"Occupy Ron Paul": The Libertarian Roots of the Occupy Movement

Michael Tracey writes in American Conservative on the links between Ron Paul-ism and the Occupy Wall Street movement, past and prospective:

One might say Ron Paul people played a more integral role to the inception of Occupy than conventional Democrats or liberals, many of whom scorned the inscrutable demonstration in its first weeks. The journalist Arun Gupta, who co-founded the Occupied Wall Street Journal in New York City and later embarked on a tour of Occupy sites across America, told me he’d see clusters of Ron Paul supporters and various libertarians virtually everywhere he went. Such folks “tended to be better represented and integrated in red states,” Gupta said–Cheyenne, Boise, Tulsa, Little Rock, Louisville, Charleston, etc.–while in “blue states” they typically formed enclaves that were “tolerated” by the wider group.

A fair number of Occupy people in those days either had no opinion of or actively disliked Ron Paul, but the undercurrents of support were nonetheless noticeable, ranging from individuals who would wield official campaign paraphernalia to others who would concede private support only for narrow aspects of Ron Paul’s platform upon intense questioning. One would more reliably come across vocal Ron Paul supporters at Occupy events than vocal Obama supporters. It was not lost on the Zuccotti Park crowd, for instance, that Ron Paul personally expressed a measure of support for the movement earlier than most any other national U.S. politician–aside from Sen. Bernie Sanders or Rep. Dennis Kucinich....

Signage bearing the Paul-derived “End the Fed” slogan was common around Lower Manhattan during those frenzied weeks. Stories of Paul-Occupy fusion emerged from around the country: in Los Angeles, a Ron Paul activist successfully added an anti-Federal Reserve amendment to OccupyLA’s working manifesto; an ultimately ill-fated “Ron Paul Tent” was established for a time at OccupyPhilly...

That a candidate who routinely inveighed against the military-industrial complex, “corporate fascism,” civil liberties infringements, and the George W. Bush administration’s lies about Iraq while championing Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, and the Occupy movement wound up attracting support from elements of the American left is not terribly surprising....

What seems more surprising (or at least disappointing) is that more support from the non-Democrat-beholden progressive left wasn't sent Paul's way, an issue I explore in my own discussion of Ron Paul, Occupy, and possible or potential libertarian/progressive congruence in my November Reason feature "Ron Paul: Man of the Left."

Tracey wraps up by pointing out that the Paulite left advantage, such as it is, is likely to be squandered by those aspect of the Paulite/liberty movement that insist on further electoral work in the Republican Party even minus a candidate as hardcore as Paul himself.

As for Paul, Tracey notes, he "wisely plans to continue focusing on youth outreach in post-congressional life" and speculates (I think with some accuracy--Ron Paul in general as a very tolerant man, as his eccentric political career has required him to be) that "Perhaps the preponderance of eccentric characters in Ron Paul’s own flock made him more inclined to show the maligned Occupy movement a modicum of respect, back when doing so was not an especially advisable tactic."

My book on Paul's political careeer and the movement around him, Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.

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  • Palin's Buttplug||

    This is true.

    I have often remarked that TARP was the genesis of the Tea Party and OWS. Bush writing a $700 billion check to the banks threw the left and right into virulent anti-state blood brother status (temporarily). Lefty boards were even more butthurt, I believe.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    It must burn you to the bottom of your short little soul that Bush giving out that money made his cronies rich instead of Obama's cronies.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Ridiculous. The recipients of TARP all saw their stock price hammered in 2008-09.

    Citi went from $50 to $6 where it is today (split adjusted).

  • CE||

    If only it were just a 700 billion dollar check. It turned out to be a permanent trillion dollar boost in baseline spending.

  • ||

    I visited Occupy Philly a number of times, and the Obama/Paul split in signs was pretty even. After the White House worked with the DHS and city mayors to attack the Occupy camps, I imagine the Obama support fell off quite a bit.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    It wasn't Barry's fault! It was all of those mean, evil Republicans who work for DHS!

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "What seems more surprising (or at least disappointing) is that more support from the non-Democrat-beholden progressive left wasn't sent Paul's way" [emphasis added]

    A movement numbering in the veritable dozens!

  • ||

    OCCUPY THIS!

    (points to genitals)

  • ||

    Geez Doherty, are you STILL pimping your book? Even Welch & Gillespie eventually let sleeping dogs lie.

    If you insist on book pimping, at least ask Tucille how it's done; he at least makes it entertaining. -)

  • CE||

    Why would the progressive left support a candidate who doesn't believe that the federal government is the best entity to educate children, provide healthcare to all, and care for the elderly? Aren't those things obvious?

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    One might say Ron Paul people played a more integral role to the inception of Occupy than conventional Democrats or liberals, many of whom scorned the inscrutable demonstration in its first weeks."One might say Ron Paul people played a more integral role to the inception of Occupy than conventional Democrats or liberals, many of whom scorned the inscrutable demonstration in its first weeks."

    Complete and utter bullshit.

    Please show this scorn the neoLiberals directed towards OWS, either at it's inception or any point in time after they had moved on the vandalize/assault/rape portion of their program. Cuz I'm willing to bet that outside of a few half-hearted Jon Stewart jibes made for the sake of pushing his faux bi-partisanship, you won't find any.

    To say nothing of how marginal the Ron Paul representation was in the grand scheme of the movement, how quickly it was chased out by goosestepping hippies, and the fact that George Soros is the real person to whom credit belongs for the "inception" of OWS.

  • tarran||

    What was entertaining was watching Buffett swoop in and take the wind out of the "Robin Hood" tax that OWS was supposed to vociferously demand.

    Buffett played it perfectly, he got to look pious while hijacking Soros' rent seeking with for rent seeking that supported Buffett (and utterly fucked Soros over).

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    At it's root, OWS was about whiny Gen-Y liberal arts majors who were upset that the Government didn't show up in their dorm rooms the day after graduation to hand out jobs and forgive their student loans.

    Try to engage a 99%er and you will get a stream of angry syllables about the evils of "deregulation" and "free markets". It is the same old progressive nonsense about how Government isn't the problem, the problem is that the wrong team is in control, and that once the right set of philosopher-kings are put in place, wealth and freedom will flow down.

  • JeremyR||

    This makes no sense. The Occupy people are socialists who hate (despite, really) capitalism and want more government. Their only complaint is that corporations are getting the bailouts, not them personally.

    Ron Paul is about as capitalist as a person gets, and wants less government.

    And remember, Ron Paul got "occupied" because of his stance on wanting to disband the EPA. Happened not quite a year ago.

  • Max||

    Another stupid, pseudo-documented bit of 'Libertarian History' from Doherty based on talking to anyone but those involved.

    Libertarians were involved in the planning a year before it appeared on the radar. The Paul folks were in my experience mostly disruptive or government moles.

    Try going to sopme Libertarian activist sites or joining actual groups.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    So, what I actually read in the quotes is that a few people in the Paul camp tried to wake the Occupiers up and realize that it is cronyism and not capitalism that is the source of the problems and they were generally scorned and rejected, albeit with one plank in one city's manifesto that could just as well wind up direct political control of the money. From this, Tracey, and by extension Doherty, tries to portray libertarianism as at the heart of the Occupy movement.

    Liberaltarianism didn't work. Let's try communistarianism.

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