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The official campaign has ponied up more than $1 million for TV commercials in the Granite State. The three ads focus on Paul’s personal integrity, on his opposition to national ID cards and other civil liberties violations, and on his support for a noninterventionist foreign policy. In one spot he notes that “both parties have put their pet schemes ahead of our rights”—a direct blow against his own party.
In the age of Bush Republicanism, Paul barely qualifies as a party man in good standing. But in New Hampshire independents can register and vote in the Republican primary on Election Day. And in the Iowa caucus, any legal voter can show up and vote for Paul. That’s good news for a campaign that must rely on support beyond the Bush-era GOP faithful.
‘We Want to Have a Peaceful
The inventor of the phrase “Ron Paul Revolution,” and the designer of the T-shirt logo in which the evol in revolution looks like the word love backward, is 46-year-old Ernest Hancock, a longtime activist in the Arizona Libertarian Party and a radio host. The logo recycles an image he developed for his own (losing) 2006 bid for secretary of state in Arizona. “We want to have a peaceful revolution, so the love is effective in portraying a revolution, but not violence,” says Hancock, known among Libertarian Party activists for always staking out hard-core, no-compromise stances. The logo, which is not an official campaign symbol, is immensely popular among Paul fans, dotting the nation wherever Paulistas can show up in T-shirts or put up stenciled signs or banners.
Hancock says that when he first heard rumors that Paul might be running, back in January 2007, “I called [campaign chairman] Kent Snyder and said, ‘All I need to know is if this is for real.’ When he said yes, I said, ‘Thanks, have a nice day, you’ll never hear from me again.’ ”
Hancock spends most of his time these days crossing the nation, showing locals how to make Ron Paul Revolution signs economically, how to find used banners and billboard pieces for cheap or free and print on the back. He advises activists on how and where to hang them. Hancock’s an anarchist, but he has learned to love the federal highway system for the opportunity to reach a captive audience on the cheap by hanging banners off overpasses.
And if the banners get torn down within hours? “So freaking what?” he says. “Two hundred thousand people saw it.” And, uh, is any of this illegal? “I don’t know,” he says. “I don’t care.” Well, Ron Paul is on record as supporting civil disobedience.
Hancock’s crusade is not the only guerrilla effort on Paul’s behalf. Meetup groups are organizing a campaign to send thousands of handwritten pro-Paul letters to Iowa voters. A strange variety of viral videos infects YouTube, many of them featuring unofficial Ron Paul campaign songs. The range of styles in these Ron Paul ballads reflects the eclecticism of the Ron Paul Revolution: from wan old-school folk to ’90s-style jazzy trip-hop, from sprightly garage rock to straight Sinatra steals. Some lyrical samples, from the trip-hop number: “We need Ron Paul/For the long haul/Cause he’ll stop all the wars/Where the bombs fall.” From the garage pop tune: “Ron Paul!/He’s got brains and he’s got balls/Ron Paul!/Who you gonna cast your vote for next fall?/Ron Paul!”
An Eclectic Revolution
As a very successful politician, Ron Paul knows how to sell what’s appropriate at any given moment, within the bounds of his principles. This talent helps forge a movement that appeals across gaps that standard political analysts might think unbridgeable, such as the one between pot-smoking libertine college kids and evangelist pastors.
When Paul speaks to those pastors in Des Moines, he talks about border security, sovereignty, and the North American Union, topics missing from the college talk. He tells of witnessing a casual abortion in medical school, and how much it disturbed him. But even to this audience he stresses that preventing abortion must ultimately be a cultural, spiritual, and family matter, not something solvable through top-down federal action.
Afterward, a couple of pastors tell me they’re “less libertarian” than Paul but plump for him anyway. The “leave us alone” message has wide appeal; as Nate Howe, an L.A.-area computer security worker in the banking industry and an organizer with the local Meetup group, tells me, a recent Hollywood fundraiser found “Ron Paul talking to someone who’s very accomplished in business and then a kid next to him with a Mohawk, and both are saying, ‘I like this guy; he’s saying go live your life, and if you don’t hurt anyone, the government shouldn’t bother you.’ ”
I hear variants of this from many Paulistas. They recognize their scene’s eclecticism but see no reason that, whatever your personal values or lifestyle, you can’t get behind the man who wants to leave you alone.
There’s one strain of the Paul movement, though, that often alienates his other supporters and potential supporters. Ranging from John Birchers to 9/11 Truthers, they’re the type whose distrust of government is enmeshed in elaborate, complicated, and implausible conspiracy theories. To the extent those people have a favorite candidate, it’s apt to be Ron Paul. One big reason: He shares their refusal to believe the government always has good intentions.
My friend Phil Blumel has been active for the last decade in Florida GOP politics and has been following Paul closely for two decades.
He’s a big Paul supporter and has been encouraged at how many rank-and-file Republicans seem open to his message. He understands Paul’s appeal to the conspiratorial types, though he doesn’t share their interests, and doesn’t think Paul really does either. “I’ve heard him speak 40 times, and you can never really tell that he actually believes in any particular conspiracies,” Blumel notes. “But he speaks in a language such that conspiracy nuts believe that he does. Me not being a conspiracy nut, he speaks vaguely enough that I can listen and it doesn’t sound like he really buys it.
“That’s a political skill,” Blumel jokes, “triangulating between the sane and the insane and keeping them both on board.” As an enthusiastic supporter of the campaign who nonetheless disagrees with Paul’s stances on immigration and sovereignty, Blumel has been pleased that as the campaign has gained traction, Paul has emphasized issues with more mainstream appeal: war and the economy.