He is a lone voice of reason, standing up for his country’s constitution. In the face of incredible corruption, he alone stands for keeping the government within traditional limits. When you compare him to his “peers” he doesn’t just seem to have different views, but to be a completely different kind of person. I am talking about not just Ron Paul, but also about Cato the Younger, a Roman politician in the time of Caesar in very similar circumstances. The parallels are striking.
Cato was legendarily incorruptible — Unlike every other Roman politician he never took a dime from his public offices. Dr. Paul, or Dr. No as he is known, is probably Washington, DC’s most loathed congressman among lobbyists. His refusal to vote for anything he sees as unconstitutional mirrors Cato’s.
I was hit with the comparison watching the most recent Republican debates. The rest of the politicians were cycling through small variations of the same talking points. They were going to take care of us, and keep America secure. They were going to create jobs. There is little to differentiate their programs from Obama’s. Paul on the other hand stood up there and outlined a philosophy of liberty.
Cato was the same way. He was rigorously for the Roman Republic’s original laws and traditions. He was opposed to Julius Caesar and his efforts to rule as a dictator. His obsession with stoic philosophy, and tales of his forgoing material comforts was legendary.
Cato is known as one of the first users of the filibuster. He spoke for hours rather than let Caesar change the laws of the country. Paul has also achieved through oratory endurance. He has been pushing the same program, and saying the same things for over 30 years. Against all expectation he is poised to make a real run at the Republican nomination, and he has indisputably changed the conversation.
So what happened to Cato? This is where it gets depressing. Cato was exiled and eventually took his own life after Caesar crushed the last armed opposition to his rule at a battle in Tunisia. Cato’s spirited defense of the Roman Republic is well known because it was one of the last. Within 20 years of Cato’s death, Caesar’s nephew Augustus finally killed the Republic, instituting the Roman Empire.
Ron Paul is almost certainly not going to end up disemboweling himself in Utica. He will probably die in his bed, and sooner than we would like. But will his legacy be any different? Will Ron Paul be remembered, like Cato, as one of the last true defenders of our old Republic? Are we going to continue to elect increasingly imperial presidents, who will promise to watch over us benevolently, while taking more and more of what makes us unique? That’s ultimately up to us.