If you've been on the Internet for more than a few hours, then chances are you've become familiarized with the legend of Ronald Ernest Paul
. Paul is a former doctor (an OB/GYN, to be exact) turned Republican congressman from Texas
(though he was born in Pittsburgh
), and arguably one of the foremost examples of the libertarian "old guard" of the Republican Party—anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-welfare and pro-free trade, but also non-interventionist, anti-censorship, and anti-surveillance. Paul's positions are couched in the strictest possible interpretation of the United States Constitution
: if the power to do something is not explicitly mentioned in the text, he and his supporters feel, then the federal government does not have that power.
His peripheral positions are based largely on strict social conservatism: not believing in church-state separation, being fiercely anti-abortion, believing in creationism, opposing gay rights, and so on. However, rather than actively pushing for these things from a federal level, he believes that such matters should be under state jurisdiction (and supports them at the state level). His views have led him to consistently vote against nearly every piece of legislation to come down the pike; combined with his history as a medical doctor, this has earned him the nickname "Dr. No
" among his colleagues. It's been said (of both Paul and libertarians in general) that, while nearly everybody agrees with some
of his positions, few people agree with all
, or even most, of them.
What Paul is probably best known for, on the Internet and in the "old media", is his highly devoted and motivated base of young supporters. Many of these supporters first rallied around him during the 2008 election due to his opposition to The War on Terror
, his support for drug decriminalization, his Cool Old Guy
image, and the perception that he was a "Mr Smith
" in a field of crooked career politicians
, and his support base grew to include supporters from both the right-wing Tea Party and left-wing Occupy movements. (This image, needless to say, did not weather revelations that he was Not So Different
and a Corrupt Politician
He tends not to get much attention from mainstream news outlets (which some of his supporters feel to be an attempt to marginalize him
), unless they're talking about how the winner of the Republican primary can appeal to the young people who voted for Paul. On the other hand, he is omnipresent in the blogosphere
, where his supporters can be found in countless comments sections, YouTube
videos and message boards, to the point where some of them have been accused of using Astro Turf
tactics and spambots
. Paul's internet status is borderline memetic
—even Know Your Meme
Ron Paul also has a son, Rand Paul (not named after Ayn
, we swear
), who is currently a U.S. Senator from Kentucky and shares many of his father's political views.
Ron Paul is an extremely controversial figure. Flame Wars
seemingly spring from his footsteps
, usually through no fault of his own, simply for believing what he believes. His supporters are highly sensitive and his critics have a LOT of grievances against his positions, so now more than ever, the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement
is in full effect. Be careful not to sacrifice basic facts about the politician for political correctness
, though. With that in mind...
The following tropes associated with Mr. Paul:
- All of the Other Reindeer
- Arch-Enemy: Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve in general are an obvious example for him. He has a stated desire to abolish the Federal Reserve.
- Astro Turf: His supporters have been accused of this.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Acts like a nice, genial older man, but his attack ads can be downright scathing.
- Big Good: His followers definitely see him as this. He himself sees the Founding Fathers and President Eisenhower in this light, through he's also, true to his non-interventionist beliefs, quick to call out some of the controversial foreign policy directions of the Eisenhower administration (the 1953 Iranian coup comes to mind), as "blowback", and a factor behind much of the anti-Americanism in the region.
- If you ask him, though, not one of them could hold a candle to Grover Cleveland, though.note See here for details.
- Butt Monkey: In the 2012 Republican primaries, he failed to win a single state, and the one caucus that he apparently won had most of its delegates pledged to Mitt Romney. Though he did win the delegate count in Minnesota and Iowa, through Rick Santorum initially won the popular vote, and Maine where Romney won the popular vote, which was his most competitive state in popular vote.
- The Cassandra: Certainly self-styled as such, with vocal support from his base, who also commonly see themselves as this.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Some of his supporters claim the above is because of widespread election fraud committed by the Republican Party establishment … which apparently includes people that others see as certainly not part of the political establishment. He also remains spectacularly popular on conspiracy websites such as Above Top Secret and Godlike Productions, as well as by major conspiracy theorists themselves like Jesse Ventura and Alex Jones. Whether that's denigrating to his base or simply a testament to how even those that are most distrustful of politicians trust him is quite subjective.
- Cool Airship: Ron Paul leased a very swanky airship in his 2008 campaign. The Ron Paul Blimp, as it's known, is a Skyship 600, one of the largest, fastest, most luxurious airships built nowadays. It has all-first-class seating, a small galley and bar, and huge windows that can be opened in flight.
- Ron Paul's discerning taste in dirigibles is particularly hilarious in light of Mitt Romney's choice in the aircraft. His campaign used a rather cheap, hot-air-filled, six-seat, single-engine blimp. The blimp is so much slower than the Ron Paul Blimp, moving at a glacial 18 mph to its 70 mph, that high winds in Florida the night before the third Presidential debate forced it to fly backwards and crash land in a field! No one was injured, but the pilot had to let the hot air out, and the sight of Romney's deflating face was quite the embarrassment.
