Ron Paul

The Deep Meaning of Ron Paul

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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.

NEXT: A Wrong Turn on Saving Fuel

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  1. The american people are waking up and searching voting records for themselves.
    The old media propaganda is not working on
    many anymore.

  2. Boiling distrust of government that’s gone unanswered and festered for more than a decade.

    Decade? Going on half a century I’d say. The question is, How many of the placated masses have moved into the festering fringe?

    There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Paul’s critics may try to paint his supporters as various wackos. But that’s a feature. Ron Paul’s supporters aren’t any more “wacko” than any other candidate. What they are is diverse. The left pulls in the environmental wackos and the right panders to the fundy kooks. Paul’s limited government approach has appeal independent of agenda. The ability to unite such a diverse group under a “I don’t need to have you fruit cakes locked up, just stay out of my yard” umbrella is unique to Ron Paul

    RON PAUL ’08

  3. But his is a less exuberant libertarianism than you find, say, in the pages of Reason magazine.

    Really?! Then I’m not voting for him anymore 😛

  4. Flight 93 was shot down.

  5. The problem I’ve always had with Paul,although I agree with him on may issues is the company he keeps.Clients in my shop would bring in a paper called The Americn Free Press.I read some of the during down times.This paper is full of,racist.populist,antismetic propaganda.I noticed Paul and Paul Craig Roberts were regular contributers.I have to qustion some one that would consort with such people.+

  6. The man is irrelevant. I’ve been waiting in my parents’ basement for you to post about him so I could say so.

    My problem is not with Paul himself. It’s just that, my dad only said “I love you” once. And he was making fun of the way I said it to him.

    *sniffle*

  7. Michael Pack,

    Have you seen the company his opponents keep? If a candidate has support from inside the current administration, they lose all credibility on the “company you keep” counter.

  8. It is just not good news. Nothing against Paul, but you can’t have a democracy if a large numbers of people don’t believe in the institutions of that Democracy. You further can’t have a democracy if the various factions of that democracy can’t talk to each other and agree on some common ground. What the truthers and the Birch Society and the Neo Nazis and such have in common is a completely irrational and almost religous view of the world that is completely incompatable with any opposing view. It doesn’t matter how many time you explain to a truther the million plus holes and contradictions to their ideas, they simply will change their minds. Worse yet, the more you try to explain to them the problems with their outlook the more entrenched they become in their view that they are the only reasonable people, the only ones who see the truth through the government lies. The Birchers are the same way. There is no compromising with people like that. There is no middle ground or political compromise that would satisfy the truthers. Moreover, even if you could they would just move onto another conspiracy because of the emotional satisfaction associated with being part of a small group that knows the truth. You can’t have a functioning democracy if large numbers of your citizens fall into believing such nonsense.

  9. But Paul has in recent weeks become a sensation in magazines he doesn’t read, on Web sites he has never visited and on television shows he has never watched

    Now they’re starting to get it. If you aren’t proposing you can solve everybody’s problem, you don’t need to be an expert in at everything. As an advocate of limited government, Ron Paul doesn’t need to be knowledgeable about every cause. Freedom works no matter what you’re trying to do.

  10. Ron Paul’s supporters aren’t any more “wacko” than any other candidate.

    Sorry Warren, but yes, they are. Granted, Kucinich supporters are a little off and the Republican base is a fringe group but Paul attracts a special breed of crazy.

  11. A large, unfettered federal government is anathema to liberty and a danger to society. On that, we can agree with many people. The unifying goal is putting the Constitutional shackles back on Leviathan. Period.

  12. John,

    Everything you say about the Birchers and truthers, is equally true about the creationists.

    It’s perfectly possible to have such people in a civilized society. Indeed it’s impossible to have a society without them. There is little danger of any of these groups having much influence without government support. Thats what makes Ron Paul superior to the mainstream candidates, he doesn’t need to pander to his “base”.

  13. “Ron Paul doesn’t need to be knowledgeable about every cause. Freedom works no matter what you’re trying to do.”

    It only works if the people who have the freedom are willing to fight for it and if there are believe in freedom than who don’t. Lots of people have no interest in freedom. They are more interested in using their freedom to kick you in the head and enforceing their view of utopia on the rest of the world. If only it were so simple.

  14. You know, Dave W, I distinctly remember hearing some newscasters reporting when Flight 93 was still in the air and someone talking about a “white plume of smoke” coming from the aircraft.

    I guess that makes me a “truther.” I don’t really think of myself as one. For me, it doesn’t much matter what happened, far more important are the consequences we’ve suffered as a result of the traged(ies).

