Thursday, August 20, 2015

What I learned at Ron Paul's 80th birthday party

-Bonnie Kristian
Back in early 2008, I was the only intern working on Ron Paul's presidential campaign at a dingy little establishment housed above a dry cleaner in a decidedly unglamorous part of Arlington, Virginia.

The parking lot was so small and the dry cleaner so eager to call the tow truck that late arrivals on any given morning had to park half a mile away, in a sketchy parking garage that was somehow located on top of a highway. And on the way to that weird garage or our slapdash office, I'd pass the Hillary '08 building, an expansive glass office with convenient metro access, and comfort myself that what our campaign lacked in luster it made up for in libertarian principle.

And it was the principle, even more than the man, that inspired me and countless other Ron Paul supporters. While many Paulites can merrily rattle off personal facts about "Dr. No" — he has delivered more than 3,000 babies; his favorite movie is The Sound of Music — it has always been his unique message of peace and liberty that won him so much loyalty. If we seem obsessed, it's because before 2008 it seemed no one who shared our libertarianism would ever be on the national stage. For me, Paul's insistent and often lonely opposition to endless, aimless war was what really sealed the deal.

I never met Ron Paul any of the times he popped over to the office from Capitol Hill, so my first introduction was at an all-staff dinner held right after the Alaska caucuses, a contest many Paul supporters reasonably believed our man would win. Instead he came in third, but the dinner — a tiny extravagance in an otherwise fittingly frugal campaign — was a bright spot in what would ultimately be a disappointing primary season. The crowd of just 40 or 50 staffers made the event an intimate occasion, and at one particularly exciting moment, I hovered at the edge of the circle of eager staff assistants trying, as I was, to think of something smart to add to Paul's off-the-cuff commentary on monetary policy.

In the more than seven years since, I've been involved in the "liberty movement" that Paul's 2008 campaign spawned. My first writing job was with Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), the youth organization which grew out of 2008's Students for Ron Paul and launched with his endorsement. After I graduated from college, I worked at YAL for several years as the fledgling group's first communications director. I got to know Ron Paul a little, helping him move out of his D.C. apartment when he retired from Congress, and baking him chocolate chip cookies in a vain effort to get him to learn my name. Today, I'm still involved with YAL on a part-time basis as a communications consultant.

And that's how, a little over a month ago, I got an email asking if I'd like to take a trip to Ron Paul's 80th birthday party near his home just south of Houston.

"Really, you can't miss it, can you?" the official invite asked.

I really could not.