Getting the Ron-around

By NICHOLAS SCHROEDER  |  February 1, 2012

Given Paul's steadfast belief in the sovereignty of the individual, it's a bit ironic to witness the collective power of his supporters. Due to the weather and the town square-style forum, Paul's speech in Freeport was less substantive and more pep rally-ish than Gorham's, but the crowd was nonetheless pumped. He again spoke much about bringing the troops home, but took care to frame it in financial terms only, not ethical ones. That higher standard was reserved for the Fed, whose "thieving" practice of printing money he deemed "immoral." He railed on the "entitlement system," an increasingly popular (and not coincidentally, loaded) term for social benefits, and made damning statements on "welfare and warfare," a nifty linguistic trick that connects two radically different concepts in the same breath.

Content aside, a lot could be discerned by Paul's tone. Indeed, the septuagenarian is well-versed in the galvanizing language of the left. Ron Paul supporters constitute a "movement". Supporters held placards which read REVOLUTION. Printing money was "unsustainable;" the war on drugs "ill-advised." He championed "Main Street Media," a phrase for social networking I'd never heard before, and applauded the forces responsible for the recent defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act.

And it isn't just rhetorical — many of Paul's positions are profoundly, sincerely progressive. The SOPA issue, certainly, and his aggressive opposition to the new law allowing indefinite detention of US citizens suspected of terrorist activities, which he criticized the president for being too soft on. And his commitment to demilitarization is sincere — though the reasoning he offers ("our enemies are at home") echoed vintage Margaret Thatcher. Paul's eagerness to hammer these issues in predominantly Democratic Southern Maine is no coincidence. And to the state's embittered Republicans, he's every bit the political "maverick" McCain or Palin wished they were; his folksy charm is much more trustworthy than Romney's oily shlock or Newt's prickishness. When he says he intends to slash $1 trillion of the national debt his first year of presidency, one is inclined to believe him, as though through sheer individual will he might erode centuries of checks-and-balance precedent.

One wonders, however, what response he might have elicited if he told Freeport he planned to eliminate the Department of Education and do away with public schools. Or that he intends to slash FEMA, which gave the state nearly $2.5 million in repair money last September after Tropical Storm Irene devastated Franklin and Oxford counties. Or cut 30 percent from the Environmental Protection Agency (he's famously called global warming "the greatest hoax in many, many years"). Or if he made even the slightest gesture toward his virulent anti-gay and anti-choice stances.

In speeches, Paul sweepingly funnels his philosophy of federal cuts under the aegis of antiwar rhetoric, and while his Plan to Restore America does propose a 15-percent defense cut, it slashes the FDA (40 percent), Centers for Disease Control (20 percent), Department of Homeland Security (20 percent), National Institutes of Health (20 percent), Environmental Protection Agency (30 percent), and substance-abuse and mental-health services (20 percent) even more.

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