Peace, Love, and the Ron Paul Revolution

Ron Paul in New Hampshire

Once upon a time, Congressman Ron Paul published a newsletter. In it were many vile, racist things – at least for a several year period in the late 80′s and early 90′s when whoever was at its helm attempted to rile up nationalist white fears about race wars, a unified North American state, and various other kooky ideas.

But is this the Ron Paul we see today in the campaigns of 2008 and 2012? Is this the Ron Paul we see campaigning across New Hampshire or railing against American arrogance overseas?

I would suggest that it is not, and furthermore I’d suggest that this was never the real Ron Paul. If anything, Ron Paul was far too lax and too libertarian when it came to who he accepted into his big libertarian tent. The people behind his newsletters, at least for a few years, should never have been given the keys to the city.

Thank goodness that the reason Ron Paul now gains traction among so many people on the right and the left is not the things written in his newsletters. I would argue that, despite what many of his detractors say, his appeal is also not in ‘nationalism’ or ‘isolationism’ but rather in one very simple concept: peace.

Sure, many Ron Paul fans want a drastically reduced federal government and an end to the Federal Reserve and so forth, but these are not compelling enough ideas to cast such a wide net. It’s peace and love – hippie stuff! – that make Ron Paul a sort of icon these days.

And he is more of an icon than a likely president – a fiery prophet of sorts. A John the Baptist for the American Empire, standing at the edge of American decline.

This is a great ad, but it’s right there at the end that fascinates me, just as the word LOVE emerges and then flips around to complete the Revolution logo.

I don’t know if Ron Paul is an honest man or if he is simply obsessed with the Constitution rather than a man who cares deeply about the consequences of our unconstitutional actions. A lot of people suggest that his anti-war stance only applies to undeclared wars. I’m not so sure. He emphasizes unnecessary wars just as often as he mentions that they’re undeclared. Perhaps the two aren’t so different.

Either way, I don’t think he’s racist or homophobic. I don’t think his federalism would set back too many individual liberties. Red states are already red and blue are already blue and the abortion debate and the gay marriage debate are already being fought on a state-by-state level. Federalism, in other words, is largely a reality in this country. Moving more in that direction may or may not be a good thing. Ending the Education Department might hurt funding for some schools, but so far as I can tell the most illiberal reforms in education in the past decade have been at the hands of the feds under No Child Left Behind.

Paul is a mixed bag, but his candidacy represents a real turning page in American politics – a turn from pure tribalism and the hawkish status quo toward something different. Toward peace and love and all that hippie nonsense. It’s refreshing. More like this please.

P.S. I’m actually hoping for a third party run from Paul with Dennis Kucinich on the ticket. You say you want a revolution…

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the editor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.