“Is this mine?” Ron Paul asked, taking it, smiling slightly at the new convert and walking onstage, where he drew long cheers from an audience full of Christopher Ways, an eclectic mix of young and mostly white men who were not just undeterred by the candidate’s third-place finish in Iowa’s Republican caucuses, but somehow more motivated by it.
“The job of a president is to protect your freedom,” Paul told them. “It isn’t to run the world, it isn’t to run the economy, and it isn’t to run your life.”
Way, a new husband and new father who said he wants more than anything in the world to be a responsible adult, nodded and clapped.
He had already heard Paul speak on C-SPAN dozens of times. He had read and reread the 1970s book “None Dare Call It Conspiracy,” about international banking magnates and the loss of civil liberties, which, he said, “totally relates to today.” He had become steeped in the details of monetary policy, economic bubbles and national security issues, all of which for him add up to an increasingly bleak picture of America — which helps him understand the increasingly trying circumstances of his own life.
“Once you see the truth, it can’t be unseen anymore,” Way likes to say. And these days, he is trying to figure out what he is supposed to do about that, about the overwhelming prospect that American civilization is crumbling.
He had already bought a 9mm semiautomatic Springfield for protection. He had started stockpiling canned food. And now in the morning mail had come a more immediate reality: a foreclosure notice.
As he left the auditorium four days before the New Hampshire primary, he picked up a tall stack of “Ron Paul revolution” brochures and headed into the cold evening.
In this Republican primary season of fickle voters, Paul supporters are unique in their steadfast devotion to a man they often see less as a candidate than as a cause.
Although doing well in Tuesday’s primary is important to his followers, they also tend to see themselves as players in the grander struggle Paul describes: one in which decades of government expansion, disastrous economic policy, unjustified foreign meddling and lapsing civil liberties threaten to undermine the republic — unless, that is, people wake up from their nanny-state subservience and save the nation from tyranny.
It is a dark if oddly energizing vision that has especially resonated with a young, male demographic. According to exit polling, 40 percent of Paul’s Iowa backers were men younger than 45, and 46 percent earned $50,000 a year or less. Roughly nine in 10 Paul supporters are white, similar to the racial makeup of Republicans overall, according to Washington Post-ABC News polls. Anecdotally, Paul’s backers tend mostly to be disillusioned Republicans, although his crowds these days routinely have a smattering of disillusioned Democrats, too, a group that now includes Christopher Way.