I’ve written previously about some of the problems the Ron Paul campaign faces, but apparently my explanations were too subtle or people just chose not to pay attention. There is a large element of self-righteous fanaticism among Paul followers which seems to make them completely incapable of seeing that the powerful gale of enthusiasm which is driving the campaign may crash it hard on the rocks of reality if they don’t do something.
If they want to save the campaign, they need to get over their egotistical attachment to the idea that Paul’s unimpeachable principles and honesty trump all other considerations, and face up to the fact that to win a party nomination you have to make some effort to play the game the way the party leaders–from the lowliest precinct workers to the national leadership–expect it to be played.
In party politics it doesn’t matter how right you are, it only matters how many people are convinced that you have a winning strategy. Paul’s supporters don’t understand this or don’t want to understand it. They’re thinking in terms of running an outsider, grassroots campaign. But Paul deliberately didn’t run as an independent. He showed the good sense to run as a Republican, knowing all of the advantages of access and opportunity he would have in the primaries and the base of support he’d be able to count on in the general election if he won the nomination.
Paul’s supporters don’t seem to respect his decision to run as a Republican, and in this area he had the right idea and they are dead wrong. Regardless of the fact that he’s drawn supporters from every quarter of the lunatic fringe and even from the far left, he’s not going to make it to the election if he doesn’t win the Republican primary, and he’s not going to win the primary if his followers alienate too many people within the GOP. Even if his followers don’t like it, Paul is running as a Republican and he has to play the party game.
Some facts to consider:
• Paul has stated clearly that he will not run in another party or as an independent even if he loses the nomination.• That being the case, to make it to the final election he has to win the Republican party nomination.
• Crossover votes are not enough to win the nomination. He needs support from mainstream Republicans, not just their votes but also their help in getting fairly represented in caucuses and straw polls down to the precinct level, an area where no amount of outside support will help him.
• Lots of mainstream Republicans have basically libertarian values and will support a libertarian-leaning candidate, but they won’t support someone they perceive as hostile to the Republican party and its interests.
• The support which Paul is getting not just from leftists, but from racists, “truthers” and other scary extremists is unquestionably alienating the GOP base. These fringe supporters would be a great asset in a general election, but they are a deadly liability in a primary run by conservative political hacks, where candidates are expected to play ball to a certain extent, and where supporters are expected to follow certain rules and protocols. Paul’s followers don’t have respect for the party or its traditions, and that’s going to alienate a lot of people they really need to have on their side.
• Without winning over the party base Paul will not win the nomination. Without the nomination he will not win the presidency.
We have already seen straw polls and party meetings shut down in a number of states when Paul supporters and outside agitators for Paul attempted to disrupt them. As the election nears, this reaction is going to become more and more common if Paul’s supporters continue to be perceived as outsiders with very non-Republican beliefs who are essentially attempting to stage a coup within the party.
If you are not concerned about the direction his largely uncontrolled campaign is taking and the people who are infiltrating it and shaping it, and in the process alienating the GOP “blue hairs”, you are being unrealistic and care more about abstract principle than getting a man of principle elected.
If you care about Ron Paul and the ideas which he stands for, then you ought to be as concerned as I am that the behavior of his followers and the extremist beliefs they are spewing all over the internet, are going to damn him to failure.
It’s great to welcome everyone into the Ron Paul “big tent” but you can’t ignore the reality that as those new supporters come in one side of the tent the people he actually needs to win the nomination are leaving out the other side.
This is the exact same mistake the Libertarian Party has made for 35 years and the reason why some libertarians like Ron Paul and myself have been willing to make some compromises and work within the GOP instead, because it’s all meaningless if you can’t get elected and can’t get legislation passed.
Someone needs to get the Paul campaign under control. It worries me that so many conservative libertarians and libertarian Republicans are letting their enthusiasm for the success Paul has had so far override their common sense so that they are ignoring this issue which absolutely will bring the campaign they’ve been pinning their hopes on to a crashing halt before the first flowers of Spring have bloomed.
You can’t show up in a hotel ballroom full of people who look like they graduated high school with Ronald Reagan carrying signs and shouting slogans and not expect them to go all Berkeley-in-69 on your ass and shut you down. They’ve got their uppers out and they’re sucking on rubber chicken and as far as they can tell you’re the next generation of the hippy apocalypse come back for vengeance. And admit it, they’re right. You got your rage against ‘the man’ from your parents who were smoking a fatty and wearing sandals up in the Haight until you came along to teach them a new definition of ‘generation gap’. I know that being part of a movement feels like victory, but it makes you arrogant and primes you to go too far and ends in disappointment and defeat.
You’re not going to get the Republican nomination while blatantly giving the GOP the finger at the same time. I think Ron Paul probably understands this, but he has almost no control over his followers. They are intoxicated by hope and the dream of a grassroots revolution and show no understanding of the practicalities of winning a party nomination.
When the Paul campaign fails, as it inevitably will on the course it is currently following, the blame will rest squarely on the shoulders of supporters who wanted all the benefits of running within a major political party but were unwilling to make any compromises or even pay basic respect to its traditions and institutions. Self-righteous ideologues make terrible politicians and they don’t win elections.