December 29, 2007

In a piece entitled “5 Moments That Changed the GOP Race,” Reid Wilson, of, describes number 5:

“Ron Paul raises $4 million and $6 million in individual days. The important thing to remember: Ron Paul will not win the Republican presidential nomination. His campaign does not have the organizational strength, and his message is simply not suited for a Republican primary electorate that, largely, still supports the war in Iraq and President Bush.”

Yes, it’s really really really important that you keep all of the above in mind, even almost none of it is true. First of all, how can it be that the only real small-government conservative “is simply not suited for a Republican primary electorate”? And which Republican electorate are we talking about? Look at Iowa, where the majority of GOP-identified voters want the US out before the end of 2008. As for supporting Bush—Ron supports Bush, I’ve heard him say so: the Bush who vowed to carry out a “more humble foreign policy” and inveighed against “nation-building.”

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Much of this piece is self-refuting, such as the bit about Paul’s alleged lack of “organizational strength.” The very next sentence, however, shows why Wilson is wrong:

“But $10 million in two days is astounding, and Paul’s message clearly resonates with many more than the 50,000 or so who gave as part of the “money bomb.”

Yes, it was a moment that changed not only the politics of the GOP race, but also the way we do politics in America—yet how does Senor Wilson think this happened? He’s still measuring organizational heft in terms of paid staff and lists of prominent endorsers,  but this misses what is the real engine driving the Paul campaign and that is the candidate’s supporters acting spontaneously and autonomously, creating a self-generating circuit of energy. This has raised the visibility and organizational viability of the campaign in an amazingly short period of time: I don’t see Giuliani or McCain or Romney drawing thousands of enthusiastic supporters to campaign rallies.

So why can’t Ron win? Well, you see, he’s too old:

“Howard Dean, fighting against the Washington Democratic establishment and arguing that he represented the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, gave rise to Barack Obama’s outsider message that is now working so well. Paul’s financial success will probably not lead to electoral success for the same reason: Like Dean, Paul is the wrong messenger. If another, younger, more telegenic libertarian Republican comes along in the future, claiming to represent the Republican wing of the Republican Party, he or she might help redefine the GOP for a generation. Paul’s success will not change the 2008 Republican Presidential contest, but four, eight, even twenty years down the line, someone may point to Guy Fawkes Day and the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party as days that shifted the way Republicans think about themselves.”

We don’t need another telegenic Republican: I’d settle for an intelligent Republican, and in this I sense I’m not alone. As for this business of age: is it really true that we reject older political leaders, in favor of telegenic pretty boys?  Is this “America’s Next Top Model” or the race for the White House?

It is almost unbelievable that we are hearing this argument: it’s yet more proof that the boys over at realclearpolitics—which started out as a partisan conservative Republican site and has only lately graduated into affecting a heavy veneer of objectivity—just don’t understand the Paul phenomenon.

They clearly see the import of the Paul campaign, but this nonsensical longing for a cuter Ron just underscores how much they don’t get it. It’s precisely because he isn’t in the least bit telegenic that Paul has motivated many thousands to get active in his campaign at some level—because of the power of Paul’s ideas.  More than that, the Ron Paul Revolutionaries are taking a clear position taken against the politics of celebrity, with its over-coiffed over-coached candidates and complete absence of authenticity.

UPDATE: Lest it be said that I am supporting Ron Paul uncritically, check this out.


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