The Mainstreaming of Ron Paul

For the past couple of months I’ve been writing about the “mainstreaming” of paleo-libertarian Ron Paul; he’s been a regular guest on Fox News and other networks, and his drones have been heavily involved in organizing “tea party” demonstrations. Lots of LGF readers didn’t want to believe this was happening.

Well, it really is happening.

The weird economic theories of Ron Paul are Winning GOP Converts.

A funny thing has started happening to Paul since his long-shot presidential campaign ended quietly in the summer of 2008. More Republicans have started listening to him. There are the media requests from Fox Business Channel and talk radio, where he’s given airtime to inveigh on sound money and macroeconomics. There is HR 1207 , the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009, a bill that would launch an audit of the Federal Reserve System, and which has attracted 112 co-sponsors. When Paul introduced the Federal Reserve Board Abolition Act just two years ago, no other members of Congress signed on.

And then there are the luncheons. The off-the-record talks have brought in speakers such as ex-CIA counterterrorism expert Michael Scheuer, libertarian investigative reporter James Bovard, iconoclastic terrorism scholar Robert Pape, and George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. Perhaps the most influential guest has been Thomas Woods, a conservative scholar whose previous books include “The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History” and “Who Killed the Constitution?: The Fate of American Liberty from World War I to George W. Bush,” and whose current book “Meltdown” has inspired Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to question Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner about economic fundamentals.

Paul’s unexpected and sudden clout with his fellow Republicans — even some of Paul’s staff have been surprised with the momentum of his “Audit the Fed” bill — come as the GOP engages in a tortured internal dialogue about its future. Since January, no small number of new coalitions have formed between current members of Congress, former advisors to President George W. Bush, and perennial party leaders such as former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.). Few of those conservatives, however, have spent much time criticizing the very foundations of America’s modern economic system and worrying about a 1929-style crash. Few of them had a drawer stuffed with off-brand economic ideas and forgotten libertarian texts, ready to explain what needed to be done. Ron Paul did, and as a result the ideas that made the Republican establishment irate enough to bounce him from a few primary debates are more popular than ever.

And chief among these new converts — one of the very kookiest Representatives in Congress, Michele Bachmann, the one-woman GOP anti-science crusader.

But the most prominent new face is Bachmann, the rising conservative star who left C-SPAN and YouTube watchers scratching their heads with a constitutional grilling that seemed to puzzle Geithner. “What provision in the Constitution could you point to to give authority for the actions that have been taken by the Treasury since March of ‘08?” asked Bachmann during a hearing on March 24. “What in the Constitution could you point to to give authority to the Treasury’s extraordinary actions that have been taken?”

Bachmann “goes to these luncheons on a weekly basis,” said Debbee Keller, Bachmann’s press secretary. Keller noted that Bachmann was reading “Meltdown,” which argues that the New Deal failed and that the Federal Reserve is responsible for the current economic crisis. “Just as Austrian theory suggests,” wrote Woods, “the Fed’s mischief was responsible for the Great Depression.”

“I had a feeling she’d have some interest in the book,” said Woods, “because she asked some good questions. She was taking notes. She was asking if this or that point could be found in the book. I thought I recognized a sincere person who wanted knowledge, not the usual politician who couldn’t care less about what the truth is and just wanted to propagandize.”

Paul didn’t take credit for turning Bachmann on to Austrian theory (”He’ll give credit to everyone on the planet except himself,” laughed Woods) but said he was pleased to see more members of Congress delving into economics. “She’s very open to studying,” said Paul. “In fact, she’s been working really hard to get me back to Minneapolis. She says, ‘You’ll get such a great reception there!’”

And Ron Paul’s oldest racist friends, the John Birch Society, couldn’t be happier about his new legitimacy.

It’s been a rapid rise for an idea that, only months ago, was located firmly in the political fringe. The John Birch Society, the far-right group that Paul has often defended from media criticism, was one of the first groups to encourage members to contact their members of Congress to support an audit of the Fed.

This is a deeply disturbing development; for more reasons why Ron Paul should not be brought into the mainstream of the GOP, see: Angry White Man - The bigoted past of Ron Paul.

I’m under no illusions that the GOP will pay attention to me, but isn’t there anyone in the party who sees how disastrous this is becoming?

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