It has been almost 3 years since Ron Paul decided to run for president of the United States. His decision led to an embryonic movement that has since mutated, been partially co-opted (by oligarchic interests), and came to be known as the Tea Party Protests. The time has come to evaluate and dissect the evolution of Ron Paul’s project to sort the confusion around it. Let’s begin with analysis of Ron Paul who contributed greatly to the civil wars within the GOP which in turn resulted in Ron Paul staging an alternate republican convention nearby the official one in 2008.
For a brief moment during the Republican primaries it looked as if Ron Paul might get third place in the Iowa caucuses. Third place was exciting in that it would mean some sort of brief lifting of the heavy corporate media censorship (no other way to explain disproportionate lack of attention towards a reformer who raised more money and had greater national following than Tancredo or Thompson). Alas, Fred Thompson has done his favor to McCain solidly and performed well as a fake candidate to split anti-establishment Republicans. We may see more fake diversionary candidates in the future. A 6-7 figure to pretend to campaign for a few months? Which actor with political connections wouldn’t jump at the chance?
Ron Paul was different than other reformers (such as Nader and Kucinich) that were long censored by corporate interests in that he wasn’t a person. He was a mouthpiece for a libertarian ideology. One might think something like this occurs often but it is ridiculously rare and stunning to witness in politics. Such a rare breed doesn’t make it far nationally (the way a real Coptic Christian wouldn’t in a megachurch industry or an orthodox communist in a Chinese politburo). However people like that have a claim to incorruptibility. This and Ron Paul’s track record created an instant passionate following.
Even with this ideologue background Ron Paul shared one thing seen in great reformers like Ralph Nader. He described news events, history, and dynamics of government the way he personally saw them and without spin. This bears repeating. He spoke an approximation of truth to power. A good example of this is an interview he gave to an alternate news organization in 1988. The interview is as relevant today as ever and he describes how the financial industry in essence now owns congress and is the dominant faction within the American oligarchy.
It may seem weird that an ideologue is able to describe the real nature of power within a society but if you think about it, Ron’s libertarian orthodoxy aids in the process. Most politicians subscribe to a movable, fake, and incoherent ideology (some meaningless notions of center-left and center-right which are always in flux) to get elected and that requires them to apply a very simple yet muddy ideological filter to everything they do. If they don’t do that, they of course will be accused of flip flopping and weakness by the opponents. It is an unfortunate state of affairs that is the worst possible hybrid between ideological orthodoxy and absolute pragmatism. Freedom of meaningful thought and action is restrained in often absurd and situationally dependent arbitrary ways.
Ron Paul does not have that problem as he is firmly anchored in Austrian economics and constitutional legalism. His actions and empirical appraisal of reality is still horrendously restrained but we all know where he stands at all times. It is no coincidence that immovable die hards like Paul and Mike Gravel are children of the depression. Paul responded to the crisis of the depression and stagnation of liberal structures in the 1960s with idealistic reactionism (his homeland of Texas was on periphery of FDR social revolt) while Gravel wanted to further evolve and put additional energies into structures and promises started by FDR.
Having said that, people like Ron Paul are more than capable of siding with certain factions (that are either ideologically muddy or rather moderate) IF it moves society in the direction of that rigid utopian construct they have in mind. “Ends justify the means” and “enemy of my enemy is my friend” sort of dynamic has long been a staple of genuine ideologues. This is different than most politicians because of its teleological nature. Two extreme examples stemming from the same hypothetical person can illustrate this:
1) a communist in Soviet Union who wanted United States to win the cold war because SU was a state capitalist abomination in his view
2) this same person now supports free trade because he thinks it’ll make the world’s workers sufficiently miserable and build international solidarity which in turn ends capitalism quicker (Famous Marxist theorist Georges Sorel for instance wanted unhindered globalization so capitalism could burn itself out quicker)
We see how ideologues can support something which seems complete opposite of what they want (temporarily) to achieve an ultimate goal. It’s a very old game that some casual observers seem to forget about. There is no telling to how far the mental rabbit hole goes. Considering many “neo-conservatives” were Marxist in their youth, it is worth noting the ultimate result of their actions and to consider what goes on inside their minds under many layers.
Ron Paul’s actions of course do not deviate this psychopathically far “for the cause”. The key reason why he was able to make an otherwise hideous pro-oligarchy ideology of stifling development for majority of the population so palatable was due to him being a kind and gentle soul at heart. It is readily evident in videos of Dr Paul’s interviews and speeches. One cannot be mad at him or suspect nasty behind the scenes motives since he lived his entire life as a role model libertarian and an exemplary helpful human being. Ideological pragmatism did make Ron associate and collaborate with certain ideological “free market” think tanks and foundations whose only purpose was to increase the net worth of the oligarchs who started these think tanks in the first place. [here’s more on how easy it is for billionaires like David Koch, Steve Forbes, or Richard Scaife to use a bit of their pocket change to create fake grass roots movements and to put educated people on a payroll so they could ideologically serve rich people). Since GOP in itself is just a vehicle for rich people’s ideas and power, Ron’s association with it in his presidential run allowed oligarchic interests to make inroads into the energized pool of new people that Ron brought to the party.
