Ron Paul is the Johnny Cash of American politics. For decades, nobody in Nashville disputed that Cash was the genuine article, but by the early 1990s he was forgotten by a music industry more concerned with newcomers like Garth Brooks and Travis Tritt. Later Cash went on to resurrect his career on his own terms, and while remaining country to the core, he attracted a diverse audience, many of whom didn't even identify with country music.
The same could be said of Congressman Ron Paul. Since 1976, nobody in Washington D.C. denied that the Texas Republican was the genuine article, but by 2007 he was laughed off by a political industry more concerned with "serious contenders" like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. Paul forged ahead on his own terms, and while remaining conservative to the core, he has attracted a diverse audience, many of whom have never identified with the Republican Party.
But what does Ron Paul stand for? In a word — change. Yes, the most overused word in the 2008 presidential campaign applies to no one better than the Texas Republican, whose 10-term congressional career has been spent in virtual solitude for refusing to sell out his principles for politics.
The Republican Party has drifted so far from bedrock, conservative principles, as outlined above, that Paul is in the unique situation of being a breath of fresh air for traditional conservatives as well as independents, liberals, and scores of young people for whom "left" and "right" mean very little. Most Americans have literally never seen a candidate quite like him.
Candidates like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton or Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are charismatic, understand the political machine, and use it to their advantage. Paul is an entirely different animal. While the other candidates are scheming and strategizing, Paul simply explains his policies and answers questions honestly, giving no thought as to how mouthing certain buzzwords might boost his chances. Says The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan, Paul is "the real thing in a world of fakes and frauds." And even though Paul himself is fond of saying that his message is perfect even if the messenger is not, his genuineness has given him major appeal. Like Cash, "keepin' it real" has perhaps been Paul's best asset.
The irony of politics is that the people typically least involved have the most to lose — young people. Older voters, no doubt, vote with patriotic intentions, but simple logic tells us that those who have contributed to the system the longest will always vote for candidates who promise to give them the best return on their investment, however much voters groan about getting ripped off. The establishment candidates of both parties love big government, if for no other reason than it's a great way to manipulate voters each election.
Simple logic also tells us that if we continue to live under such a system, we are going to go broke and young Americans are going to lose. When Paul talks about runaway inflation and fiat currency, remember what our grandparents told us about a movie and a soda pop once costing a quarter. Look at gas prices today. Now imagine it getting even worse. When Paul talks about government programs like Social Security and Medicare, think about how this country currently takes care of the elderly and the sick. Think about the current state of health insurance. Now imagine it getting even worse. And when Paul talks about the "military industrial complex" and America's external empire, think about what decades of foreign intervention has already cost this country in blood and dollars, including 9/11. Now imagine it getting even worse.
Paul is honest, consistent, and right on the issues, and he loves his country more than he loves political power. This alone says "change" more than the empty rhetoric of his contemporaries and makes Paul stick out like a cowlick in Mitt Romney's hair — no matter how hard the establishment tries to comb him down.
Democracy as a beauty pageant is a game this country will not be able to afford infinitely, and in a field of professional politicians competing to mismanage a broken system, for me, choosing Paul will be more like doing math than voting.
Ron Paul is not simply the best candidate. He's the only candidate.
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