Monday, November 26, 2007

You Can’t Dismiss Ron Paul Because of the Internet

Ed Rollins, a longtime conservative operative who worked in the Reagan White House and later became Ross Perot’s campaign manager in 1992, said

“ You can’t dismiss his antiwar vote. You can’t dismiss the power of one man stand­ing up with a powerful message. I’ll tell you, I’ve been in politics for 40 years, and these days everything I’ve learned about politics is totally irrelevant because there’s this un­controllable thing like the Internet. Wash­ington insiders don’t know what to make of it.”




D.C. Establishment Can’t Get A Grip On Ron Paul
By CHRISTOPHER MANION
WASHINGTON, D. C. — Tongues were wagging on both sides of the aisle in Wash­ington last week, as Dr. Ron Paul, the pro­life, pro- Constitution obstetrician who has represented his Texas congressional district for 20 years, pulled off what even the lib­eral Washington Post called a “ stunning achievement.”


Dr. Paul, who has long been treated by the major media either as an inconsequen­tial minor candidate, a “ flake,” or an out­right pariah, broke an Internet record for contributions in a single day when he raised more than $4.2 million in online donations from 40,000 contributors on November 5. The historic news made it impossible for the major media to ignore Dr. Paul’s ac­complishment, even though they have stu­diously ignored him for months. The Wash­ington Post’s story appeared only online. Its politics blogger went for comment to Ed Rollins, a longtime conservative operative who worked in the Reagan White House and later became Ross Perot’s campaign manager in 1992.


“ What he’s done — what his supporters have done — is astonishing,” said Rollins. “ You can’t dismiss his antiwar vote. You can’t dismiss the power of one man stand­ing up with a powerful message. I’ll tell you, I’ve been in politics for 40 years, and these days everything I’ve learned about politics is totally irrelevant because there’s this un­controllable thing like the Internet. Wash­ington insiders don’t know what to make of it.”


In fact, the Internet has been the domi­nant ingredient in Paul’s campaign precisely because it is “uncontrollable.” Ever since Dr. Paul came on the scene, he has been large­ly ignored by the prestige press; he is a “ nonperson” on the left, and intensely re­sented by his fellow GOP presidential can­didates.


The reason is fairly simple: In the past few years, the two major parties have be­come increasingly undistinguishable. They are virtually mirror images of one anoth­er in corruption. Their defiance of fiscal and constitutional discipline has brought about a widespread collapse of public trust in our national government. They are all what Rollins calls “ Washington in­siders.” One cannot expect that crowd to acknowledge, much less to applaud, the only pro- Constitution, anti- establishment candidate who stands up and yells “ stop.” Normally, the tree would fall in the for­est and nobody would hear because the prestige press would not report it. But In­ternet content is not controlled by the es­tablishment. There, untold thousands of web sites and blogs hum with news and opinion that is totally unfiltered and un­censored.


With the Internet, there is no such thing as the “ cutting- room floor.” Quite the contrary: Many influential web sites were set up to challenge the prestige press and to provide a more attractive, less “ establishment” alternative. Rollins is right: The Internet is indeed “ uncontrol­lable.” People write whatever they want to and read whatever web sites they want to. When they find something they like, they send it to their entire e- mail list. If it catches on, it can spread like wildfire, vir­tually without cost. And that accounts for the stunning success of Dr. Paul’s “ power­ful message” there.


Rollins’ admission is telling: “I’ve been in politics for 40 years, and these days every­thing I’ve learned about politics is totally ir­relevant.” He is not kidding, and he is not alone. For the past 40 years, the entire Washington establishment — the politi­cians, the bureaucracy, the media, the lob­byists, the contractors, the agencies — have all been wallowing in one big spe­cial- interest hot tub, simply printing more money when they can’t bill the taxpay­er. This is a closely controlled dance that “ Washington insiders” have perfected and perpetuated, taking every precaution that no outsider will rock the boat. Even George Bush, a self- styled reformer in 2000, became a big spender before long. In fact, in the 27 years since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the nation­al debt has risen from below one trillion dollars to ten trillion dollars. For 19 of those 27 years, there was a Republican in the White House — and surprisingly, most of the rise has taken place during President Bush’s two terms in office. One recent study indicates that Bush is “ the biggest spender since LBJ” — the “ guns and butter” author of the “ Great Society” who was president back when Rollins be­gan his political career 40 years ago.


