“The revolution is alive and well,” declared Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, upon seeing the more than 2,000 supporters who attended his rally at the University of Rhode Island Wednesday night. Paul is in Rhode Island campaigning in anticipation of Tuesday’s Republican primary. Though most political analysts have dismissed Paul as a viable contender for the Republican Party’s nomination, Paul said he plans to keep fighting in every state until he has enough delegates to be his party’s nominee.
Paul voiced his opposition to the United States’ prohibition of drugs and said he is encouraged by efforts by states to confront federal law on the subject. “This is where I am cautiously optimistic that one day, we’re going to wake up, and it might be that the states will grab hold of nullification,” Paul said.
Businessman Barry Hinckley began the event with an effort to drum up support for his candidacy against Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., a pitch that was met with heckles from members of the crowd. He won back the crowd when he lauded Paul’s consistent support of conservative economic policy and called him “the founder of political honesty.”
Paul primarily discussed topics that have helped him sustain his famously loyal following through his three presidential campaigns – the dissolution of the Federal Reserve System, opposition to the country’s military-industrial complex and legalization of currently prohibited drugs. Almost as soon as Paul came on stage, the crowd was chanting, “End the Fed.” The Fed’s power to print money without backing the currency in precious metals is tantamount to “counterfeiting,” Paul said.
Paul voiced his opposition to the war in Afghanistan, another position that resonated with the crowd. “There was a time when they used to paint the label that if you didn’t vote for all these wars, then you didn’t like the troops, you were un-American, you were unpatriotic,” Paul said. “But guess what? If that’s true, why do we get the most support from the troops?”
If the U.S. only went to war when Congress passed a declaration of war – as the Constitution dictates – America would not have been at war since World War II, Paul said. “No more wars without a declaration, and let’s get our troops home,” he said.
“I pledge allegiance to Ron Paul,” a female supporter shouted in response.
Paul disparaged President Obama for signing the National Defense Authorization Act as well as the FISA Sunsets Extension Act of 2011 – an extension of the Patriot Act, legislation that has spurred controversy for expanding the federal government’s powers to address security threats. He also challenged the constitutionality of targeted assassinations of American citizens overseas without due process, actions he said the Obama administration has taken.
Paul criticized the war on drugs, comparing the prohibition of certain drugs to the United States’ failed prohibition of alcohol in the early 1900s. “I think we should come to the same conclusion that we came to after we tried the prohibition of alcohol, and it failed – to repeal the prohibition,” Paul said.
Everyone has the responsibility to protect themselves from the dangers of drug use, in the same way everyone has to take care of himself or herself behind the wheel of a car, he said. “The government owns you if they think they can protect you against all personal injury,” he added.
The U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world population but has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners – well over half of whom are non-violent, Paul said. Since Americans are not inherently worse than people anywhere else in the world, he said, “I would say we have too many laws.”
“There were 40,000 new laws passed” this year, Paul said. “I would like to be the first president ever to repeal 40,000 laws,” he added to much applause.
Paul also criticized the entitlement system as ineffective and impractical. “The entitlement system is motivated by a lot of good intentions, but good intentions aren’t necessarily good intentions – sometimes, they’re distorted,” he said.
“I believe that if you have humanitarian instincts – you don’t want people starving in the streets – the only political solution to that … is to have a free society and a prosperous society, and you will be able to take care of those problems much better than any other system available to us,” Paul said.
The crowd reacted positively to Paul’s remarks. “I love everything he said about the Fed and the NDAA and repealing things – he’s here for freedom,” said Jen Bach of Cranston.
“I absolutely love Ron Paul,” said Stephanie Beels, a student at Salve Regina University. “I’m actually taking a bunch of philosophy classes, and he says everything that any of the old philosophers talk about – his fundamentals are rooted in John Locke’s philosophy,” she said.
“The whole purpose of the U.S. is everyone has individual liberty, and you can live the way you like, and we’ve strayed so far from that,” said Rob Ellis, a North Kingston resident. “People in Washington trying to tell people how to live your life - they think they know how to be in your bedroom.”
“Whether or not Ron Paul is elected, or gets on the Republican ticket, I think he’s already won,” he said. “He’s already winning the hearts and minds of so many young Americans.”