Ron Paul and the Future

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Four years ago, when Rep. Ron Paul suspended his campaign for the Republican Party’s nomination for president, he would not endorse the party’s nominee, was not invited to the party’s convention, and held a counter-convention of his own. By all appearances, he’s not going to do that this year.

At Antiwar.com, Justin Raimondo urged Paul to run as an independent, “because a third party candidacy will leave a legacy, a lasting monument to your campaign and the movement it created.” I can’t see a lasting monument in it, or the sense. I note that Paul’s forces are continuing to push in the caucus states for convention delegates, which confirms that Paul expects to attend the convention as a loyal Republican.

In 2008, I wrote in Liberty that Paul ought to endorse the party’s nominee, John McCain. Paul wouldn’t have to campaign for McCain, I said, and he could remind people how he was different from McCain, but to preserve his influence in the party he’d have to endorse McCain as preferable to Obama. Well, he didn’t. Paul endorsed Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin, a pastor and radio talk show host whom few Americans had heard of, and who received 0.15% of the general election vote.

Paul’s forces are continuing to push in the caucus states for convention delegates, which confirms that Paul expects to attend the convention as a loyal Republican.

This year Paul turns 77. He is not running to keep his seat in Congress. His career as an elected politician is at an end. But since January 2011 he has had a son, Rand Paul, in the Senate. There is talk of the junior senator from Kentucky being Romney’s vice-presidential choice and more talk of him running for president in four years, or eight. Either way, for Ron Paul, having a 49-year-old son in the Senate changes the calculus about party loyalty and his movement.

Again, I say: endorse the nominee. It doesn’t mean you agree with everything the nominee says. It means that in a field of two, you prefer your team’s candidate to the other one’s. It means there is a Republican label on you and your supporters. And that is important, especially regarding them.

Is an endorsement a betrayal?

What was the point of the Paul campaign? To put Ron Paul in the White House? That was never possible. In public, Paul had to pretend that it was, because those are the American rules, and his supporters have been pretending it even harder. But it was a fairy tale. Ron Paul’s purpose has been to advance the cause of liberty, sound money, and a non-imperial foreign policy. He could do this even if he fought and lost, depending on how he did it. He was introducing new ideas (or old ones) into political discourse, creating a new faction that aimed to redirect the mainstream of one of the two great national parties.

That is not a defeatist notion. It may be a task with a lasting monument, though it is too early to say.

A political leader changes the thought of a party by persuading people to embrace new ideas. To do that, he needs the media’s attention, and in politics, equal attention is not given an outsider. It has to be earned by such things as polls, the size and behavior of crowds, money raised and, ultimately, by electoral results.

Endorse the nominee. It doesn’t mean you agree with everything the nominee says. It means that in a field of two, you prefer your team’s candidate to the other one’s.

Paul achieved none of these things in 1988 as the nominee of the Libertarian Party. He was nobody, and he went home with 0.47% of the vote. But in 2008, in the Republican Party’s primary campaigns, he did unexpectedly well, measured by straw polls, crowd behavior, and campaign donations. Unfortunately, the media pegged his support as narrow-but-deep (they were right) and mostly ignored him. He took 5.56% of the Republican vote — one vote in 20.

This year they still slighted him, though less than before. And he received 10.86% — one vote in almost nine. His support was still narrow-but-deep, but wider in almost every state. He was not the top votegetter in any of them, but he came close in Maine and garnered more than 20% of Republican support in six caucus states: Maine, 36%, North Dakota, 28%, Minnesota, 27%, Washington, 25%, Alaska, 24%, and Iowa, 21% — and in three primary states: Vermont, 25%, Rhode Island, 24% and New Hampshire, 23% (not counting Virginia, 40%, where his only opponent was Romney).

Paul’s support is not typical for Republican politicians. He is from south Texas, but seems to do best in states on the Canadian border. Most of his best states are Democrat “blue” rather than Republican “red.” He was the oldest candidate in the race, but exit polls showed in state after state that he had the youngest supporters. In New Hampshire, a Fox News exit poll showed Paul winning 46% of Republican voters 18 to 29 years of age.

