Is Ron Paul Running Away From The Libertarian Label ?

KipEsquire asks an interesting question…..why is it that Ron Paul isn’t acknowledging his libertarian roots ?

Can you cite to one occasion in this campaign where Ron Paul has, unsolicited and not in response to an interviewer’s question, used the word “libertarian”? Can you point to one page at his website that contain the word “libertarian”? Even his bio page omits his 1992 1988 big-L Libertarian candidacy.

Paul calling himself “a proud constitutionalist”* is like a gay calling himself “a proud alternative-lifestyler.”

And, well, I guess on one level it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care if someone calls themselves a “libertarian”, or a “classical liberal” (which is what, given my affinity for John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and Tom Paine, and Samuel Adams, I consider myself), or whatever they want to call themselves.

Nonetheless, it is interesting that Congressman Paul’s official biography proceeds thusly:

While serving in Congress during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dr. Paul’s limited-government ideals were not popular in Washington. In 1976, he was one of only four Republican congressmen to endorse Ronald Reagan for president.

During that time, Congressman Paul served on the House Banking committee, where he was a strong advocate for sound monetary policy and an outspoken critic of the Federal Reserve’s inflationary measures. He was an unwavering advocate of pro-life and pro-family values. Dr. Paul consistently voted to lower or abolish federal taxes, spending and regulation, and used his House seat to actively promote the return of government to its proper constitutional levels. In 1984, he voluntarily relinquished his House seat and returned to his medical practice.

Dr. Paul returned to Congress in 1997 to represent the 14th congressional district of Texas. He presently serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He continues to advocate a dramatic reduction in the size of the federal government and a return to constitutional principles.

Omitted, for some reason, in that gap between 1984 and 1997 is the fact that Congressman Paul ran for President of the United States as the nominee of the Libertarian Party in 1988, and received 431, 750 votes.

One of those votes was mine.

It was, in fact, the first Presidential election that I voted in and, even though it was cast for a guy I knew wasn’t going to win, I took it seriously and voted for him anyway, because I’d read about what he stood for, and I’d learned about his record in Congress even back then, and I looked at George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis and I knew there was no way I could respect myself in the morning if I voted for either one of them.

So, on some level, I guess it bothers me that Ron Paul’s official biography completely omits what I seriously considered to be a campaign I supported strictly on principles that were, to me at the time, newly discovered.

I am neither a fan, nor a member. of the Libertarian Party. Mostly, because I don’t think that third-party strategy is a viable mechanism for political change in the United States. Which is why I am not involved with politics at that level.

And it’s one of the reasons I had at least some hope for Congressman Paul’s campaign. I hoped that it would attract the support of Americans interested in protecting individual liberty and turning that suppport into a movement that would do more than just turn up at the most recent meeting of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

And that’s the problem with politics. The more you see of it up close, the more you realize just how corrupt the internal structure is, and just how pointless it is for vanguards like Ron Paul to continue fighting wars when the outcome has, seemingly already been decided.

  • Jeff Molby

    I think it’s really pretty simple. He’s already been accused of being a RINO; slapping the L-word on his chest would only aggravate that. He’s clearly not a “loyal party member”, so from a political perspective, he needs to focus on the similarities between himself and the Republican roots if he has any chance of being perceived as an actual Republican.

  • Ivan Ivanov

    If he gets elected it would be great if he nominates libertarians and switches party affiliations after his inauguration.

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  • zenpiper

    Much ado.

    Either support Dr. Paul or do not support him. The labels don’t mean much. If you like his views and platform, great. If not, find someone you like.

  • js290

    Perhaps, part of the problem is that like many other words in the American political lexicon, the meaning of the word libertarian has been bastardized. As was discussed previously in a previous post, you’ll find self proclaimed libertarians who are either either “got mine, up yours.” I have a left leaning friend who once argued the chaos in Iraq is the result of radical libertarianism.

    Unfortunately, there’s just too much ambiguity with the term. It’s just like people associating anarchy with chaos. There’s not enough people talking about libertarianism within the context of laissez-faire and non-coercion. I think Ron Paul knows better than try to fight that battle. It’s probably just easier and more clear for him to just say “constitutionalist,” which would probably be helpful for people who’s never heard of him.

    As it stands today, though, it seems like Americans in general are all about using the coercive power of government to their advantage. It’s probably what the supposed underpaid teachers are teaching in school…

  • Doug Mataconis

    Much ado ????

    That’s not the point

    What about the fact that that his entire “official” biography omits from history the 1988 campaign ?

  • Buckwheat

    Mataconis strikes again!

    The rEVOLution quakes in its Wal-Mart boots!

  • Doug Mataconis


    Your inane response to what I said reverberates throughout the universe.

  • Doug Mataconis

    And another thing Buckwheat,

    From what I’ve gathered, I think it’s pretty clear that I cast a vote for Ron Paul before you were legally able to by Marlboro Lights.

  • Dave M.

    “Omitted, for some reason, in that gap between 1984 and 1997 is the fact that Congressman Paul ran for President of the United States as the nominee of the Libertarian Party in 1988, and received 431, 750 votes.”

    “What about the fact that that his entire “official” biography omits from history the 1988 campaign ?”

    It’s not there because it’s not important to and has no bearing on his CONGRESSIONAL career resumé.

    Were this a POLITICAL career resumé, it should be there. But it’s not. Guess you didn’t catch onto that.

