As a 23-year-old member of the millennial generation, it’s fitting that Jacinda Kidd’s induction into politics came from YouTube.
It was there she happened upon a video of Ron Paul last January and that moved her beyond casual conversations with friends to dive headfirst into political activism.
“I was completely moved by it,” she said. “He’s never compromised, never went back on his word. I was immediately attracted to that. In this day and age it’s hard to find somebody who’s that sincere.”
Kidd, a Johnson County Community College student, donated to Paul’s presidential campaign, organized her school’s Youth for Ron Paul chapter and traveled across the country to promote his message.
Today, most of the political world has moved on from the insurgent, libertarian campaign that rallied around Paul while Romney ran away with the Republican primaries.
Kidd represents many of the young people inspired by Paul’s candidacy — and who refuse to let his outsider campaign wither into some historical footnote. To them, the cause personified by Paul wasn’t defeated in the primaries, it was launched.
Now she’ll join a handful of young people from the Kansas City area trekking to Tampa for the Republican National Convention and a Ron Paul rally.
To say the odds are against Paul’s candidacy pretty much defines political understatement. It’ll take a substantial victory to even give him a voice on the convention floor.
Kidd and hundreds of other young Paul supporters plan to be there anyway, drumming up support for what they see as more than a campaign. They see a movement.
“Even if we don’t win the nomination down in Tampa,” she said, “this paves the way for more liberty-minded people to get involved and keep our country going on the right track.”
Early on in the campaign, Paul enjoyed enough support from young voters, if not enough to pose a significant challenge for the nomination, to at least become a contrarian presence at televised debates. He swept the GOP youth vote winning a majority among voters under the age of 30 in four of the first five primaries and caucuses.
He continued on and won a plurality of delegates in as many as eight states, though several of them are in dispute. Even so, there may be enough votes to add his name to the nominating ballot in Tampa. Still, only his most optimistic and devoted supporters imagine Paul poses any threat to a Romney coronation in Florida.
“The Romney forces have just sucked up the delegates, and there’s no drama,” said Burdett Loomis, University of Kansas political science professor. “The last thing (Republicans) want to do is give Ron Paul any kind of a major platform to go off the reservation at the convention.”
Despite the naysayers, young Paul supporters see the convention as a massive opportunity to move their message into the mainstream.
For David Conway, president of the University of Kansas chapter of Youth for Ron Paul, the best way to change the system is from the inside out. He plans to attend the convention and said a strong show of force there could bring a sense of legitimacy to Paul and to libertarianism, which have long been confined to the margins of politics.
More than anything, it could mean a voice within the Grand Old Party.
“We want to be part of the Republican Party and participate and gain seats and gain a say within the party,” he said. “(We want) to move it more in our direction so we can get more libertarian-minded people in office.
“We feel like we’ve been ignored.”
Whatever attention the libertarians draw at the convention, they have gained a level of support among 20-somethings that has so far been unprecedented within the GOP.
“The Libertarian Party was sometimes thought of as older white guys, and that’s really changing quite a bit and a large part of that was Ron Paul,” said Al Terwelp, Kansas Libertarian Party chairman.
He said young libertarians are open-minded and thoughtful.
“They’re looking for answers in new places and kudos to them for taking the time to investigate,” he said.
The libertarian mindset has grown and has even gained support at an international level.
Twenty-five-year-old Irishman John Sheehy said the Ron Paul movement has gained traction in his hometown of Cork, Ireland, more than 4,000 miles away from the site of the upcoming convention. He said he’s begun to follow American politics very closely because of the Ron Paul movement.
“Ron Paul has been a revelation to me and my friends,” he said via email, noting that it is an anomaly for Irish youth to follow politics at all.
Conway agreed that much of Paul’s support in the U.S. comes from disillusioned millennials — those who came of age at a time when the country went to war with terrorism and plunged into an economic disaster. He said even after the hope and excitement Barack Obama posed in 2008, some young Republicans and Democrats alike feel the system has failed them. They’re looking for someone new.
Terwelp, the party official, said he hopes the infusion of youthful enthusiasm within the party will help propel it to greater successes in the future. He said he couldn’t remember the last time two libertarian candidates campaigned for president, noting that Gary Johnson is also running.
“I really see a sign for encouragement,” he said. “And I think there’s a chance for some good to happen in spite of the difficulties our country is facing.”