Ron Paul Tampa Rally Speech: The Heart and Soul of Conservatism
Here is the text of my speech on Sunday, in it’s entirety, from the Ron Paul “We are the Future” rally. Video as soon as it’s available:
The Heart and Soul of Conservatism
At the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC, Ron Paul told the audience:
“There’s every reason for us to think seriously about what we really believe, (about) what conservatism actually really means…”
As usual, Dr. Paul was correct. Given the government growth and massive spending we’ve seen under Republican administrations and congresses, conservatives have needed to re-examine what their movement and philosophy truly means for some time. In the wake of the rise of Ron Paul, some are doing precisely this.
During this election, Senator Jim DeMint said:
“I’d like to see a Republican Party that embraces a lot of the libertarian ideas. The Republican Party needs to start listening to Ron Paul.”
Interestingly, also during this election, Senator Rick Santorum said:
“I fight very strongly against libertarian influence within the Republican Party and the conservative movement.”
Sen. DeMint is one of the most popular conservative leaders in the country, and he has urged the Republican Party to adopt the ideas of Ron Paul.
Sen. Santorum is a conservative leader who says the Republican Party must reject the ideas of Ron Paul. Santorum believes strongly that libertarian ideas have absolutely nothing to do with conservatism.
I submit to you today that Sen. DeMint is not only correct, but his call for a more libertarian Republican Party is historically what the American conservative movement has always been. I also submit that Rick Santorum doesn’t know what in the hell he’s talking about.
It was not Ron Paul, but Ronald Reagan, who said:
“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.”
Now what did Reagan mean? How could Reagan believe that a philosophy Santorum thinks has no place in the Republican Party, was the actually “heart and soul” of the conservative movement?
Applying Reagan’s own conservative philosophy to recent history answers this question immediately.
Reagan believed that conservatism was a three-legged stool, consisting of national security conservatives, religious conservatives and economic/libertarian conservatives. He believed that if any one of these three legs did not exist, then neither would conservatism.
The last time Republicans were in power, the national security conservatives were represented well, and George W. Bush’s Iraq War was testament to their success. Religious conservatives were represented well, particularly on issues like gay marriage during the 2004 presidential election.
But what kind of conservatism—if you can even call it that—allowed a Republican president to spend more money and grow more government than any president in history at that date?
A conservatism that was completely void of the libertarian conservatism Reagan believed necessary and essential. This was the “conservatism” of Medicare Plan D, No Child Left Behind, the Iraq War, Executive power, spying on citizens, TARP, stimulus and bailouts. This was the “conservatism” of Rick Santorum.
This was the conservatism of Senator John McCain, who said proudly in 2002, that he stood strongly against what he called “leave us alone’ libertarian philosophy.” Sen. McCain said that he was glad President George W. Bush “challenged libertarian orthodoxy” and replaced it with “compassionate conservatism.”
There are still plenty of Republicans who believe Bush got it right, and that big government is fine so long as it is under a Republican brand.
But there are many more who agree with Sen. DeMint, that to truly be the conservative party, the GOP must adopt libertarian ideas. There are many now willing to revisit what Reagan believed was the “heart and soul” of conservative philosophy.
For those who essentially agree with DeMint and Reagan, there is no longer a question about whether or not Ron Paul and the ideas he represents belong in the conservative movement—it instead becomes a statement of fact: Ron Paul and his ideas are the conservative movement.
Complaining about the Democrats is not enough. Rightwing grievances about where the First Lady vacations or talking about Obama eating dog is not a political philosophy. Simply hating the other side is not an ideology. It’s partisanship. It’s childishness. And it’s useless.
To truly limit government, uphold the Constitution and protect our individual freedoms, conservatives must advance a positive agenda of liberty. Not as mere rhetoric, not as a campaign tool, not as a bumper sticker slogan—but as a practical philosophy with a real chance of becoming tangible reality.
A half century ago, Barry Goldwater told us that “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Ron Paul listened.
To those who didn’t listen, I say this:
You can certainly be a libertarian without being a conservative. But you can’t be a conservative without also, to some degree, being a libertarian. If shrinking government is the goal, it is ideologically impossible.
If you don’t believe me, go take a look at Rick Santorum’s voting record.