Considering the fractured nature of GOP during the presidential primary battles, the shrinking and now regional status of the party, Ron Paul’s lack of support for McCain, and McCain’s support of bailouts and electoral failure, the re-energized libertarian faction provided GOP with a powerful and independently minded influx of pure activists. Many of these people had their own links to various think tanks and oligarchic “research” data. This rich man’s infiltration of a movement that prided itself with small donation support may have remained relatively limited considering the above average education and anti-corporate perspective of many libertarian activists (one needs education to engage in understanding and application of a sufficiently complex economic theory, regardless of theory’s merits). However, Sarah Palin emerged on the scene and sufficiently re-energized the uneducated rural theocratic factions of the GOP. McCain of course picked her to co-opt not just Hilary voters but power bases of his primary rivals (which included uneducated anti-government people as well as Paul’s libertarian ideologues).
What happened next was rather simple. Since there are more elderly rural uneducated anti-gov people in GOP than younger college educated anti-gov libertarians, the Sarah Palin block swamped Ron Paul’s people after the presidential election. People with education low enough to think Sarah Palin was an actual capable person were always traditionally manipulated by corporate/theocratic interests (although under Reagan’s era of think tanks it became an art form). This story repeated itself as corporate front groups such as freedomworks began to utilize the successful tea party themes of Ron Paul’s movement to direct anti-government people against the Obama administration rather than against the federal reserve and the current fiat money monetarist system. Since many of the energetic libertarians remained as a minority to “remake” the GOP, they were now surrounded and overshadowed by whichever dwindling GOP base still remained ( theocratic, crypto-fascist, semi-literate, imperialist, and goofy people of all stripes). Palin faction for its part now found itself under 3 influences:
1) Traditional corporatist money that funds the GOP (now reduced due to status of GOP as regional party and many of America’s oligarchs now throwing their funds on the democratic party organs)
2) Traditional Reagan era pro free trade think tanks and newer libertarian think tanks (whether corporate or genuine is irrelevant) that rode into GOP on the backs of Ron Paul supporters
3) Ron Paul supporters themselves who utilized their youthful charisma and grasp of capitalist theory to sway and inspire the older GOP activists
The third in effect helped facilitate migration of republican regulars away from GOP into the broader non-institutionalized tea party movement where individual personalities have a lot more sway. So far we can just guess at the ratio of those that stayed to vote GOP and “purify” it, those that left to influence the GOP from outside so as not to be taken for granted by party leaders they call RINOs, and those that left for good to try to create their own third party. It can be guessed at that libertarian leaning propaganda organizations (indirect corporate influence to a large degree) are now displacing direct corporate influence (elite fundraisers and the like).
The thrust of the tea party protests are still guided by rich people in that the protests focus on a president and democrats rather than socioeconomic structural fundamentals of United States. Rich people of course don’t want their proxies to focus on dismantling the banks and auditing the federal reserve. The tragedy is that the bulk of the tea party participants are anti-corporatist in nature and have been badly swindled by the financial sector oligarchy for decades. The economic situation was so bad for years and has deteriorated throughout 2009 to such a degree that the bulk of the tea party protesters are first timers. They might have been outwardly directed with fear by past presidents, but a black democratic president pushed desperate angry people to start paying attention domestically like never before. Rural elderly republicans began large scale dirt digging on the political system that preoccupied younger progressives since 2000. A quote from Chomsky illustrates why Palin was a blessing and a curse to find herself with such a riled up audience:
“I mean, we’re very lucky that we have never had an honest demagogue. I mean, the demagogues we’ve had are so corrupt that they never got anywhere–you know, Nixon, McCarthy, you know, Jimmy Swaggart and others. So they were kind of destroyed by their own corruption.
But suppose we had an honest demagogue, you know, a Hitler type, who was not corrupt. There’s probably–it could be unpleasant. There’s a background of concern and fear, tremendous fear, and searching for some answer, which they’re not getting from the establishment. “Who’s responsible for my plight?” You know, and that can be exploited. And unless there’s active, effective organizing and education, it’s dangerous.“
Hopefully the libertarian faction will act to educate the Palin faction on the necessity of anti-imperialism, anti-prohibition (on all consensual acts), and deep radical structural reform of the socioeconomic system. The presence of anti-corporate (still serving the rich in theory but at least articulating elimination of subsidies to the current rich practically) young libertarians should moderate the bible thumping authoritarian views at Tea Party events in general. So far it seems that the elderly white “crazies” have done more to unnerve and stifle the federal government than young pacifist progressives did throughout all 8 years of the Bush administration. The libertarians undoubtedly enjoy the newfound muscle at their disposal but also hold the Palin faction in contempt. To them these are the same nasty authoritarians that voted for Rudy, McCain, etc. The alliance of anti-corporatist people and people who were controlled and led by corporate interests for so long seems counter-intuitive and will probably lead nowhere long term. The recent loss of the Massachusetts senate seat is less an indicator to the contrary but an indicator of democrats total disgust at lack of anti-oligarchy moves on Obama’s part and thus a protest vote. Ron’s people just spend too much time and energy arguing/convincing the Palin people on things that are ridiculously simple like war and the prohibition. Remember, an incredibly capable technocrat and high level managerial intellect (Mitt Romney) was rejected by these people because he was of a different faith and “too RINO”.
Young libertarians and young progressives have more in common culturally than young libertarians and elderly anti-government religious people. There is also the anti-banking anti-corporatist bond that unites them due to less influence exerted on them by mainstream media and blatantly obvious think tanks like the Heritage Foundation. Total disenfranchisement of progressives by Obama’s cabinet picks should lead to efforts at a common libertarian/progressive/populist front that results in the dismantling and then reorganization of our socioeconomic system in the years to come. We’ve seen such popular fronts of convenience in many countries before. They serve to remove the established dinosaurs but always collapse into infighting after the key objective is achieved.