It's behind the New York Times' much-hated "Times Select" wall, so alas the full text won't be accessible to most…[UPDATE: this site, however, has the full content for free] Still, Bruce Bartlett's piece on the possible future of Ron Paul (see my interview with him conducted last week here) is worth an extended excerpt. (Bartlett had been a legislative assistant to Ron during his first go-round in Congress in the 1970s.)
Ron was not your average Republican or a typical member of Congress. Most Republicans reflexively voted whatever way the White House told them to — Gerald Ford was still president, and party unity was the order of the day. And most congressmen hate being on the wrong side of a lopsided vote. But Ron voted his conscience and was often the only "nay" vote out of 435.
…..He hadn't run for Congress as a stepping stone to becoming a lobbyist, but to define the political spectrum by showing how a consistent libertarian would vote. This meant being for the free market and against gun control — conventional right-wing positions — but also being in favor of drug legalization and nonintervention in foreign affairs — more commonly left-wing positions.
This is still Ron's philosophy. It is why he has consistently opposed the war in Iraq, making him something of a darling among those on the left who see no connection between Ron's free market views and his antiwar position. But to him and other libertarians the issues are one and the same. They're against unjustified government intervention at home or abroad.
…..When I asked Ron why he kept running for office despite having little to show for it in terms of legislation or other tangible accomplishments, he said it was because he enjoyed the job. He gets to say what he thinks, meets interesting people, and shows that honesty and adherence to principle are not the political albatrosses that most politicians think they are. It's worth noting that in 2006, when Republican were losing control of Congress, Ron got 60 percent of the vote in his district.
Bartlett ends on a more optimistic note than I would--but hey, the future is a crazy, unknowable, open book, right?
In any other year, one would automatically dismiss Ron's chances as quixotic at best. But 2008 is shaping up as an unusually fluid year politically, with no clear front-runner in either party, and new candidates emerging almost weekly. And the Internet has leveled the playing field in many ways. It may be a year when anything can happen.