TAMPA -- Two days before the Isaac-delayed Republican National Convention gets under way in earnest, and 10 miles from the arena where it will be held, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas had what will likely be his last well-publicized say of this political season.
And once again the libertarians will have a much easier time getting people to agree with their ideas in theory than in getting voters to elect their candidate.
They can blame the two-party system, or the media, or any number of establishment boogiemen, or, even, a la “Scooby Doo,” those meddling kids, but they also have to take some of the failure upon themselves: for disorganization, for naiveté, and in Paul’s case, for disingenuousness in claiming to belong to a Republican Party when he doesn’t agree with much of its platform, many of its elected officials or most of its voters, on how the world ought to be.
Sunday night, Paul, who was a candidate for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988 and sought the Republican nomination in 2008 and again this year, joked to a loving crowd at the University of South Florida that the convention had offered him a Monday night speaking slot, but only after the evening’s events were canceled. He got his laughs. He always does. He is beloved, more and more, even by people who disagree with him, for his intellectual consistency and honesty.
He electrified crowds on the campaign trail, and had a number of spotlight moments in the Republican debates earlier this year, (all 237 of them). But he never scored a primary win. He was victorious in some caucuses and did garner at least 122 certain first-ballot delegates (Mitt Romney has a decisive 1,462), but he couldn’t triumph in Republican voter contests because Republican voters disagree with him on so many issues. Paul made a deal with the devil, using the heat of a media circus to highlight his ideas but at the same time guaranteeing he wouldn’t have a ballot spot in the general election.
In the process, he split the voters who might be persuaded to support his ideals into at least three camps, and maybe four.
His own devotees may well stay home in November. It happens a lot. A recent poll suggested about 18 million eligible but unlikely voters (out of about 90 million in that pool) would support a third-party candidate if they thought it was worth clambering off the couch and standing in line to vote for them.
Others who associate themselves with libertarian ideals more than Paul himself (admittedly a national group so small the residents of Toledo, Ohio, would beat them in a tug-of-war), will vote for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. A third group may swing to the Romney ticket, lured by the pick of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who is known to be entranced with the work and (some of) the ideals of philosopher and author Ayn Rand. And yet another group may look to Ron Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, as the future of their ideals, and wait to see if he will seek a larger role on the national scene.
Ron Paul sought support via the Republican Party, but that’s not where it came from. His foreign policy views, which pretty much state our meddling in the world makes people attack us and our allies, rather than preventing hostilities, is completely out of line with the base. So is his support of legalizing narcotics, getting government out of the restricting (or supporting) marriage business and his hatred of the Patriot Act.
Many Republicans love his small government-low taxes credo, but they still want a government big enough to intrude on Americans and a military large enough to screw with everyone else in the world.
Warning: If you think about that last paragraph too much, you may end up crocheting neck mufflers at the Bob Barr Home for the Deeply Confused.
After Paul dropped out of the race in 2008 he refused to support nominee John McCain, instead telling his followers to vote for any third-party candidate rather than either the Arizona “maverick” or Barack Obama. That’s proof enough he has no loyalty to that party, nor should he: he has no loyalty to its ideals.
What Paul should have done, having earned enough notoriety and fundraising capacity from his 2008 run to draw decent media attention, was seek and use the Libertarian Party nomination to earn support. Had he even earned 10 percent of the popular vote, it would have been a massive victory for libertarianism and set the stage for possible future successes.
Instead he based his campaign on a pretense: that the Republican Party SHOULD follow his lead and embrace his beliefs. It doesn’t and it won’t, any more than the Democratic Party would swing to Paul because liberals are entranced by a percentage of his notions.
Libertarians have to stand or fall on the basis of their ideals, not by glomming on to someone else’s stages and microphones. They didn’t stand by their own party this year, and once again, fractured and marginalized, and fell far further than they had to.
Pictured above: Rep. Ron Paul speaks during his We are the Future Rally at the University of South Florida Sun Dome in Tampa, Florida. (Aug. 26, 2012)