Who is Ron Paul Really?

Who the hell is Ronald Ernest Paul?

To his supporters and admirers,  he is a shining beacon of hope, honesty and true politics. He signals a return to a politics for the people, not for the government, a philosophy steeped in the work of Ayn Rand and the ideals behind libertarianism.

To everybody else on the political spectrum, Paul is a dark horse; virtually unknown, a nutcase or worse. More than a few Americans of voting age simply know him as “that weird old guy.”

His campaign, often simply referred to as a “revolution,” has gone from a few cardboard signs and Internet ads to full mainstream media coverage, and since the rest of the Republican candidates are essentially total jackasses, maybe it’s time to consider Paul as a serious politician and dispel the rumors surrounding him.

First, a little background. Paul was born in Pennsylvania in 1935 (yes, he is 76 years old, I know, that’s pretty old). Paul’s father owned a modest but successful dairy company, and his parents were successful enough to afford to send him to medical school at Duke University. He went on from there to serve as a surgeon in the Air Force for two years, and then the Air National Guard for another three. In 1968, he and his wife moved to Texas, where he opened up a private medical practice. Inklings of his political philosophy show through here: although Paul commonly lowered fees for patients in need and even did frequent pro bono work, he refused to accept payments from Medicare and Medicaid. A few years later, on Aug 15, 1971, President Richard Nixon ended the backing of the U.S. dollar’s gold standard, making money an entirely economic construct with no concrete value. To this day, Paul cites it as the moment he decided to enter the political arena.

He hasn’t really left it since.

In 1976, he won his first seat in Congress, under the Republican ticket in Texas. He maintained positions in the House until 1984, when he chose to run for the Senate, and lost.

He blamed his retirement from the House of Representatives on the House’s overall focus on special interest groups, and its deviation from the people’s wants and needs. For the next decade, Paul became a sort of political philosopher, spreading libertarian ideals through various corporations as well as maintaining his work as a physician.

His enterprises ended up sowing the seeds for the political groups that would later become the infamous Tea Party, and it is because of this that he is often associated with the reactionary movement, even though Paul himself has never ran in the party.

In 1998, Paul once again ran for Congress, the most trying election of his life, and has maintained a position in the House since then.

Since 2004, he has campaigned as a presidential candidate, both as a Libertarian and a Republican.

When it comes to his political beliefs, Paul has often been sorely misrepresented until very recently.

Last year, however, a Gallup poll found that 80 percent of Americans consider him to be the most admired man in Congress. For example, although Paul is a faithful Baptist, and a highly conservative person, all of his political views directly support individual freedom. Above all, Paul supports states’ rights and the rights of the individual via the Constitution.

Unlike most of his fellow Republican candidates, Paul supports same-sex marriage, complete separation of church and state and the removal of U.S. troops from all current foreign conflicts. He also believes that drugs should be regulated on the state level and that marijuana should be legalized. Because of his experience as an obstetrician, Paul believes that life begins at conception, so he is pro-life; however, he still believes that abortion should be regulated by the states.

Somewhat more typically of a Republican, Paul does not support raising taxes for social programs, or affirmative action, believing that it only makes the government stronger and discourages actual racial harmony. Above all, Paul longs for a free market economy with the maximum individual rights possible.

And would that really be so bad?

Does he really sound so crazy, now that the media’s spin isn’t on it?

When taxes are high and freedom is lower than ever, but our economy is still spiraling into collapse, maybe Ron Paul’s America is something to seriously consider.

Ryan Cady is a second-year psychology major. He can be reached at rcady@uci.edu.