Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul's rally Saturday on UT Austin's south mall was supposed to look like the Barack Obama rally on Friday night. His is, after all, the Revolution. But there was a much smaller audience and a divided response to many of his policy pronouncements. This makes the South Texas congressman's pledge to keep going until the money and the volunteers run out sound like the soothsaying section of a self-fulfilling prophecy (and a dangerous one, considering he's facing a serious challenge for his congressional seat from self-described Christian conservative Chris Peden.)
One should never judge a political candidate by the unaffiliated hangers-on that appear around the edges of a campaign event. But this rally was supposed to be a great hurrah for the cross-party appeal of his liberty message, the paradigm-shift that was supposed to sweep him to the presidency, and then let him disassemble every government agency and program from the IRS to the "entitlement program" that is SCHIP. But the Scientologists handing out pamphlets on the steps and the Lyndon LaRouche-ites leafleting the crowd were a sign of where the problems lay.
Paul has undeniably gained traction for his anti-war stance, which got the strong response expected from the entire crowd. But then the divisions showed. His isolationist foreign policy and silver-standard economic plan played well with the "Live Free or Die" contingent. But there was a more muted response and even some booing when he talked about dismantling social security, and his claim that a better understanding of the Second Amendment would have prevented 9/11.
His line about dismantling the "warfare/welfare state" summed up the cheer, jeers and uncomfortable shuffling response. It also spoke to the schizophrenia of his presidential candidacy. He speaks for the libertarian wing of the Republicans and for many Libertarians – but he rolled up accompanied by a trailer with an American flag, a working copy of the Liberty Bell, and the Ten Commandments on large, fake stone slabs - an uncomfortable juxtaposition for someone that claims to believe in keeping the state out of personal business. It was even with no seeming sense of irony that the man who says he seeks to dismantle government credits his campaign success to the Internet. Because it's not like he voted on a bunch of federal budgets that paid for ARPAnet or anything.
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