Ron Paul has won!

About a year ago my son could barely suppress his excitement as he told me that Ron Paul had decided to run for President.

“Don’t expect him to win,” I told him.

He replied, “Oh, but I do expect him to win!”

What I miss most about youth — what I miss even more than the vigor and the energy and the excitement of getting up each day (and feeling good when you do!) — is that sunny optimism in the face of impossible odds. Life has a way of beating that out of you as it delivers one disappointment after another. The older you get, the less you expect from life. As The Gambler in the old Kenny Rogers song put it, “the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep”.

But growing older is not without its compensations. With age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes something that is even better than optimism: the ability to see the good that can come out of even the worst that life throws at you. As The Gambler said in the line just before the one quoted above, “every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser”.

No, Ron Paul is not going to be President of the United States. I never expected that. I never expected him to get the nomination. Dr. Paul didn’t just talk about returning power to the people; he actually would do it, and explained how he would do it. There are too many powerful people with too much to lose from a Ron Paul Presidency, and they would stop at nothing to make sure he got nowhere near the Oval Office.

I told my son that things would get ugly, and they did. I’m a five-point Calvinist and a firm believer in the first point: total depravity. I know we’ve all done things we’d rather nobody else knew about, so I was just sort of holding my breath to see what Dr. Paul’s enemies would come up with. That some racially insensitive comments that appeared in some old newsletters he didn’t even write — and which he had dealt with to most people’s (including the local NAACP president’s) satisfaction years before — were the very worst they could throw at him was, to me, quite amazing and a ringing endorsement of the man’s character.

No, Ron Paul didn’t do as well as we’d hoped on Super Tuesday. Of the 11 Republicans who had declared their candidacies, it now appears that, from the perspective of those of us who care about liberty, the worst (with the possible exception of Rudy Giuliani) is now headed for the nomination. In November we’ll be faced with two equally bad choices.

But something wonderful has come out of the Ron Paul campaign. A year ago, nobody could imagine the phenomenon that would come to be called The Ron Paul Revolution, a genuine mass movement that has taken on a life of its own. The numbers tell the story:

  • More than $28 million in contributions raised, with $20 million raised during the fourth quarter alone. Virtually all of this has come from well over 100,000 individual contributors.
  • More than 1,600 Meetup groups nationwide with more than 106,000 members.
  • Close to 82,000 Facebook supporters.
  • Nearly 48,000 subscriptions on YouTube. Videos produced by Ron Paul supporters have been viewed 6.8 million times.
  • Ron Paul’s name consistently ranked near the top in Google and Technorati hits, and Hitwise ranked him as the most frequently searched candidate.

Incredibly, most of this was spontaneous and unplanned. For example, more than half of Dr. Paul’s fourth quarter donations total was raised in two money bombs organized by supporters who were not only independent of the campaign, but who had not even consulted with the campaign beforehand.

Ron Paul, a 72-year-old great-grandfather, became an unlikely hit with the younger generation. His visits to college campuses drew large crowds, and polls showed that the bulk of his support came from younger voters eager for change. But the quality of his support from young voters was entirely different from that for Barack Obama, the other “youth” candidate. Obama’s support is for the man — I doubt you can find even one Obama supporter in ten who can tell you what the candidate’s position is on any issue — while Dr. Paul’s support is for the message.

He is a radical in the truest sense the word. Radical is derived from the Latin word for root, and that is the level at which Dr. Paul deals with the issues. The other candidates talk about tweaking the tax code to deal with the recession; Ron Paul wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and eliminate income and death taxes entirely. The other candidates talk about inflation as if it has no cause; Dr. Paul proposes to eliminate the cause — huge deficits and Federal Reserve monetization of them. The other candidates argue about timetables and conditions for withdrawal from Iraq; Ron Paul argues not only for immediate, unconditional withdrawal from Iraq, but for a complete change in the foreign policy that put us there.

In fact, Ron Paul is in many ways the un-candidate. He has never pandered, he has never flip-flopped, he has never soft-pedaled his position on any issue, even when he knew large numbers of his supporters disagreed with him on it. Whether it was pointing out before a hostile audience at last May’s Fox News debate in South Carolina that radical Muslims don’t hate us because of “our freedoms”, but because of our intervention in their countries’ affairs, or unapologetically defending his pro-life position on The View, he has stuck to his principles. And he has held on to his supporters while doing so.

Once you realize that winning the Presidency was never a realistic option anyway, it is not hard to see that Ron Paul has won. Just look at what has been gained.

In running for President, Ron Paul has done something libertarians in the past tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to do: he has brought together pro-freedom elements from both the Left and the Right in a mass movement to restore a proper relationship between citizens and their government, and between this nation and the rest of the world. In the process of doing this, he has given lovers of liberty an incredibly powerful force for social change.

The infrastructure — the Meetup groups, the Facebook and YouTube networks — is still in place. The ability to raise prodigious amounts of cash in a short period of time — the $20 million raised in the last quarter of 2007 was as much as Cato Institute raised the entire previous year — still exists and can be used again.

The Ron Paul campaign for the Republican nomination may be coming to an end, but The Ron Paul Revolution goes on. Surely, that’s an ace we can keep.

Addendum: Since posting this column, I discovered this on historian Doug Wead’s blog. He makes essentially the same point I make, and some of the comments are particularly compelling. Ron Paul has lit a fire that will not be extinguished.

From Nolan Chart.