2016 has been annoying in a multitude of ways. As a millennial, perhaps the most obnoxious phase of this year’s cycle was watching my peers jump on the Bernie Sanders bandwagon to join a “political revolution.” On college campuses across the country, “Feel the Bern” stickers spread like wildfire, which — as a libertarian — was tough to watch.
It is not hard to see why Sanders became such a hot commodity. He became trendy because socialism is en vogue; and socialism has always caught on because compassion is trendy. After all, who among the world’s future leaders wants to appear as if they don’t give a damn about their fellow man?
Socialism’s attractiveness to young people is nothing new, and Sanders is just the latest in a long history of demagogues playing the game of class warfare. But if you want to take a look at a unique, out of the ordinary political revolution, look to the Ron Paul Revolution. Not only was a Republican politician popular with droves of young people, but he made liberty cool. Through his exposure, his speeches, and his writing, he ushered masses of new people to the libertarian movement that have not looked back since.
What was more unsettling than seeing fellow millennials fall for an failed ideology was seeing members of the media compare the Sanders movement to the Ron Paul movement of 2008 and 2012. After my initial indignant response, I realized that there were indeed certain superficial similarities. Both men drew a large portion of their support from the 18 to 24 demographic, both attracted large crowds, both railed against the establishment, and both presented a different voice from the political mainstream.
But after more careful analysis, it became clear that that was where the similarities ended.
Bernie Sanders is no Ron Paul. Not only were their campaign messages diametrically opposite, but they also differed in their amount of integrity and willingness to back up rhetoric with action.
For readers of this site and those who follow politics closely, explaining the political differences between Paul and Sanders may seem like reviewing basic multiplication tables. But it cannot be understated how remarkable the Ron Paul Revolution was. It attracted an uncharacteristic audience at an inconceivable time. When everyone and their mother was clamoring for a government bailout of big banks or manufacturing giants, Paul and his acolytes stood athwart history and yelled stop.
Let’s be honest: liberty can be a tough sell. Preaching redistribution and robbing Peter to pay Paul will always be a successful political strategy because there are always more Pauls than Peters. But while the doctrine of Bernie Sanders is easy to get people to support, convincing individuals to believe in personal responsibility is far more difficult.
Yes, Paul and Sanders agree on many of the problems that the country presently faces. But how fitting is it that while both Sanders and Paul correctly diagnose America’s ailments, only the doctor prescribes the proper remedy.
Still, the comparisons persist. The Vermont senator and the former Texas congressman are considered two of a kind because both “buck the establishment.” But is Sanders really anti-establishment?
After a long and drawn out primary process where he slammed Hillary Clinton for being bought by the banks, for not being a “progressive,” and for not having the guts to do “enough,” about the issues he raised, Bernie Sanders ultimately said that he would vote for the former Secretary of State in November.
At the moment of his de facto concession, I lost any amount of respect that I had for Bernie Sanders. Despite disagreeing on many policy issues, I can always respect a man who stands for what he believes in and refuses to compromise. But, for the sake of political expediency, Sanders became a sell-out.
Despite similar pressure from the overbearing behemoth of the GOP establishment, Ron Paul always refused to yield. Not only has Paul refused to back Donald Trump, but he would not even vote for Mitt Romney in 2012. “I’ve been in this business a long time and believe me there is essentially no difference from one administration to another no matter what the platforms,” he told CNBC in 2012. “The foreign policy stays the same, the monetary policy stays the same, there’s no proposal for any real cuts and both parties support it.”
No juxtaposition better expresses the differences between these two men than their presidential electoral choices. When it came down to it, when it really counted, Bernie Sanders decided to support the dreaded establishment and Ron Paul never caved.