Letter from Tampa — From the April 2013 issue

The Awakening

Ron Paul’s generational movement

Almost half a year later, the postmortems continue. After an election in which Republicans failed to capture the White House and lost several seemingly winnable Senate seats, in which their tenuous majority in the House was retained more by way of redistricting than by the will of the voting public, everyone within and without the G.O.P. agrees it has a big problem.

Some insist that the critical failure of 2012 was one of messaging, that the party will return to power not by changing its beliefs but by finding the right tone — and the right candidate — to articulate its current ones. “The Republican Party does not need to change our principles,” Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal — already positioning himself to be that candidate — told a meeting of the Republican National Committee in Charlotte, North Carolina, in January. “But we might need to change just about everything else we do.” Lest it seem he was taking the problem too lightly, Jindal continued: “We must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults.”

Others say the hour for superficial tinkering is past. If politics is a lagging indicator, Republicans may simply have fallen behind market trends. By this thinking, demographic and social changes spell doom for the party as it is currently configured. As South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham told the Washington Post last year, “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

Political coalitions are fragile things. It’s been four decades since Nixon united fiscal and social conservatives into the potent white alliance that won four of five presidential elections between 1972 and 1988, including two forty-nine-state landslides. Since then, the party has lost four of six presidential elections, as well as the popular vote in one of the two it won.

Graham’s comment reflects a growing worry not just that the party needs to compromise, even on “core values,” but that the coalition itself can no longer overcome its inherent contradictions. In the face of this existential crisis, party leaders seem oddly indifferent to — or ignorant of — the fact that a base of excited, young, and organized conservatives already exists. They are the Ron Paul youth.

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lives in Brooklyn. This is his first article for Harper’s Magazine.

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  • WallyWeet

    Ames’ reporting has a lot to recommend it. And he is not talking about only young Republicans. As he points out many young Democrats in the Occupy Movement are tuning in to the Liberty message and with passion. Ron Paul has been tarred with racism, but the ideas he has preached especially his fresh foreign policy, anti militarism and the unhealthy power of hyper-wealth resonate with many young Dems. The fact that the Liberty Movement finds ways to incorporate people with different and opposing social moralities also recommends it to youth. I’m an old liberal of 81 and I find these ideas refreshing. …and interesting.

    • jaylib

      The racism thing is bullshite, as I (a black man) have said for years, and as several black friends agree.

      People need to learn the difference between some highly impolitic and poorly phrased (but to a large extent accurate) things written by a ghost editor years ago, and the actual policies championed by the person who’d actually dismantle vast systems of racism such as the War on Drugs and the War on …. well, the rest of the world.

      In other words, PC people need to distinguish the difference between words and symbolism, and actual physical reality. It’s part of growing up.

      Hypocrisy on Ron Paul ‘racism’

  • Vincent Dow

    Big media is clearly threatened by Ron Paul and the Liberty movement! We saw that when they unleashed the crossfire on him ’12: On the Left flank, manning the machine guns were Bill Maher, John Stewart, Michael Moore. On the Right flank, lobbing grenades were O’reilly, RedState, NRO… It was GENERAL QUARTERS AND ALL HANDS ON DECK.
    Those of you who make your living *reporting* would be wise to reflect on the responsibility that goes with it. A good place to start would be the carnage occurring in Syria. Apply the time-tested system of five Ws:
    Who? Saudi Arabia, Quatar and Israel. Clinton, Obama and Kerry.
    What? A shadowy force of Salafist militias, fresh from victory in Libya, unleashing terror and violence against Syrian civilians and institutions.
    Where? Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Syria.
    When? From 1971 to the present day, coinciding with the creation of the Petro-dollar conspiracy and Saudi quest for domination of all Arabs.
    Why? Your guy’s turn.

  • becca

    This was such an enlightening article!! I really enjoyed it! Wonderfully written!

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