"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.