- Cool Old Guy: His image among his supporters.
- Corrupt Politician: Paul has actually been fingered as one of the most corrupt Congressmembers, for his habit of double-billing his expenses and quadrupling pork-barrel spending in his district since 1999. So much for being a Mr. Smith type, huh?
- Defector from Decadence: Seen as this by many of his supporters, given that he's a Republican who's one of the most vocal opponents of The War on Terror and the post-9/11 surveillance policies.
- Doomed Moral Victor: His supporters see his 2008 and 2012 runs as this. He himself maintains this stance in his farewell address to Congress.
- Drugs Are Bad: The good doctor rejects this view; he supports the idea that the national government should legalize not just marijuana, but hard narcotics as well. Not out of a belief that drugs aren't bad, but out of the belief that the federal government has no business regulating what an individual chooses to put into his or her own body.
- Actually, he would rather leave it up to the individual states to decide whether to legalize or even have stricter drug laws.
- Enemy Mine: He supports and seeks to unify both the Tea Party and Occupy movements (who originate from two very different sides of the political spectrum) against the establishment. So far, while he has garnered supporters from both movements, a full-out unification between the two groups hasn't happened because of their political differences and lack of notable interaction between Ron Paul supporters, the Tea Party and Occupy movements as of now. This is also because while Paul has managed to appeal to some progressives and the OWS movement through his opposition to The War on Terror and his support for drug legalization, he has at the same time alienated them with his pro-life, anti-federalist, anti-gay rights, anti-Keynesian, anti-separation of church and state and deregulatory policies, as well as his views on global warming, which conversely appeal greatly to conservatives and the Tea Party. And so on and so forth. Paul attracts both supporters and detractors on the left and the right simultaneously. It doesn't help that attempt that conservatives who support him do not look at the OWS movement in the same light he does, with Campaign For Liberty calling OWS misguided at best and a bunch of "Useful Idiots" at worst and his son Rand Paul calling OWS an "inflamed mob" of Obama supporters and similar voices criticizing the fact that OWS hasn't protested to end the Federal Reserve, or has protested against the Fed for the wrong reasons when they do so, and of course there are liberals who support OWS call the Tea Party "teabaggers" and accuse them of racism.
- He has worked well with former Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, as well as strongly left-leaning Democrats Dennis Kucinich, Barney Frank and (openly socialist!) Bernie Sanders on key issues before; he's also good friends with Nader and Kucinich as well. As stated lower in the article, Nader has called Ron’s son Rand "not his father's son" (which must be a devastating thing for a father to hear someone say about their son—he’s not Gendo Ikari), but he’s still good friends with Nader as a fellow third-party-style candidate with a common enemy.
- Flame Bait: Paul is almost in the same league as a sitting presidentnote with regards to being living flame bait. Paul’s unorthodox positions coupled with his die-hard base of support make for one explosive mix. He draws fire from and for all sorts of things: being pro-life, using apportioned earmarks in his district, anti-federalism, isolationism, believing in the Gold Standard, massive budget cuts, deregulation, rejecting the concept of separation of church/state separation, wanting to legalize marijuana … The list goes on and on. And on. Almost every position he takes is highly controversial.
- Final Speech: Through he isn't dead or dying yet, his speech at the pre-convention rally is seen as this along with the End of an Age. He himself sees it as the Dawn of an Era where his legacy will soon "become the tent"—take over the GOP through and through.
- Generation Xerox: Subverted to a pretty good extent. His son Rand Paul, now a U.S. senator from Kentucky, appeals to orthodox conservatives to a much greater extent than his father, who simultaneously gets support and derision from both the right and the left. In other words, Rand is far more faithfully Republican than his father, who, rather than being considered too liberal or conservative, is seen as a completely different animal.
- Godwin's Law: His primary characteristics are his rather … well, devoted followers, political views that are seen as radical or even off the normal spectrum for the American left or right, his voting against the Civil Rights Act (Paul believes it infringes on privacy and on the personal "liberty" to discriminate), and the persistent, haunting scandal regarding the racist, conspiracy-laden newsletters that were published in his name.note It makes him utter bait for other politicians and critics to play the Godwin card and dismiss him as a fringe crackpot and/or racist. Just don't tell his supporters about any of this, as a Flame War is absolutely certain to ensue if any one of these things is brought up. His views on Israel, 9/11 and the "nonthreatening" Iranian nuclear program also help make him a lightning rod for Godwin's Law as well.
- His supporters have also used Godwin's Law to attack his enemies as well, especially Obama, Romney, George W. Bush, and the Federal Reserve. He himself has also invoked this in one of his rallies, warning that the United States is "slipping" into a "Fascist" system (whether his views are justified or not is very, very controversial, and let's leave it at that).
- Hopeless War: This could be said about his presidential campaign—he did not win in 1988 (when he ran as the Libertarian Party's nominee and placed third in the popular vote behind George HW Bush and Michael Dukakis), 2008, or 2012, and he himself promised to retire if he didn't win in 2012. It's been implied by some news sources that he's not looking for victory given the odds in the first place, but rather influence the Republican platform and set Rand Paul up for a 2016 run.
