Ron Pauls final campaign for president ended nine years ago, but the political movement he ignited is far from over. After he passed the torch to his libertarian legion of mostly young and die-hard supporters, many wondered if the movement would fade without the iconoclastic Texas congressman lambasting the Federal Reserve and the Washington war machine on the presidential debate stage.
Since then, Pauls supporters have won hundreds of elections in state legislatures across the country, reshaping the debate on issues ranging from gun rights to school choice. Young Americans for Liberty (formerly Students for Ron Paul) counts 178 state legislators in 37 states as members. However, it is Live Free or Die, New Hampshire, where Paul-inspired Liberty Republicans have become the dominant force in state politics.
Nine years ago, Paul took second place in the states first-in-the-nation Republican primary. Since then, a gradually growing coalition in the state Legislature has led successful efforts, including the passage of constitutional carry.
In November 2020, the coalition achieved critical mass, sweeping the New Hampshire House of Representatives by winning 86 seats (nearly a quarter of the entire body). Liberty Republicans became the majority of the majority and elected a former Ron Paul supporter, state Rep. Jason Osborne, to House majority leader.
Gov. Chris Sununu was recently caught on tape declaring, Libertarians arent Republicans! and suggesting this new energy should leave the party. His frustration is understandable.
While most governors have enjoyed free passes from their own party over constitutionally dubious exercises of COVID-19 emergency powers, Granite State Liberty Republicans have fought Sununu for emergency power reform, with some even filing impeachment orders against him.
Yet, even Sununu must recognize his recent successes are due to this new coalition. Until last November, Democrats controlled the state Legislature, and Sununu could only veto their worst proposals. Pundits predicted this would continue. Thanks to an influx of new voters with the Free State Project and grassroots organizing by state and nation organizations alike, New Hampshire became the only state in 2020 to flip its Legislature from blue to red.
Tough bargaining by the Liberty GOP put the most libertarian state budget in modern America on Sununus desk. The budget abolishes everything that resembles an income tax and is paid for with real spending cuts past Republican leaders never delivered (even in the Tea Party era).
It also includes major education reform. In a year when public schools and teachers unions have denied students vital learning opportunities, education savings accounts have become the gold standard of the school choice movement.
Funding students, not systems, ESAs allow parents to access state education funds and save their own income tax-free for their students educational expenses, including private tuition and homeschooling costs. Over the loud objections of teachers unions, New Hampshire has become the third state this year to pass ESAs into law.
It even enacts new anti-abortion measures, including a ban on abortion after six months (except for circumstances that endanger the life of the mother). Restrictions on third-trimester abortions are common in America generally, but not in New England, where prominent Republican officials, such as Maine Sen. Susan Collins, tend to be outspoken proponents of unrestricted abortion.
Some may be surprised an influx of libertarian legislators would result in New Hampshire passing major anti-abortion legislation. Unlike the Libertarian Party, which declares support for legalized abortion in its party platform, the Liberty Republican tradition is built upon Ron Pauls brand of anti-abortion libertarianism. Many Liberty Republicans have a principled belief the inalienable rights of the unborn are just as important to protect as those who are born.
Additionally, the budget contained other conservative priorities, including a ban on critical race theory teachings in public schools and limited progress toward emergency power reform.
New Hampshire is experiencing the rise of the Liberty Republican. Whether the critical mass of liberty legislators elected in New Hampshire can be duplicated in other states remains to be seen, but New Hampshire is not unique. If this bottom-up movement continues to gain control of state legislatures in 2022 and beyond, expect Liberty Republicans to play an increasingly prominent role in charting the course of the GOP in the years ahead.
Eric Brakey is the senior spokesman for Young Americans for Liberty. He served two terms in the Maine state Senate and as the Maine state director for the Ron Paul 2012 campaign.
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