Regardless of your political beliefs, Ron Paul’s success shifting the national debate on a variety of issues holds some valuable lessons for everyone. We all care about issues that invite a range of opinions, and we all would love to have more success in bringing people to our side of the debate or learning key facts we missed previously. Indeed, there isn’t much point to activism otherwise. So please consider these non-political lessons from Ron Paul.
1. Stay calm and respectful even if the other side does not
Consider two famous Ron Paul moments, the first from 1988:
Now fast-forward 20 years:
Imagine you are the questioner in each of these videos. Is there any doubt which response method would be more likely to change your views? Ron Paul clearly grew as a leader over those 20 years, which points to another lesson here: tenaciously work on getting better, whether you are succeeding or failing.
2. Trust your gut and common sense to make bold predictions
Ron Paul is a hero to some, but a pariah to most, but nobody anywhere disputes two key facts regarding his lack of social fear. He doesn’t hesitate to apply the principles he professes to his opinions on current policy, and he doesn’t care one bit about what anybody else thinks when he forms these positions.
Consider his famous prediction of the housing bubble in 2001 several years before it happened (a bit long but the first minute will suffice for those pressed for time):
No one wanted to hear that in 2001, but Ron Paul correctly stated the implications of policies that were widely popular. Why? Because the economic principles he believes in clearly imply such a crash, and he couldn’t care less what anybody else thought, especially if those bodies were in Congress. This went a long way to convincing open-minded people that he really does care about all Americans and isn’t just fighting for the rich (not that people don’t still use that retort, but it has diminished among the informed).
He made two famous speeches just before the dawn of the Iraq debacle that also demonstrate this point. In February 2002, he rose to speak to his colleagues and said in parts:
Too often when we dictate who will lead another country, we only replace one group of thugs with another - as we just did in Afghanistan - with the only difference being that the thugs we support are expected to be puppet-like and remain loyal to the U.S., or else.
In October of that year, he again took the floor and had this to say about Iraq:
I have come to the conclusion that I see no threat to our national security. There is no convincing evidence that Iraq is capable of threatening the security of this country, and, therefore, very little reason, if any, to pursue a war.
He goes on to demolish any claims of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s possession, methodically and convincingly, relying only on unclassified intelligence and common sense.
Is there any doubt that anyone paying attention was capable of seeing through the propaganda of that era? Now we can ask ourselves: Is there any excuse for the fact that he was ignored? The legitimacy of that question proves the point. When you make bold arguments like these and are proven right by subsequent events, you aren't ignored quite as much later. I believe these speeches are two of the big reasons he was able to have any success whatsoever in 2008 and 2012.
3. Be brave
This is related to the last lesson but deserves its own section. By never shirking your opinions in exchange for social acceptance, you will accumulate respect and force detractors to confront your points, not your person. If people still refuse, they will make themselves look ridiculous all on their own. Witness this from the GOP debate in South Carolina in the 2012 race:
That audience reaction is a clear example of self-inflicted stultification.
Do and say what you think is right; forget about what other people think and your chances of success. That’s not say you should fail to strategize, but if the best thing you can think to do is unlikely to win the day, do it anyway.
4. Research your positions
There was a question in another GOP debate from 2012 that was posed to all the candidates, and Ron Paul had a very interesting answer. As Al Jazeera describes it:
At a debate in New Hampshire in January, the Republican presidential candidates were asked what they'd be doing if they weren't standing behind the podia. Most said they'd be watching sports.
But not Texas congressman Ron Paul. "I'd be home with my family," Paul said. "But if they all went to bed, I'd probably read an economic textbook."
When you actually spend the time to learn about the issues you discuss, the oft-used retort in any argument of “You’re ignorant!” simply belies the speaker’s ignorance and shores up your position in the discussion.
I think that we can all agree that if we applied these lessons from Ron Paul’s career, we’ll achieve meaningful successes which will benefit ourselves and those around us at the expense of more frequent successes that sacrifice our integrity. That’s what we want, right?