Every major conservative figure of the 20th century, from Robert Taft, to Goldwater, Reagan, Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, William F. Buckley—you name the figure—identified strongly with conservatism’s libertarian roots. Even the rare exceptions, like conservative icon Russell Kirk, who had famous disagreements with libertarian icon Murray Rothbard in the 1950’s and 60’s, held views on foreign policy that today would be dismissed as libertarian lunacy by the war hawks in both parties. A year before his death in 1994, Kirk declared:
“so far as the libertarians set their faces against a policy of American domination worldwide—why, I am with them.”
Russell Kirk was credited by everyone from Reagan to Buckley for popularizing the term “conservative” in the United States. Many conservatives today say they like Ron Paul, except on foreign policy. It should always be remembered that for the man most responsible for American right-wingers even calling themselves “conservatives,” his strongest agreement with libertarians was always on foreign policy.
Many conservatives remain completely unaware of this history. Those who fear Ron Paul and his movement would prefer to keep conservatives unaware of this history.
But they are failing. Conservatism’s libertarian roots are now back and in full force.
You see, none of this was supposed to happen. Ron Paul was supposed to run for president in 2008, get little notice and then fade into obscurity. Instead, Ron Paul became a household name. Dr. Paul awakened countless Americans and cured the apathy of millions who had given up on politics altogether. For these Americans, enduring bipartisan statism was a dead end—but the philosophy of liberty was a way out.
Senator Rand Paul was not supposed to happen. Congressman Justin Amash was not supposed to happen. The many champions of liberty who will win their House and Senate races this year were not supposed to happen. The countless successful liberty candidates currently running at the state and local levels were not supposed to happen.
Two million Americans voted for Ron Paul this year, doubling his performance from the last election. More importantly, Dr. Paul’s ideas, which many Republicans held at arm’s length in 2008, are now front-and-center in our politics—from Audit the Fed to Audit the Pentagon. It is Ron Paul’s revolution that continues to shape our public discourse more than any other movement on the political scene today.
What we are trying to do with this movement is more important than this particular election or even Ron Paul himself, as Dr. Paul would readily admit. We are trying to make constitutional government a reality in our time. We are trying to turn the Republican Party into the limited government party it has always purported to be.
We are trying to make the conservative movement conservative again.
Many in the Republican establishment continue to dismiss our movement as a “bunch of Ron Paul kids” as if the massive youth support Dr. Paul enjoys somehow means we are not serious. This is not the first time the Republican establishment has made this mistake.
Consider the following from a 1960 editorial in National Review describing the youth presence for Barry Goldwater at the Republican National Convention that year. Pay close attention:
Youth was everywhere at the Republican convention. Youth managed the various candidates’ booths. Youth waved the posters. Youth held the convention parade, and it was youth, primarily, that staged the Presidential demonstration Wednesday night … Lots of the young people had no ideological interest, they had come … well, because their family was Republican … But those who were serious, the ones who will be working hardest to guide the Republican Party in the future, were conservatives: and most of them Goldwater fans. They passed out 15,000 Goldwater buttons, handed out literature, rallied inside and outside the amphitheater. They greeted Richard Nixon at the airport with Goldwater signs, and did the same thing for President Eisenhower the next day.
The National Review editorial then noted: “They drove one Nixon aide into muttering in exasperation ‘Those damn Goldwater people are everywhere.’”
The editorial then concluded of these Goldwater youth, that such fiery young conservatives and libertarians represent “those who [are] serious, the ones who will be working hardest to guide the Republican Party in the future.”
Of course, National Review was right. Those “damn Goldwater people” became the modern American conservative movement.
And it is those “damn Ron Paul people” who are picking up where Barry Goldwater left off. Who are reviving the philosophy of liberty, and who are championing the constitutional principles of our Founders that made this country great.
At issue is not whether or not we belong in the conservative movement. We are the conservative movement. Ron Paul has reignited it. And liberty now has a chance to take root once again thanks to the people in this stadium and the millions who stand with us across the country.
Those who understand this represent America’s future. Those who don’t understand it represent the past, the mindless and empty partisanship of old—and they will eventually need to wise up, shut up, or simply get out of the way.
Sen. DeMint said in January: “If Republicans don’t understand the important aspects of what Ron Paul is saying, we won’t be able to exist as a party, certainly not a majority party…”
Sen. DeMint is right.
And if Reagan was right, that it is liberty that truly defines conservatism, then it is we who are now the heart and soul of the conservative movement.
Ron Paul has rekindled the fire of freedom, but we carry the torch forward.
Make no mistake: This is the cause of our lives, and like it or not, ready or not—liberty is on the way.