- Hope Spot: Through he is in no position to win any presidential race, his war on the Fed, however, seems to have borne fruit—his latest "Audit the Fed" bill has passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives … now if only the Senate could do the same…
- The Messiah: Many of his supporters view him as this, and consider him the "last hope for America". Not to mention the Doompaul meme that jokingly claims that if anyone else wins it's World War III and The End of the World as We Know It.
- Name's the Same: Don't confuse him with transvestite reality TV host Ru Paul.
- Old Shame: Do not mention "the newsletters" in the presence of Paul or his supporters.note In the late 1980s and early '90s, a number of newsletters were published in Paul's name and sent out to his supporters. The content of these newsletters was incredibly fucking racist (claiming the L.A. riots of 1992 stopped when black participants had to pick up welfare checks was one of its less horrible moments; it also sucked up hard to the apartheid regime in South Africa and claimed that its dismantling would lead to a genocide against white people), homophobic (gloating over the AIDS epidemic) and unhinged (generic New World Order nonsense abounded) to say the least. While whether Paul himself personally penned any of the offending/offensive articles (many believe that the freelance ghostwriter Jacob B. Powell pundit and some also suggest Lew Rockwell had been the chief ghostwriter) is ambiguous, he did have editorial control over the newsletters' content. Paul has spent his entire career since then treating the newsletters as an Old Shame, making several public comments denouncing racism in an effort to distance himself from their content.
- Opinion Myopia: Paul's supporters tend to have a hard time seeing how anyone wouldn't like him, but then again, this happens to every politician, especially those who are charismatic enough to draw in large crowds.
- The Rival: Ben Bernanke could count as this to him. Also, Rudy Giuliani liked to criticize his foreign policy in debates in 2008 and Rick Santorum took this mantle during the early debates in 2012 before getting to the front of the polls where Romney became his arch-rival.
- Passing the Torch: Knowing he is approaching his twilight years, Ron seems to be doing this to his son Rand, a Kentucky senator who shares a vast majority of his views, and is a likely 2016 presidential candidate.
- Screwed by the GOP: During the 2012 Presidential Election, Ron had amassed enough delegates to be on the nominee ticket for the Republican National Convention. However, the rule on the number of delegates instituted by the Republicans was change at the last minute, which ensured that Ron was disqualified from being a possible candidate and Mitt Romney got the nomination.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Pretty far on the idealistic side by any measure, rejecting the view that Humans Are the Real Monsters (but that most politicians are corrupt to a large degree). This may explain a lot of his appeal to young voters. However it may also cause his more cynical detractors in both parties to view him as a Wide-Eyed Idealist. And yet he's supposed to appeal to people who would be otherwise apathetic to politics and foreign policy non interventionists, which are pretty cynical blocs. Ultimately through, it isn't that his views appeal to cynics or not but how he presents them, and his presentation of many of his views hinge on a idealistic vibe.
- Suck Sessor: Rand Paul has been seen as this by a Vocal Minority of the Paul supporters due to his ties with the GOP "establishment" and his appeal solely to orthodox conservatives, in contrast to his father's appeal to various activist groups and movements on both the right and the left, and how they think he is easier to compromise with the establishment simply because he endorsed Romney rather than his father. Outside this group, many conservatives who can't stand the GOP establishment don't consider Rand part of it, pointing out to a arguably more palatable voting record that proves he isn't part of the establishment. It isn't surprising to find posts online claiming that the "Apple fell too far from the tree" or comparing him to Benedict Arnold.
- This has been invoked by Ralph Nader in a recent interview, who claims that Rand does not have a message but only ambition, and that he is not his father's "son" and has actually, with his standing in the GOP and his prospects for 2016 held Ron back from making any meaningful changes.
- Two First Names
- War Is Hell: While he's on the record as saying he would be willing to go to war if absolutely necessary, in general he's argued that American military intervention causes more problems than it solves and that it's immoral.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Sort of. He finally won the popular vote somewhere, in the Virgin Islands to be precise, but most of the delegates had already pledged to Romney.
- His recent "Audit the Fed" bill passed in the (Republican-controlled) House of Representatives with 327 votes. Time will tell if it passes in the Senate, through the dominant Democrats have next to no interest in this bill, and have stopped his bill from even getting to the floor, and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has said that he'll block this bill despite his initial support for auditing the Fed in the 1980s.
Ron Paul in fiction and pop culture:
- He had a cameo appearance in Brüno, where he was portrayed pretty negatively.
- This xkcd strip doesn't mention him by name, but it does issue a Take That to some of his more enthusiastic supporters.
Cost to buy an ad on every story on a major news site every day until the election: $1,500,000.
Cost to pay five college students $20/hour to camp the site 24/7 and post the first few comments the moment a story goes up, giving you the last word in every article and creating an impression of peer consensus: $200,000.