Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) may be retiring from Congress, but that doesn’t mean he’s leaving the campaign trail anytime soon.
The failed presidential candidate and pseudo-libertarian told The Hill that he plans on touring college campuses next year to “make the case for liberty.” When pressed on why Republicans failed to connect with college students, he offered up an interesting observation that both Democrats and Republicans should pay attention to. Paul called President Obama the “peace candidate” and attributed his dovish-by-comparison position to success in the election. “Even though both sides [were] equally aggressive, Obama had a different tone…The good progressive Democrat knows that Obama short-changed them [in his first term]. But his rhetoric was still more appealing that he would be less likely to go to war,” Paul said. It was because of the president’s tone on avoiding war that he was able to carry collegiate voters, according to Paul.
This may be true in part, but it also overlooks the drastic differences between the two parties on issues of college affordability and reproductive choice, two other areas where younger voters drastically cut against Paul and his fellow Republicans. However those issues don’t fit into the tidy compartments of “individual liberty” Paul and his brand of conservatives have carved out so, predictably, Paul ignored them.
However, to Paul’s credit, his observation of what the political press dubbed the “youth vote” is pretty on the mark. Paul told The Hill “The young people don’t like the debt they are inheriting, the violation of their civil liberties. They don’t like the war and it’s a fertile field. The people up here sort of ignore them.” Paul’s presence on college campuses will no doubt draw attention to these issues and pull support from a broad swatch of the political spectrum, bringing together progressives who support Paul’s foreign policy isolationism and his support for marijuana deregulation. But will it be enough to ignore Paul’s atrocious environmental and civil rights record? That’s a much bigger question.
For Paul this perceived oversight by both Democrats and Republicans to remain engaged with college voters presents an opportunity to lay some important groundwork for the future of the conservative movement. And this future no doubt includes presidential ambitions for his son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Could it be that rather than preach the gospel of individual liberty just for the sake of it what Ron Paul is really doing is laying the groundwork for the 2016 campaign? That seems more likely, doesn’t it?
Photo from gageskidmore via flickr.