    It was great to hear Ron Paul in Spartanburg, SC talk about how the second amendment – and private airline security guards – could have prevented 9/11. It certainly could have. He’s right to say we are foolish to continually trust our safety and security to a government that appears to have neither at heart.

  15. Tim,

    Sorry Warren, but yes, they are.

    Gotta disagree. Just as an example, neo-cons are more wacko than Birchers and maybe more so than the truthers. Who are more self-deluded in their beliefs – the truthers or the neo-cons? Its a close battle there.

    Just because one group has a bunch of government jobs doesnt make them any less wacko.

  16. robc.yes I have and I don’t care for them either.Your comment is ‘but look what they did’.I aws talking about Paul.

  17. Warren,

    The creationism is private belief. There is nothing about creationism that requires a belief in a large scale government conspiracy that resulted in the death of thousands of people. Creationism does not by its definition mean that all of our institutions of government are corrupt. Creationism says nothing about government only science.

    It is amazing the viceral and unbending hatred on this forum for anything or anyone religous. To compare creationists to Nazis and truthers is an amazing slander. I am sorry you nurse so much hatred over the subject.

  18. Tim,
    I don’t think so. I think it’s just a question of being a non establishment candidate. Right now Paul’s supporters have a higher ratio of the types of wackos, who are inherently anti-establishment and get hostility from major candidates. As his campaign grows, the ranks of his supporters will swell with mainstream Americans, and only a few wackos. I don’t see anything that particularly sets apart Paulites from say the PeTA people.

  19. Michael Pack,

    My point was that ALL politicians are hanging out with wackos. Including our founding fathers, who, actually, may have been the wackos.

    Im not happy that Paul keeps the company he keeps either, but its the nature of politics to depend on weird and bad people.

  20. To compare creationists to Nazis and truthers is an amazing slander. I am sorry you nurse so much hatred over the subject.

    Sorry, no sale. The creationists have done far more damage to our society, because they have influence with establishment politicians, than truthers who remain inconsequential.

    I don’t hate anybody.

  21. Christopher Caldwell is a senior editor at William Kristol’s neocon rag-mag “The Weekly Standard”. That is why it turned into a hit-piece.

    Google him.

  22. Just to be clear, my comment wasn’t a knock on Paul’s candidacy or for that matter, the majority of his supporters. I suppose that you’re right in pointing to the diversity of his wacko supporters that makes them appear crazier as a group, but their numbers don’t help things either.

    And call me biased, but the platforms of the Republican candidates as a whole do seem pretty fucking unhinged.

  23. The creationists have done far more damage to our society…

    What damage would that be?

  24. The problem I’ve always had with Paul,although I agree with him on may issues is the company he keeps.Clients in my shop would bring in a paper called The Americn Free Press.I read some of the during down times.This paper is full of,racist.populist,antismetic propaganda.I noticed Paul and Paul Craig Roberts were regular contributers.I have to qustion some one that would consort with such people.

    Jacob Sullum’s columns run on townhall.com. But I don’t question his positions because his writing appears next to most of those nutballs.

  25. But his is a less exuberant libertarianism than you find, say, in the pages of Reason magazine.

    Ron Paul was much better when Virginia Postrel was his editor.

    Drink!

  26. Yeah, those crazy Paul supporters.

    They believe that economic decisions are better made by officials in expensive suits than the people whose lives re actually affected by them. They believe that unlimited, universal access to healthcare will improve care and lower costs. They believe that inanimate objects cause crimes. They believe that invoding other countries works fine, if you have the right person at the helm. Crazy.

    No wait, those are Clinton supporters.

  27. I agree with Warren. Whatever group has the govt in their pocket genereally causes more damage. That’s the danger of the mob rule aspect of democracy which gets thrown around as some sort of perfect ideal. I like a guy like RP who understands that you can have all these different groups, so long as there’s a clear understanding that their liberty ends where my nose begins, and vice versa. And having a government that, like Ron Paul, doesn’t pander for votes to the various groups by giving them favorable legislation. Protect liberty, that’s it, now have fun.

  28. SIV – see the post by Radley on the middle school butt slappers in shackles…

  29. I’m sure there are plenty of nuts who support Paul, and it’s possible that he has the most nuts nuts of all the candidates.

    But I would also contend that Paul also has the support of probably the most thinking and least-nuts people

  30. dude,

    I think you are blaming the wrong group.

  31. Yeah, those Ron Paul supporters are just the kind of whackos that are planning food drives for his upcoming rallies and just completed their first one this weekend in SC. They are obviously insane.

    http://www.gambling911.com/Ron-Paul-072307.html

  32. robc – after further thought, yeah, your probably right. But there’s some democratic (theory, not party) mob that has pushed legislation in that direction. Whichever mob is responsible for that, they don’t like anyone touching each other.

