Last weekend, Representative Ron Paul’s (R-TX) supporters were disappointed to learn that the stalwart defender of constitutional government likely would not be placed in contention for the Republican Party’s official presidential nomination at national convention.
Congressman Paul needed a plurality of the delegates from five states in order to have his name presented as a possible nominee and to ensure a speaking slot, but he came up short on Saturday after failing to win a plurality in Nebraska, leaving him with only four states. Although the possibility that he would somehow still win the nomination was already slim to none, as Paul himself acknowledged, it was still a symbolic blow to the fledgling “Liberty Movement.”
What is the Liberty Movement? As of now, I would have some difficulty in answering that question, but I’ll take a stab at it (and I welcome corrections in the comments below). The Liberty Movement is undoubtedly still deeply intertwined with the person of Ron Paul himself. It shares a great deal with the Tea Party on the matters of limiting the government to its constitutional powers and responsibilities. This necessarily means that both movements are fiscally conservative in nature, and both support large and substantive spending cuts.
Both groups are in favor of sound money, although many in the Liberty Movement are much more explicit about favoring a gold standard, specifically. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the two movements hold so much in common, since the earliest stirrings of the Tea Party came in response to Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential candidacy.
In many ways, the Liberty Movement is a much more comprehensive movement than the Tea Party. Tea partiers often disagree with one another on matters of foreign policy and social issues, and so they don’t incorporate those issues into the movement at large. The Liberty Movement, on the other hand, largely embraces Paul’s vision of a non-interventionist, pro-free trade foreign policy. (I’ll admit that I don’t know a great deal about foreign policy, having written on it only once before, so I won’t write at length on this.)
Social issues are a bit trickier, as some of his supporters embrace his more socially conservative views, but perhaps a majority hold more liberal views on issues such as same-sex marriage, capital punishment, and abortion. However, these internal conflicts are usually resolved by both groups acknowledging that the federal government shouldn’t be involved in such issues, and that at most, it’s something for each state to resolve for itself.
What about Occupy Wall Street, the other major “populist” movement to sprout over the last few years? I see far fewer connections between Occupy and the Liberty Movement. Both disdain crony capitalism, but then again, so does the Tea Party. Perhaps there’s more of an overlap between Occupy and the Liberty Movement on the matter of social issues, but I doubt it.
While Occupiers and those in the Liberty Movement may agree on the matter of, say, same-sex marriage, they’d likely disagree on how to legalize it. Occupiers would probably turn to the federal government to pass a broad national law to bring about legalization, while the Liberty Movement would be much more likely to turn to the states, or to try to decouple marriage from the government entirely.
Many in the media and the upper echelons of both parties have derided the Liberty Movement as merely a personality cult built up around Ron Paul, albeit to a lesser extent than the LaRouche Movement is entirely centered on Lyndon LaRouche. While I don’t think that the Liberty Movement is a personality cult, I do think that it needs to begin distancing itself from the person of Ron Paul sooner rather than later.
Like it or not, he’s 76 years old and about to finish his final term in Congress. He can continue to be a leader for the movement, but he can’t continue to be the leader for the movement. And really, there’s no reason why those in the Liberty Movement can’t begin to elevate other people into major leadership roles in their movement. Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) could be one such leader. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), although admittedly less of a purist than his father, is another. If Thomas Massie wins an open House seat in Kentucky, he would be one more possibility.
With the failure to win a plurality of delegates in Nebraska, Paul’s quest for the nomination appears less likely to succeed than ever. Going forward, the Liberty Movement must embrace the political philosophy and ideas of Congressmen Paul while losing its obsession with the man himself. The movement also can’t allow itself to splinter off into smaller groups focused on singular issues, such as auditing the Federal Reserve or non-interventionism.
To maintain relevancy, it must maintain cohesiveness. It must gather to itself new, young leaders articulate enough to convey the movement’s message without distorting it. There’s no reason this can’t happen. The tools, the message, and the leaders are out there. In order to survive, the Liberty Movement must be reborn.