My main writing on the Ron Paul phenomenon has been responding to the silly allegations that he is some sort of 9/11 Truther Neonazi Freemason. But I would respond to this garbage no matter who the candidate was. I blasted the swift boat nonsense too even though I had no intention of supporting Kerry.
So I wanted to clarify what I think of him and his campaign.
First, on the nutjobs that have flocked to the Paul campaign. It’s true that some white supremacists have been drawn to his campaign — although I suspect it’s not even a plurality. Has anyone actually polled these guys to see who the majority support?
The LGF crowd would have you believe they support him because Paul is a secret Nazi trojan horse who has managed to fool millions of non-racist people into supporting him. He must be because these guys wouldn’t support anyone who wasn’t a Nazi. Of course, they supported Nixon. And Reagan (remember Bitberg?). These people are always drawn to anti-government candidates and RP is, brace yourself, somewhat anti-government.
The people who are sliming Ron Paul know this. But they like to ignore it because otherwise they would have to admit that his support is a lot broader than they would like. The simple fact is that there aren’t enough 9/11 Truthers and skinheads out there to produce the kind of money that Ron Paul is raising. And we know that RP is drawing more support from the military than any other candidate. Anyone care to say our military is filled with Nazis and Truthers? Anyone other than Ward Churchill, I mean.
However, for an anti-government candidate to draw such wide support is actually unusual. In a normal election cycle, RP would be confined entirely to the nut fringe, unable to poll statistically above zero. The reason he has drawn such strong support is not because there is some secret Nazi revolution brewing and not because he’s fooling anyone.
It’s because there is such a vast yawning chasm on the libertarian-conservative side of American politics.
When you look at the candidates for President — on either side of the aisle — they no longer debate whether we should have big government or small government; they debate just how huge our government should be. Our candidates no longer argue about the correct application of the Constitution; they use lawyer arguments to get around its basic provisions. The corpses of Reagan and Goldwater are venerated — but their basic philosophy is not just ignored, it’s ridiculed.
On the political spectrum, the mainstream candidates are bunched together, covering the entire range from big government to slightly less big government. RP is all out on his lonesome; the only man — apart from perhaps Thompson — to whom the Constitution, federalism and freedom are something beyond words to sucker in the conservative vote.
When you are the only man in such a wide echoing space, you are going to draw support from a very broad range of people — from Michigan Militia types to libetarian-conservatives to the military. That he has such a strange mix of supporters tell you just how far to the big government side our politics has lurched.
Of course, outsider candidates like RP have the tendency to draw the disaffected and there’s no one in this country more disaffected than racists. But there are a lot of other disaffected types supporting him as well — libertarians, our military, anti-war conservatives. What does it say about our mainstream politicians that the “disaffected vote” has become so prominent?
To me, that’s the importance of Ron Paul. I think he’s frankly a little loopy on the federal reserve, creationism, foreign policy and trade. But that’s why he’s important — *because* he’s so far out there. And if his campaign can exert even a small force against the mainstream, the fulcrum effect will be huge. The GOP and Democrats will no longer be able to pretend that small government conservatism is a kooky and selfish philosophy, as the Bill Kristols of the world would tell us. Give Ron Paul an upset in the polls and the landscape will shift from “Ron Paul is a nut” to “Ron Paul is a nut .. however, he had a point.”
To keep voting for the gang of idiots who have given us the Patriot Act, Medicare Part D and Campaign Finance Reform and expecting them to magically transform into small government types is insanity. These people take the libertarian-conservatives for granted. They assume that we will vote for them because we always have. They apparently learned nothing from the 2006 disaster. But if they find their support being leached away by a guy who’s a bit nutty but the only small goverment thing on the menu, the message might just sink in.
Think of the GOP as a particularly stupid child. They constantly need to be told what to do. And if the 2006 spanking doesn’t learn them, maybe a 2008 bitch slap will.
This isn’t anger. This isn’t a temper tantrum. This isn’t cutting off your nose to spite your face. This is teaching someone a lesson the only way it can be taught — with money and votes.
Ross Perot was a bit nutty in 1992 and, I would hazhard, drew a lot of the same supporters as Paul does now. And while many argue Perot gave Clinton the 1992 election (an incorrect assessment), there is no question that it forced the GOP to shift their positions. And we got the 1994 Revolution.
Maybe another nut from Texas is precisely what this country needs right now. Texas has produced two of the worst Presidents in American history. But it could make up for itself if it produced two of the most important political shifts.
As for my vote … when push comes to shove, I tend to vote as though mine is the only vote that matters — which tells you a lot about 2004 when I voted for Bednarik. When the primaries roll around, I will probably support Thompson or McCain — the only palatable things on the mainstream Republican menu.
But the Ron Paul phenomenon remains one of the most important aspects of Election 2008. Things need to be shaken up. Lessons need to be learned.
My ideal situation would be that John McCain becomes President in 2008 — but learns a few things from the Ron Paul insurgency. That’s something worth my support.