I write this book not as a detached professional journalist, but as a supporter of Congressman Ron Paul. I still have yet to meet the man, but he remains the only politician to ever change my mind on anything.
It is my sincere belief that, in 2012, the Republican establishment was handed the chance to live up to its professed ideals and to truly be the party of freedom and liberty for the first time for decades. It was a perfect storm of an embattled incumbency, a teetering economy and the ascendency of the greatest Republican candidate of my lifetime. This candidacy, in the person of Dr. Ron Paul, had a deep undercurrent of support, not just among stodgy graying Caucasians, but among college students and military members. His supporters were thoughtful, and excited; informed and passionate. They were of all age groups, all demographics, and all income levels. It was a grassroots campaign in the truest sense of the term. It was the chance to make the GOP relevant again, and to leave aside the politics of pandering to embrace a message of human freedom which stretched across party lines.
Dr. Paul didn’t waste his time with focus group-approved talking points, but instead had, for decades, warned of the very things that were coming to pass and had prescribed the remedy: freedom. It was a golden opportunity to march into the new century while embracing the time-tested ideals of liberty.
Sadly, they blew it. I have wondered why this happened, and how this happened. Did the players not realize the game had changed? Did they just not care? Was the river of money flowing through the GOP machinery so deep and so wide that they couldn’t take their eyes of it, and would rather risk irrelevance than change? Equally puzzling to me is how the GOP faithful swallowed the talking points, ignored the evidence of their own eyes, and fell in line behind a candidate that was, at best, an empty suit with great hair. I’ve talked to dozens of stalwart Republicans and conservatives over the last 3 or 4 years, and I was constantly trying to inform them of what their own party was doing to them. Apparently I failed. But somebody somewhere must know, and those of us who love liberty must remind the GOP machinery that we will not forget.
Act I: The Caucuses
The GOP Caucus season began in January 2012, and in the months prior to that all the various candidates jockeyed for position and for the traction they would need to make it through the process. It is a unique process in that every state has different rules regarding delegates, and few of the results are binding on any national level, but traditionally the GOP uses the process to weed out candidates with no real support prior to any sort of national party backing. Conventional Republican wisdom was that Congressman Paul was a long shot among long shots. Newt Gingrich, the insider’s insider with his own presidential aspirations, said Congressman Paul was: 1
“a protest candidate. He’s a serious protest candidate. I think he sincerely believes what he says. But if you look at his total program, I think it is virtually impossible for him to be nominated by the Republican Party.”
Romney, the eventual nominee, said in a December Real Clear Politics interview that “Ron Paul is not going to be our nominee.” Jon Huntsman told NBC News’s Jo Ling Kent “if Ron Paul gets to the finish line I’d be happy to support him ... but he is not going to get there” Michelle Bachmann called Paul “dangerous.” There was a curious double narrative being played out going into the caucus season. On one hand, Paul was an unelectable fringe candidate who could never possibly win a single state. But what if he did? Becky Beach, an Iowa Republican operative with ties to both Bushes, told Politico: 2
“It would make the caucus mostly irrelevant if not entirely irrelevant ... It would have a very damaging effect because I don’t think he could be elected president and both Iowa and national Republicans wouldn’t think he represents the will of the people,”
Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulson said, referring to a possible Paul win in his state, was quoted as saying.
“I don’t think any candidate perverting the process in that fashion helps [the caucuses] in any way,”
No less than the governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, opined,
“People are going to look at who comes in second and who comes in third. If [Mitt] Romney comes in a strong second, it definitely helps him going into New Hampshire and the other states.”
The double narrative was unfolding; he can’t win, but if he does, it doesn’t matter, nobody likes him. So if he does win, ignore him.
There was one nagging problem -- he did remarkably well in almost every straw poll or online poll in which he was a candidate.
For example, in October 2011 at the Values Voter Summit, Paul received 37% of the straw poll vote. Bear in mind that there were 8 GOP presidential hopefuls in that poll and nobody carried the majority. Lindsey Boerma of National Journal weighed in with: 3
“Rep. Ron Paul scored a decisive victory in a mock presidential election at the Values Voter Summit in Washington on Saturday, while his fellow Texan, Rick Perry, tied for fourth.
Paul got 37 percent of the vote; two other conservative favorites, businessman Herman Cain and former Sen. Rick Santorum, took second and third place, respectively, in the straw poll of some 3,000 religious activists. Cain got 23 percent of the vote and Santorum, 16 percent. Perry and Michele Bachmann won 8 percent apiece. Mitt Romney got 4 percent of the vote and Newt Gingrich, 3 percent.
A year ago in the same contest, Paul came in second-to-last.
The victory for the longtime congressman and three-time presidential contender over his Republican rivals in the presidential contest was all the more surprising because Paul’s principled libertarianism sometimes puts him at odds with the views of social conservatives on issues such as gay marriage and drug laws.
But in a speech hours before the straw poll results were announced, Paul argued that his staunch fiscal conservatism and dogmatic views on liberty were in tune with family values and the Bible.”
