Ron Paul ignited a generation. The revered doctor from Texas delivered thousands of babies, but the most important birth he oversaw was that of the liberty movement. Since then, Dr. Paul has ascended to legendary status. So much so that we sometimes forget what the man himself actually stood for.
Nowhere is this more stark than in the divide in support between Ron and his liberty torch-bearing son, Rand. While it’s perfectly understandable to experience diminished enthusiasm over the younger Paul’s softer positions on peace, for example, the fact remains that the two have a consistently similar overarching message. During the second Republican presidential debate, Rand Paul delivered a much-needed contrasting viewpoint on war, drug decriminalization, and disparities in the justice system. Still, that’s not enough for many of Ron’s former supporters to jump on the bandwagon (Randwagon?). Not because of the genuine differences in message and position semantics between the elder Paul and his son, but between the legend of Ron and the reality of Rand.
As it turns out, scores of Ron Paul supporters are just dying to believe that he’s an anarchist. From speculation about his underlying philosophical motivations to straight up asking him about anarchy (just Google “ron paul anarchist” and see what all turns up), the liberty faithful are quick to believe in the miraculous purity of their savior.
Snap back to reality. Ron Paul has long held, with unmatched consistency, his position as a staunch Constitutionalist favoring precious metal-backed currency, a non-interventionist foreign policy, secure national borders, individual liberty, and states’ rights, including the ability for state-level government to decide on issues like gay marriage and abortion rights. While his overarching philosophy is driven by a passion for liberty, his actual positions on the role of government are a world away from anarchy, and much closer to those of Rand. Many giants in the liberty movement close to the Pauls have supported Rand as publicly as they have Ron, from Walter Block to Andrew Napolitano, Rand’s older brother Ronnie, even scoring kind words from anarchist folk hero Jeffrey Tucker. Most importantly, Ron Paul himself has thrown his unequivocal support behind his son. This included addressing the divide in support between the two of them, where he noted “minor differences of opinion,” but maintained: “I know the media likes to play this little game where they pit us, or certain views, against each other. Don’t fall for it. They’re trying to manufacture storylines at liberty’s expense. You’ve spent years seeing how the media treated me. They aren’t my friends and they aren’t yours.” Still, the divide in support between the two persists. Why?
I honestly think it’s a matter of religion. No, not of literal theocratic belief in the supernatural and the afterlife, but a dogmatic, faith-based belief that’s impervious to both common sense and factual realities. Ron Paul’s passion for liberty ignited the same burning in the hearts of the people to such a degree that it birthed a religion-like fervor of belief past anything originally intended. Converts have made liberty their god, anarchy their heaven, and Ron Paul their Jesus. His actual opinions and record matter little at this point: he has transcended from humanity to sainthood. His life as a liberty warrior no longer belongs to him, but to the faith.
From my perspective, misremembering the reality of Dr. Paul is a disservice to his legacy. Liberty may be pure and timeless, but its messengers are but mere mortals. We owe it to them to remember them as they were (and how I should like to be remembered someday): humans who advanced the cause of liberty. To appreciate them as anything other than what they actually were gives praise to a nonexistent entity, and leaves the true heroes unrecognized. As such, I think it’s crazy to glorify Ron Paul and what he stood for while ignoring what the man himself actually believed. But then again, I came to liberty early, and by the time Ron Paul burst onto the scene in 2008 I was far enough along to actually view him skeptically as too conservative for my tastes. While I now recognize him as the single biggest thing to happen to liberty in my lifetime up until now, I personally didn’t need him. Maybe that contributes to my different perspective on the deification of Ron and the vilification of Rand. Either way, I believe that both should be appreciated, derided, ignored, or worshiped for who they are, not for who they’re not.
Ron Paul, the humble military veteran, doctor, Congressman, presidential hopeful (Libertarian and Republican parties), husband, father, grandfather, and terrific human being, is dead. St. Paul lives. Blessed be His name.
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