To understand what is currently going on in the minds of Ron Paul enthusiasts in the age of President Donald Trump, we must first understand what Paul represented as both a congressman and a presidential candidate.
We must also understand that, at the height of Paul’s popularity during the 2012 presidential campaign, Paul’s appeal was such that both tea party patriots and young, pot-smoking college students were able to come together to stand for the same candidate.
But by 2016, dissatisfaction with American politics had become the norm. As the tension built up, the explosive Trump campaign seemed to strike a vein with a great deal of Americans by simply remaining on attack mode against a corrupt “Washington machine” embodied by Hillary Clinton. The new dynamic brought Paul supporters to the realization that Paul himself wasn’t the leader they hoped him to be. Instead, many finally realized, he had remained true only to his goal.
It finally dawned on them he wasn’t in the business of making anyone happy, he was here only for liberty.
The bitterness that followed this harsh descent into reality naturally broke some supporters apart — especially the naive ones. Those not mature enough to understand Paul had no reason to cater to them started flirting with the idea of becoming social justice warriors themselves, ignoring the lessons laid out by their former hero. Some remained true to their principles, continuing to respect Paul as a genuine lover of liberty. But others simply moved on.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll attempt to explain how this rupture came to be, and why Paul supporters seem to miss the real value of the former congressman’s rich career.
Not The Leader They Want
Dr. Paul didn’t just make history as the first and only congressman to hit a ball out of the park during a Congressional Baseball Game. His impact will continue to be felt across many generations of Americans — and foreigners — because of his unshakable belief in the core political and economics principles that guided his political career.
Paul served as the image of an untouchable in Washington, D.C., from his first congressional stints in the late 1970s and through half of the 80s, then again in 1997 up until his 2012 retirement speech, when he challenged his fellow lawmakers as well as the public to consider liberty as the only cause worth pursuing. Someone who lives by truth and whose freedom is solely dependent on it — a true martyr for liberty.
To those who listened, admired, or perhaps simply identified with the Texas congressman and his politics, he was a man worth looking up to in an environment where perverted incentives created by the evils of crony capitalism distort the very core of otherwise good men and women. He was the embodiment of righteousness in a world covered by darkness.
More recently, as he ran for president in 2008 and 2012, Paul made a point to never endorse a candidate for president whose beliefs and actions didn’t match his own. The following he gathered then, mostly young, thirsty, and earnest college age adults, cheered. But as he remained relevant after his political career was over, thanks to the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, or the now very active Ron Paul Liberty Report, he continued to captivate new audiences while maintaining some of those who were enamored by the courage displayed during his presidential runs.
But to those who were young then, the time came to move on and for many to choose their own battles as they saw fit.
Young men and women who shed tears of joy during his 2012 speeches now had to face the big, bad world all on their own. Some went into politics, despite Paul’s warnings about the evils lurking in Washington. Others took on intellectual pursuits to spread the message of liberty on campuses and across the media. Some simply went on with their lives, taking up careers that had nothing to do with the pursuit of liberty.
After two terms of President Barack Obama, whose charisma managed to shield him from scrutiny concerning his blatantly bloodthirsty foreign policy, his disdain for sound economics, and his disregard for principles he claimed to embody during his first presidential campaign, Paul supporters felt they had nowhere to run. Some took on Paul’s suggestion of simply focusing on policies, which is what he continued doing. But as he commented on the 2016 election on his Liberty Report, he often pointed out whenever candidates would get something right, even if he wasn’t necessarily in agreement with that candidate’s entire platform.
When Trump would criticize the Iraq war, comment on the irrationality of going after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, or attack candidate Hillary Clinton for her despicable record as Obama’s secretary of state, Paul would rightly agree. But when Trump went on about protectionism, nationalist policies that will eventually hurt more than help American workers, or when he would simply blacklist Iran as the real problem with the Middle East, Paul would disagree, explaining why Trump’s reasoning wasn’t based on facts.
Many Paulians who saw his eventual “support” of Trump as a betrayal began to listen to longtime foes of the good ob-gyn from Texas. These foes, who always attacked Paul for being for anything that expanded liberty, including the now popular idea of secession, became their new messiahs.
But other Paulians who saw Trump as, at best, the better option, didn’t budge. Soon enough, they tagged along with the army of Pepe-loving conservatives who saw Trump as a way to both discredit the presidential office and bring about chaos as a way of weakening the state. And that’s what we continue to see now.
Like Obama before him, though, Trump has moved away from positions he was very loud about during his campaign. He has bombed Syria and continues to do so despite his criticism of Clinton for her desire to bring Assad down. He has gone back on NATO, despite having at least told world leaders to their face that American taxpayers didn’t deserve to carry the heavy load, and he has even gone soft on Saudi Arabia, the same country that mastered cronyism in Washington with Clinton and Obama in power.
Regardless, it’s Trump’s demeanor that continues to bother the media and a good chunk of the public. It’s his late night or early morning tweets that become the news, and it’s his blunt mannerisms that hurt the sensibilities of a press grown fat on overindulging in self-fulfilling prophecies, reporting on news carefully groomed both by journalists and politicians ever-reluctant to do their jobs. And a body of reporters who are too used to the cozy halls of power to, all of a sudden, feel like they need to work a bit harder to get a good interview.
To the Paulians who remained politically active and who see the value in supporting this circus in the name of a collapse, the ongoing battle over narrative is an exciting development. But to the Paulians whose faith in his former martyr waned over his willingness to admit when someone is right, this fight is just not worth it. They have embraced political correctness as a means to achieve liberty, perhaps unaware of the real-world consequences of such tyrannical cultural trends. As a result, they turned their back on Paul’s message of focusing on decentralization.
What The Ron Paul Movement Really Is All About
The Ron Paul movement was never a homogenous mob against the state.
Comprised of very different individuals whose core principles matched Paul’s, many of these men and women were, and continue to be, free thinkers, who rely on nobody but themselves to know what is wrong and what is right. But others who saw in Paul a mighty leader preferred to blame him for his movement’s diversity. They began to see him as the reason why so many libertarians chose to ride the Trump wave.
So it’s no wonder that when former faithful Ron Paul supporters battle one another online over Trump or anything related to the president’s effect on America, sparks often turn into fires. And as we all know, fire is known to consume everything it touches.
Still, Paul isn’t interested in what his followers do or think. He isn’t interested in changing anyone’s mind — he never has been. He remains unbreakable. His beliefs remain the same. His message continues to be one of serving liberty and liberty only, for no man or man-made system is stronger or better suited to help mankind thrive and grow.
And whether you believe that removing yourself completely from the political machine or being intimately involved with it are the only two ways to go about achieving liberty doesn’t matter. Paul’s legacy isn’t built on the gains made by a leader, as you may recall. He was — and still is — a martyr in the sense he has given it all and continues to give it all in the pursuit of liberty, and as a result, what he suffered along the way doesn’t bother him. And perhaps that’s why those who steer away from his influence tend to be so rabidly against him; after all, it isn’t easy to admit you aren’t jealous of what he accomplished if you aren’t willing to admit he was never the leader you wanted to see.
In a world where everyone wants to lead, Ron Paul is the wrong role model, for he isn’t willing to tell others what to do. What he does instead is to take responsibility for what he does and says only. The rest is history.