By Martin Bosworth
There isn’t much I can add about Ron Paul’s fundraising success that hasn’t already been said before and better (particularly by Glenn Greenwald), except that this is an even clearer indication that there is a massive swath of the electorate that is so desperate for a candidate to speak plain truths and answer pleas for sanity that the fringes are suddenly looking mighty sane.
What Matt Stoller says here about the “crazy uncle theory” of politics is absolutely right–the more that so-called “mainstream” pols reject the public’s will and ignore their needs, the more they’ll gravitate to alternatives, no matter how long-shot and outlandish they may seem, to the point where (as John Aravosis notes) they start making much more sense.
But how crazy are people like Paul, Gravel, and Kucinich, really? The major players in the Democratic party and the top-shelf netroots have done all they could to denigrate Mike Gravel for running a crappy campaign with weird videos, for instance–but look at his campaign platform. That’s a progressive’s wet dream right there. Imagine if the Big Three Dems were running as hardcore left as Gravel is.
Or what about Kucinich? Both the mainstream left and the netroots have been killing Kucinich for years, and yet, who’s the one who had the balls to stand up and demand that Darth Cheney be held accountable as a war criminal and a disgrace to his office? Whereas Nancy Pelosi, who had a historic opportunity to bring down the Bush junta, chose to take impeachment off the table and has since done a fine job of carrying the regime’s water.
And then you have Paul himself. The reason Paul is so wildly popular is that he represents an outlet for angry, disaffected Republicans who simply cannot or will not bring themselves to vote Democrat. Beyond the cranks, crazies, 9/11 truthers, and racist hate groups who are falling over themselves for Paul, there is a huge range of angry moderates, independents, and libertarians who oppose the Iraq fiasco, the PATRIOT Act, and our empire of oil. These people would be more than willing to convert to the progressive cause, but their cultural and social mores have so completely inculcated in them the belief that Dems are weak and compromising that they won’t do it. So Paul is their “steam vent,” if you will.
And after seeing the 2006 class of Democrats–many of whom were powered to victory by the netroots–promptly betray the voters by kowtowing to Bush’s desires on the Iraq war and the FISA reauthorization, can we really tell these people differently?
Now, let me be clear–all of these guys have severe flaws that make them difficult (if not impossible) to support. But after seven years of being told by a corrupt government and a complacent, enabling media that the War on Terra is being fought to preserve the country from the tides of Islamofascism, and that the economy is great despite all evidence to the contrary, and that our rights are necessary sacrifices to the altar of security–I gotta tell ya, the crazy is starting to sound really nice.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again–the more that the “mainstream” Democrats act like Republicans (see Russ’ post on Hillary’s nuclear nonproliferation non-policy, for example) and the more that the media enables the worst, most obsequious, and trivial aspects of the campaign to dominate the narrative, the more that angry voters will gravitate to extremes. As progressives, we would do well to stop marginalizing the extreme voices and start listening to what they have to say.
It may turn out that they know something we don’t.