A few weeks ago I was in a conversation with some Republican friends about Ron Paul. I opined that, in the long term, Ron Paul’s quixotic candidacy would actually be a good thing for the GOP.
I likened Paul to Barry Goldwater, who lost in an overwhelming landslide in 1964. Goldwater’s campaign was fond of saying that “In your heart you know he’s right,” and that was borne out when Reagan rode Goldwater’s ideas to office. What happened in the sixteen years between those two elections, and after the campaign demagoguery was over, was that Goldwater was able to distance himself and his core beliefs from the unsavory types his campaign attracted, especially segregationists. He was able to do so because he was not one himself and even during his campaign he made the effort to distinguish himself from his more radical supporters.
Not Ron Paul. There were at least two moments last night when I saw that Dr. Paul doesn’t just have a following that includes a radical fringe; he is the radical fringe leader.
The first was when Paul was asked if he shared the crazy conspiracy theories many of his supporters trumpet. Here was his moment to say that like all campaigns he has some overly enthusiastic supporters, some of whom have some different ideas, and while he certainly welcomes their votes, he’s not the whack job he’s been portrayed to be on tv. He didn’t. Instead he went off on the “trilateral commission” and the fabled North American highway that is supposedly going to be built to connect Mexico and Canada while running right smack through Your Town, USA. Hello? Look at a map. Interstate 5 joins Tijuana with Vancouver and seamlessly connects all three countries’ road systems. At least five other American interstates also tie directly into our neighbors’ highways.
Contrast Paul’s answer with a slightly different question asked of Mike Huckabee about the Log Cabin Republicans. He said that he would certainly take their votes, but that there was going to be at least one issue they disagreed on. Still he hoped that on balance his other core beliefs would win them over. That’s how Ron Paul should have answered his question.
The other moment that showed me that the good doctor should instead be running for King of Artbellistan was a little thing, but it bothered me. I don’t even know when it was but at some point he grew agitated and extended his arm toward the crowd. What was that? I couldn’t tell if he was trying to point down a detractor or if he was returning the salute of one of his neo-nazi followers. Either way it showed an inability to control himself, like the wild gesticulations of a madman.
Unfortunately I was wrong weeks ago when I told my friends that after the dust clears people are going to separate Ron Paul and his core ideas of a smaller, more constitutional government from the wacky nuts who glommed on to his campaign. Sadly, he will have no lasting legacy that in years to come gives birth to a new respect for limited government. Because in your guts you know he’s nuts.
OTHER DEBATE NEWS:
MORE: Glenn Reynolds has a more optimistic take:
Paul’s doing better than anyone expected. It’s abundantly clear that he’s not doing it on charisma and rhetorical skill. Which means that libertarian ideas are actually appealing, since Ron Paul isn’t. Paul’s flaws as a vessel for those ideas prove the ideas’ appeal. If they sell with him as the pitchman, they must be really resonating.
I hope he’s right, but I suspect that it’s not his libertarian ideas that are what is appealing to his supporters.
Don Surber finds the upside to the biased questioning that the GOP candidates are getting compared to the softballs thrown to the other team: “Democrats are selecting a presidential nominee. Republicans are selecting a president, a more difficult and more satisfying decision.”
MORE from Hot Air:
Last time, the debate was for Democrats and the plants were all Democrats. This time, the debate was for Republicans…but the plants were still all Democrats.
A commenter below makes a claim that I’ve often heard before:
Paul gets more support from active military and their families than all other GOP candidates combined
Really? Well where’s the proof? Is this your proof? If you look at it you’ll find that of all the tens of millions of dollars contributed to all candidates (of both parties) through July of 2007, only $95,177 came from members of the military or veterans. That seems low, so let’s do some math. I don’t know what the total contributions were as of July, but for the sake of argument, let’s say they were just $50 million. That would mean that if these numbers were correct just two-tenths of one percent of the sum total of all campaign contributions to all candidates for president came from military members and veterans.
Roughly two and three-quarter million people make up the current Active, and Reserve force. That’s a little more than one percent of the adult population–which is five times larger than their reported record of campaign giving.
I could possibly buy that level of disparity–especially since there is a general unwillingness among active military members to participate overtly in the partisan political process. But remember, Ron Paul’s numbers also include veterans. That’s a much larger pool. Ten times larger, not even including family members which this commenter and Ron Paul himself claimed. Roughly 26 million people are veterans–more than ten percent of the American adult population. Are Paul’s acolytes seriously trying to hang their statistical hat on the assertion that the military and veterans are fifty times less likely to contribute to presidential campaign? Nope, not buying it. Instead this is some seriously flawed data upon which they’re basing the assertion that Ron Paul is the candidate most popular among the military.