By Kelse Moen
2008 is not a happy time to be a libertarian. In the age of huge government expenditures, warrantless wiretapping, an activist Supreme Court, and overseas adventurism, advocates of small government have little reason to be optimistic. So when it seemed that Ron Paul, the new hero of the libertarian movement, could be unseated from Congress by a pro-war Republican who called Paul’s record of voting against unconstitutional bills “felonious at best,” the obvious reply could only be: “of course.”
But, much to his supporters’ delight, Paul actually won a landslide 70% victory over challenger Chris Peden last night. In the short term, we can be glad that Texas voters chose to keep such a principled man in office and to reject the Tamany Hall-style party line politics of uniformity. But what does this mean in the long run?
With John McCain by all accounts the Republican nominee and Huckabee out of the race, it is unclear what role Paul should play. He could continue to run as a Party gadfly and secure a speech at the convention this summer, but McCain isn’t in a position where he has to listen. Who else could the Paulites vote for, anyway? Paul could also decide to run as an independent or a Libertarian (and the LP would love to have him). This way he could siphon off enough votes to prevent McCain from winning the general election. The logic behind that would be that it would force the notoriously hawkish nominee to at least recognize libertarian concerns if he doesn’t want to go the way of Al Gore. Of course, it could easily lead to an Obama presidency which few libertarians really want. Finally, Paul could just return to Congress and do what he has been doing these last twenty years.
None of these options will really satisfy Paul’s devoted fans. It’s great to have him in Congress, but he won’t be getting the influence that he deserves, they’ll say. Or they won’t be content with any presidential run–Republican, independent, or Libertarian–unless it culminates in a Ron Paul White House.
My answer is that Ron Paul’s campaign was never about winning. It was about teaching, and showing a new generation that liberty can be alive and well in 2008. At the end of the movie V for Vendetta, the hero, about to die on the eve of his own revolution, spoke these words. I believe they can apply to Ron Paul as well, whatever his political future:
Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea and ideas are bulletproof.