Maharishi Mahesh Yogi passed away recently. He was, on the one hand, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, and on the other, the subject of John Lennon’s biting “Sexy Sadie”. Like most gurus (*cough* Ron Paul *cough*), he was perhaps a mixed bag, but I can forgive my gurus their imperfections. In Maharishi’s case, I’m a meditator myself (though not a practitioner of TM). I’ve known, liked and loved a few TMers over the years, and have a good deal of respect for Maharishi and his legacy.
So what does this have to do with Ron Paul? Plenty. The TM people were the only folks to actually WIN a County for Ron Paul in the Iowa Caucuses. The TM foundation has maintained, for decades, a university in (of all places) Fairfield, Iowa. A good bit of the story of Fairfield can be found here. What is perhaps most interesting about the Jefferson County victory is the demographics underlying it. Like Austin, Fairfield is a “drop of blue in a sea of red” – though it should be noted that, as I recollect it, Obama singlehandedly polled as high as the entire republican field combined! IN IOWA!?!
Given this fact, it would seem that, demographically and strategically, what won Jefferson County for the Fairfield folks was that they
“did not waste much time on regular Republican voters. We focused on anti-war independents, anti-war Democrats, and especially on young people.”
That is to say, they abandoned the Ron Paul Campaign’s quixotic predilection to joust with political windmills, that uniquely libertarian penchant for hopeless causes that had the “strategists” in Dr. Paul’s circle trying to sell the “antiwar” message to the one audience in the USA least likely to buy it. “Bringing the troops home” is the mainstream, majority preference, with around 2/3s of Americans hoping for an end to the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq. However, polls show the distribution generally reversed amongst Republicans, with only around 1/3 of GOPsters wanting an end to the war, or more appropriately, “war”. No wonder the nominee of this party of warmongerers is John “100 years” McCain.
This lesson, “move left”, played relentlessly here in Austin. It got to the point canvassing that I counseled people to ignore neocon “cues” – yellow ribbons and the like – and spend their time instead on disillusioned Kucinich supporters with “Peace Now” signs on their lawns (Kucinich dropped out of the TX primary due to the Dems’ insistence that he sign a “loyalaty oath” to support the party’s eventual nominee). And of course, short of a Ron Paul yard sign, there was no better cue than a “Kinky Friedman” bumper sticker. Though a lot of the classic “paleocon” triggers remained relevant (gun rights, sovereignty, taxes), overall, one stood the best chance with the disillusioned center.
In Congressional District 25 here, a district that includes South Austin, Old Austin, Keepin’ it Weird Austin, an area with an astonishing number of yoga studios per capita (Om Nama Fairfield…) – here, we got one of the highest vote totals of anywhere in TX, including Ron Paul’s home district. We executed one of only two county convention takeovers (that I know of) in the whole state. And we did it by campaigning, here in this open primary state, against Obama, not McCain.
Many in the “movement” are fond of pointing out the “broken” paradigm of Left and Right. One of the “movement”‘s founders, Murray Rothbard, wrote extensively and with great lucidity on the subject of Left and Right, with a special focus on the provenance of those terms, their origin and evolution (read: corruption). But throughout the campaign, it seemed the heirs apparent of Rothbard’s legacy – Paul, Rockwell, et al – were incapable of embracing the expansive political vision of their mentor, Rothbard.
Reclaiming the “Conservative” brand from a bunch of reprobate Machiavellian Trotskyites is an odd goal for a “Revolution”. Isn’t it true that the “movement” can lay just as strong a claim to the term (classical) liberal as it can to the term (paleo-) conservative? Is there somehow less resonance between us and the folks on the “center/left” than there is with the hard neocon “right”? The whole thrust of blue-collar democrat progressive theology a la Frank Capra is “standing up for the little guy”? Isn’t that what this movement is all about, especially on an emotional, soundbyte level?
Why should we allow the Establishment to deny us our Liberal heritage? Here in the age of Limbaugh, “liberal” has become a slur, this label that Jefferson and Madison wore with pride. One would think that Constitutionalists might have some affinity for Jefferson and Madison. The legacy Buckleyite GOPsters have called us “liberals” over and over. Maybe it’s a compliment we should take to heart?