Useful Notes: Ron Paul


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 most basic interpretation of the United States Constitution: if the power to do something is not explicitly mentioned in the text, he states from time to time, 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 followers. Many of these followers 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 followers from both the right-wing Tea Party and left-wing Occupy movements.

He tends not to get much attention from mainstream news outlets, 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's omnipresent in the blogosphere, where his followers 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 has acknowledged this.

Ron Paul also has a son, Rand Paul, who is currently a U.S. Senator from Kentucky and shares many of his father's political views. Rand is considered a top contender for the GOP nomination in the 2016 US Presidential Election.

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.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Acts like a nice, genial elderly man, but his attack ads can be downright scathing.
  • The Cassandra: Certainly self-styled as such.
  • Conspiracy Theories: A great many of his fans support these, and the infamous newsletters of his often seem like they are promoting this stuff.
  • Cool Airship: 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. 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 followers.
  • Genius Bruiser: In addition to being a practicing surgeon, he is an amateur boxer and bodybuilder.
  • Enemy Mine: He's worked well with former Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, as well as strongly left-leaning Democrats Dennis Kucinich and Barney Frank.
  • Final Speech: His speech at the pre-convention rally is seen as this.
  • 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 someone completely different.
  • Moral Guardian: An interesting case in that he is very socially conservative (even more so than much of the GOP) but doesn't want the federal government to enforce it on a national level. He does support social conservatism being enforced on the state level, however. This has led to criticisms from other civil libertarians that he isn't anti-government so much as he is anti-federalist.
  • Name's the Same: He's not to be confused with transvestite reality TV host Ru Paul.
  • Old Shame: Paul published a number of political newsletters starting in 1978 and into the aughts. Many of these newsletters, including some published in the 90s, include various conspiracy theories and bigoted statements against blacks, Jews, and homosexuals. One even went so far as to accuse Martin Luther King, Jr. of being a pedophile. Paul initially took responsibility and defended what was in them, but years later during his '08 presidential campaign he changed the story and claimed that his ghostwriters wrote that stuff and snuck it past him. Whether or not he's lying is still controversial, but the issue did stir up some controversy in Paul's election campaigns.
  • The Rival: See Arch-Enemy.
  • Passing the Torch: Seems to be doing this with his son, Rand.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Pretty far on the idealistic side, rejecting the view that Humans Are the Real Monsters.
  • Stop Helping Me!: It's been noted that his fans tend to come across as so extreme (especially on the internet) that they may scare off possible supporters. It's unknown what Paul himself thinks of them though.
  • Two First Names
  • War Is Hell: While he's on the record as saying that he'd be willing to go to war if absolutely necessary, in general he's argued that American military intervention causes more problems than it solves.
  • 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.

Ron Paul in fiction and pop culture:

  • He had a cameo appearance in Brüno in which Bruno makes sexual advances on Paul while supposedly waiting for an interview. Paul becomes enraged and leaves.
  • This xkcd strip doesn't mention him by name, but it does issue a Take That to some of his more enthusiastic followers.
    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.