Political movements come. Political movements go. Which ones will last? Which ones will fail? How do we identify the principles that will shape our future?
The answer: follow the youth.
Now that might lead us to believe that Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign was the real deal, the game-changer for the future of the American political landscape. Not so fast. A massive PR con job that lasts one election cycle isn’t quite the same as an organic, lasting, growing youth movement. Young people might be impressionable, but they’re quick to learn. A younger, multi-ethnic frontman with a minimal political record can only hide the same tired old policies for so long. Soon enough, the youth will abandon a false prophet of hope and change and get behind someone who is truly on their side. Someone who sincerely fights for their future.
And that’s exactly what happened. Take another, opposite, unlikely youth leader: Ron Paul.
The political career of Dr. Ron Paul can easily be viewed as a failure. During his generation-long service in Congress, only one out of the 620 pieces of legislation he sponsored ever became law, hardly an encouraging sign of success. Paul ran three times for President of the United States, and all three times fell far short of victory. Earlier this year, he retired from Congress, quietly slipping out of the public sphere.
But Dr. Paul didn’t fall short where it really mattered: inspiring future generations with hope. The firey youth-based movement he rallied refused to die long after his political campaigns came to an end. Organizations like the Campaign for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty continue to carry out the work of his movement. And they’re not going anywhere. They’re only getting stronger.
While time will be the ultimate judge as to the lasting impact of Ron Paul’s youth movement, the signs are already there. I witnessed one of these signs firsthand this past weekend at a Young Americans for Liberty conference in Fullerton, California. Dr. Paul addressed a room full of youth activists via Skype, some of whom had driven all day to be able to attend. An old man in his office bent over a computer received a standing ovation from a packed auditorium thousands of miles away, full of young people of every ethnicity, gender, and background, most of whom were younger than his own grandchildren. This happened in California, a state known for adopting policies opposite of what Paul spent his life advocating. Proof be damned, this one powerful piece of evidence spoke with the force of a thousand statistics. Make no mistake: Ron Paul has won the youth of America.
The youth are the future. Those who control the youth, therefore, control the future. It really doesn’t get any simpler than that. And, judging from the lasting impact of the movement Dr. Ron Paul inspired, the future has been won for liberty.
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore