Day Two of Ron Paul Fest: Popular Speakers Instigate rƎVO˩ution
Around the State
“Look, let’s stop the spending and let’s end the wars!” thundered Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate for president, to deafening applause during the second day of Ron Paul Fest.
“Let’s abide by the Constitution of the United States," he urged. "Let’s stop this growing police state in this country!”
Johnson, a lifelong Republican until December of last year, served two terms as governor of heavily Democratic New Mexico. There he distinguished himself by his massive cuts to state bureaucracy and his penchant for vetoing legislation. In the eight years he served as governor, from 1995 to 2003, he vetoed 750 bills (32 percent of the total submitted to him by the Legislature) and thousands of line items, and cut more than 1,200 government jobs.
Johnson's address was by far the most raucous event of Saturday evening. Throughout the course of his 13-minute address, the audience was a booming chorus of alternating cheers and boos, each so voluminous as to rattle the bars and boarding of the press platform.
The 2012 Ron Paul Festival at Tampa’s Florida State Fairgrounds went through its second day on a much more voluminous note, as supporters of the festival’s namesake trickled into the Expo Hall to visit with several vendors catering to their affinity for liberty and to hear several prominent libertarian-minded celebrities stoke the flames of rƎVO˩utionary ardor.
Johnson told a standing-room-only crowd, “[My opponents] said the sky was going to fall, the earth would end, there’d be dying people in the streets, children were going to go hungry. Well, of course, none of that happened, and the ultimate arbiter of how all those vetoes worked out were the citizens of New Mexico, where in a state that is 2-1 Democrat, I was re-elected by a greater margin the second time than I was the first time.”
The remainder of Johnson’s speech was a combination tribute to Paul (who himself ran on the Libertarian ticket during the 1988 general election) and a summary litany of his presidential platform, which fit the “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” template his newly adopted party is typically identified with.
Johnson supports ending all wars not defensive or declared by Congress, repealing the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), discontinuing all aid to foreign countries, legalizing marijuana and other drugs, federally-imposed legalization of homosexual marriages, abolishing the Federal Reserve and the IRS, eliminating the federal personal and corporate income taxes, balancing the federal budget immediately, and drastically decreasing federal funding for welfare entitlements.
After encouraging his hearers to do everything they could to make him eligible to appear on televised debates with Mitt Romney and Barack Obama (for which Johnson will need to garner the support of 15 percent of the electorate in polling), he ended his speech on a note both grateful and pleading.
“I have a message for Ron Paul: Thank you! Thank you for taking the case for liberty to the American people in a way none of us have seen in our lifetimes!” Johnson said to a standing ovation, before concluding, “’I’m going to ask you all something here: Be libertarian with me for one election. Together we’ll show the nation and the world that what Ron Paul has stood for is not a fluke, it’s the future! Live free! Live free!”
Earlier in the day, Sunshine State News caught up with Johnson’s running mate, James P. Gray, former presiding judge of the Superior Court of Orange County, Calif., where he elaborated on his party’s electoral strategy.
“Oh I do indeed believe we’ll take votes away from Romney,” he admitted. “Though we’ll probably take more votes away from Obama because we come at him from the left. We do stand for liberal values, in fact we are classical liberals. We would repeal the so-called Patriot Act, close Guantanamo, that bloody sore on our civil liberties; we would repeal the NDAA. We would also repeal the death penalty, at least in federal areas [of law]. We would actually get the government out from supporting welfare for the wealthy, by ending these subsidies to, for example, grow corn or to drill for oil.”
Gray admits his ticket has no chance of winning the election unless he and Johnson end up getting invited to participate in televised debates with Romney and Obama. He’s also convinced that most Americans support the Libertarian Party platform, and that most voters (Democrats and Republicans) are not so much voting for their candidate, as against the other.
Also present at the rally was author and activist Richard Mack, former sheriff of Graham County, Ariz., and one of the principal plaintiffs in the much-studied landmark 1997 United States Supreme Court case Printz v. United States. In that decision, the high court struck down certain provisions of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, ruling that provisions authorizing the federal government to commandeer state and local law enforcement officers violated the United States Constitution.
