Remember Dr. Paul? He – not John McCain – was the real maverick in this year's fight for the Republican presidential nomination.
While Senator McCain often sneered at Paul during their debates, many voters cheered Paul and poured $35 million into his campaign.
Paul, a Texas congressman and longtime gynecologist, remains in the hunt for delegates to September's Republican National Convention. But his focus has now broadened – widening to what The Idaho Observer calls a "national civics lesson."
To that end, Paul's legions – often young, educated, and tech-savvy – are expanding their influence into grass-roots GOP politics. They hope to recruit Paul-like candidates for local, state, and federal offices, particularly for Congress. That's already sparked clashes at local GOP meetings.
Following in the footsteps of Barry Goldwater, Paul has also just published a 167-page book, "The Revolution: A Manifesto." He spells out his positions on everything from abortion to Iraq to the collapsing dollar. Forty-eight years ago, Goldwater's classic "Conscience of a Conservative" launched a public groundswell that helped propel Ronald Reagan into the White House.
Paul's own politics hark back to classical conservatives, such as Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio (1939-53), and to the nation's Founding Fathers. He favors smaller government with limited powers. To rescue a falling dollar, he'd dissolve the Federal Reserve and urge a reconsideration of the old gold standard. He would close hundreds of foreign bases and would force deep cuts in the Washington bureaucracy by abolishing the income tax.
Opponents denounce his blunt views, calling him unrealistic in an era of global terrorism.
Nor did major media welcome Paul's ideas. They mostly ignored him or treated him as an 18th-century anachronism.
Nothing separates Paul so clearly from most Republicans as his views on the Iraq war. His reasoning goes straight back to the Constitution, specifically Article I, Section 8, which reserves the power to declare war exclusively to Congress.
No such declaration happened with Iraq in 2003 under President George W. Bush, or in Iraq in 1991 with President George H.W. Bush, or in Vietnam in the 1960s with President Lyndon Johnson, or in Korea in 1950 with President Harry Truman. Instead of demanding declarations, we've settled for congressional "resolutions."
Truman started this defiance of the Constitution. In the Korean conflict, which official Washington called a "police action," 36,407 US service men and women were killed. That's more than all those killed (22,424) in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Spanish-American War.
"The President is to be commander-in-chief.... In this respect his authority would be nominally the same as that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces … while that of the British king extends to declaring war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies – all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature [Congress]."
Do these kinglike actions by recent US presidents really matter?
Absolutely. Just look at Iraq. The war is being fought by a shrunken volunteer military – made up of less than 1 percent of the American population. This is convenient for politicians. With no congressional declaration and no draft, most American families don't feel the real pain of war.
But White House failure to get a declaration handcuffs the president when things go wrong – as now. The American military is clearly too small for simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet even McCain, who says winning in Iraq is vital, shies away from imposing an unpopular draft.
Paul sees this and other problems – runaway taxes, mounting US debt, an "American Empire" mentality that has put US military bases in 130 countries – as symptoms of Washington's failure to follow the Constitution.
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, says of Paul: "I was very distressed, frankly, with the way he [Paul] was sort of dismissed [by other GOP candidates]…. He was speaking to values that they should respect." He says: "Ron Paul is talking to people who are thirsting for the real thing. And he's hitting the same chords that Goldwater hit and that Reagan hit in the early days…. He's a very healthy phenomenon."
So far, Paul has about 42 delegates. There is hope that with enough delegates, he will win the right to address the convention.
Big media still ignores him. But his followers are determined to push the government closer to the Founding Fathers' vision.
It's a long shot. But so was the American Revolution.
• John Dillin is a former managing editor and Washington correspondent for the Monitor.