The revolution can be evolutionary: An open letter to fans of Ron Paul
You don’t trust Mitt Romney. You vowed to follow Ron Paul to the ends of the earth. And all that’s understandable. But please don’t confuse the ends of the earth with the bottom of a ravine.
I realize it’s frustrating to hear Sen. Rand Paul endorse someone besides his father — especially a corporatist empty suit who flirts with Keynesianism and who shepherded key aspects of Obamacare into existence as governor of Massachusetts. But before you pounce, renounce and otherwise burn all the bridges, consider that the revolution can be evolutionary.
Ron Paul has done more for the liberty movement than any of the members of Washington’s white-paper-industrial complex. Congressman Paul has created a young, vibrant and permanent liberty constituency. But it is young. And it has only now learned how to infiltrate the system. As it happens, Rand Paul is an articulate and measured voice to extend this infiltration strategy.
If that involves making nice with Mitt Romney, so be it. Let’s not let our zeal blind us to the “adjacent possible.” In other words, don’t bulldoze the inroads you’ve made out of impatience or cynicism. You have moved the trenches forward. And having a strong liberty contingent close to any president means that president has a conscience speaking directly into his ear every single day.
Now, as I write this, I’m already reading the comments in my head. “Sellout.” “Statist.” Et cetera. But if you paint Murray Rothbard and Ron Paul on the side of a bus, fill it with your friends and drive it over a cliff, you’re going to be of little use to anybody. In the internecine struggles of any Romney White House, you’ll want a Paul contingent there. You can help keep Romney in check by supporting those liberty-loving folks close to him should he prevail in November. Remember, this is the long game. And this is how it’s played. You can dream about other scenarios all you like. But the world will keep turning even if you disengage, pipe Alex Jones into your headphones and slurp down sour grapes until you’re pickled with rage.
I do understand, though. True revolutionaries don’t like engaging in political zigzag. No one wants to tolerate compromise — especially the kinds of compromises that gave birth to legislation like the Mass-care plan. But there is no other game in town right now. We should be prepared to throw some of that Ron Paul juju on Rand Paul as he continues valiantly to fight Washington-style trench warfare. Because, let’s face it, folks, he’s good at it. Unlike Dr. Paul the Elder, Rand Paul is as conversant with the liberty message as he is nimble among the political realities. We can loathe those realities. We can pretend they don’t exist. But we cannot escape them. Coopitition is the best tack at this stage — and I believe that’s Rand Paul’s tack.
I am sympathetic to the argument that Rand Paul is more effective as a senator than a vice president. After all, vice presidents have less legislative power. But a Vice President Paul — that calming, well-spoken son of Ron — could continue the Paul tradition of speaking truth to power from a very big bully pulpit, all while positioning himself for continued good things. Who knows if Romney has designs on Paul for veep. But every day the Paul followers spit venom into the wind, the chances of a Paul vice presidency diminish. Maybe that’s what you want. But I suggest you reconsider that notion.
There is a very strong argument to be made for letting the body politic bleed longer. That is, one could distance oneself from Romney, hoping he loses to the abysmal Obama in 2012. Then Rand Paul could run in 2016 with the support of both mainstream Republicans and Ron Paul revolutionaries. This is a fine idea except for the bleeding. That is: How much more can the Republic take of a Barack Obama administration? I know, I know. Obama and Romney are little different from your perspective. But consider that a Romney administration that includes Paul’s people — plus a well-composed Congress — could result in something really different from the rapid decline Obama is presiding over. Wishful thinking? No more so than counting on the stars aligning for a Rand Paul revolution four years from now.
Continuing to infiltrate the GOP with a strong freedom contingent is the best way forward among the available options. I realize that Romney is probably not likely to end up with Sen. Paul on his ticket, anyway. But so what? That just means you got into a tizzy for a day because of a (qualified) endorsement you didn’t like. But all that will be washed away in the unceasing tide of new events.
So what should Ron Paul revolutionaries do? I suggest watching and waiting patiently. Redirect energies to state and local races in other districts. Figure out ways to transform the GOP into the GRP over the long term. Become incrementalists. Forget about errant concerns about selling out or being unprincipled. You can take your principles into the thicket of electoral politics and keep them. Ron Paul proved that. But you’ll only be successful if you’re bound by the determination to go in together. Unfortunately, that may mean making unsavory alliances. In order to infiltrate that great power nexus without setting off its immune response, you’ve got to be prepared to be strategic-minded gentlemen (and women). Look for the adjacent possible. And accept that you can’t spell rLOVEution without evolution.
Max Borders is author of the forthcoming book “Superwealth: Why we should stop worrying about the gap between rich and poor.”