By Robert Schlesinger |
When the Republican National Committee announced the last batch of headliners for this month's convention, one name remained noticeably absent from the schedule: Rep. Ron Paul. It appears the decision has been made not to ask the Texas congressman and erstwhile presidential hopeful to take the stage in Tampa.
The powers that be should reconsider.
Few members of Congress have had as profound an influence on the direction of the party in recent years as Paul. He has been challenging Congress's authority to pass measures (and voting against those not explicitly authorized in our founding documents) since before it was fashionable to quote from the Constitution on the House floor. He helped raise the profile of the national debt, bringing attention to the country's tenuous fiscal standing and inspiring his colleagues to make balancing the budget an election-year rallying cry. His single-minded focus on the proper role of the state guided Republicans back to the limited-government fold after the Bush years sent them wandering. And he's retiring in January of next year.
It's only right that he be allowed to speak one last time, as a token of the party's appreciation for Paul's many years of serving resolutely as its better angel.
But the RNC should give Paul a speaking role for pragmatic reasons as well.
The 12-term Congressman is remarkably popular with voters under 30, who will be looking toward Tampa, wondering whether there's still a place for them in the Republican Party now that Paul is stepping down. There could be no better way for the GOP to reassure them than to give their beloved figurehead a chance to participate in the conversation.
The Republican leadership needs to prove it's welcoming of many different strains of conservatism. In a system like ours, the party that holds power is necessarily the one that does the best job of filling its big tent with disparate individuals. Conversely, the party that shuts out dissenting voices and discourages internal debate ensures only one thing: that it will never represent a majority of Americans.
Ron Paul served his country in the Air Force, his community as a practicing obstetrician, and his party as a principled if curmudgeonly representative over more than three decades. In the process, he sparked a movement that will long outlast his presence in our nation's capital. Paul deserves some measure of recognition for it.
Let the man speak.
About Stephanie Slade Project Director at The Winston Group
Brian Doherty Senior Editor of Reason magazine and Reason.com
Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Judson Phillips Founder of Tea Party Nation