Thursday, September 15, 2011

Notes From My Knapsack 9-29-11

Jeff Gill


Why is there a Ron Paul?



Politically, I don't usually want to get into politics.


It's too easy to go for the "there's not a dime's worth of difference between the two major party candidates" attitude, yet there's also a perspective which I think we all do well to consider: that our vote for President of the United States may not really be as important as our votes for village council, township trustee, or school board members.


So while I nod at "all politics is local" (whatever is grammatically actually correct), and shrug at "the most important national election ever," I am interested in candidates and narratives.


Looking back, there's always a story arc to follow, one that often seems obvious as well as clichéd in retrospect, but they are wonderfully resistant to predictability looking forwards.


Richard Nixon, the outsider who fought his way into the inner circles of power, but never quite felt like he was truly included, whose insecurities led him to fatal errors. Gerald Ford, the amiable Midwesterner who was a bit out of his depth but married well and made the most of the opportunities that he was given. Jimmy Carter, the rural smart boy who grew up into a know-it-all who actually did know nuclear engineering, but couldn't quite bring that knowledge to bear on face-to-face, human relationships and was tricked by less intelligent, but much cleverer operators in the big city.


Reagan, the actor who grew into his roles and inhabited them so fully he sometimes forgot which were parts, and which were personal experience, but who turned out to have not only learned his lines but did the background research on his own.


The Bushes, father and son, living out a Steinbeckian "East of Eden" scenario with a whiff of the Prodigal, perhaps giving us an uneasy look at how things went after the welcome home party from the skeptical older brother's view.


Bill Clinton, poor boy who strives and achieves and makes good, but brought low by hubris, never quite achieving his full potential. Then there's Hillary – the one national figure who seems to be writing her own story, chapter by chapter, without worrying about stock figures or stereotypes. Love her or loathe her, she's an original.


And then there's Ron Paul. No, I don't think he's going to be president. I doubt if he'd make it long as a Rotary Club president. For his stretch of Texas outback, he's the kind of citizen legislator that we all know, deep down, is what Madison and Hamilton had in mind, with all their messy quirks and contentiousness, ideally cancelling each other out in extremes through the true melting pot designed into the American experiment, Congress itself.


For some, immersed in the politics of the day, Rep. Paul sounds like some old crank utterly out of touch with reality and his district, and what they need him to do in Washington, let alone out on the stump running quixotically for President. But what he sounds like, to me, is Davy Crockett.


Col. David Crockett was a three term Representative from Tennessee, although his reputation is more associated with Texas in the public mind. As Rep. Crockett, he is said to have given a speech on the floor of the House, known to history as “Not Yours To Give,” telling the story of his encounter with a constituent named Horatio Bunce. You can easily find a copy online searching with Crockett and Bunce and the speech’s title. Did events happen exactly as this account puts it? Probably not, but it’s the continuing popularity of the speech that intrigues me.


And when you read that speech, you’ll think you’re hearing Ron Paul. And when you search for it, and see how many websites proudly carry a copy of it, you might see why this story is not just history.


Who will win in 2012? I've no track record to speak of national elections; my own history is one of support and campaigning for folks like Dick Lugar and John Anderson. You'll recall their administrations fondly, I'm sure.


But even as I count out Ron Paul as a credible national candidate, I think the fact that he has the profile he does says something about the story being written politically right now, something about how people are starting to feel about "what Washington can do for you." Sure, air traffic control, national defense, maybe even food & drug regulation (sorry, Ron, you're just wrong there), but federal guidelines that ban bake sales at Granville Middle School? How about "Not Yours To Take."


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your political narrative at, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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