One of the more atypical attendees at Ron Paul’s townhall at the University of New Hampshire on Friday evening was Alan McDonald — a retired high school history teacher from Sanford, Maine, who wielded a custom-made placard that read “Occupy Empire.” McDonald has led teach-ins at Occupy Portland (Maine), and identified himself to me as a single-issue voter — “against empire.”

“Empire is our primary target,” he said of both the “Ron Paul Revolution” movement and the Occupy movement, “because empire is the causal cancer of all other problems — vast inequality of wealth, looting on Wall Street, expanded foreign wars, environmental destruction.”

If McDonald had gotten the opportunity to ask a question that night, he told me, “I would have said, Ron — I have a problem. You’re the only guy in either party that has the brains and the courage to say anything about empire.” For McDonald, wholesale destruction of American civil society was imminent. He likened the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Obama — and against which Paul had inveighed during the townhall — to the Nazi enabling acts of the 1930s.

“Ron gave an eloquent address on liberty, and the sworn enemy of liberty is empire,” he said. “Empire wants to crush liberty. He was talking about, we are literally in a short term dangerous situation of empire occurring. I think, and from what I heard, Ron Paul thinks,” continued McDonald, “we could have an internal Blitzkrieg. Empire could come in internet time, not in years and years, but literally in internet time.”

Yes, there has always been a paranoid undercurrent in Ron Paul’s base of support. But with Congress empowering the president to indefinitely detain American citizens, people with home-made placards aren’t the only ones starting to worry.