Ron Paul

Paul Festival: The Fight for the Ron Paul Grassroots' Soul

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The Ron Paul grassroots are celebrating their final hurrah, at least during the actual political career of their inspiration, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), at Tampa's Florida fairgrounds this weekend. (Paul will be holding his own farewell rally on Sunday.) Day one of the Paul Festival showed a movement less unified, present, and excited than it wants to be. But most of them are still sure that, whether or not the Republican Party will continue to be the horse they ride, they'll keep up a fight for political liberty that's turning out to be more complicated and difficult than many expected.

Ron Paul's rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired

The event was thinly attended on day one; my estimate is no more than 800 were present at any one time. The festival occupied two linked huge hanger-like buildings. One was filled with exhibitor booths of appeal to the Paul world—the Free State Project, Ron Paul candy bars and T-shirts, the Independent Institute, the Libertarian Party, and purveyors of hard money and soft beef jerky.

The other one had stage for speakers and musical entertainment. I didn't spend a lot of time with the latter, whose connection with Paulism seemed more personal than ideological, but did sit in on speeches by two different claimants to the specifically political attention of the Paul forces: Libertarian Party national committee chair Geoff Neale, and a mystery "Plan B for liberty" named Robby Wells who was, even today, still hoping to encourage RNC delegates to nominate him if, as was clear, Ron Paul was no longer trying to win it. (Wells' policy statements were a perfectly acceptable batch of Paulite positions, from being for abolishing the Fed to being against abortion.)

That fact—that Ron Paul was no longer trying to win it—was the key to the concern and even sometimes anguish of most of the RNC delegates and alternates for Paul who I met at Paulfest. Some, including Oklahoma alternate delegate Porter Davis, think the campaign was infiltrated from the beginning with non-libertarians intent on making sure the campaign didn't win, or even do very well. Davis and a fellow Oklahoma alternate, Michael Stopp, were full of complaints about the attitude and actions of the campaign's official representatives in their state, and are sure that the Paul political machine were already more interested in setting up a future for Rand Paul than winning it for Ron this time around.

For a half hour I was literally caught between the two dominant visions of what a Paulite politico can or should do moving forward, sitting between two delegates telling their stories.

On one side was Bryan Daugherty, a delegate from Maine, who had just seen what he insists was his state's duly elected Paulite delegation invalidated by the RNC unilaterally. Despite the bravado expressed to me the other day by his fellow delegate Mark Willis, Daugherty was no longer sure he'd even bother to attend the actual RNC on Monday.

He did try to replace a bounced Maine delegate on the Rules Committee, but was barred by committee chair John Sununu. Daugherty was still sporting his Rules Committee laminate in defiance. He was the first to tell me of a new rule, which the Washington Post reported on, that will attempt to lock in a state's straw poll results with its delegate mix in a way that pretty much destroys any chance any future Ron Paul type can succeed with a "delegate strategy."

Daugherty says talk from the Paul campaign made it abundantly clear that they did not want Paul to be nominated on the floor; he recalls a campaign operative assuring them that even if rogue delegates tried to do it, Paul would decline the nomination.

The realization that the Paul campaign–probably as far back as May–gave up on actually wanting a floorfight is seen by some delegates as a sign of either sabotogue, incompetence, or fraud.

Alternately, some see it as an understandable decision about how best to normalize the liberty movement as a loyal faction of the Republican Party once actual victory was seen as impossible. Josiah Tillett, a young Paul alternate delegate from Virginia, tells me in his state that by allying with more standard Tea Party conservatives the Paul faction managed to get plenty of delegate seats, though they are bound to Romney, in exchange for supporting Tea Party-ers for state committee seats. Even a Paulite can horsetrade, and one should not underestimate the importance in Party politics of just being seen as people you can and want to deal with, not a truculent enemy.

 "I've been a Republican for 18 years," Daugherty says. "I've been pushing this dilapidated car for a long time, but I'm at odds right now. I sit on my state [Republican Party] committee, I'm on the leadership team of my municipality in Bangor. But do you continue to get smacked around, kicked in the nuts every day? Or try to get the signatures in Maine to start your own party?"

