The Deep Meaning of Ron Paul


Christopher Caldwell profiled Ron Paul in yesterday's New York Times magazine and the whole thing's worth a read. Caldwell doesn't skimp on covering the intersection of Paul support and full-service kookery:

That night, [Connie] Ruffley, [co-chairwoman of United Republicans of California,] spoke about her past with the John Birch Society and asked how many in the room were members (quite a few, as it turned out). She referred to the California senator Dianne Feinstein as "Fine-Swine," and got quickly to Israel, raising the Israeli attack on the American Naval signals ship Liberty during the Six-Day War. Some people were pleased. Others walked out. Others sent angry e-mails that night. Several said they would not return. The head of the Pasadena Meetup group, Bill Dumas, sent a desperate letter to Paul headquarters asking for guidance:

"We're in a difficult position of working on a campaign that draws supporters from laterally opposing points of view, and we have the added bonus of attracting every wacko fringe group in the country. And in a Ron Paul Meetup many people will consider each other 'wackos' for their beliefs whether that is simply because they're liberal, conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis, evangelical Christian, etc… We absolutely must focus on Ron's message only and put aside all other agendas, which anyone can save for the next 'Star Trek' convention or whatever."

Caldwell offers that Paul's campaign gives "a good hint about the country the next president is going to have to knit back together." That's the fairest critical way I've seen the campaign analyzed, really. Paul critics who latch onto his support from 9/11 Truthers or Birchers or Daily Kos lefties haven't knitted the quilt and figured out what those people have in common. One answer: Boiling distrust of government that's gone unanswered and festered for more than a decade. If Paul keeps outperforming the rest of the second tier GOP candidates we'll see a little more Caldwell-ish analysis and a quite a bit more in the way of superficial smears.

So far, I should say, Paul's momentum is building without much sign of him hitting my Paul Paradox.