Let's face it. We are not the United States of America, and often times that is something to be thankful for. But the fact is, their culture influences ours. And that culture includes their politics. For those who have kept up with the current Republican primaries, you've probably heard of Ron Paul. Whether it's heated criticism for his extreme ideas and his old newsletter, or glowing adoration for a visionary who tells it like it is, his name has come up in the conversation somewhere. Most people write him off as yet another looney chapter in the current incarnation of the southern goat rodeo known as the Republican primaries. But perhaps we, the enlightened, peace-loving socialists of the North, ought to be paying a little bit more attention.
If you stick to the surface level of the story, there's not much to read. A lot of "blah-blah-Newt Gingrich-blah-blah-blah-Mitt Romney", as at the surface most have levelled this off at a two man race, and perhaps right now it is. But dig beneath the surface of these stories and you'll find out that there's something that's not being blown up on billboards and splattered on front page news. Underneath the political jargon, there is a story being written. It is the story of a potential country-shaking socio-economic shift in the very nature of the U.S. A 76-year OB/GYN-turned Congressman with political views that kept him quarantined from the political spotlight for a quarter of a century is suddenly threatening to create havoc with the electoral stage set this Fall.
And how has he done this?
How has such an unlikely candidate grabbed the hearts and minds of millions of Americans spanning practically every socio-economic dynamic possible, and consequently proceeded to grab the Republican Party's attention by the frank and beans?
Because lurking within Ron Paul is a monster of paradoxes, an antithetical nightmare, a creature never-before thought to have existed. He is a simple, down-to-earth, honest politician. He means what he says, has a track record to back it up, and his message never changes. His personality is honest, human; simultaneously caring for the people who he honestly believes he can help while being honestly scathing against those he sees exercising foolishness, hypocrisy, and deception. Whether you agree or disagree with his policies, it's difficult to make the argument that he is the same cut of politician worthy of distrust as the hundreds of others on both the Canadian and American scene. Hate what he thinks all you want, but try to find something against the man himself. His voting record and actions are consistent with his message, his answers are thoughtful and honest, even when it doesn't play to popular opinion.
And it's stirring something that should be making those who sit in Washington very nervous.
For the first time in decades, young people are taking a true interest in politics. Not like when Obama hit the scene and young people swarmed to a young, popular, charismatic politician four years ago. Young, educated people of all backgrounds are suddenly finding their voice, and many are uniting it behind a quirky geriatric. The under 30 crowd, those who are often considered lost causes in political pursuits, have found a path. Suddenly, they're not merely voting for the super-fly candidate, but they're actually being challenged by this wiry 76-year old to study their Constitution, research economics, contemplate foreign policy, and, regardless of what political side they fall on, to shout their -informed- opinion loud and clear.
For the first time in decades, the American two-party system is facing a real threat. Sure, Ron Paul is a registered Republican, but see how many of his supporters truly consider themselves that? Because of him, suddenly the line between "liberal" and "conservative" isn't so clear. Behind Dr. Paul is an army of democrats, republicans, blacks, whites, minorities, old, young, Wall-Street gurus and those who Occupied it. All of whom see themselves as not one party or the other, but as Americans who want to make their whole country better. As one Paul supporter put it, "my vote doesn't belong to the Republicans or the Democrats; my vote belongs to me and I'm putting it behind Ron Paul".
In the end, regardless of whether Paul wins the nomination or not, he's going to have a very large shadow cast over the Presidential election as a growing number of Americans are ever-less satisfied with the status quo.
And I am insanely jealous of the United States for that.
I live in a province where in the recent provincial election we watched a man who had openly, habitually lied to the Ontario public for two straight terms as premier get voted in for a third straight. And it's pretty easy to see why. Call it a mix of public apathy and political maneuvering. We think all politicians are liars and that nothing will really be accomplished no matter what. And so we had a "Conservative" party (who was supposedly the start-off favourites) that effectually said nothing, promised nothing, and did nothing. I don't know if they were huddling behind Queen's Park, tapping their sparkly red shoes chanting "there's no place like home", suddenly hoping to end up on the right side of the Assembly, but they were, in effect, useless, pointless, and spine-less.
Now, let me say that I know that not everything will be solved by politics; I am far from a Socialist. But whether we like it or not, our politicians influence our lives, and we pay them to do so. And so, call me crazy, but I would like to see somebody with a backbone, integrity, and a few crazy ideas blow our passe politics out of the water. I would like to see my generation get interested in politics again. I would like to see people believe in democracy again, because like it or not it's the best system we have. I would like to see an election actually mean change.
But right now, it's not going to happen. We don't have that figure stirring up the hearts and minds of the next generation. We don't have that figure uniting those on all sides of the political spectrum, united not for a party or for a special interest but for the betterment of Canadians as a whole. And until we wake from our political slumber, the fact is that nothing will really change in Canada. And so, I'll be waiting and watching, praying that maybe tomorrow, Canada might finally have its' very own "Crazy Uncle Ron."