On the other side was Nevada delegate Pat Kerby, who was on the platform committee, and mildly happy with planks about a gold commission and Fed auditing he says are in the draft. He failed to get good things about equal rights in marriage or raw milk into it. Kerby too is frustrated with the Party power structure, but doesn't want Paul people who have tried to rise within the GOP to give up. 

"We've done so much, come so far," Kerby says. "Back in 2008, we made a lot of progress in Nevada and then we had to start over" because too many people gave up. "We've got to hold our positions" within the Republican Party.

In the evening the action retreated to a campsite on the other side of the hugely sprawling fairground property. The campsite, somewhat ironically, is adjacent to a county-wide law enforcement parking lot. Thus for hours of the night and morning constant caravans of a hundred or more police cars were circling the campgrounds. (In an earlier friendly encounter with an un-uniformed officer in an unmarked car, he made a point of saying to what he knew was a Ron Paul fan after our interaction: "There, wasn't I helpful?") As I was writing this Saturday morning, one of them announced drily over his loudspeaker to the awakening Paul rabble in the field: "Have a lovely day."

Vrezh Zatikyan, an activist who works with the grassroots Liberty HQ out of Los Angles, was walking around the campground in the middle of the night looking for someone to drive him and a partner to a nearby 24 hour Kinko's so they could print thousands of copies of an appeal to all the RNC delegates to reconsider their choice of Mitt Romney and nominate a true constitutionalist defender of American liberties who might have a chance of beating Obama: Ron Paul.

Zatikyan was not discouraged. The current system is one of great power and great evil; Paul fans should not have expected that they could just march in with their delegates and expect the Party to politely roll over and allow him to be nominated. But regardless, Zatikyan insisted, what are they going to do? Give up? For him, and everyone who troubled themselves to get to this hot August day in Tampa, that wasn't an option.

NEXT: Vid: Why Do Girls Want Guns?

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  1. The fact that anybody is here at all shows the tenacity of those who believe in liberty and believe our country is in dire peril. Obama has condemned us and our grandchildren to a tough row to hoe for another 50 years. Ron Paul supporters will not switch to Romney for whom they also have disdain. Gary Johnson will likely get the Paul supporters which could float him above the 15% national polling requirement to get Gary Johnson up on the debate stage with Obama and Romney. Ron Paul supporters should not despair. With just a little team work, the vision of Ron Paul will again be presented on the national platform by Gary Johnson right up to November 6th.

  2. Some, including Oklahoma alternate delegate Porter Davis, think the campaign was infiltrated from the beginning with non-libertarians intent on making sure the campaign didn’t win, or even do very well.

    It’s people like Davis here who are much of the problem within the Paul campaign.

    1. Feck off. It’s repugnicans like you who are much of the problem with the Paul campaign.

      1. Sure, blame people who would never even join the RP campaign for its failings. Then the Jews. Just remember, never examine yourself. You’re the victim.

  3. We all know that a failure to nominate Ron Paul is PRUUF of conspiracy! Seriously, there are those that believe this.

    1. That’s not the proof, the proof is in the pervasive obstacles thrown up to prevent Ron Paul from making or keeping any gains in order to minimize the possibility of any threat to those already in power.

      That’s always been the case, it has just become a little more visible than usual with this last Paul campaign.

  4. I share many things with Ron Paul. Not only beliefs, but his year of birth. May I speak for myself, and leave it to you to decide if I speak for him? We’re tired. How long must we carry this message of freedom? Is there, as we pray, a new generation of patriots, ready to carry on our message, our hopes for this nation, our prayers? “Sail on, oh ship of state”, for this ship bears the dreams of free men everywhere.

  5. This was barely readable for the tortured sub-clauses and r@ped syntax.
    But this was the worst:
    “In an earlier friendly encounter with an un-uniformed officer in an unmarked car, he made a point of saying to what he knew was a Ron Paul fan after our interaction: “There, wasn’t I helpful?”)”

    Christ, man, break up your thoughts into simple sentences and re-write this piece. Just fkn awful.