  • Timo

    Does it really matter what he calls himself. This, to me is just playing into the already to the main stream with this “divide and conquer” tactic. His message do you like it? It makes sense and he provided real answers to some real perplexing issues. If you look at some videos on the net you can find the same issues he has talked about since 1988. He is consistent, precise and honest. If for no other reason I will be voting for Ron Paul but I am confident at what I am voting for…the Constitution.

  • NickK

    acknowledges libertarianism briefly here, talking about the environment:

  • Tim

    As Dave said, his ’88 Presidential campaign was not part of congressional resume.

    But on a sidenote:
    Twice this week Howard Dean has been on TV and said that No Republicans are anti-Iraq-war. Both times he has been corrected; but argued his point by saying Ron Paul is a Libertarian (not Republican). It seems obvious that Howard Dean thinks that painting RP as a Libertarian (not a Republican) is good for the Democrats.

  • Maria Folsom

    Yes, it was devious and sneaky of Paul to omit a major chunk of his career. This would not look good on a business résumé. Let’s reward a Real Libertarian who is proud of his past and consistent in his “constitutional” principles – George Phillies. Check out his website:

    He is all the Libertarian you can want.

  • Amy

    This is called a tactical omission. And it is working!

  • Michael Wagner

    The answer is very simple. Ron is trying to win the nomination of the Republican Party. To have a realistic chance of doing that, he needs a good chunk of “party regulars” to support him. Delegate selection, ballot placement and other behind the scenes stuff has to be done by these party regulars. If he openly uses the libertarian label now, he runs the risk of alienating the regulars.
    One of the long term goals of the campaign is to take over the party apparatus at the local level. With enough local, active support, freedom loving people can mount a coup and take over the GOP. It’s a long shot, sure, but while we’ve got some momentum going why not give it a shot?
    Here in Pinellas Co. FL there is NO other campaign on the ground. The Ron Paul MeetUp groups are the only active grassroots campaign visible here. We are having a meeting this Friday that combines all the local groups to see if we can gather enough “troops” to mount a GOP “invasion.”
    The Christian right did it in the 80’s and the neocons did it in the 90’s. Why can’t we do it now?
    Everybody who is even remotely libertarian should just quit your bellyaching, set aside your differences for a little while, join a meetup group and get to WORK.
    This is the last best hope we have. If one of the “other” candidates gets in, it will be 4 more years of expansion of government. We will have passed the tipping point and we won’t be able to get our country back.
    Let’s all unite behind the one guy who actually has a shot.

  • GeeDub

    Since the mainstream doesn’t know what libertarianism is it is easier to omit that information rather than have to debunk all the false rumors about it. Hardcore republicans won’t vote for a libertarian and that is what he needs to focus on in the primaries. I think the majority of his support is going to come outside the party that do not want politics as usual. At least that’s why he’s getting my vote.

    Live, let live, and be free in both action and consequence.

  • Amy


    I think you are on to something. Dr. Paul’s support includes the LP, Rep, Dems, and the largest group- the politically disenchanted and the apolitical. The last two groups are powerful-they are really hacked off with the current system.

    If only a fraction of the estimated 50,ml non-voters , vote for Paul… All I can say is bring your lunch to the polls- the lines will be long!!

  • TanGeng

    Libertarianism does certainly have a ton of baggage attached to it.

    But when you claim the mantle of libertarianism, the ideological purity police will come knocking and try to discredit you because of a squabble that in practicality is rather insignificant.

    Damn, sometimes I hate Libertarians…

  • robert haley

    It isn’t particularly informative for Ron Paul to describe himself as a libertarian. There a actually many differences among libertarians. Many are strongly pro-abortion and strongly pro-gay marriage. Others are big supporters of the war in Iraq. I’m sure Ron Paul doesn’t want to be confused with those people.

  • zenpiper

    Much ado redux.

    If there were 100 biographies, or web sites or other forms of media which claimed to describe Dr. Paul’s history, and left something out, it would make no difference.

    It appears your problem is with those who write about him. Well, nobody writes the perfect history, biography or anything else.

    Either support Dr. Paul, or don’t support him, regardless of what gets written about him.

  • Brian Miller

    when you claim the mantle of libertarianism, the ideological purity police will come knocking and try to discredit you because of a squabble that in practicality is rather insignificant

    Yeah, like the idea that women own their own uteruses, or that sodomy laws are unconstitutional, or that immigration shouldn’t be restricted to protect domestic industry, or that free trade is better than tariffs, and all the other “insignificant” issues where real libertarians disagree with conservative right-wing Republican Ron Paul.

    The reason he doesn’t call himself a “libertarian” is simple — he isn’t one (the fervent wishes of his vocal fanboys — and they’re almost all boys — to the contrary).

  • Todd

    Ron Paul can win the libertarian vote without using the word. He stands a much better chance of winning mainstream Republican votes by NOT using the term. His strategy is to convince mainstream Republicans that libertarian ideas (without using the term) are the same as conservative ideas and Republican ideas.

  • Little Bit Farm

    Personally, I think you were smarter when you first started voting! Ron Paul is running as a republican. He’s been in office for years as a republican. He is a consititutionalist who is trying to find a road back to a constitutional government. I don’t care if he runs at the looney tunes candidate, as long as he can take us to a more constitutional government!!! Go Ron Paul!!!

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