This blind love some Ron Paul supporters have for the Presidential candidate, however deep, can also prove to be fatal to future liberty candidates. Much in the same way that comparing one’s first love with future dating prospects causes disillusionment; nothing can ever be so perfect as when it is viewed from a nostalgic perspective. Possibly Ron Paul’s most appealing characteristic is his consistent principled record, an extreme rarity, throughout his four decades in Washington. It seems that few can be passed such a mantle and the litmus test as to what defines a liberty candidate from another run of the mill Republican is too rigorous even for candidates endorsed by Ron Paul himself. Writer and Ron Paul blogger Jack Hunter was booed onstage at the Texas Freedom Festival when discussing Paul’s endorsement of Ted Cruz, a supporter of the Patriot Act.
This does not even begin to describe the betrayal felt by many Liberty activists over Senator Rand Paul’s endorsement of Mitt Romney. One reaction by libertarian activist and former congressional candidate Adam Kokesh described Senator Rand Paul as “fundamentally a statist” and “a dangerous man”. Purists to the libertarian cause, who make up a significant number of the Ron Paul activists, are in opposition with another faction of the base, which wants to become a more politically viable and legitimate wing of the Republican Party and American politics. This friction could run deeper as the more purist elements of the Liberty movement are finding their future with the same political relevance as the John Birch Society. And without the purists, the rest of the movement could be subdued into mainstream Republicanism with small wonky oppositions that are as significant to the national platform as the pro-choice Republicans.
The other major crisis facing the future of the Liberty movement is the lack of leadership; without congressman Ron Paul there isn’t a clear candidate who can unify the movement’s diverse crossbreed of old right, libertarian, and one issue voters who align themselves with a small government platform. It is very unlikely that Senator Rand Paul brings the same appeal to the hardcore libertarian factions and even unsure if the more libertarians leaning Justin Amash, also considered a future leader of the movement, can sustain his redistricting past 2012, as he will be in a less Republican house seat.
The liberty movement claimed that its foundations are based upon the principles of Ron Paul, not on the man himself. However small government Republicans like Texas US Senate candidate Ted Cruz and Senator Rand Paul cannot measure up to a bulk of Paulites who see Ron as more of a folk hero than politician. Ron Paul’s bedrock principled fight for limited government at home and abroad has made him all things to all people. If the Movement wants one of its own at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2016 or 2020 they will have to give up their folk hero and side with a politician, who will at one point or another have to let them down.
Ironically even with the establishment GOP attempts to ostracize and ignore Ron Paul, the Republican Party has drifted toward the Congressman’s principals. Once considered a niche issue, the auditing of the Federal Reserve has now broad support amongst most republicans in congress as well as former Speaker Newt Gingrich. Former Presidential candidate and Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. even spoke candidly about rolling back the American Empire. Every year more Republicans vote against the continued funding of the Afghanistan conflict, the Patriot Act, and the Federal Reserve, positions the good congressman use to hold alone. It is unclear whether this shift has been due to the Liberty Movement or a natural shift independent of Ron Paul’s candidacy.
Optimistically, the movement that Congressman Ron Paul has led will manage to continue to broadening out and become a bigger part of Republican tent, which along the way elects more candidates like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie and one day a President from their own ranks. Or the movement will slowly decline in activism as the man who started the movement fades from the political spotlight and no one manages to unite the factions of the liberty right. In which case all Gen Y “Meatheads” can take a note from their activist ancestors’ who watched their stalwart George McGovern go down in flames, became university professors, media personalities and convert the subsequent generation.