By STEVEN NALLEY
Texas congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul will address audiences at Mississippi State University’s Bettersworth Auditorium at Lee Hall Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The event is entitled “Liberty Defined” and is Paul’s latest stop on his Spring Campus Tour. Paul will also be signing his new book, “Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom,” from 3:30-5 p.m. at MSU’s Barnes and Noble book store.
Organizing and hosting the event is the MSU chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, formerly known as Students for Ron Paul. Deepanshu Chhabra, event coordinator for YAL at MSU, said the organization had started campaigning to bring Paul to campus in August 2010, gathering 2,500 student signatures for a proposal they sent to Paul’s office.
“Congress was in session when we submitted the proposal, and he had a very busy schedule,” Chhabra said. “So, we weren’t sure if we were going to get him at first, but he saw the support of the students on this campus. Ultimately, he gave us a ‘yes’ just a few months ago.”
Brian Shoup, an assistant professor in political science and public administration at MSU, serves as faculty advisor for the local YAL chapter. He said “Liberty Defined” is just one example of how much Paul embraces young voters and their ability to quickly organize social movements with what economist Freidrich Hayek called “time and place information.” The 2008 GOP primaries, Shoup said, were another example.
“He managed to raise a lot of money using this spontaneous organizational model, and he really impacted the tenor of the GOP debates by forcing the candidates to address issues that were historically brushed away,” Shoup said. “He did have a number of excited young people on college campuses who were familiar with social media and not afraid to use it to get their message out.”
Chhabra said Paul’s emphasis on low taxes and limited government resonates with college students for practical reasons.
“Young people see that the debt mounting up is ultimately going to fall on our shoulders,” Chhabra said. “We want our legislature to start being more responsible, and that’s something that Ron Paul preaches.”
“Liberty Defined” will mark Paul’s first official speaking engagement in Mississippi, Chhabra said.
“In his previous presidential campaign, he didn’t get a chance to come here,” Chhabra said. “We feel like he’s pretty close to campaigning again in 2012 for president, so we think it would be a good start for him to come to campus, and it would be beneficial for students to hear his message.”
However, Shoup said he isn’t so sure Paul will run for president again. When Paul began his 2008 campaign, Shoup said, Paul was less focused on winning the nomination and more focused on challenging Republican paradigms on such issues as spending and foreign policy. He said while Paul did gain a surprising amount of support, he was still unable to compete with the much larger resources of other candidates.
“I think it is safe to say that no one, including Ron Paul, actually thought he had a shot,” Shoup said. “From the perspective of Ron Paul’s supporters, however, the 2008 campaign was actually very successful since they established themselves as integral parts of the GOP. I think a lot of what we now call the TEA Party can be traced to that 2008 election and the arguments advanced by many of Ron Paul’s supporters.”
Daniel Gardner, a syndicated columnist living in Starkville, said “Defining Liberty” would probably attract several members of the Starkville TEA Party. Gardner addressed members of the STP at their meeting in March.
“I believe STP will fully support Paul’s appearance by attending Wednesday night,” Gardner said. I believe STP shares Paul’s fiscal values, though probably not his libertarian values. I’d like to hear Mr. Paul’s views on the Fed, deficits, debt and his take on S&P’s changing their outlook of U.S. from ‘stable’ to ‘negative.’”