I have been at war with the Republican Party my entire adult life. Not as a liberal, but as a conservative. The obvious conservative things I always wanted the GOP to do — cut spending, shrink government, follow the Constitution — it never did. The things the GOP did instead, which seemed to satisfy many conservatives — unnecessary wars, empowering the executive branch, spying on citizens — were not only reckless and damaging, but a tragic diversion for the American right. I hope that four years removed from suffering through the most big-government Republican administration in history, conservatives have learned some lessons. And anyone who still entertains the notion that the Bush/Cheney Republican model represents any type of conservatism needs to go pay President Obama the right-wing respect he deserves. The only “change” Obama’s given us is even more debt and drone strikes.
Rand Paul is what I want the Republican Party to be. Rand Paul is what I believe the Republican Party is becoming. Over 2 million people voted for Ron Paul for president in this election. That’s double the amount from his 2008 campaign. Ron Paul’s limited government and constitutionalist ideas have not only gained traction, they’ve been injected back into conventional Republican debate. Dr. Paul’s forces have made substantial inroads into the Republican Parties of a dozen-plus states, and the liberty movement the establishment continues to fear, conservatives cheer.
This is not to say that all, or even most, conservatives cheer Ron Paul. It is to say that they cheer for many of his ideas, from auditing the Federal Reserve to $1 trillion in spending cuts. It is also to say that virtually all conservatives cheer his son Rand, who promotes the same ideas as his father, albeit in a different style and manner.
The foreign policy and civil liberties positions some conservatives still find discomfort with in Ron they more readily accept in his son Rand. This is true not only among voters, but also among GOP congressmen and senators, where stances like voting against Obama’s unconstitutional intervention in Libya or opposing the National Defense Authorization Act’s indefinite detention provisions have become conservatives consensuses.
This would have never happened during the Bush years.
And things continue to trend in a more libertarian direction. A hero to the conservative movement’s fiscal and social wings, Senator Jim DeMint said in January: “What I’d like to see is a Republican Party that embraces a lot of these libertarian ideas. The Republican Party needs to start listening to Ron Paul.”
The Republican Party is listening to Ron Paul — and at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August, the GOP will get an earful from both Dr. Paul and his delegates. In 2008, Ron Paul wasn’t even allowed at the convention. In 2012, Paul’s people will represent much of the convention.
Sen. Paul’s endorsement of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did not shock me. I believed it was a necessary step forward for his father’s movement. I’ve believed this ever since he became a senator. I wanted the endorsement to be of his father as the nominee. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.
The reaction by the movement didn’t surprise me either — confusion, shock, disgust. Many Ron Paul supporters don’t consider themselves conservatives, much less Republicans, and simply didn’t see the point in endorsing the nominee and trying to still work within the party. Some never liked Rand and his pragmatism to begin with. Others did, but still saw it as a betrayal. Given the purist character of the Paul movement, this was an entirely reasonable reaction. Some of the criticisms of the endorsement were not reasonable: “Now we know [Libertarian presidential candidate] Gary Johnson will be our next president,” said one angry commenter. “Rand’s betrayal just cost him his Senate seat in Kentucky,” said another.
If Gary Johnson gets more than 3% of the vote in November, I will be shocked (though he is certainly the best candidate of the three). Ron Paul got 7% in Kentucky in 2008. He got 12% this time and didn’t even compete in the primary. This is an improvement. That same Kentucky primary saw Ron Paul Republican Thomas Massie nab the GOP nomination for his congressional district. This is yet another reasonable measure of success for Paul’s movement. There are countless successes that mirror Massie’s victory that are unquestionably wins for the liberty movement. But suggesting that Rand Paul’s Senate future rests on the Paul movement in Kentucky is a novice view of political reality.
Yet, simply keeping the Paul movement in a place where everyone expects political miracles without any real strategy, any real hope of advancing goals or implementing legislation is exactly where I’ve been stuck my entire life. There were no opportunities to build coalitions because no Republicans wanted to promote anything even remotely conservative. The Republican Party was so bad until Ron Paul’s movement that I voted third party in almost every election. I stayed angry at George W. Bush for eight years, powerless to do anything about it.
But now, finally, thanks to Ron Paul, we have the power to change the Republican Party to our liking. We have the opportunity to bring back the Republican Party that looked to the Founding Fathers and that was defined by Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. We have the opportunity to put the neoconservatives out to pasture.
I’ve been against the Republican Party my entire adult life not because I’m a jerk, but because the party has been against me — against shrinking government, against protecting the Constitution, against preserving individual liberty, against conservatism.
Ron Paul is a hero for making this even possible. His son, Sen. Rand Paul, continues to make it probable. Endorsing Mitt Romney was a necessary parliamentary procedure. It will also be a blip on the radar of an ultimately victorious revolution.
Jack Hunter (also known by his radio moniker the “Southern Avenger”) is a frequent guest on Fox Business, Michael Savage’s nationally syndicated radio program “The Savage Nation” and a frequent guest host on “The Mike Church Show” on Sirius XM. Hunter is the co-author of “The Tea Party Goes to Washington” by Sen. Rand Paul, assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his book “Now or Never: How to Save America from Economic Collapse” and writes the Paulitical Ticker blog for the Ron Paul 2012 Campaign.