Enthusiasm among the young is a special political asset, but with a liability: the zeal of believers can go over the top. Some believe that Ron Paul is the only man who can save America, and that anyone who opposes him is evil. They don’t see themselves as joining a party; they aim to take it over. In the unfamiliar turf of parliamentary procedure, they are quick to cry foul and sometimes are right. At the moment, their strategy in the caucus states is to outstay the Romney supporters and snatch the national delegates away from them.

And that makes for nastiness.

This is from a Politico story by James Hohmann, May 14:

Those close to [Ron Paul] say he’s become worried about a series of chaotic state GOP conventions in recent weeks that threaten to undermine the long-term viability of the movement he’s spent decades building. In the past few days alone, several incidents cast the campaign in an unfavorable light: Mitt Romney’s son Josh was booed off the stage by Paul backers in Arizona on Saturday, and Romney surrogates Tim Pawlenty and Gov. Mary Fallin received similarly rude treatment in Oklahoma.

Booing is the public stuff. I know a political operative who crossed the Paul forces and received death threats — so many, he said, that he turned off his phone for two weeks.

Enthusiasm can become something else. (For more examples, google “Ron Paul supporters are”.)

Given the strength — and sometimes the immaturity — of his supporters, what is Paul to do? Endorse Romney or not, he will soon be a non-candidate and a non-congressman.

Enthusiasm among the young is a special political asset, but with a liability: the zeal of believers can go over the top.

What then? One poll asked Paul supporters whom they would vote for in November. The answer: Obama, 35%; Romney, 31%; Gary Johnson, 16%. The Paul movement splinters.

How they vote in November might change if Paul made an endorsement; and anyway, how they think is the more important thing in the long run. If a large number of the young ones went into one political party and stayed there, they might change that party — and that could be the lasting monument.

All this is something for Ron Paul to think about as he ponders whether to endorse, what to do with his 100-plus delegates, and what to say if the party gives him a chance to address the national convention.




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Comments

ronb218135

As the Libertarian Party labels itself The Party of Principle, Dr. Paul lives it. How Mr. Ramsey can advise Dr. Paul, against the good doctor's principles, to endorse two Obama clones, McCain and Romney is beyond me.

Dr. Paul has a chance to redirect the Republican Party at the convention if not outright take the nomination from Romney and deservedly so as the RNC and its cohorts at the state level have lied and cheated to steal the nomination from him, not to mention talk radio and Fox News.

If he fails at the convention, Dr. Paul should run as an independent. I believe that with the Democrat's disillusioned voter crossover that he will win and decidedly so.

Romney is a RINO of the worst order. With the collusion of talk radio he has managed to lie his way into being called a conservative. I really can't believe that Mr.Ramsey has fallen for it and is calling upon Libertarians to support Romney. Romney isn't the lesser of two evils, he is equally as evil.

Neville Chamberland has bee vilified by history for being an appeaser. Ron Paul refuses to don that mantle as advised to by Mr. Ramsey. Pragmatism is no virtue here. It is surrender to the Establishment's goal of maintaining the status quo regardless if Romney or Obama wins.

Visitor

Dr. Paul lives it? Like how he rails against government spending, and then gets $billions of taxpayer money for his pals in his district.

Rails against government intrusions into people's lives. Then tries to get government to harrass people about their papers, documentation, building idiotic fences, etc.

He is living his principles. Just his principles are the same as any other authoritarian Republican. People are pawns of the State to him. He's proven that, many, many times. Despite his hollow words.

Visitor

Dr. Paul can beat Obama - Romney can't, nor would I want him to. Romney is just another Obama only with an "R" before his name; but that "R" will allow him to get away with the kind and degree of murder that Obama can only envy.

Fortunately, the Paulistas will have none of it - the smart ones will vote for Obama if Dr. Paul doesn't get nominated, guaranteeing that a vote for Romney over Dr. Paul amounts to a vote for Obama - the lesser evil than Romney; and one of the reasons that Dr. Paul stands a good chance of winning the delegate vote and then the general election.

Visitor

I don't know where this fantasy that Paul can defeat Obama comes from...I supposed, it's from a flawed poll taken months ago.

In polls that count...you know, elections...Paul has received about five percent of the votes Obama has.

