Kevin’s “€œRules for Radicals,”€ then it comes out pretty well.

“€œRowdiness in moderation”€ must be some kind of conservative ideal, and the crowd didn’t disappoint, even if attendance (somewhere between 5000-10,000) might have been a bit less than some hoped. There was even a lollapoluzza element to the whole thing, which brought me back to my high school years”€”only this time the moshpit unleashed it primal, horse roars when the main-stage frontman shouted out “€œAbolish the Fed!”€

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The rally was certainly no collection of campus hipsters, nor the kind of “€œget your picture taken with Newt”€ gathering most conservative movement events are degenerating into. There were some “€œpunks for liberty,”€ but then I also saw many families and couples out enjoying the sun. And the crowd was actually mostly free of counter-productive weirdness”€”the college students dressed in armor made of Ron Paul signs and the guy waving a “€œRead Atlas Shrugged”€ flag seemed to me very necessary weirdness! And then there was the presence of a mini-blimp, reminding us of …. well … let’s just say not the best allocation of resources.

Most importantly, the activists defined themselves as activists, not Republif&cks in waiting. Both parties were bashed with equal vigor, the only hint of partisanship being the desire, sometimes expressed, to drag the GOP towards the Freedom Agenda”€”kicking and screaming if necessary. 

With the speeches, there was of course copious quotations of Patrick Henry. But then someone like Michael Scheuer was naming names: “€œThe greatest danger America faces come not from China or Russia or from global warming or from Islamic extremism, but rather it comes from the members of our own bipartisan governing class…:  pro-Empire, Israel-first cheerleaders at the Council of Foreign Relations, the Naitonal Endowment for Democracy, and the American Israeli Political Action Committee…

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I”€™ve never been a fan of the use of “€œfacism”€ as a catch-all for everything we don”€™t like, but it was fun to see a performance by Naomi Wolf, who’s recently penned a book about America’s lurch towards the F-word. The lady’s a fun speaker, and she should be applauded for genuinely trying to reach out to the libertarians, who perhaps not too long ago she lumped in with the blackshirts.

Her presence also produced some “€œinteresting”€ moments”€”at around 6:26 on the video below, someone from the moshpit screamed out, “€œGuns aren”€™t for hunting, they”€™re for tyranny!”€ Wolf’s response: “€œthis is interesting…”€ Classic.     

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Presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin proved a real gentleman, giving up some of his time so that Paul could catch a plane and graciously introducing the man of the hour.

Paul gave much the same speech we”€™ve been hearing from him over the past year”€”and the crowd ate it up.

I had more of a heavy heart. His sounding of the familiar themes sent me on a nostalgia trip back to last autumn when the campaign was miraculously, against-all-odds taking flight. But then the rehearsal reminded me that the Paul movement is in a bit of holding pattern”€”not quite ready to transcend its past success. 

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There was talk of some candidates like B.J. Lawson and numerous people running for office in Montanta”€”Montana sounds like the perfect place for the growth of a pro-liberty movement! This glimmer of hope only reinforced the necessity for the movement to get beyond the “€™08 presidential campaign. 

What was perhaps best about the rally was the complete non-DC quality of those who gathered. Sure, I ran into many of my media cronies, but the rest hailed from far outside the Beltway. It’s a reminder of just how much of the Paul success was dependent on forces outside the campaign: Trevor Lymon, Michael Nystrom, founder of the Daily Paul, Thomas Woods Jr. and the LRC people. 

The classic example is the “€œmoney bomb.”€  The Paul campaign was so often tactically and strategically embarrassing; however, the late Kent Snyder did come up with the brilliant idea of making fundraising transparent (in sharp distinction to the secrecy of most campaigns). Lymon & Co. took it from there, and before long Paul shocked the world with his now legendary single-day fundraising bonanzas. An amazing example of the power of the political grassroots. 

Such an accomplishment is worth keeping in mind when considering the future of the movement. 

At worst, the Paul movement might become a kind “€œcircuit”€ for libertarian and traditionalist conservative authors and activists”€”intellectuals could mix with biker dudes with Murray Rothbard tattoos, the campaign could reunite, everyone could chant “€œRon Paul, Ron Paul”€ a few times, and then go out drinking. This wouldn”€™t be too bad.

But if it’s to transform into something more, the Ron Paul movement needs to move beyond the man.    


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