WHILE TWITCHY COPS and party hacks congregated in St. Paul for the Republican Convention, 12,000 Ron Paul supporters assembled for the Rally for the Republic in Minneapolis. The counter-convention featured a dozen speakers--from libertarian luminaries Bill Kauffman and Lew Rockwell to ex-governors Jesse Ventura and Gary Johnson--plus musical acts Sara Evans and Aimee Allen (the freedom movement's answer to Avril Levigne, with more talent and less tolerance for the Bilderberg Group). Barry Goldwater Jr. introduced Paul's keynote.
John McCain's big tent across the river brought together hawks of all persuasions, from Joe Lieberman to Sarah Palin to Rudy Giuliani. The Connecticut senator, as staunch an advocate for military adventurism as abortion, got a primetime speaking slot. A certain pro-life, antiwar Texan was persona non grata.
"We offered our services. We would have been glad to have an opportunity, we would have been pleased to participate," Paul said. But "that wasn't available to us." McCain did not want his primary challenger even to be seen. "We had thought we would be able to go over, but my floor privileges have been strictly limited," Paul revealed. "They've given me a pass that is second class."
That pass required that the congressman enter and leave only by a certain door, be chaperoned by a McCain flack, and not bring any staff. Paul had no intention of attending under those conditions. Yet he didn't get mad--he got even. "We still have enough freedom in this country to get involved and become the party," he said, "and that's been our approach rather than complaining about it."
"The Republican Party ought to be welcoming me because I appeal to young people," Paul contended. Indeed, one of the most remarkable things about Paul's presidential campaign was its ability to energize youth around the unlikeliest of causes: "One of the most exciting issues that we talk about with young people is monetary policy."
Even more than the Iraq War, the Federal Reserve stokes the passions of Paul's supporters. During his keynote, the Target Center shook to chants of "End the Fed!" Months earlier, during a Paul appearance at the University of Michigan, students burned Federal Reserve notes--money, or Uncle Sam's facsimile thereof.
Impressive as the rally was, even more portentous may have been the 600 activists who turned out for training put on by Paul's new organization, the Campaign for Liberty, in the days before. They sat through ten-and-a-half hours of political boot camp on Aug. 31 and another eight hours the next day. …