  6. If christian people knew what Mitt Romney really believed, Dr. Paul would be the nominee. This is the reason that Santorum was so hesitant to endorse Romney as well. We have to stand together as christians and spread the word. We need to get behind Dr. Paul and if he is not able to be in the election, we need to stand behind christian and libertarian Gary Johnson. Help get the word out about what Mitt Romney really believes!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGFAph3lWqw

    1. Romney is running for president and not for pastor of any national church. Romney’s beliefs aren’t really any more or less crazy than yours or those of any one else Phaerisee. The world is full of differing beliefs and unverified ideologies which church people love to debate and sometimes even kill each other over. Religion or no religion is personal and best respected as long as one gets the job done and tolerance should be the libertarian way.

  7. The campaign for Paul just begin with this announcement now its interesting to watch what the opposite parties reaction to it.

  8. Ron Paul’s wisdom was a welcome relief from the other Republican candidates at the debates and I’m grateful that a party with such a different vision ( The Republicans ) would allow the libertarian message to be heard via their venue.Is nothing required of Ron Paul supporters in appreciation or some support for the party that allowed such national coverage of their candidate and his views? It’s one thing hearing Democrats blame others for their many failures but hearing Ron Paul supporters blame the very Republicans that provided the medium for their own libertarian message to be so widely heard is disturbing.

  9. On one side was Bryan Daugherty, a delegate from Maine, who had just written a book about Ron Paul and disowned alt-text.

  10. Do you want Gary Johnson to be your President? http://celebrity-plugs.com/t/

  11. Rand Paul appears to be liked by all those republicans I know who could never support Ron Paul, but grudgingly agree with him. Like it or not, come 2016, it will be Rand Paul 2016. I think Adam and I will have to “suck it up” and either get behind Rand Paul come 2016, or if we want, go deep inside the DNC to start “Jefferson Democrats” for liberty. I am sorely tempted to become a “Jefferson Democrat” in 2016. That may be the way to go forward to advancing liberty. Obviously the LP is a failed “liberty advancing strategy”.

  12. Infiltrating the 2-party duopoly seems the best course of action for freedom at this time. The r3VOLution has raised more money and done more for the cause of liberty since 2007 than all 40 years of the LP. Given the fact that people get their political self-identity via being “born” into a family of “democrats” or “republicans”, the LP has no chance even if every libertarian female gave birth to 10 children. There is no catching up. Infiltrating the 2-Party duopoly has been a proven success. Hardcore Libertarians themselves are proof of this strategy. Their own self identity is wrapped up in that “Libertarian “L” label on their chest so much so that they can’t bare putting on the “R” or the “D”. Such LPers ought to look in the mirror and ask themselves, “if i can’t rip this label off my self identity, how do I expect less political minded “R”s and “D”s to do it?”

  13. Like certain ants who invade other ant colonies by “wearing” the host colonies cologne to gain acceptance, the r3VOLution has proved its case. Personally I was amazed at the GOP acceptance of us – as long as we wore the “R” label, we were perfectly free to be a libertarian. The experience was eyeopening. Now many of us will be going inside the DNC and I expect the same welcoming treatment. As long as you wear the “D” on your chest, you will be free to be a “jefferson democrat” all you want. Such is the cult of political identity today. The “Grassroots Soul” as you call it, are very aware that infiltrating the 2-party duopoly is the only way to go forward to advance the cause of liberty. And how will we know when we have “won”? Answer: When a Ron Paul Republican goes up against a Jefferson Democrat. Liberty wins.

  14. Like certain ants who invade other ant colonies by “wearing” the host colonies cologne to gain acceptance, the r3VOLution has proved its case. Personally I was amazed at the GOP acceptance of us – as long as we wore the “R” label, we were perfectly free to be a libertarian. The experience was eyeopening. Now many of us will be going inside the DNC and I expect the same welcoming treatment. As long as you wear the “D” on your chest, you will be free to be a “jefferson democrat” all you want. Such is the cult of political identity today. The “Grassroots Soul” as you call it, are very aware that infiltrating the 2-party duopoly is the only way to go forward to advance the cause of liberty. And how will we know when we have “won”? Answer: When a Ron Paul Republican goes up against a Jefferson Democrat. Liberty wins.

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