It would appear that a shift in the thinking of Americans was occurring and that Ron Paul’s ideas had gone from marginal to mainstream, which explains his rise from second-to-last to first in one year. Maggie Astor, writing for the International Business Times after Paul’s straw poll victory in Ohio said: 4
“It is clear that Paul is no longer on the fringe of the Republican Party, but he has not really entered the mainstream, either….At some point in the future, it's likely that Paul's philosophy will become the dominant focus of the Republican Party, as Paul has a large share of support of younger Republicans.”
The State Column, an online site dedicated to Illinois politics, reported that:5
“Paul has consistently demonstrated his ability to rally his supporters to straw polls throughout the nation. Paul took second place in the Ames Straw Poll in August, finishing just 1 percentage point behind Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Paul won a Values Voter Summit straw poll in October and a California Republican Party straw poll in September. On Saturday, October 22, Paul garnered 53 percent of the votes to win an Ohio GOP poll. Last weekend, Paul won an Iowa straw poll at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies in Des Moines, Iowa with 82 percent of the votes.”
Shortly after that report came out, Ron Paul won a straw poll in Illinois with 52% of the vote, more than Mitt Romney and Herman Cain, both of whom had received more than their share of media coverage. In fact, in a Pew Research study released Oct 2011, Dr. Paul had received the least mainstream media coverage of any Presidential candidate. Keach Hagey, writing for Politico, said:6
“Ron Paul finished just 152 votes behind Michele Bachmann in the Ames Straw Poll, but from the headlines and TV news coverage, it’s hard to tell he even showed up.
With the exception of The New York Times and The Des Moines Register, most major newspaper headlines didn’t even mention his name in their reports of Saturday’s contest. Nor was he anywhere to be found on the Sunday morning talk shows.
By Monday’s second-day stories, Paul had disappeared from the prevailing narrative of the Republican primary race altogether, as consensus coalesced around the dynamics between Bachmann, newcomer Rick Perry and front-runner Mitt Romney.”
Roger Simon, also for Politico, displayed a streak of honesty in his analysis of the Ames Straw Poll in particular:7
I admit I do not fully understand Ron Paul and his beliefs. But I do understand when a guy gets shafted, and Ron Paul just got shafted.
On Saturday, the Ames Straw Poll was conducted in Iowa amid huge media interest and scrutiny. The results were enough to force one Republican candidate, Tim Pawlenty, out of the race, and catapult another, Michele Bachmann, into the “top tier.”
There are so many “top tier” stories in the media today that I can barely count them, let alone read them all, and Bachmann is in all of them by virtue of her victory at Ames. The rest of the tier is made up of two candidates who skipped Ames, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.
As The Daily Beast put it: “The new top tier of Bachmann, Perry, and Romney — created by Bachmann’s Iowa straw poll win, Perry’s entry into the race and Romney’s lead so far in many national and state polls — has unleashed torrents of talk about the reshaped race.”
Paul’s name was not mentioned in this piece or in many others. A Wall Street Journal editorial Monday magnanimously granted Paul’s showing in the straw poll a parenthetical dismissal: “(Libertarian Ron Paul, who has no chance to win the nomination, finished a close second.)”
But “close” does not fully describe Paul’s second-place finish. Paul lost to Bachmann by nine-tenths of one percentage point, or 152 votes out of 16,892 cast.
Iowa Representative Steve King said in an Aug 11, 2011, interview with Chris Matthews that:
“one person that’s been left out of this discussion is Ron Paul who has built a lot of organization here and we should not underestimate the five years of work he has invested here”.
As weeks went on, and Ron Paul won straw poll after straw poll, and online poll after online poll, the machinery began to move to discredit him. In a Dec 29 interview with Politico’s Dovere, Rep. King began downplaying Ron Paul’s straw poll success, saying “He’s not dangerous unless he’s president.” And
“I don’t think that the Paul supporters have really stepped back and thought about what would happen if Ron Paul were operating out of the Oval Office and the commander in chief of our armed forces,”
Congressman King continued the new narrative of the dangerous and unelectable Paul in early January telling CNN that Congressman Paul’s foreign policy positions would create a “vacuum” around the world and were “frightening” to him.
Probably one of the most humorous examples of this sort of doublespeak was a USA Today article written by Jackie Kucinich that ran 5 days before Christmas. The headline was “Despite money and support, Ron Paul still not in the lead”.
The blogosphere was always a ripe place to look for ad-hominem Ron Paul attacks from ‘conservative’ commentators, who have traditionally prided themselves of being a people of ideas, and above name calling. Nevertheless, “Mikeymike143” writing for RedState.com on Dec. 12, 2011, called Congressman Paul a “nutjob” and an “anti-semitic loser.” He declared Paul unelectable based off of a single Gallup poll where Paul finished neck and neck with the candidates being touted by the media as top tier. He called Paul’s positions a “left-wing cancer” and referred to Paul supporters as “delusional Paulbots,” “the dirtbags of society. Conspiracy loons, anti-war leftists, and anti-semites.” He concluded his “fair and balanced” conservative commentary about Paul supporters (including the U.S. military that supported him in droves) with the statement “they are a cancer to the conservative movement and we should treat them like lepers and shun them.”
End of this sample Kindle book.
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