Super Tuesday may not have gone the way Alan Soutter had hoped, but he isn't giving up. "You take these hits, and it hurts, but you come back and you're stronger. We're gonna keep going. We're not gonna stop."
Soutter, a tech support manager who works in RTP, is the lead organizer for Ron Paul Meetup 52, the Research Triangle brigade in the Ron Paul Revolution and the largest such organization in the state. Organized primarily through meetup.com, Meetup 52 has more than 400 members, about 10 percent of whom Soutter describes as "really active." The group is responsible for the many highway signs instructing us to "Google Ron Paul."
"People don't know about him, so our earliest initiative, name recognition. The signs are the biggest part of that for us," says Soutter, who lives in Cary. "If you're Rudy Giuliani or John McCain or Fred Thompson, who basically have celebrity status—that means that the media is attracted to them, they're invited, they're embraced. Regardless of what their message is, they're already a household name. Ron Paul didn't have that asset in his campaign. That's been an uphill battle for us."
Soutter describes his mission in explicitly evangelical terms: "It's kind of like the movie The Matrix, where people think everything's all fine and lovely, but they're really asleep and this whole other thing going on. I call it waking people up."
Yarko Thomas, an assistant organizer for the group, echoes these thoughts. "I'm frustrated that the media only reports trivia on famous personalities," he wrote in an e-mail to the Indy. "A candidate with an ideological message doesn't fit their mold, so they call him unelectable and ignore him."
Although the media largely declared the Republican nomination over last week after McCain won California, Soutter and his fellow meetup members retain hope for a last-minute Paul surge; he could get the nomination through the unusual prospect of a brokered convention, which will occur if no Republican candidate receives a majority of delegates to the party's national convention in St. Paul, Minn., in September.
As someone whose friends are growing very tired of hearing about Barack Obama, I recognize something kindred in the fervor of Soutter and his fellow meetup members. There's something more than a little religious about both political movements, as if politics in 2008 has come to function as a surrogate font for inspiration, devotion and purpose in a post-religious age. In addition to the messianic qualities of its leader and a moral code organized around the inviolable freedom of the individual, Paul's story of contemporary American history begins with a tragic fall from grace: the founding of the Federal Reserve banking system in 1913.
"Once you give the government the ability to print their own money, so they don't need to tax us to do it, so we don't know what they're doing, then the corruption begins," Soutter explains.
The war in Iraq, which Paul opposes, is a symptom of this larger disease. "Economically," Soutter says, "we're doing to ourselves what we did to Russia to win the Cold War. We're destroying our currency. We're spending money we don't have. We're bankrupting the country. And that's why Russia had to give in, because they couldn't afford to do it anymore. And soon—sooner than most people think—we're going to hit that wall, too."
This sense of imminent apocalypse perhaps best defines the Ron Paul movement. For Paul supporters, we are living in the last days; doomsday will arrive as the total devaluation of the dollar in the face of inflation caused by excessive government spending—a final day of judgment that will rule out our current standard of living for all but the wealthiest Americans.
"I'm worried about my friends and my family, and what's going to happen to their life savings," Soutter says. "I worry about my kids. I'm worried about civil liberties when the economy tanks, how the government will react in that situation. It's not going to be pretty."
Soutter discovered Paul from a YouTube video titled "Confessions of a [Ron Paul] Junkie" from Greensboro's Rachel Mills, once a Libertarian candidate for Congress. Next, he read a book, The Creature from Jekyll Island, which opened his eyes to the dangers and insecurities of an economic system built on fiat currency. When Soutter watched the South Carolina debate, during which Paul "basically told Rudy Giuliani that he needed to read the 9/11 Report to understand what the terrorists' reasons were for attacking us," Paul won another convert. "That just sealed it for me. I immediately began looking for ways to do something to help the campaign."
Although Soutter says with regret that the highway signs are being pulled down quickly, those messages in the median foster Paul's name recognition.
"There are a lot of people out there who are very upset and frustrated and wondering, 'How could everything seem to be going wrong all at the same time?'" Soutter muses. "Once people get a little taste of that raw, undiluted, unmanipulated information, it's like a drug. 'Oh my gosh, why haven't I ever heard about this? Why aren't they telling me about that?' And it spurs their curiosity, and they search for more and more and more."
Find Meetup 52 at ronpaul.meetup.com/52.