Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"I have my flaws, but the message has no flaws"

That right there is a magnificent line. Any politician can use it. Every politician probably should use it at some point in there careers. I don't care who the person is or what his or her flaws are, nor do I care what the message is or how many flaw it actually has. That line is pure rhetorical gold. It simultaneously exudes humility and confidence and invites potential supporters to be a part of something bigger than either themselves or the speaker. This little phrase was hands down the best thing I heard any of the presidential candidates say today.

So who said it?

It was not Rudy Giuliani, who spent the day speculating on the content of Hillary Clinton's E-vite list.

It was not Joe Biden, who used the Democratic debate to put Rudy Giuliani in his place*.

It didn't come from Romney, Edwards, Fred Thompson, Obama, or crazy ass Duncan Hunter.

It came from Ron Paul.

While talking to Jay Leno ...

And was followed shortly thereafter by the Sex Pistols doing a Sid Vicious-less version of "Anarchy in UK."

Babblemur had a post today on the Ron Paul phenomenon in Oshkosh. There is now visual evidence of the Paulines' campaign in town and one can only assume there will be more to follow in the not-to-distant future. Last summer the NY Times Magazine ran an article on the loose consortium of "fringe" groups supporting his candidacy and, as Babblemur noted, the 9/11 Truth folks can look like a MENSA convention next to some of them. Paul's most vocal supporters on the web include Lew Rockwell and Andrew Sullivan, the extremely popular openly-gay conservative blogger at the Atlantic, which is interesting because the only blogger in Oshkosh to openly support Paul -- and arguably the most most loathsome person in the city limits -- is a virulent homophobe. Paul's appeal clearly attracts all kinds ...

Which is very interesting. Babblemur brings up the similarities between Paul's current campaign and Ralph Nader's 2000 run while examining the possibilities of a third party foray for Paul following what will likely be a loss in the primaries. It's tempting to make such a comparison, and it's not entirely unjustified, but the differences are fairly stark and distinguish the two campaigns.

First: Paul's in it to "win" it. It's all or nothing for Paul. He's running like he's got nothing to lose, largely because he, in fact, has nothing to lose. Nader's camp was more focused on building a viable third party for the future and to that end shot for the 5% of the popular vote that would enable them to receive public financing as a major political party. That didn't happen and in the aftermath of the Florida recount debacle the Green Party took a lot of shit because ...

(2.) ... Nader's 2000 campaign message was almost exclusively catered to disillusioned voters. Yes, Nader had a platform that addressed all kinds of issues, but the central reason for voting for Nader was to create a third party that could compete with the big boys. Getting elected on discontent alone is nearly impossible. Creating a long-lasting movement on discontent alone is even harder. Paul's Libertarianism appeals to a large swathe of people in the way that mere discontent does because ...

(c.) His message is easier to understand than Nader's. Don't get me wrong: the internecine debates within the Libertarian community are actually incredibly interesting and nuanced but ultimately more conducive to summary in a quick quip. Paul's "We have to start following the constitution!" refrain is a lot easier to understand than "Multinational corporations are disenchanting the electorate by liquidating the content of the information flow to the public yadda yadda yadda ... and the the divergence in message is only further compounded by the fact that ...

(4.) Paul is an infinitely more effective communicator than Nader. He's energetic, passionate about what he talks about and his enthusiasm is contagious. Nader is droll, and frequently comes off as a pedantic, humorless, know-it-all who knows better than you do how to run your life. Nader has the credentials to back up his conviction, but so much about leadership and politics is
appearance and in that department he's got nothing.

Differences aside, were Paul to run a third party insurgency he would likely achieve the same ends that Nader did in 2000 but on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum. In fact, he'd probably have better results and given the emerging libertarian moment may succeed in creating a viable long-term third party.

But that's not going to happen. Paul clearly knows that it's easier to convince the GOP to reclaim it's libertarian sympathies than it is to build from the ground up. I think Paul will have walk away from the '08 election in a position to promote what could be called "second wave libertarianism" (the first wave being the brand espoused by Barry Goldwater). Paul's congressional office is famous for its skill with constituent services and translating that talent into some kind of libertarian lecture tour could enable his supporters to build an the start of a permanent infrastructure that could slowly push the GOP away from the theocon/neocon clique that it currently seems enamored of ...

If they aren't excommunicated from the party first.

4 comments:

Ronald Kane Hardy said...

This is really interesting. First I read on Politics1 this morning that the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists are supporting Ron Paul (see their website Stormfront, Politics1 has an image shot if it is too icky to go to their website itself). Now I read here that Teno Groppi is a Ron Paul man! I would say "strange bedfellows" but that might offend Teno.

Jb said...

Yeah, there really is just a bizarre group of people rallying around Paul. That is probably th biggest long term problem in Paul establishing a permanent movement - his supporters are otherwise so disparate that that without this kind of insurgency they have nothing in common.

This is sort of the inherent problem with Libertarianism: people have such diverse and unique (and frequently questionable or downright bizarre) passions that organizing them is around one banner is next to impossible. Paul "personal freedom" mantra seems to be doing that, but what should happen if he ever actually won -- would his supporters all get together for the sake of yelling "Leave me alone!"? Highly unlikely...

And on that note, I think that any time you can put the phrase "strange bedfellows" in the same sentence with Teno Groppi, you should go for the gold. Well done!

Jack Parsfeldt said...

Teno Groppi has this weird obsession with Ron Paul. He goes to my church and rambles about Paul like the election is tommorrow, instead of
a year ago now. Knowing Groppi, I'd
avoid Ron Paul just on principles. If he is typical of Ron Paul's people they are clearly the lunatic fringe.

Jb said...

Agreed... and they've only gotten worse since this post was written over two years ago.