"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." – Mahatma Gandhi
Is Ron Paul the Mohandas Gandhi of American politics? Gary North made a convincing case for it in an article he wrote for LewRockwell.com last summer. The Mahatma, the great self, was a non-violent man of unshakable principle, opposed to empire, committed to self-government and justice. Dr. North calls Ron Paul the mahatma of self-government in America. Like Gandhi's followers, Paul's are fanatically devoted and come from both left and right while the blathering center busies itself fulfilling Gandhi's predictions about how "they" will treat men like him.
After Paul's impressive cash haul on December 16, a new one day record of over $6 million, and his even more impressive fundraising efforts for the fourth quarter, we appear to have reached stage two of Gandhi's prediction. The media can't ignore Dr. Paul any more. They must now ridicule and attempt to laugh at him.
Google any combination of Ron Paul and the words crackpot, fruitcake, kook, nut job, and screwball. What you will find is a common theme of abundant and often nasty name calling in which the writer never engages Paul's personal record, ideas or arguments. It is the ridicule and slander Gandhi predicts, the slimiest of political hatchet work.
But it's pretty much all they can do. Paul's record and personal life are seamlessly honorable, philosophically consistent and genuinely selfless in a style utterly unknown among modern professional politicians.
How do you criticize the record of a lawmaker who passed up his plush Congressional pension, returns money from his office budget to the treasury every year, has never taken a government-paid junket, voted to raise taxes or voted for a Congressional raise? All that's missing is the loincloth and the spinning wheel. Critics are naturally limited to hooting and name calling.
Kevin Drum writing for CBS news gives us a perfect example in his brief, nasty little screed entitled "Ron Paul, Fruitcake." (I'm not going to reward it with a link.) Without mentioning a single one of Paul's "extreme, uncompromising positions" he dismisses them as infantile and absurd. He criticizes a "convoluted" answer Paul gave in the last debate without ever mentioning what it was. Then, showing that Dr. Paul isn't the only one who can confuse an audience, Drum blithers about the "free coinage of silver" and the "tin trust." Without mentioning a single one of them, Mr. Drum suggests no thinking adult could take Paul's ideas seriously. He stamps his little feet in a journalistic tantrum and asks, "Can't we all please grow up?" I sincerely wish we could.
By association, then, all the many people sending money to Ron Paul, in an amount approaching $20 million this quarter, must themselves be fruitcakes, screwballs and whackos. That's a lot of nut jobs. Who could they all be?
Never shy about providing oversimplified answers to the most complex political and philosophical questions, and having often worn the rubric "nut job" myself, let me tell you.
A lot of Paul's supporters are guys like me, anarcho-capitalist libertarians and the ragged remnant of the Old Right conservatives. We might have been Maoists when we were in college, but years of abuse from one or another government agency has destroyed the massive confidence we had in central control. Never the less, we remain only a tiny fraction of the population.
We've been joined, thanks to Emperor Bush's flagrant abuse of the constitution, by many who never gave a thought to the constitution when Bill Clinton abused it. These are genuine lefties, flush with confidence in government as an agent of good. But despite their confidence, Baby Bush has pushed even them too far.
And finally, I believe, is a younger, hipper electronically wired crowd overrepresented in cyberspace. These are the people who will be paying for hormones and Viagra for the population bulge of boomers rapidly approaching retirement. They are the people whose children might soon face a draft. They are the people who are starting to notice that they are not doing as well as their parents did. They are becoming suspicious of all the bossing around they've been getting since 9/11.
More than anything, however, Ron Paul's supporters are responding to something we've never seen in national politics: a man of principle, advocating and living his principles. A honest, honorable man speaking plain truth in a forum where truth is shunned like a leper.
The income tax is unnecessary and tyrannical.
The Federal Reserve rewards speculation and recklessness while punishing hard work and thrift.
Inflation is a larcenous tax.
Foreign wars are a tragic waste of American blood and treasure.
The War on Terror is a fraud.
The Department of Homeland Security is a massive, useless waste of time and resources.
Many government agencies are more a burden than a benefit to the American people.
The shocking truth of statements such as these, all of which Dr. Paul agrees with, drive and animate the devotion of his supporters.
Paul's followers are committed to him because of his own devotion to truth, honor, integrity and principle. He believes in and lives the constitutional principles of peace, rule of law, limited government and responsible liberty.
Such a commitment to ideas and principles has been unknown in American politics since Andrew Jackson swore to 'rout out the vipers' of the second U.S. central bank. It terrifies the Imperial establishment. For that reason alone, much good has already been done. Support for Ron Paul will do much more.