Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) generates more internet press than all the other candidates combined, it seems. His name has been on Technorati's most-searched list for a couple weeks, rivaling Paris Hilton and YouTube for search popularity endurance. Whether or not his fledgling campaign for President will so endure is another matter. Rummaging through the odd blog with a Ron Paul theme, I found some common characteristics among his supporters:
- Typically apolitical
- Technology careers
- Decent writing skills
- No particular axe to grind
I know many who fit the type, particularly working in the software industry. For a few years, I was surprised at all the Ayn Randians in my trade. At my last company, The Fountainhead was as common on the desktop and backpack as slashdot was on the monitor. (By the way, I'm not saying "all Ron Paul supporters are " [fill in the noun phrase from the list above]. I'm saying that of the dozen or so sites I looked over last night, 100 percent fell into at least two of the categories above. Unscientific, perhaps, but striking.)
Great. So where is Ron Paul going?
Well, nowhere, really. He has a low ceiling. As something of a libertarian, Paul's views will quickly steer into that terminal maelstrom of American politics where liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, the godless and the Godly all find fault with a single one of Ron Paul's views.
It's sad, in a way. Except for being more interventionist that Paul, I share most of his political and economic views straight down the page. Like William F. Buckley, I describe myself as libertarian except for the atheism (which is not a requirement of libertarianism but has become frightfully common). I oppose almost everything the government does under the commerce clause and the 14th Amendment. I have no use for the Departments of Education, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, or Homeland Security. I can live without HUD, Labor, and Energy, too. I think each new Congress should be issued exactly one ream of 8.5 X 11 paper onto which the whole of its legislation must fit. I'd like to see Congress spend more time in recess than in session so that members could hold down real jobs with which to supplement their $55,000 a year (plus travel and office expenses) salaries.
When it comes to foreign policy, I could probably live with a libertarian's isolationism for as long as the public would tolerate it. (Events would force even Ron Paul's hand, though, as his solemn oath of office would require him to finally defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.) In exchange for his foreign policy, I get the elimination of 80 percent of the government, and that it is a fair trade. The military could be reconstituted much faster than the bureaucracy. And the people whose after tax income increased 40 to 70 percent would be most reluctant to return to the tax and spend days of monstrous government. Likely, a generation would have to pass away before government could begin to grow significantly.
I am encouraged by the support, the passionate support, Paul receives. I am, frankly, surprised that so many people who don't fit the profile of libertarian are eager to dismantle big government as we know it. Is this surge in idealistic libertarianism analogous to the grass roots conservatism that Buckley, Goldwater, and Russell Kirk ignited in the late 50s and early 60s? If so, we have much to look forward to 15 years hence.
So why Fred Thompson and not Ron Paul?
First, better either man than any Democrat. Second, I believe that a Republican and a conservative must win this election to stave off the totalitarian beast that the Democrat party yearns to foist upon us. Third, Fred Thompson has a chance because he won't steer into the maelstrom in which Ron Paul must attempt to navigate. Fred will protect the many vested interests that keep those seas a-churning. Otherwise, he couldn't gain his party's nomination.
Ron Paul's star has not crested, but it will soon and long before the primaries are over. His central ideas will not drive the parties toward a more libertarian view. At best, Thompson might propose elimination of the Department of Education, but it won't happen. Reagan couldn't do it. As soon as Paul's numbers climb high enough to reflect the party's radar, they will unleash a flurry of deadly accurate heat-seeking missiles to destroy him.
Also, his supporters will soon see that he isn't a left wing nut case out to destroy Bush. Almost 30 percent of the Ron Paul blogs I checked out also promoted the 9/11 conspiracy theory (Bush did it, Cheney did it, Murdoch did it, Israel did it). A significant number demonstrated patently anti-semitic or anti-black themes, leading me to believe that some white supremacists have mistakenly adopted Paul as one of their own. Most of the bloggers expressed strong opposition to at least one or two of Paul's major issues, though the bloggers don't seem to realize that Paul disagrees with them. (He's pro-life, for instance, and more than 80 percent of the blogs were vehemently pro-abortion.)
Too bad he doesn't have a chance. We could use some real entertainment and a real choice. And I could use an 80 percent tax cut.