  33. x,y,read that paper,I know all sites have some nut cases.I won’t compare Kos,huffington,Townhall,National Review or many others to this paper.What really bothered me was how many otherwise normal clients read this stuff.It make Pat Bucannan look resonable.

  34. I guess that makes me a “truther.” I don’t really think of myself as one. For me, it doesn’t much matter what happened, far more important are the consequences we’ve suffered as a result of the traged(ies).

    I am concerned about the consequences if we found out that Flight 93 was shot down at this late date. More specifically, I believe there will be excellent consequences and I want to enjoy those consequences as soon as possible.

    Especially because I am moving back to the US next month after a few years away.

  35. Well, enjoy what could be the last “free” election in the U.S. folks…

    “While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire
    And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens…”
    -Robinson Jeffers

  36. If we’re defined by those who support us, what does that say about the current crop of ins?

  37. Christopher Caldwell is a senior editor at William Kristol’s neocon rag-mag “The Weekly Standard”.

    Well then, you can’t say he isn’t knowledgable about kooks.

  38. 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.

    “simply because”?

    Oh, and Birchers are nuts.

  39. At least he doesn’t see imaginary WMDs and cause genocides. Or attempt to suspend the constitution.

    After what the Bush Dynasty has done to this country, I’m ready to investigate their complicity in 9-11, the JFK assassination, and, for that matter, the sinking of the Titanic.

  40. john says: “You can’t have a functioning democracy if large numbers of your citizens fall into believing such nonsense.”

    Nonsense such as “If we get more government spending and regulation not allowed by the Constitution, we’ll all be better off”? I’ll take Ron Paul’s kooks over the overwhelming mainstream majority kooks who actually believe the above statement with all their misplaced hearts.

  41. Michael Pack: I looked at the American Free Press site. I think it runs the same syndicated Ron Paul pieces (and Paul Craig Roberts pieces, for that matter) that appear in other outlets. Do you know of any direct ties between him and the paper?

  42. Nobody who continues to argue that it was a good idea to invade Iraq gets to call anyone else a kook.

  43. Ummm, I actually agree with “joe” about something: “Nobody who continues to argue that it was a good idea to invade Iraq gets to call anyone else a kook.”

    * Room spins — rabbits pull magicians out of hats — lies down on couch waiting for the dizziness from this abrupt leap into a parallel universe to subside. *

  44. Let’s all have a group hug with joe over this one.

  45. joe,no I don’t.What I’m saying this was several years ago and this was the first time I’d really heard of Paul.I noticed he was one of the few regular writers and only congress man to appear in this paper.It left a bad taste in my mouth.To me it’s the equivilent of putting your articles in the KKK weekly.As I said before,much of what he says I agree with.It’s just using a forum such as this can take away from the message.

  46. You meant Jesse.

  47. If you show the Fox News Republican debate to a randomly selected audience 30 years from now, they’re almost certainly going to think Ron Paul was the only candidate who wasn’t a nutjob. And, given the behavior of the moderators and the applause of the live audience, he may be considered the only sane person in the entire building.

  48. x,y,read that paper,I know all sites have some nut cases.I won’t compare Kos,huffington,Townhall,National Review or many others to this paper.What really bothered me was how many otherwise normal clients read this stuff.It make Pat Bucannan look resonable.

    I’ll get around to reading it soon just to see what you’re getting at. But seriously, have you read the shit that passes for journalism and analysis at Townhall?

  49. It’s sort of like the parlor game where you have a quote from Hitler, a quote from Stalin, and a quote from FDR, and you try to figure out which one said which. A total moonbat who rises to power and winds up on the winning side of history will have his moonbattiness overlooked.

    That might be one reason Bush is so desperate to be on the “winning side” of history.

  50. joe,

    I used the patented “This would’ve never happened when Virginia was here” argument when Nick bizarrely supported the DH last week. Sadly, this line of attack is dying off as all these new whippersnappers join the Hit & Run commenting community. Why, in my day, I used to have to hit submit ten times just to get one comment posted!

  51. xy,yes I read town hall too.I read all sides.I draw the line at holocaust deniers , people that think ‘the Bilderburg Group’ cosnsisting of fromer pols and buisnessmen run the world and the black helicopter crowd.

  52. Damn kids don’t even know what a server squirrel is.

    Get the hell off my lawn!

  53. I used to have to dictate my posts to a secretary, who typed them up manually and sent them to Reason via Western Union.

  54. You know what? Ron Paul has my vote. Count me among the great unwashed kooky masses who are very tired of the federal government meddling in our lives and robbing us at gun point. Come one, come all, we got a job to do and it ain’t done until President Paul takes the oath of office.

