Overrating the Ron Paul Effect

April 12th, 2010 at 2:02 pm | 63 Comments |

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Noting that Ron Paul nearly won the straw poll at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Politico.com reports today that “Mitch McConnell and Co. are trying to block Paul’s son, the tea party-backed candidate Rand Paul, from the Kentucky Senate primary” and asks: “Why is the GOP establishment so scared of the Pauls – Ron and Rand?”

The media are so wrapped up in whether this amorphous “Tea Party” thing is backing a candidate that they’re unable to answer their own questions, easily resolvable with a quick Google search. Since it ignored him in his last presidential run, the media can’t put any of the recent events surrounding Paul in context. Allow me to explain.

The Paul cult is the mouse that roared. Ron Paul won straw polls all throughout the 2008 primary season, often quite handily. When the final votes were cast, however, people who don’t live in their mothers’ basements showed up to the polls, knocking Paul down into mostly fifth-place showings. In other words: people who don’t spend all day organizing themselves into r-LOVE-utionary brigades dedicated to winning meaningless straw polls (also known as: people with jobs) decide primary winners. The GOP establishment worries about Ron Paul because it worries that bad reporters will fail to understand this.

As if it means something, we are constantly reminded that Ron Paul handily won this year’s CPAC straw poll — which had a self-selected sample comprised mostly of college kids from the D.C. area. Real polls show Paul garnering anywhere from two to eight percent of the vote. That’s a dinner party, not a grassroots movement. Get Ron Paul alone in a room and you’ve successfully assembled every Paul supporter of voting age.

Paul’s inner circle is a ragtag band of populist Old Right libertarian-types, led by the zealous spawn of Murray Rothbard: Lew Rockwell and Thomas Woods, the latter of whom has acted as Paul’s ghostwriter. The key traits binding them all together are a conspiratorial strain — belief in the North American Union, hatred of the Council on Foreign Relations — as well as a seething hatred toward Abraham Lincoln. They hold a generally isolationist streak, which, despite their anti-trade and anti-immigration sentiments, they try to cast as “non-interventionism,” although they are fairly typically conservative on religious and economic issues. They fashion themselves as the sole defenders of the Constitution in a wasteland of phonies and sell-outs. (And like everyone else on the right, they think that they alone are the true conservatives.)

They work with a thinly-veiled anti-Semitism and racism: Rockwell regularly allows racist material to be published on his website, while Woods is a former member of the pro-Confederate League of the South. Paul himself has said that Congress is “intimidated by the influence of AIPAC,” and, according to an old copy of the Ron Paul Political Report dug up by a member of the ultra-conservative site FreeRepublic.com, Paul wrote of Jesse Helms as being bought out by the “Israel lobby” — meaning: the Jews. Read what the forum members over at the Daily Paul or Liberty Forest have to say about the typical gamut of right-wing conspiracies for a sampling of what’s going on. One can safely wager that these folks know what the term “ZOG” means.

Those who support Paul — and even those who don’t advocate him for the presidency often find much to like about him — are usually ignorant of all of this. Ann Coulter, in her recent CPAC speech, remarked that “if Ron Paul supports it and it has nothing to do with foreign policy” then she’s on board. How many times have we heard this sentiment amongst the mainstream right? But the fanatical Ron Paul supporters are the descendants of John Birchers, not of Barry Goldwater. They, not Glenn Beck, are what Richard Hofstadter was talking about when he referred to the “paranoid style” on the right. The William Buckleys and Friedrich Hayeks of the world mostly did away with that mess — but there are remnants, and during tough economic times, disaffected people are especially vulnerable to their sort of manipulation. It would behoove the media to do its homework and blow the lid off the Ron Paul cult, lest it falsely gain traction as a legitimate insurgency against the GOP establishment.

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63 Comments so far ↓

  • sinz54

    nhthinker: Democrats need to create the concept of a domestic bogeyman that government needs to protect the weak electorate from.
    How about “foreign boogeymen”?

