Opinion

Ron Paul movement storms state convention

The Washington State Republican convention held two weekends ago in Spokane should have been dull and uneventful.

All they had to do was approve a slate of national convention delegates to support the obvious nominee, John McCain, vote for a short, concise party platform and leave town.

Instead the tenacious Ron Paul people, who made up more than a third of the delegates, contested the McCain forces on virtually every front. When the convention finally closed early Saturday evening, the Paul people promptly held a march outside the convention center and a boisterous rally across the street. They just don’t know when to quit.

It’s this way across the country. The Ron Paul campaign, out of the running for months, continues to cruise in high gear. Can’t these people do the math?

Of course they can. But Ron Paul’s candidacy isn’t about the math, at least not in the short term. It’s not even about the man himself. It’s about a movement. And what’s driving that movement is the conviction of many Americans that business as usual by both parties has broken the government.

President George W. Bush’s approval ratings are in the low- to mid-30s. The Democratic Congress’s approval ratings are low. Americans seek a bridge between talk and action.

For many Democrats and much of the media, that bridge is Barack Obama, probably the most gifted orator in a generation. He’s new, fresh, invigorating. But what does he want to actually do? Many of his supporters don’t know or particularly care. The Obama campaign isn’t about ideas or an agenda. It’s about him.

For Ron Paul, the message is the change. For nearly 20 years in Congress from suburban Houston, Dr. Paul (he delivered 4,000 babies before turning to politics) has walked his talk. Never has he voted for an unbalanced budget or a tax increase. He doesn’t shop for federal “perks” for his constituents, nor has he ever sought or accepted an earmarked appropriation. His new book, a manifesto on applying libertarian principles to political action, hit the top position on The New York Times best-seller list its first week out. He’s written detailed policy primers on returning to the gold standard, getting the United States out of Iraq, and calling it quits on the war on drugs. Extreme? Here and there. But also consistent.

And it doesn’t stop at the office. He won’t accept the handsome pension he’s entitled to after two decades in Congress. When his five children were looking for help going to college (three became doctors), Paul refused to let them apply for federal loans or grants.

His main difference with McCain is over the war, along with Paul’s libertarian social agenda of legalizing drugs and prostitution. But on several key domestic issues, McCain and Paul are in close alignment. Both are spending hawks, and both opposed the recent, disgraceful farm bill — nearly $300 billion of taxpayer subsidies for wealthy agribusinesses, which means higher food prices for you and me. Most of Congress voted for it, including Obama.

Both McCain and Paul also line up on taxes. Neither has ever voted for a tax increase that became law, and both would make this decade’s tax cuts on people and businesses permanent. Both would appoint conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on the biggest domestic issue in the next decade, health care, both McCain and Paul would let people choose their own health care plan and deduct health care spending from their taxes, while Obama would do precisely the opposite and expand the government’s role.

Ideas, not imagery, will ultimately change Washington, D.C. That is what the upcoming battle between McCain and Obama should be about. Millions of Ron Paul supporters and sympathizers will be watching. Their candidate has lost, but his movement is growing.

John Carlson is a talk radio host on KVI-570 AM. Contact: JCarlson@fisherradio.com.

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