There may be trouble on the horizon for the Ron Paul Revolution.
The trouble stems from recent good news out of the Constitution Party national convention. Delegates overwhelmingly rejected Alan Keyes, “a warmonger, neocon, and egomanic”, favor of Chuck Baldwin, a Baptist pastor who strongly supports Ron Paul. Adam Graham, who saw the CP convention as a farce, calls the selection of Baldwin, a candidate “you’ve never heard of”, “amazingly stupid“. Jim Powers calls it a “false start” for the Constitution Party.
First, I agree with the paleocons who “praised the Constitutionalists for sticking to their principles“. Keyes is a perpetual candidate who, like Ralph Nader, seems to be overly impressed with his imagined importance and to have a bit of a martyr complex. While he enjoys more name recognition than most third-party candidates, I’m not convinced all (or even most) of the publicity is positive. Furthermore, as a newcomer to the Constitution Party, I think he should have to demonstrate his loyalty to the party and its core beliefs before running for so much as dogcatcher as a CP candidate. The CP, like any other party, has the right to freely associate, and a subsidiary right is ability to determine who can and will represent the party in any official capacity. CP members are not “amazingly stupid” for wanting to make sure Keyes didn’t switch parties just so he can be a big fish in a small pond or use the party to support an ego trip campaign. For these reasons alone CP members are not “amazingly stupid” for rejecting Keyes in favor of their 2004 VP candidate who has already demonstrated his dedication to the party and its platform. When Keyes’ neocon foreign policy stances are taken into account, I believe rejecting him is elevated from reasonable to laudable. If every conservative wanted to perpetuate the warfare state, the Constitution Party never would have come into existence.
Second, I have heard of Chuck Baldwin. Thanks to a number of articles championing Ron Paul over Mike “Evangelical” Huckabee, including some at Lew Rockwell’s well-read site, so have a lot of other Ron Paul supporters. In fact, that’s what worries me about the otherwise sensible decision to back Baldwin.
One of the strengths of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign could become one of its weaknesses if Dr. Paul remains steadfast in his resistance to run as a third-party candidate. That intersecting of blessing and curse is the diversity among Dr. Paul’s supporters. People from all over the the political spectrum (or chart) demonstrate a fanatical devotion rivaling that of Grateful Dead fans. Reasons for support are varied, as partially demonstrated by these articles at LewRockwell.com. I’ve seen evangelicals, hippies, and goths standing next to each and cheering for their common hero at one of his rallies. Will this motley crew be able to make a significant impact at the general election? I’m not sure, but the situation looks bad to me. Not only won’t Paul’s name be on the ballot in November, but there’s no immediate heir apparent to lead the movement. Chuck Baldwin is just one of the possible torch-bearers and would need a pretty strong endorsement from Dr. Paul to attract even a plurality of his army of activist voters.
For some, there can be no adequate replacement for Dr. Paul, at least not in this election. Thus, some of the “Ron Paul vote” will go to Ron Paul himself. What of the rest?
One possible beneficiary of a general election without Ron Paul is the Democratic nominee. Some Paul supporters are so driven by desire to end the undeclared war in Iraq (not that I blame them), and so frightened of “wasting” their vote on a minor candidate who can’t win, that they’ll vote for anyone other than John “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” McInsane, even a Big/Nanny government Democrat.
On the other hand, there are those who cannot bear the thought of a Democratic president and will vote for McCain. Stephen Gordon sums up how I feel about them.
There are two minor parties that are likely to attract Ron Paul Revolutionaries, the Libertarian Party, for which Ron Paul was a 1988 presidential candidate, and the Constitution Party. Choosing between these may present a real dilemma for this young movement.
The newly-nominated Constitution Party nominee, Chuck Baldwin, is likely to receive a number of votes from Ron Paul supporters. As I stated earlier, he’s likely to be known by a lot of Paulites. If this post at Taki’s Magazine is any indication, he’s likely to get a large chunk of their votes. He’s unlikely to get all of them, though. The Constitution Party isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. They firmly believe that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values, rather than pure libertarianism and social contract theory. To me they’ve always seemed uncomfortably close to theocracy, due in large part to my perception that they treat the Constitution like sacred scripture, a sort of Third Testament of the Bible. I think the strong Evangelical overtones of the party will be unappealing to a lot of Dr. Paul’s non-Christian supporters. Also, some of their platform planks would be unacceptable by hard-core libertarians.
Whether Paulites will vote for the Libertarian nominee depends greatly who the party chooses [link added 04/30/08]. I don’t think most Paul supporters are particularly attracted to Wayne Allen Root, Mary Ruwart, or any of the other “doctrinally pure” candidates. Former Republican representative from the state of Georgia, Bob Barr, may be a different matter. Barr gave a very supportive introduction to Ron Paul at CPAC. On paper his positions seem to be highly compatible with Paul’s, but as the aforementioned Taki’s Magazine article mentions he’s left of Paul on immigration, which may turn some people off.
Pragmatists, loyalists, constitutionalists, and libertarians, oh my! There’s another group of Paul supporters, though. They’re the conspiracy theorists, and they’re not an insignificant group, in size or influence.
I’m not sure what the Alex Jones crowd will do with their votes. Some of them lost respect for Ron Paul when he rejected 9/11 conspiracy theories during the South Carolina debate. Others are mad that he won’t support delegates pledged to McCain if they break party rules (and, ironically, make a mockery of representative democracy) by voting for Dr. Paul in the first round. If Paul couldn’t keep them happy, I’m not sure who else could. The rest are likely to lump non-Paul third party candidates with Republicans and Democrats who are slaves to the New World Order. Whether folks in the paranoid camp will vote for a mainstream or third party candidate, write in Dr. Paul, or just sit out the election is beyond my ability to make an educated guess. Suffice to say that their power as a voting bloc is likely to be as divided and diluted as that of the whole movement.
What’s to become of the Ron Paul Revolution, then? Well, thanks to the timelessness of the ideals Dr. Paul promotes, the timeliness of his new book, and social networking technologies, I think the movement’s long-term prognosis is good. This is a grassroots movement with a foundation broader than any of its cliques’. There are countless Meetups and other groups, some transitioning and others brand new, ready to spread the message of returning to constitutional principles of freedom and prosperity through limited government. There are also educational organizations forming, such as Freedom’s Ground. As long as we can continue to maintain a coalition devoted to core principles we can all agree on, we’ll have the power to take back our rights and responsibilities as American citizens.
The 2008 presidential election is a different matter. I think we can expect to Ron Paul’s support to be splintered and the effectiveness of his campaign to be downplayed by media that already treat him like a crazy uncle. The powers that be, especially the neocons controlling the Republican Party, will spin the lack of a strong showing for any single third party candidate as failure of the movement. We’ll be called a cult of personality filled with out-of-touch kooks who “blame America first”. If all we had was this election, I might be depressed by the defeat we’re likely to endure. I’m sure we’ll lose some fair-weather supporters, but I’m hopeful that if this movement’s as important and as honorable as I think it is, I can some day proudly tell my grandkids about how I joined the fight to restore liberty to our republic.