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Uncle Paul

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.

12 comments

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  1. Rann says:

    Why do the mainstream media and the Republican establishment persist in ignoring and dismissing Paul?

    Because his primary draw is a cult of personality that is at least as devoted, delusional, and annoying as Obama’s, without the size or effectiveness.

    He has some good ideas and some really stupid ones. And the only reason Stewart is outraged and trying to draw attention to this is that he’d love to see Ron Paul get the Republican nomination because he’d never win against Obama. It’s just the Daily Show doing its usual good-doggy job of shilling for the left.

    Whatever we think of Paul, he’s a contender. It’s time to start treating him like one.

    Really? It is? Even though you yourself admit that he’s “probably unelectable”? We should acknowledge him and let him split the vote on… principle? Why?

    Are you sure this isn’t one of your little occasional spurts of Obamania, Hal? That you want him to get acknowledgement and support because he’s probably the only GOP frontrunner aside from Bachman that would almost certainly lose to Obama? Or is it one of your far more common spurts of “the GOP sucks anyway” and you’ve taken the loss as a given, so we may as well just go through the motions in an honest and true way?

    I’d say he’s being ignored because no one, left or right, thinks he’s got a conservative snowball’s chance in liberal’s globally-warmed Hell of getting elected. And I’d say that’s fine, because for every good idea he’s got there’s at least that many times he’s got that look in his eye like he’s about to don a foam rubber banana suit and start singing about peanut butter jelly time. Stewart, being one of the left’s cannier shills, is trying to get the message out to the rest of the leftist media that they should focus on Paul because he’s unelectable, in a version of those 2010 ads put out by liberals accusing an independent of being “too libertarian” to try and split the conservative vote.

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  2. Kimpost says:

    Hal’s a libertarian. Paul together with Johnson are the only ones who are that. I’d say that’s probably the main reason for why libertarians like them both.

    If I was Obama I would prefer Palin or Bachmann over Paul. Any day. Neither of which can win, but they aren’t ignored (especially not Bachmann). Anti-war democrats could easily vote for Paul, even if it would mean cuts in social spending programs. Palin and Bachmann are both polarizing enough, so that they might help Obama firing up his base. Paul doesn’t have that.

    Having said that I still think that Romney is Obama’s biggest threat. Or possibly Perry. We’ll have to wait and see how he handles the spotlight.

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  3. Rann says:

    If I was Obama I would prefer Palin or Bachmann over Paul. Any day. Neither of which can win, but they aren’t ignored (especially not Bachmann).

    Generally, though, the only people who think Palin is going to run are the people who are obsessed with attacking her. They’re mostly just eager for another chance and because they think she is unelectable. (If she really were, I doubt she’d be getting that attention.)

    Anti-war democrats could easily vote for Paul

    They could, but they never would. Principled anti-war democrats are few and far between, while democrats who found the wars an easy stick to stir shit with under a Republican president were numerous. If the anti-war crowd who were serious enough about it to actually vote for a Republican if he said he’d bring everyone home ASAP were a significant demographic, war protests wouldn’t have become a shadow and a memory the moment Bush stepped out the White House gates for the last time. Most of the anti-war left is busy trying to stick its fingers in its ears and pretend Libya and Syria don’t exist, rather than actually looking for someone to end wars.

    Or possibly Perry. We’ll have to wait and see how he handles the spotlight.

    Having seen how he handled the election down here, I’m inclined to believe he’ll do okay. During the governor’s election, the vast majority of his ads, both during the Republican primaries and then in the election itself, focused on pointing out bad policy by his opponents. There’s no shortage of material there to hit Obama with if he can stick to that.

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  4. davidstvz says:

    Ron Paul is the only Republican I’m interested in. If he’s not (and he probably won’t be) the candidate, I’ll probably vote for the libertarian (which I believe *was* Ron Paul last time). I will be voting Republican for Congress.

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  5. Xetrov says:

    Ron Paul has the soundest fiscal advice of anyone running, and it’s not just lip service. Unfortunately his nuttier views are also not just lip service, and that’s why he’s unelectable in the Presidential election.

    That being said, Stewart’s bit is funny as hell, and right on point.

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  6. CM says:

    I think Romney is the clear front runner, and by a wide margin, simply because nobody else is electable. I’m just relieved that he’s not from the “science equals socialism” school of thought (although he’ll probably have to pretend otherwise as we get closer to the election).
    Will Paul attract as many independents/moderates as Romney? More? Less? Or would Romney attract more simply because he actually has a chance?

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  7. CM says:

    I like the Venn Diagram here:
    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/17/pondering-perrys-electability/
    I reckon we don’t see nearly enough Venn Diagrams.

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  8. Hal_10000 says:

    Rann, given the attention given to Cain, Gingrich, Bachmann and Santorum — all of whom are unelectable, I think Paul stands well above that group.

    The most electable candidate is probably Romney. I don’t see Perry having much appeal beyond the South.

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  9. Hal_10000 says:

    Actually, to be clear: I do think Paul is a bit nutty and am not pulling for him to win the nomination. I like this voice out there. But there are some ideas — and some past associations — that bother me.

    If i had to pick one of the field, it would be Johnson or Huntsman.

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  10. West Virginia Rebel says:

    Ron Paul does a good job as the Republican Party’s conscience, but he’s just not electable. Reason one: Raan’s aforementioned Paul’s cultish following. Those people are creepy, to put it mildly. Two: We just don’t elect Congresscritters to the White House. Haven’t since James Garfield, I think-a hundred and thirty years ago. Three: Like it or not, he is seen as part of the fringe, even though his views are becoming more mainstream among the Republican electorate. I do think he’s helped pave the way for Gary Johnson and maybe his son Rand Paul, though.

    This is likely Paul’s last hurrah as a Presidential candidate. The primary will come down to Romney and Perry. As Romney still represents the saner wing of the GOP, my own preference is with him, hopefully with Pawlenty or maybe Huntsman as a running mate.
    West Virginia Rebel recently posted..Corn DriveMy Profile

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  11. loud says:

    Bob Barr was the libertarian candidate.

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  12. CzarChasm says:

    I think Romney is the clear front runner, and by a wide margin, simply because nobody else is electable. I’m just relieved that he’s not from the “science equals socialism” school of thought (although he’ll probably have to pretend otherwise as we get closer to the election).

    Which I think is probably accurate, and which should make him unelectable in and of itself.

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