A smaller government with greater individual liberties would bring economic prosperity to Kansas and throughout the country.
That was Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s message to a packed house at the Lied Center on Kansas University’s campus Friday night. It was his third appearance of the day in the state, after events in Topeka and Wichita, ahead of today’s statewide caucuses.
“If you have a free society and sound money, it should help everybody,” Paul said during a media conference after the event. “People say, ‘How are you going to help one state versus another state?’ But I think that if you provide equal liberty and equal justice under the law, everybody benefits from that.”
Garrett Wagner, a student in New York who returned to vote in his home district in Lawrence, strongly agreed with Paul’s message of a decisively hands-off approach to the economy.
Ron Paul media Q&A
“Our debt is killing our economy,” Wagner said. “I support Dr. Paul because his plan to phase out the IRS and eliminating the Federal Reserve would mean everyone would have more money.”
Young people like Wagner were out in full force at the event, organized by Lawrence’s Youth for Ron Paul group. Enthusiastic chants of “President Paul! President Paul!” broke out within the crowd of more than 1,000 before he spoke, as did standing ovations during the hourlong public event. However, without having won a single state contest outright, the Texas congressional representative has a long shot of even securing the nomination. When asked about his small number of delegates, he responded, “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
In Kansas’ caucuses four years ago, he won just 11 percent of the vote, behind winner Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, and eventual nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona. In that race, he did beat out this election cycle’s apparent front-runner, Mitt Romney.
Regardless of the delegate count, Paul’s message has always been about standing up for small government, personal choice and what he sees as strict adherence to the Constitution, a message that went over well with Friday’s crowd. He began with an explanation of how he’d change foreign policy if elected, shifting the military’s focus to “only national defense” and no engagement without direct threat. That policy falls in line with his overall opposition to government spending.
“We can’t afford these wars and we ought to quit ’em,” he said.
Reining in costs
In the vein of cutting both government and its spending, Paul proposed repealing 40,000 “ridiculous” laws and cutting $1 trillion from the congressional budget within his first year in office, plans he said in a key point of his speech would empower individual Americans and increase their personal wealth.
“I’ve worked in Washington some 30 years; I’ve met a lot of politicians,” he said. “Let me tell you, they’re not smart enough to spend your money — you should spend your money!”
And another crowd chant, this time of “End the Fed!” referring to the Federal Reserve, broke out temporarily. Paul continued speaking, apparently unflustered.
He continued to speak of rejecting bailouts and entitlement systems of all kinds, saying “no to bailouts of Wall Street, no to bailouts of European ‘wall streets,’” and “no one is entitled to somebody else’s wealth.”
The speech went on to tackle even more personal individual liberty standpoints — issues of drug legalization and access to contraception.
“I personally abhor drug use, but it’s about personal choice,” he said on his controversial campaign point to end the so-called war on drugs. “You cannot have the government control what we put in our bodies ... I just want to live my own life and make my own choices.”
Paul, an Ob-Gyn by practice, is pro-life but also admitted prescribing and being a supporter of contraceptives, saying on Friday that the issue that’s been a hot topic for the Republican candidates is actually about the higher cost of government-involved health care. It’s not the government’s choice to get involved, he said, reiterating the hands-off message he applied to everything from military spending to the idea of American exceptionalism.
“We don’t need social authoritarians,” he said. “We don’t need government unless somebody hurts somebody.”
Democracy in action
His views and the vigor of his supporters were clear, though his chances in the election may not be. Throughout the night, speakers encouraged participation in today’s caucuses, which, for Douglas County, take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive.
“It takes an irate minority keen on starting brushfires of liberty,” he said in encouragement of action by supporters. “Freedom is an old idea, tyranny is an old one. When it comes time, tell everyone you want to move forward.”
Paul didn’t take questions from the audience, but did allow for a few personal photographs and book-signings backstage, including one with area resident Sean Palmer, a longtime supporter who was pumped up by the libertarian rhetoric.
“I’m here to show my absolute support,” Palmer said. “I hope to see (Paul) win Kansas, win the nomination and become the president.”