Ron Paul And The Republican Future

Dec 19 2011 @ 1:12pm

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“I would be a different kind of president. I wouldn’t be looking for more power. Everybody wants to be a powerful executive and run things. I, as a president, wouldn’t want to run the world,” – Ron Paul, December 15.

It's so heartening to see a candidate who's been ignored, condescended to and caricatured by both the liberal media and the Fox Propaganda machine emerge as a viable candidate to win the Iowa caucuses. He did it the best way possible: by a long, consistent message and the spade-work of previous campaigns; by old-school ground-organization; by generating enthusiasm among the grass roots and by bringing in many more people into the GOP fold. And look at the people he's attracting:

Among voters under 45 [in Iowa] he’s at 33% to 16% for Romney and 11% for Gingrich.  He’s really going to need that younger than normal electorate because with seniors Romney’s blowing him out 31-15 with Gingrich coming in 2nd at 18%. Paul is also cleaning up 35-14 with the 24% of voters who identify as either Democrats or independents. Romney is actually ahead 22-19 with GOP voters.  Young people and non-Republicans are an unusual coalition to hang your hat on in Iowa, and it will be interesting to see if Paul can actually pull it off.

If any other candidate were to win the Republican Iowa caucuses with a demographic that could go head-to-head with Obama's base in the fall, we'd be having newsweekly cover-stories and round-the-clock cable coverage. Instead we have the usual silence from liberals who cannot take domestic libertarianism seriously and from neocons desperate to keep the Military Industrial Complex humming at Cold War velocity. But Paul is a demographic dream for the GOP. What the party desperately needs is an outreach to the Millennials and, to a lesser extent, the Gen-Ys and Gen-X's, if it is to be saved from dying out in the near future. Alone among the candidates, Ron Paul, at 78 76 years' old, is able to attract them to the GOP.

And the generation gap is growing hugely. Since the Carter era, the young and the old have been separated by at most 7 percent in the gap between Democrats and Republicans, and sometimes as little as 1 percent (when Reagan beat Carter). But in the last decade the gap has widened to a staggering 20 percent difference, as the recent Pew survey found.

Paul's other great strength is in understanding, in a way neither the current Democrats or Republicans do, that the imperial apparatus inherited from the war against the Soviet Union has to be wound down. Romney sees this as defeat, because his worldview is still so 20th Century. Obama understands the need for re-calibration, but is actually far more Niebuhrian than Paul's "friends-with-countries" approach to foreign policy. Only Paul makes the big leap into the multi-polar future.

There is no way over the long term that Americans will be or should be prepared to endure greater relative poverty in a free trading world when they also have to pay almost the entire cost of global order and stability required to uphold it. There comes a point at which the Western Man's burden becomes being taken for a ride. For the US to deny its seniors medical care, to sleight its infrastructure renewal, and depress investment in the economy in order to keep the global economy militarily stable for China and India and Europe … well, Paul is right. It makes no sense. We have to move back from a Department of Offense and Empire to a Department of Defense and Security. We need to let go of paranoia. The cycle of fear has already done immeasurable damage to the constitution, the economy and regional stability and security (watch Iraq and Afghanistan implode in the next few years).

The young get this. They were not brought up under the Cold War and mercifully have not absorbed its toxic fumes as children. Their formative war is neither WWII nor Vietnam, but Iraq. They want an America that is not bankrupting itself either by too expensive a welfare state at home or too unwieldy a war-machine abroad. And amid all the pandering and positioning and 1980s rhetoric, Paul has made this case as clearly as he can – with enormous courage and aplomb.

We were told one thing after his extensive riff last week on the paranoia around Iran's nuclear weapons, his defense of blowback theory in our encounters with Jihadist terrorism, and his open denunciation of the greatest mistake of his own party in the last decade, the Iraq war (where every other candidate is silent). We were told this ended his candidacy, that there was no constituency for this in the current GOP, that he was throwing it all away, that he has, as the Ailes memo clearly has it, zero chance of getting the nomination.

Well: now he's ahead in Iowa. And, yes, it remains a long, long, long shot. But you know what?

Yes he can.

(Photo: Supporters of Republican presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul cheer as he speaks during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference on June 17, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images. )