While Congressman Ron Paul and his son Senator Rand Paul have differed on issues, strategy, and rhetoric, the biggest difference between the two was revealed in Rand's recent endorsement of Governor Mitt Romney for President.
Ron has consistently refused to endorse Romney or rally behind the GOP for the sake of some notion of "party unity," opting instead to, like he has done for the last few decades, be a maverick in his own party. As Ron is set to retire from political life at the end of his Congressional term, it will be interesting to see which strategy will be more effective at spreading influence and ideas.
As the son of Ron Paul, someone I support enthusiastically, I have to admit that as much as I am inclined to distrust politicians, I initially liked Rand. He rode the Tea Party wave in 2010 into a Kentucky Senate seat against establishment candidates of both parties.
But I can remember the feeling of my jaw dropping when he voted in favor of sanctions against Iran. At a time when the U.S. is dangerously close to a full-scale war with Iran, the last thing we needed was another Senator advocating economic sanctions, a direct and overt act of war.
I quickly found that my instinctual hostility to anyone in public office was correct. While talking a good game and wrapping himself in libertarian rhetoric, Rand has proven to be a fairly typical conservative Republican and very different from his father on the defining issue of the liberty movement: war and peace. While on the campaign trail for Ron, instead of advertising his father's record, he gave mealy-mouthed and eye-rolling attacks against Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
It has been fairly obvious that Rand is much more comfortable cozying up to the GOP than Ron is, and Rand may well be rewarded with a possible Romney cabinet slot, a presidential run in 2016, or other perks within the Republican hierarchy.
Meanwhile, on the same day that Rand endorsed Romney, Ron addressed the Texas Republican State convention and was asked to speak about "party unity" and "balancing the budget." Ron was having none of it.
As the Washington Times reports, "Paul made it clear that he wasn’t going to play ball, or shall we call it what it is -- politics. His speech was a virtual litany of the positions that have defined his candidacy." He received ovation after ovation, like he has for the last year, by attacking the Fed, advocating a non-interventionist foreign policy, and scathingly criticizing President Obama's civil liberties abuses and his "kill list."
Party unity? The Republicans have no problems with a huge bulk of Obama's worst excesses, Paul warned.
Rand justified his endorsement of Romney by claiming that in a 30-minute meeting with the former Governor, Rand was assured that Romney supports auditing the Fed, opposes SOPA legislation, wants to construct the Keystone Pipeline, and even praised his foreign policy credentials.
Assuming that Romney actually holds these positions, there are dozens of others that are completely antithetical to individual liberty. If Rand truly believes in the libertarian rhetoric he uses, how could possibly endorse someone who promises trillions more dollars in spending, is surrounded by some of the same neocons that were in the Bush White House, knows very little about economics, and agrees with the president on nearly every substantial issue?
Besides, President Obama has said that he'll portray Romney as some sort of "extreme libertarian." Rand's endorsement helps advance the false narrative that libertarians are a different version of right-wingers, which could help to actually undo the progress that Ron has advanced in showing that libertarianism is neither left or right but a philosophical and practical opposition to government coercion and a defense of civil and economic liberties.
One might say, as some on the right have, that Rand has to compromise and be pragmatic. That's the nature of politics, Pat Buchanan endorsed the nominee in the past, etc. But the Republican Party is openly hostile to liberty, free markets, peace, and limited government and, with very few exceptions, supports torture, perpetual war, the drug war, debt, deficits, and paper money.
By planting his flag with the GOP, Rand is showing that more than liberty, he wants power, and one should always be skeptical of anyone who wants power over others.
Ron, on the other hand, has used the Republican mantle and a Congressional seat solely as a platform in an attempt to conserve the western legacy of classical liberalism. While flying under the radar for the last few months, Paul has given stump speeches to crowds Romney could only dream of, building a grassroots message independent of the Republicans or any political party.
With all due respect to the hundreds of Paul delegates headed to Tampa this summer, Ron's attempts to infiltrate the GOP have been met with hostility, contempt, and even outright violence. And despite claims that Ron Paul supporters are "cult-like," I can only imagine how quickly they would desert him, myself included, if he went to Fox News and endorsed Romney for president.
Rand's endorsement of Romney is further proof that, if one values anything resembling peace and a free society, politics, elections, and political parties are the last place to look to.
Ron found that out early on, and has built a grassroots and independent revolution that will only continue to grow. Rand, on the other hand, appears more interested in his own political career. While Ron has been busy striking the root, as opposed to hacking at the branches, of vital issues, it is a shame that the apple has fallen so far from the tree.