Ron Paul: the people-powered candidate?

By Martin Bosworth

When Kos , Jerome Armstrong and other Dem blogger heavyweights discuss the need for a political infrastructure that’s built on small individual donors and “people-powered,” I doubt that Republican/libertarian darling Ron Paul was the first guy they thought of as a new leader using that model. And yet, the news that Paul has more cash in the bank than failing and ailing John McCain is another example of how the democratization of politics via the Internet has led to some very strange outcomes.

To be sure, the Paul numbers are being disputed, and he’s got a long way to go in the polls before he can even spit on putative GOP frontrunners like Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, etc. But a look at Paul’s career campaign fundraising shows that the vast majority of his financing has come from individual donors, not PACs or campaign committees.

It also shows that he’s taken money from seriously twisted right-wing agitator groups like Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, which should be yet another warning signal to anyone who thinks Paul is some kind of libertarian hero.

Looking at the comments on any news article about Paul, it strikes me how much the Paul groundswell is a twisted, funhouse version of Barack Obama’s own rise. Both men are running personality-based candidacies, positioning themselves as outsiders who are bringing new ideas to the conversation after years of the same old crap. Both men are raising incredible amounts of money that is disproportionate to their polling–though it has to be said that Obama has a much better chance of winning his party’s nod than Paul does his. And both are selling their candidacies using returns to ideals classically held by their parties–Obama the Kennedyesque appeals to hope, good government, and principle, and Paul the belief in low taxes, less government, etc. Whether or not they support these principles isn’t the point–it’s how they’re selling the principles, and people are buying.

It fascinates me to watch how disruptions like Obama and Paul have thrown the expected trajectories of the races off script. Clinton, acting for all the world like the nomination was hers for the taking, is now in a real fight. McCain, who was the media and punditry darling for years due to his so-called “straight talk,” is now despised as a panderer and cynical opportunist. The GOP is pinning its collective hopes on a B-list actor, unaccomplished Senator, and lobbyist because he’s tall and has a deep voice. How did it come to this?

People have been bypassing traditional media and party channels and making their voices heard. When you can see and hear your candidate speak right on his Web site–and donate immediately to him or her–why do you need some pundit gasbag to “interpret” what he said? Of course, you don’t. This has led to a tremendous revival of activism and interest across the board–people feel like they can directly contribute to and shape a candidate’s success. The hunger for Americans to feel like they matter–like their desires and voices can be counted–has never been stronger, and never more viscerally reflected.

Of course, the downside of that is the people may end up not making the right decision, or their decision’s a real headscratcher (Ron Paul?!! More cash than McCain?!!), but that’s the great thing about democracy–when it’s the people making the decisions rather than corporations and lobbies, you get a lot more opportunity to correct screwups.

We hope.

Categories: Politics/Law/Government

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21 replies »

  1. Umm, Ron Paul’s numbers are not being disputed. The nonsense that you linked to was pure speculation by the shills prior to Ron Paul’s revelation of his real numbers.

  2. I’d like to see a ticket of Obama and Paul. We need a message of hope and liberty. Maybe Unity08 will tag them as a team if they don’t get their respective nominations. I’d vote for the combination above for sure, in any Prez/VP combination.

  3. Paul is loved for his personality? I mean, I like the guy, I’ve given him money, and I’m voting for him, but he’s nowhere near as charismatic as Obama or nearly any other candidate. His message, which he’s been consistently saying (and voting accordingly) for about 30 years now, is what attracts people. Some folks are still interested in the classical liberal values this country was founded upon.

  4. The message of freedom has become a conscious entity with its own mind and will. It is alive and spreading like fire in a parched forest. Corruption and hatred only feed it. This fire is your real opponent. Ron Paul simply lit the initial match.

  5. Ron Paul is an anarchist. He believes that government can only be effective if it doesn’t exist. He wants to take cops off the beat, end government funding of schools, and get rid of the entire military! How can a wack job like him be gaining so much popularity? It beats me…

  6. Ron Paul… a cult of personality… yup… that’s Ron Paul (I call him Rico Suave’) lol

    Dude, people are turned on by his ideas and his ideals (dutifully borrowed from the founders of The United States of America).

    It also doesn’t hurt that he’s one of the most honest and honorable politicians around. Wait, don’t tell me…. you still enjoy being lied to CONSTANTLY by our government?

  7. @JACK… “…He wants to take cops off the beat, end government funding of schools, and get rid of the entire military! How can a wack job like him be gaining so much popularity? It beats me

  8. Eagle Forum is taking the lead on things like fighting forced vaccination and forced “psychiatric testing” off all schoolchildren across the nation…

    Where are all the left-wing “civl liberties” groups on these issues?

    Are they too busy focusing on the “right” of gay dudes to put on a snazzy uniform and slaughter arabs?

  9. 12. james – Well, this progressive happens to believe that most vaccines should be mandatory since they’re issues of public health, not purely personal choices. And your rights to make choices about your personal health (or, more accurately, your child’s) are correctly limited when your child’s vaccine-preventable illness impacts my child.

    Keep in mind the sheer number of vaccines that require booster shots – if your sick kid only affected kids with parents who had refused vaccines for their kids, I wouldn’t worry about it so much. But too many people need regular boosters for “one-time” vaccines because the vaccines either don’t take at all or only last a year or two.

  10. Martin,

    Liked the use of opensecrets.org. It’s a useful *research* tool. I’m always struck that some people think that “research” should equal “my opinion.”

    Nice work.

  11. Denny,

    Thanks. Opensecrets.org and CRP in general is a national treasure. I couldn’t do half of my work half as well without them. 🙂

  12. This is a stretch comparing Barrack Hussein Obama to Ron Paul. Obama is well liked by a lot of people and does well on the internet, but he is definitely no contrarian and is just another cog in the government wheel that is steamrolling our liberties.

  13. “…and Paul the belief in low taxes, less government, etc. Whether or not they support these principles isn