Dear Ron Paul Supporter,
Do you honestly believe that your candidate has a chance in hell of winning the primaries, much less the general elections?
I could cite results from every reputable polling organization that show Ron Paul with less than 3% of the vote, but I have a feeling that you will find some reason for their bias, and point to the online polls that Ron Paul forums enthusiastically and systematically flood as evidence of his imminent triumph. Dr Paul himself has repeatedly stated that his campaign is about the message – a message that most news commentators cannot understand, much less inform the public about. Online communities make for good news quips, but the “archaic” gold standard, or the question of whether Ron Paul is an isolationist is far beyond what news commentators can be expected to understand.
Despite this, it is undeniable that the success of Ron Paul’s campaign has been a surprise to just about everyone, and tapped into some hidden resource that few suspected of existing. Perhaps it really is the power of the Internet, coupled with public discontent with the presidential administration and congressional incompetence. Perhaps people are really uniting around a leader who offers radical new ideas rather than yet another personality cult. Even if his current support base is just a fraction of what is to come, does it really amount to anything?
When the election is over a little less than a year from now, will any of it matter? Ron Paul will probably face defeat in the first few primaries, and if he chooses to run on the Libertarian ticket, he will get the usual 1-3% of the vote. What will all the millions he raised and all the hours his volunteers spent mean then? Even if by some miracle, he were to win, it would be of little
practical consequence. Like all politicians, presidents wield their power by cutting deals and compromising left and right. Without willingness to compromise on all his principles, President Paul will be lucky if he is not impeached in the first week.
I am not saying that Ron Paul is the wrong candidate to support. I am questioning the premise that radical political ideologies can or should be advocated through political campaigns. This fact has been aptly demonstrated by the pathetic failure of the Libertarian Party over the last 30+ years. The Left has been much better at recognizing the failure of explicitly Marxist political movements early in the 20th century, and successfully shifted the focus of American politics by establishing a firm foundation in academia and then infiltrating both major
Whatever your particular political philosophy, it is not even that likely that Ron Paul is a great match for it. Whether it is his anti-immigration views, his promise of saving social security, his blame-America foreign policy, his borderline theocratic positions, or his support for the state as such, he is unlikely to be a perfect fit for anyone. Much of his success is in fact due to moderating or hiding the most radical aspects of his libertarianism, such as masking his support for free trade by his opposition to free-trade agreements, or his scapegoating of “illegal aliens seeking the fruits of your labor” as part of his plan to save Social Security.
An educational movement does not need to hide its radical views. Sure, you might not raise five or six million dollars in a day, but the resources you do have will be spent on spreading ideas, rather than a name and a number in the polls. Even an extra million votes is not going to make a bit of difference in the general election, but a thousand more students motivated to spread rational ideas on liberty can change the world.
I am not telling you to remove that Ron Paul bumper sticker. Just recognize the inherent limitations of radical political candidates in a two party democracy, and consider supporting educational organizations that will never have to compromise or hide their principles in order to spread their message.
[Follow up post.]