Jon Stewart has a point:
Ron Paul finished second in the Iowa straw pole, but you wouldn’t know it from the media coverage. This is hardly an isolated incident. As Tim Carney notes:
If Paul had garnered 153 more votes on Saturday, winning the straw poll, you can be sure that every wrap-up story would have focused on the event’s irrelevance.
Why do the mainstream media and the Republican establishment persist in ignoring and dismissing Paul?
Part of it, I think, is that Paul is 2008’s news. While he was refreshing then, he’s just crankier now. Paul has always been appealing to certain political junkies, but his mainstream appeal is limited. Now that many of the GOP candidates have picked up some of his more populist points, he’s not as appealing to some (although clearly still appealing to many Iowans).
However, I think there’s more to it than that. I think the reason Paul is being ignored is because he is consistently embarrassing both the political and the media establishment and it’s driving them bonkers. Paul advocates views that many in the country support but none of the establishment wants to touch — legalization of marijuana, ending the wars and federalism, in particular (all the other candidates makes noise on states rights but end those noises when the states want to do something they don’t like, such as gay marriage). These views are all perfectly within the mainstream. Two-thirds of the country supports allowing gays to marry or form civil unions, the majority of even Republicans want the wars ended and we’re nearing a majority on marijuana. But the power base of both parties supports the war on drugs, the war on terror and wants gay marriage to go away. And since they want it, the media sees these as the “sensible” view. Paul’s popularity is constant frustrating reminder of just how out of touch they are and how the “sensible, mainstream” is neither sensible nor mainstream.
Paul is also afflicted by what I call the Curse of the Libertarian: you are always ignored but you are always right. And when you’re proven right, you get blamed anyway. Carney again:
In 2002, as President George W. Bush was pushing more subsidies for mortgages and home-buying under the motto of an “ownership society,” Ron Paul took to the House floor to issue a warning. Through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Reserve, “the government increases the likelihood of a painful crash in the housing market.”
Neither the mainstream media nor the GOP leadership wanted to hear this at the time. Housing was the engine of our growth, and Ron Paul was just being a crank again. So we pumped and pumped, until the inevitable crash.
Paul similarly foresaw our current debt crisis, warning that cutting taxes and increasing spending was the recipe for disaster. “Endless borrowing to finance endless demands cannot be sustained,” Paul said eight years before the S&P downgraded U.S. debt.
Back then Paul was also warning of the perils of two open-ended wars and lengthy occupations halfway around the world. Paul was nearly alone among Republicans in opposing George W. Bush’s Wilsonian vision of spreading American-style democracy at gunpoint. Today, our continued Afghanistan occupation is generally seen as pointless, and even many conservatives consider Iraq a mistake.
I liked Paul in 2008 although my support waned due to his association with Lew Rockwell’s racial bullshit. But I haven’t blogged about him this year because there’s not much to say. He’s still who he was four years ago: passionate, annoyingly correct, somewhat flaky and probably unelectable. But I still like him and am glad he is out there even if I’m hoping Gary Johnson will take on his role in the future.
But here’s the thing. He’s no longer the loopiest person in the GOP field. You can’t possibly say that when the field now includes one hack with a Google problem, one serial liar who support reprogramming gays and another candidate who, in his first week of campaigning, accused the Bush-appointed Chairman of the Fed of treason and joked about lynching him.
Whatever we think of Paul, he’s a contender. It’s time to start treating him like one.
Update: Glenn Greenwald nails it (you should read the whole thing):
There are many reasons why the media is eager to disappear Ron Paul despite his being a viable candidate by every objective metric. Unlike the charismatic Perry and telegenic Bachmann, Paul bores the media with his earnest focus on substantive discussions. There’s also the notion that he’s too heterodox for the purist GOP primary base, though that was what was repeatedly said about McCain when his candidacy was declared dead.
But what makes the media most eager to disappear Paul is that he destroys the easy, conventional narrative — for slothful media figures and for Democratic loyalists alike. Aside from the truly disappeared former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (more on him in a moment), Ron Paul is far and away the most anti-war, anti-Surveillance-State, anti-crony-capitalism, and anti-drug-war presidential candidate in either party. How can the conventional narrative of extremist/nationalistic/corporatist/racist/warmongering GOP v. the progressive/peaceful/anti-corporate/poor-and-minority-defending Democratic Party be reconciled with the fact that a candidate with those positions just virtually tied for first place among GOP base voters in Iowa? Not easily, and Paul is thus disappeared from existence. That the similarly anti-war, pro-civil-liberties, anti-drug-war Gary Johnson is not even allowed in media debates — despite being a twice-elected popular governor — highlights the same dynamic.
Exactly. Ron Paul challenges our media and politicians’ most sacred lie — that our problems can only be solved by absolutely loyalty to the platform of one of our two idiot parties.