When former Congressman from Texas Ron Paul reemerged on the national political scene in 2008, he garnered attention for making statements that voters were not used to hearing from Republicans. He was not only against the war, but against the sheer number of bases the US operated overseas. He called for the legalization of drugs, favoring instead a policy of personal responsibility and a libertarian sense of freedom. He also railed against the Federal Reserve Bank and called for a return to the gold standard—an idea that most of the world of finance sees as terrible, but remains appealing to a significant percentage of Americans. Even though his views were unconventional, he still seemed to have at least one foot planted in reality.
However, in his first political appearance since leaving Congress, Paul seemed to have adopted a more dire rhetoric. Paul headlined the last rally for Ken Cuccinelli’s Virginia gubernatorial campaign with a speech that, according to POLITICO, “touched virtually every libertarian erogenous zone….” He called the tax penalty in the Affordable Care Act “evil” and suggested that they would lead to open generational and class warfare. Earlier in the speech he spoke about the Second Amendment saying, it is “not there so you [can] shoot rabbits,” and warning of an internal threat to our liberty.
These comments, among others at the speech, prompted Mother Jones to suggest in a headline, “Ron Paul Basically Called for Armed Revolution This Week.” While Paul does have a history of making politically outlandish statements in the past, these latest remarks suggest a troubling change in tone that seems to paint the possibility of compromise as hopeless. Such carelessness with language—e.g. tossing out terms like “dictator” or “tyrant”—has a doubly troubling effect. Those who don’t agree stop listening, and those who do start being afraid. Thus far, this strategy has only lead to campaign fundraising and increased voter turnout (one way or another), but if rhetorical escalation continues Paul’s prophecies may become self-fulfilling.