“Sherriff Mack” told Sunshine State News he was urging festival attendees to think and act locally. “It doesn’t matter the level: the counties can follow the Constitution, and restore freedom in the counties; if the states will do it, we'll restore freedom in the states,” he insisted. “If Washington, D.C., will do it, we can get America back. Meanwhile, we can make corruption in D.C. irrelevant, because we can make our states and counties free.”
Mack, a Republican, recently lost a U.S. congressional primary bid in Texas. He’s now running for under-sheriff in Lincoln County, N.M. He was scheduled to deliver a speech later in the evening.
Popular historian, economist, and political analyst Tom Woods addressed a full house early in the afternoon. His speech consisted primarily of a scathing critique of the Republican ticket.
“With Mitt Romney, we’re going to get a lot more neo-con bellicosity in our foreign policy, fueled by propaganda that would insult a fourth-grader,” he said to a mixed chorus of laughs and boos. “We’re going to get a guy who tells you that if we implement Ron Paul’s budget plan that wants to cut a trillion bucks [in the first year], that will cause a depression. That’s exactly the same view the New York Times and [leftist economist] Paul Krugman have, and that’s what Mitt Romney is saying.”
His words concerning Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, were just as harsh. “My gosh, what a draconian budget plan he has, that finally balances in the year 2040,” he said facetiously. “Then he voted for Medicare Part D, the NDAA, and TARP, which is the worst domestic policy atrocity in all of U.S. history.”
He concluded, “A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for the status quo, and anyone who thinks otherwise is absolutely delusional. Dr. Paul will never endorse such a reprehensible human being.”
Woods was followed by Lew Rockwell, founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and editor-in-chief of the libertarian Web magazine LewRockwell.com. The Mises Institute publishes scholarship promoting the Austrian school of economics.
Rockwell’s address was a more positive counterweight to Woods’. Though he offered his critique of the political status quo (especially of public education, which he believes should be abolished), his speech was more focused on Paul’s political legacy.
“Some people say, ‘I love Ron Paul, except for his foreign policy.' But his foreign policy reflects the best and most heroic part of who Paul is,” Rockwell argued. “Peace is the linchpin of the Ron Paul program, not an extraneous or dispensable adjunct to it.”
Paul deserves the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidential medal of freedom, Rockwell insisted, “but history is littered with forgotten politicians who earn piles of awards awarded by other politicians. But what matters to Ron Paul more than all the honors and all the ceremonies in the world is all of you and your commitment to the views he has championed his whole life.”
“We don’t beg for scraps from the imperialist table, and we don’t seek a seat at that table; we want to knock the table over,” he added, to strong ovations from the crowd.
Rockwell’s remarks were followed by what was perhaps the festival’s most cerebral address, by Walter Block. Block, professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, told the crowd that Paul had contacted him personally and asked him to lecture on a “substantive” issue of Block’s choice.
Block took the opportunity to present his proposed philosophical and political compromise to the abortion debate: evictionism. According to Block, an unwanted fetus is a trespasser onto the woman’s property (i.e., her body), and the woman has a right to “evict” it, but not to directly kill it.
According to Block’s moral theory, a woman who does not wish to keep her fetus must have it delivered as safely and healthily as possible. The practical effect of this theory’s codification into law would be a ban on the abortion of “viable” fetuses (i.e., those capable of surviving outside the womb), that would instead be delivered as premature babies; and legal abortion for nonviable fetuses, that would not be killed directly but instead “evicted” from the womb and allowed to die of natural causes.
Block predicted that within several decades or a couple of centuries science and technology will develop to the point where virtually all fetuses are effectively “viable,” and therefore safely “evictable.”
Block insisted that his evictionism is compatible with the libertarian nonaggression principle in a way no other position is. The crowd’s reaction to his premises and arguments was mixed, but their overall reception of the popular economist was very enthusiastic.
Reach Eric Giunta at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.