Why haven’t more of the “ conservative” candidates competing for the GOP nom­ination raised this issue? The fact is, they don’t mention Bush at all. A recent anal­ysis indicates that, while Democratic de­baters have mentioned the president 72 times, the Republicans have mentioned him only twice ( and one was Dr. Paul). And therein lies the dirty little secret of the pri­mary campaign: They can’t attack him, not yet.


David Broder, the “pundit dean” who has long been the weathervane for liberal edi­torial writers across the country, pointed to the elephant in the living room a few weeks back when he recalled Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 campaign. Humphrey waited too long, Broder says, before he would attack LBJ’s record and distance himself from the unpopular president. Had he turned a few months earlier, Broder surmises, he would have done much better in November. Now, Broder teases, when will the Republicans turn on the unpopular Bush? We know they will, he taunts. But when will they?


The answer is simple, of course: Every GOP candidate except Dr. Paul is trying to woo the “ GOP base.” And what is the “ base”? It is the 30% or so of the elector­ate that still supports Bush. Yes, it is a mi­nority of the country, but it is a majority of the GOP, especially among likely primary voters. Broder’s unspoken message is, once the GOP has a clear winner in the pri­maries, that candidate will have much more freedom to criticize the president’s record. His target audience will now be the general electorate, not primary voters.
Of course, Broder ( and the rest of the gang at the Post) wouldn’t give Ron Paul the time of day, so he assumes that the GOP will nominate an establishment can­didate — who will have to woo Bush vot­ers now, but turn on Bush eventually. The prospect of such a candidate advocating “change” and still keeping the Bush “base” on board will require a world- class balanc­ing act, and this GOP field is definitely not world class.


And then there’s Ron Paul. He has been very consistent and clear ( two rare ingredi­ents in this campaign season). Should he win the nomination, he would not have to change his message at all — in fact, he would only strengthen it as he got more opportunities to explain it to a wider audi­ence.


So far, Paul’s audience has been Inter­net- based, and his campaign success re­flects the coming of age of that medium in the political world. In the early 1960s, liberals referred to the grassroots conser­vatives that won Goldwater the 1964 GOP nomination as “ little old ladies in tennis shoes.” Well, move over ladies, and meet the new grassroots powers that the establishment both fears and belittles — the Internet. And meet the sleeping giant — the millions of Americans who are fed up with the lock that the major party establishments have placed on our national political life.


It is interesting to observe that the most strenuous opposition to Dr. Paul’s candi­dacy is not from liberal Democrats, but from the neocons who are currently run­ning the Bush administration’s foreign pol­icy. David Frum, a contributing editor to both The Weekly Standard and Nation­al Review Online, is one of those “ con­servatives of convenience” whose ap­proach to pro- lifers seldom rises above thinly disguised contempt. Like the GOP establishment candidates, the Frum fac­tion needs the votes of the pro- life “ reli­gious right,” of course, but it does noth­ing to further the pro- life cause.


In fact, like many neocons, Frum sup­ports pro- abortion, pro- homosexual Rudy Giuliani. He dismisses Dr. Paul as a fringe candidate along the lines of Howard Dean and Ralph Nader — but he realizes that Ralph Nader made it possible for Gov. George Bush to carry Florida in the 2000 election.


Frum assumes, naturally, that Ron Paul will not win the GOP nomination: “ Rudy is in no danger of losing Republican prima­ry voters to Ron Paul,” he insists. “ And if ( as I have speculated) Paul mounts an in­dependent candidacy in the general elec­tion, he will draw votes from disaffected Democrats, disappointed in Hillary Clinton’s failure to articulate a more radical antiwar message. As third-party candidates go, Ron Paul is Nader, not Perot.”


Weekly Standard editor William Kristol recently commented that all of the “major” GOP candidates (minus Dr. Paul, of course) suited him fine, because they are all falling over each other to capture the votes of the Americans who still support President Bush and the Iraq War.


In other words, the neocons think that Ron Paul is more a danger to the Demo­crats than the Republicans in the 2008 elec­tions. It brings back memories of 1952, when Eisenhower’s supporters trumpeted that “ Taft can’t win” — and then they had to steal the votes of the pro- Taft Texas del­egation to deliver the nomination to Eisen­hower.
“ Ron Paul can’t win.” “ Ron Paul is on a roll.” Take your pick, and stay tuned.
[The Wanderer (November 15, 2007)]

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