- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ron Paul supporters know he has little chance of becoming the next president, but they say his third bid for the job is about more than winning the GOP nomination or the White House — it’s about guiding the political landscape beyond the Republican-Democrat duopoly that’s controlled Washington for more than a century.

The man who in his 2008 bid was dismissed as a sideshow has emerged this year as the prophet of libertarian-leaning conservatives and tea-party supporters alike and has come to define the burgeoning coalition that preaches lower taxes, global retrenchment and more modest use of federal powers here at home.

“He is John the Baptist in that he is founding the call for what will be fulfilled in American politics within the next decade for sure,” said Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason magazine and a libertarian icon. “And for God’s sake, it is horrible to talk about political candidates as John the Baptist or Jesus for any number of reasons, including that one ended up with his head on a platter and the other nailed to a cross.”

After years in the political desert, torn between Democrats’ social liberalism and Republicans’ economic conservatism, Mr. Gillespie and fellow believers say the two major political parties are showing they’ve run their course as voters flee in search of the new kind of politics that Mr. Paul embodies.

Mr. Paul, in an interview with The Washington Times, said he hopes that is the case because the two major parties essentially have become one.

Rep. Ron Paul, seen here in his Capitol Hill office, says the two major parties have become one. "Although the rhetoric might vary, they've been one party. ... regardless of what they claim they believe." (Drew Angerer/The Washington Times)
Rep. Ron Paul, seen here in his Capitol Hill office, says the ... more >

“Although the rhetoric might vary, they’ve been one party,” Mr. Paul said. “They both support the same foreign policy, the same monetary policy, the same domestic welfare policy — regardless of what they claim they believe.”

Becoming mainstream

Mr. Paul first ran for president in 1988 on the Libertarian Party ticket. In 2008, he sought the GOP nomination. Both times, his campaign fizzled.

His supporters, and he himself, say this time will be different.

“The issues are completely different and have come in my direction,” Mr. Paul said. “People are tired of the war. They understand the financial situation is dire, and those are things I have been talking about for so long. Now they have become mainstream issues, and even the Federal Reserve is something that a lot of people are talking about.”

“The magnificence of what is happening right now,” he said, “is they are starting to pay attention.”

Mr. Paul still faces a steep climb, and libertarian leaders say parts of the Republican Party will marginalize Mr. Paul, in part, because he says the 10th Amendment delegates decisions about whether to legalize drugs or abortion — which he opposes — to states.

“Polite society has agreed on a set of actually pretty insane policies that are christened as the status quo, and people who talk and insist on talking about stuff that is outside of that are treated as crazier than they actually are,” said Matt Welch, who co-authored with Mr. Gillespie “The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What Wrong With America.”

Mr. Welch and others, though, concede that Mr. Paul’s biggest strength — a strict adherence to principle that’s made him a libertarian hero — also represents his greatest weakness: the inability to see that the perfect is sometimes the enemy of the good.

Ron Paul is, undoubtedly, ideologically committed to pro-growth, limited-government policies,” said Chris Chocola, president of the fiscally conservative Club for Growth and a former Republican congressman from Indiana, in a recent breakdown of Mr. Paul’s record. “But his insistence on opposing all but the perfect means that under a Ron Paul presidency, we might never get a chance to pursue the good, too.”

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