Austin Loves Paul

Out of 1,000-plus national Ron Paul Meetups, Austin's is the largest

Ron Paul
Ron Paul

"[Rudy] Giuliani is probably the most evil person in the race. ... He's a frightening, fascist warmonger."

That isn't the latest bulletin from Dennis Kucinich 2008 or from the desk of Howard Dean. It's the voice of a recent, local Ron Paul convert and newly minted Republican voter. Ten years ago, Jamie (she declines to provide her last name) worked "in liberal politics, let's just leave it at that." Now she's marching the street, "Ron Paul Revolution" sign in hand, cheering on the only candidate she thinks can succeed in saving the country. But does Paul's idiosyncratic blend of activist spirit, libertarian leanings, and Republican affiliation really carry weight across the political spectrum?

Out of 1,000-plus national Ron Paul Meetups, Austin's is the largest, and its organizer, Paul Davis, thinks converted Dems are emigrating directly from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, based upon their positions on the Iraq war. "They ... are just against the way the Bush regime has gone about it," Davis says. "Both have left war with Iran 'on the table,' and that does not sit well with the people who have talked with me."

At a Ron Paul "Freedom March" earlier this month, more than one pickup truck with a "Texas Democrat" sticker honked in support of the marchers. Paul's lively rebukes of Republican candidates have made for some great YouTube footage, and his ardent opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act and the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay certainly endear him to liberals. But other issues also seem to be fueling Paul's support.

Pam Farley has been convinced to vote for her first Republican presidential candidate "due to the principled consistency of his congressional voting record and his integrity, especially when discussing America's economic condition." Paul's "liberal" supporters tend to respect Ohio Democratic Rep. Kucinich, though they resist any call for a weapons ban or enlarging the government's social services – which suggests a fairly constricted variety of "liberalism." Farley and others also see an inconsistency in the amount of taxes the government collects in relation to the assistance it is able to deliver – so, like most of Paul's supporters, they view the Katrina aftermath as an institutional failure rather than administrative incompetence.

Anson Chi quit his job in Dallas to spend more time in Austin drumming up support for Paul. Chi is a longtime liberal, having voted for Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and eventually Ralph Nader in 2004. "To be honest and brutally frank, I've got a deep disdain for Republic­ans," he admits. "But guess what. If I'm able to support Ron Paul ... and change my views, that says a lot." What it says is that the wildly divergent personalities that support Paul – Goldwater-style Republicans, libertarians, and folks with pet constitutional issues (e.g., no income tax) – are being joined, at least in some numbers, by supporters from the left. Whether that unstable alliance can translate into more than another quixotic, Nader-like political meteor trail remains to be seen, beginning in New Hampshire in January. But for the moment, Paul's mainstream GOP opponents, like the major news media, just don't know what to make of him.

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