    Ron Paul’s noninterventionism failed in the 20th century. It failed because modern technology enabled countries to attack each other from great distances within hours, not enough time to even raise an army. That wasn’t true in the 19th century. Back then, it was impossible to attack the U.S. except by sailing a navy across the ocean from Europe or Asia. Our oceans afforded us protection. Not anymore.

    It now takes only 15 minutes for an enemy ballistic missile submarine to turn New York City into a holocaust.

    The solution our military planners came up with was a forward-based military that would do its best to keep the war away from America’s shores.

    BTW, a noninterventionist America with only a weak littoral military force and no Air Force worth mentioning would also have no negotiating leverage in arms control negotiations with foreign powers. It’s very likely that if we had listened to Ron Paul, the Outer Space Treaty with the USSR would never have been signed and we would have had orbiting Soviet nuclear warhead platforms in Low Earth Orbit. Then the reaction time would be down to only a few minutes. There wouldn’t even be enough time to call the POTUS before he and the rest of Washington DC would be vaporized.

    Today, the world is a much smaller place. We can’t wall off America from the rest of the world anymore. Problems like global warming and AIDS are international and require concerted international action.

  • balconesfault

    “Profit-greedy insurers” (yet here in MA where I live, the biggest insurers are nonprofits)

    Out of curiousity, do those non-profits provide large management compensation packages based on revenues? Do they build up large cash reserves? Do their necessities for running the non-profit include corporate retreats, huge lavish offices complexes, large executive bonuses? Do they use a lot of their money to lobby government to make rules more advantageous to them … and if so, why, if they’re “non-profit” in the way that most people understand that term?

    “Military-industrial complex” (yet today we spend only 4% of U.S. GDP on national defense, lower than during 1960-1990, despite the fact that we’re fighting two wars now)

    When you say “we’re fighting two wars now”, could you give me an estimate of the strength of the forces we’re fighting – both in numbers and in their own expenditures? For example – who exactly are we fighting in Iraq? We’re not even allowed into the cities, under the status of forces agreement. Meanwhile, the current estimate is that there are about 30,000 – 35,000 Taliban operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Meanwhile – the U.S. Department of Defense budget accounted in fiscal year 2010 for about 19% of the United States federal budgeted expenditures and 28% of estimated tax revenues. It’s actually up to 4.7% of GDP … and that’s without considering the legacy costs that build up from our military operations, like VA costs, military pension costs, and servicing the debt accrued from wars – an estimated $300 billion a year combined.

    Oh – and regarding the “military industrial complex” directly – in 2007 payments for contractor services exceeded investments in equipment for the armed forces for the first time. The complex is evolving to dig its roots even deeper into the federal budget.

    “Crooked financial companies” (yet the Dem Party bailed out those companies via TARP)

    That’s because if you don’t put the fire out in the whorehouse, it’s going to spread and burn down the whole neighborhood.

  • nhthinker


    The American electorate has been drifting away from thinkers and toward feelers for the last century.

    There is a time for everything.

    America is bankrupt- The Democrats are mortgaging the American public to the Chinese and the Russians love working with Obama.

    Throwing off all portions of large federal government is the only way to save the US and reinvent it.

    The Democrats have already given up on Afghanistan, Taiwan and Israel- The American electorate just does not care.

    Iraq could likely go down as America’s last military win.

    I’m seeing it more like a choice between Huxley’s “Brave New World” or Paul’s Revolution and not much in between.

    The experiment in full democracy of thinkers and feelers will likely prove to be inefficient failure in the history of human governance on Earth. It is inconsistent with the concept of meritocracy and checks and balances that the founding fathers created.

    The only other choice is to SELL large portions of the country in the form of citizenship for thinking (and relatively rich and capable) foreign nationals. That might save national foreclosure or at least delay it for several decades.