  55. You are just glad he included “not as libertarian as Reason magazine.” That gave you giggles, didn’t it?

  56. xy,yes I read town hall too.I read all sides.I draw the line at holocaust deniers , people that think ‘the Bilderburg Group’ cosnsisting of fromer pols and buisnessmen run the world and the black helicopter crowd.

    The JBS isn’t racist and they think black helicopters are ridiculous too.

  57. What we’re seeing today is a breakdown in consensus. It’s harder than ever to find the common ground needed to brand someone else as crazy. All of us are constantly calling people who disagree with us crazy, and for good reason.

    The variety of worldviews held today in an American city is unprecedented. Maybe we’ll have to suck it up learn to associate with people who think (very) differently, just as the Ron Paul meetups are doing.

  58. You know, Dave W, I distinctly remember hearing some newscasters reporting when Flight 93 was still in the air and someone talking about a “white plume of smoke” coming from the aircraft.

    That’s funny, because I don’t remember any newscasters reporting on Flight 93 when it “was still in the air”. Either your memory is wrong, or mine is. But I suspect it is yours, because no one would be able to see Flight 93 *and* recognize it as such until moments before it crashed.

    “Look Mabel, there’s a plane up there!”

    “Oh, you’re right Herman, it is a plane!”

    “I see some numbers on the tail with my binoculars. Quick, Mabel, get on the intertubes and find out what flight it is!

    “Hang on Herman, it’s coming up now. This new Google FlightNumber page is great. Here it is, it’s Flight 93. ”

    “Good work Mabel. I have no idea what the significance of that flight is, but I had better call a reporter anyway and let them know.”

    “Call them quick before it crashes!”

  59. Weigel: I’m not as much worried about Bircher support of Ron Paul as I am Ron Paul’s support of the Birchers. That’s a very different kettle of fish indeed.

  60. cls,
    As is often the case with Ron Paul, Things that seem initially problematic, get less so as you dig deeper. Ron doesn’t support the Birchers conspiracy theories. What he says is, he has no problems with their policy recommendations.

    My own experience echoes that. When I was active in the LP, there was a representative of the JBS who attended our meetings. When ever she spoke about what she thought the problem was, I always thought “what time are you due back at the home?” But when was saying what we should do about it, my assessment ranged from ‘100% agree’ to ‘useless but harmless’.

  61. It’s funny how Ron supports freedom of speech that way, allowing people to talk but privately disagreeing and ignoring them, especially the ones with wacky ideas.

    Sort of like what 90% of the country does…

  62. Ron Paul supporters are intelligent, not crazy. He’s the only candidate making any logical sense.

  63. Some RP supporters are intellegent. Some RP supporters are bat-shit insane. Some RP suppporters are both (they aren’t mutually exclusive, you know… think John Nash).

  64. Endless epistemological insults (whacko, crazy, kookie, fringe), endless smear tactics (some of his supporters – OH MY!).

    I feel confident that We Reasonable People can put a stop to Ron Paul and show how powerful Reason is.

  65. There is no question that RP attracts those who feel they are disenfranchised by the two main parties. But the Pasadena meetup group that Mr. Caldwell reported on doesn’t quiet fit with the group we have here near Atlanta. If he had joined one of our meetings, he would have met:

    Ex-Carter supporter, married with 3 young children
    A Vietnam War Vet (USMC).
    An Iraq War Infantryman (on leave between tours).
    Two small businessmen.
    A currency trader.
    Three college students.
    Lady in her early 40’s (long-time Paul supporter)
    Myself, 35 year-old, married, father of 2 (had not heard of RP until April ’07).

    In short, just a microcosm of America that believes both mainline parties offer views of a power-hungry America that runs counter to what we think our nation should stand for. Be it Iraq, taxes, sound money, debt, empire, security, the common thread is that we want to our government to focus on its mission as specified by the Constitution, and let us take care of the rest.

    Peace be with you.

  66. Come on people, everyone knows it is impossible to spray black paint on a helicopter; the stuff just runs right off the metal. Green paint works well, but for some reason when metal is in the form of a helicopter, black paint dose not stick to it; everyone knows this.

    As far as 9-11 goes, I think we can all agree that the government never lies, period, end of story; so much for that argument. If the government says kerosene can melt steel, bring down three buildings, and remain hotter than kerosene burns for weeks under piles of pulverized concrete, I question not; woe to any who might even think about thinking otherwise, for my flaming post will smite them in a glorious pronouncement of my unwavering faith in government conclusions and that post will resonate throughout the internet for ever and ever. Praise Bush (our fuhrer).

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