In just a few hours, I will start a 22-hour roadtrip from New York City to Florida aboard a “Ronvoy,” a caravan of grassroots Ron Paul supporters from across the country who are descending on Tampa for a three-day festival of Paul before the Republican National Convention.The most common response I get from people when I tell them I am getting to the convention in a Ronvoy is “Why?” First, why would I subject myself to what will surely be a pedantic drive down the eastern seaboard? But more to the point, what story do I think I will find, given that Paul has no shot at winning the nomination and won’t even be appearing at the Republican National Convention?
It’s a legitimate question, and the answer requires one to take Paul and his followers more seriously than most people are usually inclined.
But it is hard to deny that the Ron Paul movement has mushroomed over the past four years. The Texas Congressman has expanded his base of followers, while members of his party — including Republican vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan — have moved closer to his hawkish stance on deficit reduction and limited government. And in the 2012 Republican primary, Paul outlasted all of his opponents save Mitt Romney, the near-certain nominee.
But with Ron Paul in the twilight of his political career, his movement is at a crossroads, and its fate could be determined by what goes down at the Republican convention.
Over the past few months, the rifts within the Ron Paul Revolution have become apparent, as Paul sends quiet signals that he is handing the torch off to his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. The younger Paul and the political professionals in Paul Universe have made no secret that they view the movement as a loyal opposition within the Republican Party, rather than the rebel uprising that some of Ron Paul’s more ardent fans believe it be.
It seems inevitable, then, that the more colourful Paulistas will be without a political home once their intellectual leader retires at the end of this year.
That’s where the Ronvoy comes in. The bizarre caravan represents what is best about Paul’s netroots universe. In the absence of Ron Paul, where will all of that weird political energy go?
On the night of Paul’s secret Iowa caucus win, a campaign aide told me that “once this is over, we aren’t going back into our holes.”
Now that it’s over, I want to know if that’s true.
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