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It’s the Message

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During the lead-up to the last presidential campaign — during the winter of 2007–2008 — there was another push for a Ron Paul candidacy.

I covered part of that push for two local weekly newspapers. For the photo op I shot a couple of staged groups, and I had everyone shout “Ron Paul” right before I pressed the shutter.

One of the participants was the 12-year-old son of one of the organizers. His call for “Ron Paul” always came after everyone else shouted in unison. It made him stand out, at least audibly, but it also sounded as if calling the name was an afterthought on his part. The echo was cute and funny.

What’s neither cute nor funny, though, is that the Texas Republican has been treated as an afterthought by so much of the mainstream media during the last half year leading up to the next round of Republican caucuses and primary elections.

The problem is, not so much the neutralization or dismissal of a given candidate, but the out-of-hand dismissal of that candidate’s message.

There are some pundits and politicians who are fond of saying that the United States is a nation of laws, not of men. In that sense, the Ron Paul campaign (and that of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson) is about the message, not the candidate. The message is one of liberty; and it’s a message that’s not getting past the gatekeepers of the media.

The candidacy of men like Paul is important because the message is so different from that of the mainstream Republican and Democratic Party candidates. It’s not about espousing what more government can or should do but about pointing out what government can’t or shouldn’t do. It’s about why government should be limited.

A major buzz during the past week has been the official “end” of the Iraq war, with those troops coming home. Little is said of the fact that so many will just be turned around to go to Afghanistan or be trained for a move on Iran or the Koreas.

Only one candidate among the half dozen Republicans still standing is calling for an end to these interventionist wars and to the role of the United States as an occupying force; yet he’s the one the media wants to downplay, ignore, and neutralize on a regular basis.

By ignoring the man, the media ignore the message of ending, not only the interventionist foreign wars, but also the war on some drugs — which has long been an assault on civil liberties. This war is also killing people, even people innocent of any crime, in the name of obedience to authority.

Ultimately, the war of the messages is that of liberty versus authoritarianism, of people being able to live their lives without looking over their shoulders to see a government agent taking notes on their activities.

Libertarians know the message has to get out to the general public. We know that government intrusion into the market in any capacity beyond that of a frugal consumer is as destructive to our economy as our military involvement has been to the lives of the average Iraqi and Afghan. Intrusion into the free market undercuts free trade and devalues our currency.

The incursions into those countries have brought death and disorder to them and dishonor here at home.

But, again, it’s about getting that message out. Libertarians read articles and columns published by the Cato Institute, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, The Future of Freedom Foundation, The Foundation for Economic Education, the Advocates for Self-Government, and the International Society for Individual Liberty. The general public does not.

In order for the general public to hear that message, there must be a messenger; and in politics, the messenger is a candidate.

That man or woman is important as a messenger, but it’s the message that’s more important. What grander a stage to deliver that message than a series of presidential-election debates?

It has been said that it is unlikely that Ron Paul will get the Republican Party nomination for president. Party bosses can’t let that happen, and their sycophants in the press will help by spreading doubt about Paul. He’s already been referred to as weird and wacky.

But let yourself imagine a debate between President Barack Obama and Congressman Ron Paul, or even a three-way debate between Obama, one of the other Republicans, and a Gary Johnson running as a Libertarian — and you realize how different that would be from a debate between Obama and, say, Mitt Romney. Would there even be any real difference between those two politicians?

Someone who believes in liberty actually getting elected president this coming year may just be a pipe dream, but it’s time the American public heard the message clearly and in a venue that interests them.

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    Rich Schwartzman is managing editor at Chadds Ford Live in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.