Some Conservatives love to think of our nation’s universities as liberal indoctrination machines. But if you’ve actually visited a college campus recently, you might be surprised to hear who some of the loudest political-minded undergrads support. Sure, Obama does have – and definitely did have in 2008 – a ton of support from the college set. There is, after all, at least some truth, no matter how exaggerated the hysteria has become, to all the talk of the “cult of Obama” among young people.
But you might be surprised that you’re more likely to see Ron Paul stickers on the bikes outside the student union building than you are to see ones with Obama’s name on them.
While it’s true that young people had their problems with Romney’s talk of “binders full of women” and his obstinacy on other social issues, that doesn’t necessarily mean they all ran straight into Obama’s hopeful arms. Many young people who support gay marriage, for example, don’t support Obama-ordered drone strikes. They may agree with the separation of church and state, but they also agree with the separation of the government and the free market.
A welcome alternative
For these college-age voters – though many of them don’t actually bother heading to the polls – the Democratic and Republican parties are no longer viable options. College students aren’t willing to ignore their strong feelings on social issues and side with the evangelicals on the Republican right, but they also believe too much in the value of a limited government to side with the big-government minded liberals on the left.
And so they are turning to an option they may never have heard of, much less considered, until they found themselves among other like-minded young adults in college: Libertarianism. And the champion of this third party is the man whose name you’ll eventually see stuck to something if you take a long enough look at just about any college campus: Ron Paul.
You might not guess that a lot of young people could get behind a movement being spearheaded by a man born in 1935, but Ron Paul is still finding many receptive listeners to his message at college campuses across the country. While Paul is against things like the Federal Reserve and has a serious bone to pick with the federal government’s tax policies, it’s not just his stance on economic issues that is winning the hearts and minds of thousands of undergrads.
A breath of fresh air
He also is very much for ending the War on Drugs and avoiding new wars in foreign countries as much as possible. Essentially, he strongly feels that beyond providing defense and civil and criminal courts, the government has no business interfering in any of its citizens’ lives. The only legislation he supports is that which is explicitly authorized by the Constitution.
He has also won a lot of support for his direct style of speaking and for voicing many of the things that politically frustrated people of all ages feel.
When he refused to endorse Mitt Romney for President in 2012, he did so because he saw both Romney and Obama as being on the same side of all of the most important issues. “I’ve been in this business for a long time, and believe me – there is essentially no difference from one administration to another no matter what the platforms… The foreign policy stays the same, the monetary policy stays the same, there’s no proposal for any real cuts, and both parties support it.”
And that recognition by Paul of the apparently rigged system the two parties have created is really what is getting young people excited. They have been promised “hope and change” before, but Paul presents himself as someone who actually is fundamentally different on the issues that count the most, and has the credibility of an outsider to back up the claim.
Though he technically is a lifelong member of the Republican Party, Paul had enough of an independent spirit to dare criticize GOP patron saint Ronald Reagan, calling him “a dramatic failure.” He was enraged enough by Reagan’s presidency that he briefly quit the party to run as Libertarian in the following presidential election. His dissatisfaction with the treatment of third party candidates led to his return to the Republican Party, but he has stated that he always was a Libertarian at heart.
A changing of the guard
Many young people are discovering that they, too, are Libertarians at heart. Ron Paul headlined a recent Young Americans for Liberty convention that brought together 200 campus chapters of YAL, with attendees coming in from all fifty states. YAL’s mission is to train and educate young activists who support the “principles of liberty.”
Judging by the way the group has grown every year and by how many of its former members are finding their way into positions in the state and federal government, it’s safe to say they have been successful in accomplishing their mission so far. It might not be too long before the stereotypical, politically active college student is talking about fiscal responsibility and freedom from government intrusion rather than peace and love.
Image credit: Gage Skidmore
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