As a veteran of many election campaigns and movements, going back to 1960, and as having spoken to a lot of voters in this campaign season, I have a somewhat different take on the Ron Paul campaign than Sean Scallon does.
Although there are still many voters who have never heard of Ron Paul and his message, there are also many who haven't heard much about the other candidates, either. I find that polling in single digits was not the result of not enough people knowing. This is best indicated by the results in his own congressional district, where 70% of Republicans voted to return him to Congress, but only 12% voted to nominate him as the Republican presidential candidate, not enough to pass the 20% threshold for getting delegates. Those results don't come from not knowing, or even accepting, him or his message. Voters in his district know him fairly well. They like and trust him, and more people vote for him for that than agree with his positions, most of which they don't understand and prefer to trust him to think about.
The 5% of the vote he got in the Republican primary in Texas, normalized by multiplying by .6 to project it to the results that might be expected in a general election, yields 3%. That is the same percentage I received in the 2006 election when I was the Libertarian candidate for Texas Attorney General, and I got and spent far less money and had far fewer campaign workers. In other words, when it came to the final test, we both only got a hard core of libertarian voters who are more concerned about sending a message to policymakers to move toward libertarian constitutionalist positions than they are about nominating a candidate that they think can win in the general election. They perceive that, even if they are ready for a president who takes such positions, most of the rest of the country is not. It is not unlike the perception that the country is not ready for a black or female or Muslim or gay or openly agnostic president, even though oneself might be ready. Their perception is that the country is more ready for any of those than it is for a libertarian constitutionalist president.
I do not find any serious deficiencies in the efforts of the many campaign volunteers, other than there not being enough of them. I have been involved in campaigns in almost every election during the last 48 years and this was without doubt the best organized, most effective, and most enthusiastic I have seen. Everyone involved should be proud of his or her contributions to the effort, and I commend them all.
But we were up against a mindset we could not overcome: voters just did not perceive Ron Paul as someone who could win the general election, or, even if he won, be allowed by the Establishment to govern. I find that only about 10-15% of Republican voters tend to agree with his libertarian constitutionalist positions on domestic issues, and less than half of those agree with his strongly non-interventionist foreign policy positions. While he attracted many volunteers who opposed the Iraq war and foreign intervention, most of the voters with those views preferred to vote in the Democratic primaries or caucuses, largely out of habit and their herd affiliations.
There was also the problem of there being too many candidates competing for the same libertarian constitutionalist voters, especially, toward the end, Mike Huckabee. If the Establishment wanted to defeat our movement, they could not have found a better way to do it than by loading the field with multiple candidates to divide and conquer. If Brownback, Hunter, Tancredo, Huckabee, and Thomson had just stayed out of the race Paul might have gotten as much as 20% of the vote, not enough to win, but enough to shift the policy direction of this country toward libertarian constitutionalism. The Republican voters were gullible enough to fall for that.
The movement has its work cut out for it. Don't get discouraged by that. It took 200 years to get into this predicament and it may take a few generations, or perhaps a major catastrophe, to get us out of it. We are about changing the civic culture of a country, without the benefit of most parents or schools helping to transmit the traditions and habits of thought that founded it. As my grandfather, who used to teach in a one-room schoolhouse, predicted, we have become a nation of historyless adolescents, and growing out of that fast usually takes a lot of pain.
Now the movement needs to shift to electing libertarian constitutionalists to lower offices. It was never realistic to think that electing a president could change anything without first electing like-minded people to every other level and branch of government. Without the rest of the building, beginning with the foundation, the weathervane to be put on top will just lie in the ground, never showing which way the wind is blowing.
I am a candidate for the Texas Libertarian Party nomination for U.S. Senator. There are other such candidates, perhaps even a few within the Republican and Democratic parties, but mostly not. If you want to move the civic culture in the right direction, that will mostly mean supporting or becoming Libertarian candidates.
Let us challenge the voters to vote for the Constitution, because any vote not for the Constitution is a vote against it, and that means a vote for most Republicans or Democrats. Make it clear that to vote against the Constitution is to vote for letting government spy on you, destroy your reputation, assault you, imprison you, take all your property, kill you, molest your family, and force you to dishonor yourself, with no recourse but violence and none to come to your aid. If that's what you want, then volunteer for it, but don't vote for having that done to the rest of us.
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