March 2008 -- 3991 casualties as of the 18th. God help us.
In one of my other lives, a therapist in personal development, the hardest idea I had to get through my head during training was: ”perception is projection.” Boy, did I ever rebel against the mystical thought of participative reality. After coming through the tunnel, I learned.
The proponents of cult phenom “The Secret” say they found something: think about what you what and it comes towards you. Well, that's almost right. If you allow your mind to focus on what you want, clearly, concretely, and remove the blinders of your own beliefs--the self-limiting filters you have built--then what you need to accomplish your goals becomes visible. The Secret folks would have you think that these things come to you. Au contraire; with your finely honed direction and wide vision, you hurtle yourself towards them.
So too has my opinion of the possible been shaped by the last year For a Libertarian, it is hard to imagine a more exciting time. Dr. Ron Paul, the Libertarian Presidential candidate in 1988, threw his hat in the ring--as a Republican (he's been one for ten terms in Congress). Having a candidate in one of the two "authorized" parties opened many possibilities.
The "R" word was a challenge and an eye-opener. The party was controlled by war-mongering, fear-mongering elitist neocons. The religious right has had its share of tiller time. But at least one of the roots of the party resides with Taft, for small government. Still, it was a large party, with resources, organization, guaranteed ballot access and the deference of the media. Could something really happen? Truly. This past year combined all the elements needed for change: the perfect storm of the war in Iraq, a falling dollar, failing mortgages and general voter dismay. Ron Paul attracted the fiscal conservatives from the Republican base, and gained supporters from the Libertarian party, independents and Democrats (why didn't their congressional majority end the war?). Even more exciting was the throngs of college age supporters, and those who had given up (on politicians, voting and everything else), now back participating.
In a short time, this libertarian US congressman from Texas was able to rekindle this spirit in his supporters by being the very template of a statesman: a man who could have starred in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", a man not dulled or jaded by DC, who has deflected the perks and temptations of the office consistently. He even rejected the lavish congressional pension plan. Who has without fail voted against every bill not within the principles of the Constitution (e.g., USAPATRIOT, NAFTA), or that would raise taxes. His platform: Stick to the constitution. Reduce government to the size of 10 years ago, a government that would not require the personal federal income tax (and hence no IRS to collect it). Get us out of Iraq...and everywhere else. End the military subsidy (or oppression) of 130 countries in which we have 700 bases. End the destruction of the middle class by reclaiming the control of the money system from the private and self-serving Federal Reserve. Rely on the individual to be responsible for his or her own actions and prosperity. Basic Libertarianism.
This message, delivered by a man who as a OB/GYN delivered 4000 babies, met fertile ground. The RP tent was a big one, and due to a charming rehash of an old piece of political art, the campaign became the Ron Paul R3volution (the LOVE is spelled backward). This idea, and most of the campaign was designed and executed by the grass-roots supporters, not the candidate's staff. The movement was as strong in the Bible belt as it was on college campuses. Meetup groups formed by the hundreds. YouTube videos of rallies, songs, and of individuals discussing foreign, domestic and fiscal policy appeared by the dozens. Web sites devoted to the campaign were formed, and even two Internet radio channels as well (you humble writer even started a show on one of them).
Running on 99% of the conventional Libertarian platform, there was a palpable new energy and spirit--within the Republican party. The truly weird thing is that this was the same man, delivering the same message, as he has through entire political career. I guess the old saw about an idea whose time has come is still true.
Enthusiasm, of course, is not enough to win an election or start a revolution. Along with the internet as an organizing and communication engine, the grassroots political newcomers had to learn some important lessons--fast.
The first lesson was that of organization and promotion. How to spread the word? Spontaneously, it seemed, all sorts of campaign materials, including the ubiquitous R3volution signage, buttons, yard signs, pamphlets, and what not appeared -- for sale! The capitalistic spirit abounded within the campaign. The most control campaign exerted was to create an approved graphic and make it available for download. In that way, the campaign never had to use funds for the paper products of the campaign. If you wanted to support Ron, buy your own yard sign. A perfect counterpoint to the message of personal responsibility. Republican precinct groups and committees were greeted a great many new faces.
The second was money. The internet made fast work of that. Money collected was made visible, as opposed to convention politics. Every online donation gave you the chance to see your name and hometown on the HQ website. The Ron Paul radio stations held 24 hour parties "money bombs" to stir the money frenzy. By focusing on small (averaging $50) contributions from every class of American, the campaign was able to make the media take notice. Those efforts shattered previous records, and provided needed legitimacy of the campaign. Ron Paul to the media: Spammers don't contribute millions of dollars.
