Amid popular discontent with GOPofficialdom, the various speakers at presidential primary candidate Ron Pauls official prenominating convention pep rally on Sunday maintained a relatively positive tone, emphasizing the need for liberty-minded voters to remain united and persevering in the effort to inject their politics into the mainstream of the Republican Party.
While no explicit endorsement of the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan presidential ticket was forthcoming, neither was any explicit condemnation. This was in marked contrast to the tone of the nearby unofficial Ron Paul Festival, where opposition to the presumed nominees was overt and at times even vitriolic.
The assembly celebrating the Texas congressmans legacy kicked off to an exuberant start, as thousands of conservative and libertarian enthusiasts crowded the USF Sun Dome in Tampa. The venue, which seats over 10,400 persons, was filled to overflow capacity.
The event, officially titled the "Ron Paul republiCAN We Are the Future Rally," began at noon, right on schedule. Historian and political adviser Doug Wead acted as master of ceremonies and delivered the opening remarks, describing Paul as "a clean boat in a sea of garbage."
He was followed by economist Lew Rockwell, founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and editor of the popular libertarian Web magazine LewRockwell.com. Theres no question, the Paulian movement is the future, Rockwell insisted. You wouldnt believe how many Paulians there are in Brazil, Spain, Italy, all over the world.
The next speaker, libertarian theoretician and economist Walter Block, injected quite a bit of controversy into the afternoon festivities, repeating a lecture he gave Friday at the Ron Paul Festival in the nearby Florida State Fairgrounds. He proposed a political and philosophical compromise between the pro-life and pro-choice positions in the abortion controversy, which he calls evictionism.
His lecture drew many more boos and hisses at the Sunday rally than it did the day before, so much so that Block interrupted his prepared remarks several times to ask the crowd to hear him out. Ours is [in part] an intellectual movement, he pleaded. If an intellectual libertarian cant come to a place like this without getting booed or hissed, thats a disgrace.
The crowd may not have warmed to this particular speech, but they gave the popular author a standing ovation at his talks conclusion.
Singer and songwriter Jordan Page later performed for the exuberant assembly. Before his act, in an apparent rebuke to Block, he assured the crowd: Lets be clear: evicting babies from their mothers wombs is not something we are advocating here today! The audience cheered.
Pages performance was followed by an address by former U.S. Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr. --Goldwaters father and namesake ran on the Republican ticket against Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson during the 1964 presidential election. Though he lost that race by a landslide, Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater Sr. is often credited with having brought limited-government fiscal conservative ideas into the political mainstream, sowing seeds for the 1980s "Reagan Revolution.
Goldwater Jr. drew parallels between his father and Paul, and drew a boisterous No! from the crowd when he asked it whether the country was better off today than when his father ran for the presidency.
The Paul campaigns official blogger, Jack Hunter, took to the podium next. His talk was largely a lesson on the nature of conservatism as seen through the lens of the movements historic intellectual godfathers. Rebutting former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorums vocal criticisms of libertarianism, Hunter insisted that some degree of minimal statism has always been an essential component of the American conservative movement.
Criticizing the expenses of the first ladys latest trip, and arguing over whether President Obama ever ate a dog is not conservatism, Hunter insisted. Simply hating the other side is not enough. Its partisan, childish and useless.
It is entirely possible to be a libertarian but not be conservative. But it is impossible to be a conservative without also being a libertarian to some degree, Hunter continued. Every major conservative of the 20th century identified with conservatisms libertarian roots.
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., spoke later in the afternoon, urging attendees to focus on how much progress limited-government ideology has made within the Republican Party in recent years, while also urging them that more remains to be done.
We need to focus on what unites us. Sometimes were going to disagree, but we dont need to be at each others throats, he pleaded. The GOP is changing, slowly but surely. Republicans and Democrats are voting to audit the [Federal Reserve].More Republicans are calling for stable currency. Because of people like Ron Paul, and because of all of you: you are changing the party.
Democrats and independents are attracted to this message, as well, he continued. This is not just a Republican thing. Dem and independents are coming over to the liberty movement, and when you look at President Obama its not hard to see why: the continued policy of undeclared wars; he signed into law a bill to restrict free speech [referring to the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011]; increased drone activity; he has a kill-list; and he signed into law the [National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013], which allows the federal government to take you out of your home and detain you indefinitely merely on the accusation that you are associated with terrorists. It rips to shreds the Constitution!
But Ill tell you this: With all of you working so hard, were going to repeal these provisions, he promised, to booming cheer and applause.
The afternoons final session saw what may have been the events tenderest moment, as Pauls wife of over 50 years, Carol, received the inaugural Lady of Libery award and proceeded to share fond family memories and introduce the 16 children, in-laws, and grandchildren who were able to make it to the rally.
Pauls son Rand, the junior U.S. senator from Kentucky, took to the podium immediately after his mother, amid shouts of Paul 16! His short remarks paid tribute to a few iconic moments from his fathers career over the past five years which he said helped bring his libertarian ideas to greater prominence.
The senator also took time to criticize the growth and reach of the nations military. Republicans have to acknowledge that not every dollar is sacred thats spent on the military, he pressed.
When he introduced his father Ron, the rallys keynote speaker, the audience rose to its feet in standing ovation.
Many of the attendees remained standing in attentive respect during the duration of the elder Pauls speech, expected to be the 12-term congressmans last major address of his political career before his retirement in January.
Paul was visibly enthused by the turnout, and what he insisted was his movements long-term prospects. Ultimately, numbers do count. Numbers count even when they dont count all the votes. And we have the numbers! he said. A bunch of other people are joining us, and theyre saying The Ron Paul people are right!
Pauls voice strained a bit during what amounted at times to a disjointed ramble, with little coherent narrative flow, as he apparently struggled to fit in as much of what he could of 40 years of speech-giving into 70 or so minutes.
It was nothing anyone in the audience hadnt heard before, and there was little offered in the way of concrete prescription for moving his cause forward.
After about 30 minutes, several in the crowd were yawning and sitting back down in their seats; about 15 minutes later, several more began to trickle out of the auditorium. Still, the vast majority listened in rapt attention, hoping to catch some last pearls of libertarian wisdom as they witnessed the swan song of an historic political mover and shaker.
Paul summarized his movement in a line that brought about one of the afternoons loudest waves of cheers: We dont want a more efficient government. We want to get the government out of the business its not supposed to be doing. Get the government out of our lives and off our backs!
Pauls appearance marked the conclusion of three days of festivities held in his honor in the Tampa Bay area. On the eve of the official starting date of the Republican National Convention, which was effectively postponed until Tuesday, the man who many consider to have been the intellectual godfather of the controversial and still ill-defined tea party movement issued a warning to his partys establishment.
The [Republican Party] says, We have an open tent; we want new people to come in; we want to appeal to the young people. We'll get into the tent, believe me, because we will become the tent eventually!
Reach Eric Giunta at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.