TAMPA, August 27, 2012 ― Everyone knows what to expect from a political rally. Speakers recite the party line on various subjects. The audience already agrees with them and knows what they are going to say. The crowd cheers. The opposition is trashed. The crowd cheers again. The keynote speaker is introduced. Standing ovation. More talking points.
Ron Paul’s “We Are the Future Rally” couldn’t have resembled that model less. Rather than politics, the entire program focused on ideas.
His first three speakers were libertarian philosophers Lew Rockwell, Walter Block and Butler Shaffer. There were no talking points. Instead, attendees were treated to intellectual arguments for individual liberty from three of the most powerful libertarian thinkers alive.
Not everyone agreed, either. Block’s controversial argument for a new libertarian stance on abortion actually drew boos. Block argued that a woman has a property right in her body and thus can evict a “trespassing” fetus from her womb, but does not have a right to take the fetus’ life. Block claimed that this was possible now during the third trimester of pregnancy and that as the science advanced, it would be possible earlier and earlier.
Some of the more conservative among Paul’s following weren’t ready to hear it.
There were speeches by politicians Barry Goldwater, Jr. and South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis, but even these were atypical. Goldwater read from and commented on passages from his father’s Conscience of a Conservative, while Davis focused exclusively on attacking the Federal Reserve System.
Paul’s official campaign blogger and rising conservative star Jack Hunter continued with a talk on conservative philosophy, citing Ronald Reagan, Russell Kirk and other noteworthy conservatives. Hunter reminded supporters of Reagan’s “three-legged stool” theory of conservatism: equal parts national security conservatives, religious conservatives and economic/libertarian conservatives. Hunter argued that it was the absence of the libertarian leg that led to the profligacy of the Bush years. He quoted Reagan saying, “libertarianism is the very heart and soul of conservatism.”
None of this is to suggest that the affair was a quiet seminar with attendees nodding their heads and taking notes. Right from senior campaign advisor Doug Wead’s opening remarks, the atmosphere was electric and the applause thunderous. As usual, remarks on the Federal Reserve System and Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy got the most enthusiastic response.