  • digital82711

    Here is why Ron Paul will end up being victorious: He educates. When Americans know the truth, they will be set free from the domination of the political ruling class and corporate media that frames and skews political debate.

    After 9/11 it took about one day for the political ruling class to confiscate American liberty. However, two years after the confiscation of many trillions of dollars of wealth by the Wall Street elite, all the Keynesian central bankers (planners) did was print out more money to be stolen again by Wall Street without placing any restriction on the banksters to prevent them from stealing the retirement funds of the middle class all over again. This failure has allowed bankers to continue to inflate/debase the currency, concentrate wealth, and to destroy wealth through the distortion of our economy by the creation of economic bubbles. How many more times can the middle class afford bail out the wealthy who profit from a bubble economy and then get bailed out when economic reality sets in and “irrational exuberance” wears off?

    Our economy and infrastructure is crumbling along with any hope for the middle class. The Republicans have set up the middle class for theft by corporations through health care, and the Democrat’s alternative is to use government to steal the same wealth through government-mandated insurance. Either way, it is the middle class that becomes poorer when our system socializes losses and privatizes profits for the benefit of the kleptocracy and plutocrats.

    Another issue Americans are increasingly waking up to is not whether America should support Israel, but whether America should continue to support an apartheid fascist state that slaughters unarmed civilians and engages in ethnic cleansing, has a nuclear program outside of the IAEA and U.N. inspectors, carries out global assassination and espionage programs throughout the world and against the U.S., sells our military technology to China, and then engages in military activities that get American military personnel killed who are fighting what increasingly appears to be long-term and heavily leveraged quagmires in Muslim lands that results in genocide and harms U.S. long-term interests. That does not even include the slaughter of American by Israel from their attack on the U.S.S. Liberty.

    If someone would have told me years ago that America would have become engaged in Trotskyite foreign policy with the likes of people such as Wolfowitz, Perl, Feith, Bolton, and Rumsfeld, and would embrace a centrally planned monetary system whereby money is only created through debt, and debt is backed only by more pyramided debt, that our masters would destroy habeas corpus, engage in torture, use preemptive war, make nuclear first strike our policy, and destroy our liberty while carrying on a massive spy program instituted against the American people, I would have thought you insane.

    Things that can’t go on forever usually don’t. This includes America borrowing to fund its out-of-control federal government. Would Americans have ever thought their economy would be service based with the means of production being exported to our economic and political rivals? Would Americans have ever thought that we would be so locked in debt and spending that we would have borrow money from China to the point that we are coming close to destroying our own monetary unit? Would Americans have ever believed the Democratic and Republican parties would be bringing us to the point of economic ruin through unsustainable government growth and spending whereby we need to borrow tens of billions of dollars just to finance the interest on our national debt? Ron Paul mentions the absurdity of borrowing from our enemies to “support democracy” in Iraq while at the same time supporting a coup and then a military dictator right next door in Pakistan.

    But here you have it, folks, the convergence of morons from both the Democratic and Republican parties. Is Ron Paul the only one with any sense?

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  • gregalbert

    “Anyone who thinks that NAFTA undermines our sovereignty is stupid. Or paranoid”

    Knepper sure is a deep thinker, isn’t he? Hey Alex, how does it feel to be mocked by the majority of comments attached to your own article? How does it feel that the majority of comments sound smarter and more esoteric than your original piece? This weenie undergrad blogger is popping his pimples while mocking others for living in their mothers’ basements while Ron Paul supporters are performing surgeries and, in my case, litigating in courtrooms.

    You’ve made a lot of claims about what Paul believes and you have told the media what behooves it, but you don’t back anything up. When did Paul say he believes in a North American Union? Are you claiming that he’s a member of some subversive group that conspires to believe in conspiracies?

    I’ll not have a Guiliani supporter telling me who the true hier to Barry Goldwater is while Barry Goldwater Jr. says it’s Ron Paul.

    Good that you’re cutting your appearances in the comment stream, Alex, because you just keep getting your ass handed to you.