It's also another great fantasy that Paul will receive very many delegates' votes in the Republican convention. Which will rubber-stamp Romney, because the vast majority of Republicans are completely in-step with almost all Romney policy positions.

It's almost funny how Paulistas refuse to see how unpopular they are. Almost...In a way it's very sad to watch such mass dimentia. They still are dillusional that all the cool people like them, and there is this hidden support for them......There is not.

James Wilson

The Paul campaign has created a voting "bloc" which, even if just a few percentage points, can scare both parties. To endorse any candidate, Romney, Johnson (or Goode?), is to throw it all away. The Paul campaign SHOULD convince Romney to start sounding and acting more libertarian in order to win those votes without sacrificing his own base.

Jon Harrison

As usual a very sound and well-argued piece. I believe Paul will endorse Romney, for the simple reason that this will help Rand Paul to become the nominee in 2016 or 2020. (No way Romney is going to offer Rand the VP nomination. The Mittster will almost certainly choose an Hispanic or a woman for VP.) If the senior Paul is being coy at this point, it's because he's angling for some role at the convention. But I'd bet money that he'll be on board in the fall. And don't forget that Paul and Romney are fairly sympatico, unlike Paul and McCain.

I wish I could join Paul in endorsing Romney, but the latter's foreign policy views are so incredibly stupid (except on China -- but there I doubt he'd follow through as president) that I prefer to live with another four years of Obama.

Brian

Rand is not saddled with his father's apparent racism. Which is a great benefit for him.

With a large number of voters either being latino, or recent immigrants from latino countries, it would be wise to hold libertarian positions with regards to immigration.

Latinos know first hand the stupidity of US documentation policies. They're not going to vote for someone who wants to build a worthless fence at taxpayer expense, have more government interference in individuals lives, quota immigration, etc.

Hopefully Rand has learned from the mistakes of his father. And is not just another faux libetarian Republican, interested only in economic liberty for the few white, hetrosexual, formally mainstream americans.

Visitor

...they indicate political alignment. I don't see Ron Paul endorsing Romney, and I think it would undermine his major asset as a leader, which is a record of standing on principle.

Ron's son Rand Paul has chosen a different approach, which is more Fabian in style. Rand's endorsement of Romney is in keeping with this approach, and Rand's demographic of supporters shows the difference--much wider, and somewhat less deep.

I support both Ron and Rand, and I think we need both approaches to succeed. But it would be totally inappropriate for Ron Paul to endorse Obamney. Such a move would degrade his credibility to a possibly irreparable extent.

EJB

The author's conclusion (that Ron Paul should nominate Mitt Romney) is at variance with its own predicates. Two of those predicates are: Ron Paul's support is narrow and deep (indicating stronger ideological rigidity and personality focus among supporters) and those supporters are less inclined to support political parties or self-describe themselves using party labels.

An endorsement's purpose (in the context of a retiring politician) is to guide supporters. Yet guiding them to Mitt Romney will alienate them, because its only purpose (given Romney's non-liberty viewpoints) is to support the Republican Party or paint Obama as the primary opponent. An endorsement of Romney will satisfy a very small proportion of the Ron Paul supporters. The libertarian message is not anti-Obama, it is broader than mere partisanship or 'lesser of two evil' party propaganda.

It would be far more preferable for Ron Paul to guide his supporters to another pro-liberty candidate, like Gary Johnson, with the message that 'it isn't about party, it's about the principles, and therefore I endorse someone who is closest to my principles.'

If Ron Paul follows the author's advice, I think it will prove what many outsiders have concluded with respect to the Ron Paul "revolution", that it was always about the family business first, principles second. Eventually, that will alienate many of the Ron Paul supporters. Sadly, the polling shows that many of them are likely to merely drop out of the process. How long they drop out is open to question (I suspect, not that long, just one cycle).

Fred Mangels

Yep, most of the liberty minded will likely drop out, assuming he would endorse Romney, and that would be the end of all the momentum Paul's effort built up.

That's why it would be better to pass the torch to someone else- Gary Johnson, for instance- and keep that momentum going. Otherwise, it's pretty much back to square one for the liberty movement.

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