Michael Ames' The Awakening – an excellent article about Ron Paul in the April 2013 issue of Harper's Magazine – examines the powerful forces behind the Ron Paul phenomenon. Among other things, he details Paul’s appeal to a wide range of Americans by combining an anti-war stance with a libertarian financial outlook (including but not limited the evils of "too big to fail" finance). Writing about the former, Ames' claims that:
"'[Ron Paul]'s the only politician wiling to judge America's foreign policy adventures by the same moral standard we apply to other countries' foreign policy adventures,' Brian Doherty writes in Ron Paul's Revolution. That consistency, combined with the premium placed on peace, is the spiritual bedrock on which the Paulite's righteousness rest."This passion is indeed powerful, but it’s when you combine it with the populist nature of his financial policy that you create the stew of his revolution. Ames again:
“[Paul] echoed the suspicions of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, who predicted that the central bank would become the driver of income inequality. Whereas the right distracts voters with urgent noises about Marxist income redistribution, Paul insists the real problem is money flowing in the opposite direction. His Liberty Movement may never "end the Fed," but its members show more concern than anyone on the left (outside Vermont senator Bernie Sanders) about the Fed's practice of ‘socialism for the rich’."I certainly don't agree with everything that Paul stands for - in particular, his calls for the ending of the social safety net strike me as an incredibly dangerous idea. As Ames puts it: "All the mechanisms and institutions or regulation and social welfare are slated for drastic downsizing or outright removal." (To choose just one example of why removing regulation might not be such a good idea, Whitney Terrell and Shannon Jackson in the same issue of Harper’s detail how Kansas City, by negating regulations and bequeathing almost unlimited power to Google in their efforts to build a citywide fiber-optic network, “had left itself powerless to guarantee service for its most vulnerable constituents.”)
Still, his message is a powerful lure for people (like me) who are disillusioned with Obama. (Ames includes a powerful listing of all of the reasons Obama has been a disappointment, from his corporate welfare to drones to the continuation of the “expanded military, police, and surveillance powers that the Bush Administration arrogated to itself in the years following 9/11.”) I’m hopeful that at the very least Paul’s movement – now consolidating its message in his son Rand – pushes the debate from the far-right tack it’s been on back towards the center on many issues.