The third was canvassing. True, the campaign literally owned the internet. But when the loyal logged off and hit the streets, talked to real people, actions turned into votes. This lesson, perhaps the most important, was learned too late.
So the campaign continued in its grand era, prior to the New Hampshire primary.
The amazing thing about having a candidate in one of the "official" parties is all the free publicity. In the beginning, all the Republicans were placed on prominent debate stages. Ron had the opportunity to school Guiliani on foreign affairs and the 9/11 commission report. Dr. Paul did his homework, not by using canned sound bites, but with data and cause and effect analysis (lest we forget his books on the subjects of economics and foreign policy).
The main stream media (Paulites call them the MSM) had to let him in at first, but quickly ABC and Fox went on the attack. He just didn't fit the model, and they (or their controllers, who knows?) appeared to be annoyed that a different kind of Republican, a Taft or libertarian Republican could exist. Their analysis didn't work. they had nothing to compare him to. They wanted to narrow the field quickly, on schedule, as if the nation's taste and attention span for "American Idol"-type competition couldn't last the entire pre-convention timeframe.
So badly did Fox want him out that they made their telling error of arrogance and excluded Dr. Paul from the New Hampshire primary debate. Jay Leno pounced and had Ron on the tonight show the same night.
As it was recorded, New Hampshire went to McCain. No one is sure why. That somehow started the McCain - Romney show, which was the sole fodder of MSM discussion. the CNN debate, at that time with only those two, Huckabee and Dr. Paul, was a schoolyard name calling contest. gone was any discussion of real domestic or foreign policy. It was only conflict. The senseless crap the MSM loves. Facts are so boring. In a strange bit of candor, the editor of Newsweek, on "The Daily Show", admitted the same thing.
Super Tuesday went just as bad. The MSM had their victory. After marginalizing the candidate, allowing meager time in debates, using what time was given to lob "wacko" questions, they ended any discussion. They had their narrow race established. The cameras prompted turned, all of them, to watch Hillary and Obama sling mud at each other. Game over.
But is it? Like the tortoise, the movement continues to work for every delegate to the Republican National convention, continues to challenge the legal notion (and loyalty) of "committed" delegates. Who knows, McCain could have a class one meltdown on national TV. The future is not yet written. The campaign remains—uniquely so—in the black, and the candidate remains. Where there were eleven, two remain.
Reality marches on, even in an election year. Dr Paul’s economic analysis is being proven as we sit. Bear-Stearns falls, and the fed writes a check for $30 billion, and offers lower interest rates. The price tag of this Iraq mistake mount to the tune of $5 billion per month. How many plates can the fake economic policy spin at once: War, empire, banks, handouts, foreign bribes, mortgagees, interest rates? People are losing their homes, their savings, their jobs. Some, their lives. The dollar falls. The worst is probably yet to come.
The money people, like CNBC, got it. They now refer to Ron Paul as their political expert on the meaning of all this.
Yes, the truth is coming out. But in time? Probably not. Dr. Paul admitted that winning the nomination, in a "conventional" sense, was probably not possible.
In the meantime, the Ron Paul R3volution has become something else: the Freedom movement. Among the faithful, there has been a recognition that this struggle is not about the cult of one man, but a singular way of describing the pendulum of politics: either towards freedom of the individual or towards slavery to a gang--called the government. Dr. Paul has said many times, "this isn't about me, its' about the message."
A movement does not require any one person to achieve any one office, win any one election. An idea whose time has come, as the other saying goes, is unstoppable. Others will take Dr. Paul’s place in the many elections to come. Still more will continue to spread the word. The movement doesn't tend to lose supporters, even today, and therefore the success of freedom in America is assured. Anyone who has heard this message cannot go back, will not go back. This generation’s revolution has begun, not in one generation, but across many. From the boomers to the MySpace crowd, the message speaks loudly. As each tells another, and that person does the same, the math is inevitable.
Will there finally be a president who stands for freedom? Yes. Who will this leader be? Who cares. We hurtle ourselves toward him (or her), the Congress that needs to surround this president, all the way to a culture that has taken back the world of politics: federal, state and local. It doesn't matter who is president. Be it a Republican, Libertarian, independent or perhaps even a Democrat. We hurtle ourselves toward that person.
Cynicism, the state in which I grew up, is the worst of blinders, never allowing the possibility of joy or achievement. The inevitability of change towards freedom, now that I see it clearly, makes all things possible. That is the future I focus on and create, and it is good to live that way.