At Saturday's day two of the Paul Festival--the grassroots celebration of Paulite ideas, officially named the "P.A.U.L. Festival" (People Awakening and United for Liberty), the Paul people waved the flag in larger numbers than yesterday—I estimate around three times the 800 or so I saw Friday. They were listening to various options for where to go forward from here in a world where Ron Paul is no longer running for president. (For other accounts of the first day, see the Los Angeles Times and Sunshine State News.)
Two speakers associated with the Ludwig Von Mises Institute (an Austro-libertarian think tank largely dedicated to free-market economic education and a more anarchistic approach to politics), Meltdown author Thomas Woods and Mises Institute founder Lew Rockwell, made the case that education, person to person and via the great texts of libertarianism such as Bastiat, Mises, and Rothbard, and great internet resources was the key moving forward. Ron Paul, Woods indicated, would not want to see the campaign of education in liberty he spearheaded to stop just because he was no longer a presidential candidate and no clear successor had arisen.
Woods humorously pointed out the Paul followers' dilemma: Paul doesn't really "lead" in the sense of telling them what they ought to do next. So Woods advised them to follow the path of individual libertarian education in whatever manner most suited their own interest. Rockwell was quietly optimistic that the ideological hold that Etienne de la Boetie told us in the 16th century was the key to state power was starting to loosen thanks to Paul's efforts and our ability to communicate information outside standard cultural or political power structures thanks to the Internet. He closed with a call for liberty activists to not "beg for scraps from the imperial table or seek seats" at it, but rather to "knock over the table."
I had another long talk about the Maine delegation's tortuous path to having their Paul delegation dismembered unceremoniously by the Republican National Committee's rules committee the other day. Mike Wallace, still a delegate and also a candidate for a state Senate seat in Maine this year, tells me he thinks the whole brouhaha was largely the result of hurt feelings on the part of GOP factions who did less well at the state convention.
A former delegate who got booted, and also a former Paul campaign director for Maine, Eric Brakey, says he's sure that the only reason that two state GOP bigwigs filed a challenge to the Maine delegation was that it was made up of Ron Paul supporters, and that Maine's ability to choose its own representation was stolen by the RNC's unilateral decision to name its own set of delegates, though an existing rule would have allowed the rump unchallenged set of delegates to pick the rest. Brakey is sure that would have resulted in the original batch being reinstated, so the RNC didn't let that happen. Brakey hopes, and expects, that the many inroads that liberty politicos made in Maine this year won't be completely stymied by the unfortunate fate of the delegation. Despite some other opinions I heard from other Maine delegates, both Wallace and Brakey were very satisfied that the Paul campaign and its lawyers fought as hard as they could to let the original Maine delegation be seated.
From the stage, someone announced that they wanted to get all Paul delegates aware and ready to vote for a floor amendment at the RNC when it commenced to try to get Maine's delegates reinstated, something the Maine delegates I spoke to didn't even mention as a live option anymore. But the Paul voter spirit is nothing if not never say die. Romney isn't technically the nominee yet.
On the Paulfest floor I ran into two of the more interesting characters I wrote about in my book Ron Paul's Revolution, Tara and Brynn Menkhaus, a pair of sisters (14 and 12 when I met them last year) who traveled the country (usually with their mom) spreading the word of Paul. I asked them how they felt about how the endgame of the presidential campaign had played out. With a sad look, Brynn let me know it made her heart hurt that Paul had not won. Tara was more jaded; acknowledging "this is the world we live in" and seemingly content with knowing the Paul grassroots, at any rate, has never let Ron Paul down.
How the Paul grassroots will mix, or not, with the Republican Party was complicated by the very well-received speech of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, who got cheer after cheer for admitting he wouldn't be doing what he was doing if Paul had been the GOP candidate--or had chosen to seek the Libertarian ring. Johnson continued to get many hundreds cheering by calling for ending the Fed, balancing the budget now, legalizing marijuana, ceasing overseas wars, and legalizing competing currencies.
I asked a couple of Johnson campaign workers from Alachua County, Marshall Rawson and Jote Thompson, how they thought their man was being received by Paul's fans. Thompson was delighted that all but four people who came by their Johnson table all weekend had signed their petition to try to get him in the debates. Rawson said that the only ideological complaint he heard from any Paul fan was that the fan believed Johnson was soft on humanitarian intervention, particularly because of his support for potential U.S. efforts to help bring to heel Lord's Resistance Army villain Joseph Kony.
On the way out I was stopped by St. Louis Paul fan John Stuart, who was torn about what use the GOP could be to the liberty movement moving forward. As we chatted for a few minutes, a rough sense emerged that while the libertarian voter certainly did not owe the Republican Party any particular allegiance, money, time, or a promised vote, to the extent that the Republican Party could be something that a libertarian uses to further the libertarian cause in American politics, it should not be completely written off. While Ron Paul might put it more politely (or not), I think that's roughly his attitude toward the Republican Party as well.