  • sinz54

    digital82711: After 9/11 it took about one day for the political ruling class to confiscate American liberty.
    You’re still posting on the Internet.
    The secret police hasn’t knocked on your door yet.
    Aren’t you a lucky guy.

  • sinz54

    nhthinker: Throwing off all portions of large federal government is the only way to save the US and reinvent it.
    I don’t think the problem is “portions of the Federal Government.” Yes, the Federal Government has grown too big and it should be cut down to size. But that won’t solve some other problems America has.

    The biggest problem is that America is no longer dominating the world economically as it has for 50 years–and our society must adjust to this.

    Americans still think of their country as the undisputed world superpower it was in 1946, when Europe and Asia had been devastated by war and the U.S. was the only major nation that had emerged virtually intact. While the Third World was still living in the 19th century for the most part. And so American workers became the aristocrats of the world labor force

    That’s not true anymore.
    Fareed Zakaria has documented “The Rise of the Rest”–the rise of new upstarts like China and India. Today, more Chinese are on the Internet regularly than are Americans.

    In the long term, this benefits the whole world. More goods, more services, lower prices.

    But in the shorter term, China and India are able to bid down the United States’ goods and services–and this puts downward pressure on American workers’ standard of living.

    To compete effectively, America has to be modernized: A modern infrastructure. A modern educational system. A modern health care system.

    Otherwise, we’re going to be like the British Empire was in the first third of the 20th century: Still dominant, but in long-term decline and about to be eclipsed by the new upstarts like the U.S.

  • nhthinker


    I believe the basic failure of the American economy is that, as the rest of the world’s economies grew, the US started drifting away from anti-trust competitive regulation because they were competing in a world economy that did not believe in it.

    The US has slowly been remaking itself in the western European image – the part of the world that could not protect itself for the last 65 years.

    Healthy competition is what made America great- for the most part, it does not exist anymore.
    Many say bigness is necessary for stability. I say bigness is always a precursor to stagnation.

    America’s and the rest of the world’s standard of living is dramatically greater than it was in the 60s.
    Americans spend much less on actual necessities today than they did in the 60s. Subsistence but healthy food, shelter and clothing is a very small fraction of typical income. Most income is spent on comforts today.
    No one would be willing to go back in time to get the health care and medicines that were available in the 60s. America did not go down- the rest of the world came up – thriving on the engine that was the American public.

    The world is in serious trouble- the American public can no longer be the inspiration of the world economy- we are tapped out. The governments of the world will try to inspire economies to move forward but in actuality the golden goose has been killed.

    The golden goose could rise again from the ashes- but only first by throwing off large cloddish government agencies that do not actually help create real economies- only inspiring competitive entrepreneurs do that.

    It might not be the US that is first to throw off the cloddish government- and therefore the US may actually go the way of the British empire- left to taking solace that they were once great and had a lot to do with the empire that surpassed them.

    I agree with government spending to encourage education and training, but hardly anything else. Distribution should be administered at the state and local government levels. I’m all for meritocracy with wealth redistribution rewarding the more intelligent and the more determined through educational and business achievement.

    The US rewards people for being people- the Chinese think we are overspending on health care- and they soon will control our choices as we go financially and morally bankrupt.
    The American electorate is currently incapable of making financial rational decisions and has been for many years. It is time to pay the piper.

  • nhthinker

    “Ron Paul can beat Barack Obama in 2012, according to the latest Rasmussen poll: If the elections were held now, Obama would gain 42% of the vote compared to Paul’s 41% – statistical dead heat. Among independents, Paul has an astonishing 47% to 28% edge over the president.”


    The appeal is growing!
    Major differences from 2008
    *Iraq is won and no deep support for continuing in Afghanistan
    *Everyone hates the Fed
    *Fiscal responsibility will be key in 2012

    I think Paul’s appeal will continue to grow. Can you name a single position Paul has that a majority of Americans are set against?

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