Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Strange Case of Dr. Ron Paul

I have been a supporter of Ron Paul's presidential bid since he announced his intention to run. In fact, Dr. Paul has been my favorite member of Congress for as long as I can remember, and I voted for him as the Libertarian nominee for President in 1988. His commitment to small government and the principles of liberty has been remarkable and unwavering.

But a strange thing has happened, almost from the time Dr. Paul started his campaign last year. he has been ignored by virtually everyone. At first glance this is not surprising; after all, Paul is a low-key Congressman from a small and non-influential Texas district. One would not expect him to garner as much media attention as that ex-mayor from that large Northeastern city, or that popular actor that also happened to have once been a Senator.

However, Ron Paul has some things going for him. He is by all measures the most successful internet fundraiser in the race, by far. In fact, his one day total on Dec. 16th of over $6 million dollars is a record for one day fundraising in US presidential campaigns. He also has an incredibly vigorous and powerful grassroots organization, and his supporters are very passionate and vocal. You'd think these aspects of his campaign would be remarked upon often by the media and the other candidates, as political anomalies if nothing else. However, the response from all quarters has been silence so complete it is deafening.

Other candidates don't mention him or his positions. Other Republicans treat him like a pariah. The media doesn't talk about him. In fact, even on the rare occasions when he is interviewed on TV, one of the most common questions is a variant of: "Since you can't possibly win, who will you vote for?" Can you imagine anything more insulting? Even candidates with far lower poll numbers are not spoken to in this fashion.

And let's talk a little bit about poll numbers. According to the current Fox News polls, Dr. Paul has a support number of 8% in New Hampshire, the first primary state (Iowa doesn't count -- it's a "caucus," little more than a poll itself). This is double Fred Thompson's NH poll number of 4%. Yet in their upcoming presidential debate, Thompson is invited and Paul is being excluded. What is that all about? According to Fox News, they are only including candidates with "double digits in nationwide support." Okay, but how can candidates with lower numbers ever climb if their ideas are not heard in the national debate arena? In another example, Peggy Noonan recently ran down "all" the candidates in an Opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. She included Dennis Kucinich and Duncan Hunter in her analysis, both of whom are polling far below Paul, but did not even mention Ron Paul as a candidate. These kinds of continuous omissions smell strongly of media bias.

Why does pretty much everybody with any stake in this election ignore Dr. Paul, almost compulsively? I think the only rational answer is fear. Not Fear of Dr. Paul or his candidacy per se, but rather fear of what he represents. American politics on both the Democratic and Republican sides has devolved in recent decades to a one-upsmanship game of who can spend the most on "worthwhile" programs and offer the most goodies to voters. The media capitalizes on this kind of in-fighting, and the drama it creates. All industries fight through lobbyists for the scraps that fall from the table in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, and grants. Ron Paul does not play this game, and so he is a threat to the status quo of virtually every interest and politician.

Paul is a particular threat to the Republican Party. This is the party that claims to be for limited government and liberty. But they do not live up to their principles, voting to increase spending and add new, unconstitutional programs every single year. To have a true limited government champion in their midst shines the harsh light of reality on their greed and empty claims.

An election is supposed to be about the competition of ideas and candidates, which the voters can then embrace or reject. Shame on the Republican Party and the Media for robbing America of the right to view these ideas dispassionately. We deserve better from our leaders and information sources, but I don't suppose we'll get better as long as the current corrupt pack of thieves and vultures reigns in the places where decisions are made about what our choices are allowed to be.