Ron Paul is 79 today
Libertarians owe him a great debt, one which can never be repaid. Without him, it’s more than likely that our movement would’ve either gone off the rails, succumbing to opportunism of the worst sort, or else slipped into obscurity, never to be seen or heard from again. Thanks to him, neither of those dreadful scenarios occurred.
What happened instead was the almost miraculous growth and development of libertarianism into a viable national movement, with “mainstream” media forced to sit up and take notice. Now we are told we may be approaching the “libertarian moment” — by the New York Times, no less! — and 90 percent of the credit (maybe more!) goes to Ron and the movement he inspired.
But it wasn’t easy. Three presidential campaigns, one under the Libertarian Party banner and two in the GOP primaries, with him travelling all over the country non-stop — a heroic effort for a man of his years. And he looks fabulous: I should only look that good at 79!
His career limns the upward trajectory of the rising libertarian movement, spanning the years when libertarians were totally unknown to the general public — I recall hearing, after telling someone that I was a libertarian, “I didn’t know the librarians had their own party!” — to our present Libertarian Moment. Without him, we may have reached it, eventually — but surely not as soon. And I know many of my readers will agree with me when I say it has come not a moment too soon.
To readers of this web site who may not be libertarians — and there are many — what’s important about Ron and the movement he spawned is the awareness he has brought to the public of the dangers inherent in our interventionist foreign policy. He has stood like a rock, even in the darkest days of the post-9/11 era, when even the staunchest peace advocates hesitated to raise their voices and the War Party was on the march. He stood up to the bully Rudy Giuliani, the has-been NY mayor and failed GOP presidential candidate, who was riding high at the time: he stood firm even as the know-nothings booed him and he told the truth about the gross stupidity and immorality of a foreign policy that has reaped such a whirlwind in the years since that moment. He stood up to the smears of the War Party — and they’re still attacking him. Yet his stature, far from being diminished, only grows. At the age of 79, he is still speaking truth to power.
I have to tell a little story about Ron that underscores his sterling personal qualities as well as his ideological virtues. In my fiery youth, not even Ron Paul was radical enough for my tastes and I remember penning (yes, it was so long ago that we had pens in those days!) an article attacking him for “selling out.” It was a long diatribe, which was published in a long-defunct journal of which I was the editor. Not long after, I was surprised to receive a letter from him which was as gracious as can be, pointing out that “I don’t believe we are as far apart as you believe” and warmly inviting me to visit with him when I came to Washington. I published the letter in our paper, and came across it the other day as I was going through my old files.
Personally and politically, the man is a saint.
One last thing: I’ve been a Ron Paul-watcher for many years, and what I’ve seen of his long career is unusual in the sense that most people get more conservative as they get older: Ron, on the other hand, only got more radical. Radicalism is often thought of as the exclusive province of youth but in Ron’s case just the opposite pattern occurred. Through some alchemy of spirit, he’s just gotten younger over the years — which is perhaps part of the reason why he has inspired a vital and growing youth movement that has no equivalent on the left or the right. Thanks in large part to Ron, the future of the libertarian movement is bright indeed — and how can you thank a man for fulfilling the dreams of your youth? You can’t, really — you can only try.