Do, do run, Ron. Run. Do, do run, Ron
Is Ron Paul betraying the movement he built?
Now that Mitt Romney has clinched enough delegates to the Republican convention in Tampa in August to ensure he will be the party’s presidential candidate, Paul is being pressured to finally call off his supporters and end his campaign for the nomination.
That is what he should do – end his campaign for the nomination, but not end his campaign for the White House.
What we have in prospect instead is a cynical scramble for a few more delegates in order to make the biggest possible show of strength for libertarianism and for the Paul family at the convention. That really is a betrayal.
The insurgent campaign has failed to capture the crown. It’s over. The leader of Republicanism now is Romney, who is about as likely to abolish the Federal Reserve as Nancy Pelosi is to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. What exactly is the point of a show of strength inside the Republican party?
Almost 2 million people have cast a vote for Paul since the primaries began, by no means all of them Republicans. He has enticed many, many more to an online movement more enduringly vibrant than any recently created in US politics. He may be the oldest contender in the presidential race, but he has the youngest supporters. He is hailed on college campuses by first-time voters who want to radically rethink the federal government and to radically rethink interventionist economic and foreign policies that have been the elite consensus for generations.
In short, this movement is important. And Ron Paul has a responsibility towards it.
I write more in hope than in expectation, but an independent Paul campaign for the White House could be just the jolt needed. Moments of realignment in US politics are rare. The next one may be approaching. Young people want government out of their face, out of their personal lives and out of their professional lives, too, now that so many are embarking on scrappy, exciting, entrepreneurial careers. Paul can pull support from right and left with his calls for an end to foreign military adventures that could bankrupt the US, and an end to the so-called “war” on drugs.
Libertarianism is not my politics – absolutely not my politics at all – but I share a few of its positions. I certainly ache for radical policies to be discussed on the presidential stage. And I’ll confess I share with many of Paul’s supporters a thrill at the prospect that this sclerotic duopoly of Democrat and Republican might be breakable.
So why the obsession with delegates and with the convention in Florida? The punditry is united in its explanation. Ron is no longer running this campaign and leading this movement with a view to his own political career, but to his son’s. Cable news panels earnestly debate what Ron Paul could “trade” his delegates for in Tampa, maybe a plum speaking slot for him or his son, or Romney patronage of Rand in Congress. The “Paul for President” campaign machinery is effectively being put in a trust, they say, for Rand Paul to inherit in four years time.
Maybe the pundits are right. Rand, newly-minted Senator for Kentucky, is much smoother and more attuned to the politics of soundbites than his father. More electable, for sure. Maybe they are right, too, that if Paul Snr were to quit the Republican party, as he did in 1987, and stand for president on a libertarian platform, the son would pay for the sins of the father in a Republican vendetta that would wreck any ambitions he has of achieving the White House.
But how dispiriting. Voters aren’t chips to be traded or bequeathed, least of all the idealistic, optimistic army of voters that Ron Paul has called to arms this year.
They have come to him from across the country and across the political spectrum, and they must not be betrayed in return for a dynastic promise or for a few lines of libertarian policy in a Romney manifesto, all of which is easily disowned.
I first saw the name Ron Paul written in chalk on the grass at the Austin City Limits music festival in 2006, the year I moved to the US. That an indie music festival, hangout of the young and the restless, should be a hotbed of right-wing political activism was kind of stunning then, and it still stuns me now the number of people I speak to who voted Barack Obama last time who have found Ron Paul seductive.
There is a “none of the above” voting bloc that deserves voice this election, and which was never satisfied by any of the monied alternatives like No Labels and Americans Elect. Add to that a growing libertarian bloc that has poured heart and soul into the Paul campaign. And then there are the rest of us, craving a debate of big ideas, ideas commensurate with the scale of the economic challenges and social changes that are coming.
So this is the moment. Not in four years. Ron Paul shouldn’t be suspending his campaign; he should be retooling it outside the Republican party. Anything less than an independent bid for the White House will be a colossal betrayal of his supporters and their work and the movement they have built together.Tagged in: 2012 presidential election, convention, GOP, Mitt Romney, rand paul, Ron Paul, tampa, us, US politics
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