In Tuesday’s Texas Republican primary, without spending any money or doing any campaigning there, Congressman Ron Paul had a fairly decent showing, garnering 12% of the vote. Even though Texas is Paul’s home state, however, the Republican Party has really never been that friendly to him or his libertarian message. But now that Paul will be officially retiring from Congress at the end of this session, putting an end to a long and unique Congressional career, his influence in Texas may be bigger than most think.
Ron Paul’s support has always been grassroots, so it’s no surprise that his influence is not among the Republican leadership in Texas but on the ground floor. For starters, his campaign stops at Texas universities drew thousands of students and supporters. Austin has turned into a Paulian stronghold, where activism and the culture reflect a more libertarian strain of conservatism than the Texas GOP would like.
In the hotly contested Republican Senate race, Paul (as well as his son, Rand) endorsed Ted Cruz against the money and moderate Republican views of former Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst.
Paul doesn’t give out endorsements lightly, and although Cruz appears to be more on the conservative than libertarian side, Paul’s support means that many non-Republicans that are attracted to Paul may give Cruz a listen. The Cruz-Dewhurst race is incredibly close, and an outsider like Cruz beating an establishment figure like Dewhurst is undoubtedly a testament to the influence Paul has.
Unfortunately, as Chris Miles pointed out in a PolicyMic article earlier this week, the people vying to replace Paul not only do not share Paul’s libertarianism, but firmly reject it. Texas’s 14th district is much more Democratic than it used to be, so that favors Democrat Nick Lampson, and the possible Republican opponents have gone out of their way to reject Paul’s fiscal conservatism. But from a libertarian perspective, it really doesn’t matter who wins because Paul truly does spoil you for anyone else.
Time will tell how much influence Paul has had and will continue to have in the state he called home for most of his life. But what is certain is that on a national — and even global scale — Paul is truly a unique figure.
In the process of being elected over a dozen times, and practicing medicine in between stints, Paul believed, like Jefferson, that congressmen should represent their district, obey the Constitution, and go back to the private sector. YouTube is filled with videos of him addressing the House floor, issuing prophetic warnings about the dangers of central banking, empire, a vanishing Bill of Rights, and the virtues of peace and a free society.
While remaining relatively obscure for decades, Paul’s recent presidential campaigns and the growth of the internet have allowed millions to hear the same libertarian message he was preaching back when he first got elected in 1976. Forty years later, Paul has ignited a grassroots revolution of ideas that thrives and swells with every passing day.
Paul always shys away from the mantle of “leader,” preferring to let his philosophy take the credit for his popularity. That is why his legacy will outlast any Texas Senate race, endorsement, House seat, or presidential contest.