Wednesday, July 25, 2007

9. Ron Paul for the Long Haul

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

— Mahatma Gandhi

"The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of cliches the first prize."
— Saul Bellow

About Ron Paul's Fundraising

On July 15
th, the Federal Election Commission announced the 2nd quarter fundraising totals for each presidential candidate. In the Republican field, Ron Paul's $2.4 million placed him:
  • 3rd in total receipts for the quarter

  • 4th in total receipts to date

  • 3rd in total current assets (ahead of former front-runner John McCain, and just $800,000 behind Mitt Romney)
Thus far, 47% of the contributions made to Ron Paul's campaign are
donations of under $200 from individuals (John McCain's 17% is the second highest percentage). This is a telling statistic, as it highlights the fact that most other candidates rely heavily upon donations from corporate interests and political action committees (PACs) (i.e. moneyed, influence-seeking sources who can readily afford to contribute large sums). Since Congressman Paul has always voted against special favors and privileges for anyone, special interests know they have nothing to gain by stuffing Ron Paul's campaign coffers. As one member of my local Meetup group put it on a home-made sign, "Ron Paul is thin because he won't let special interests buy him lunch."

Among all candidates, Dr. Paul is now first in total donations from military personnel and veterans. While this may come as a surprise to some, Tom Engelhardt identified the primary reason when he asked
rhetorically, "why should (military personnel) want to be endlessly redeployed to a lost war in a lost land?" (see Why the US Military Loves Ron Paul).

Why, indeed -- President Paul would bring them home now.

The Ron Paul Buzz

As anyone familiar with the Ron Paul campaign knows, official fundraising figures tell
only a small part of the story. This campaign is a genuine grassroots movement, driven primarily by the independent efforts of Dr. Paul's enthusiastic supporters -- a wide-ranging constituency that includes disenfranchised anti-war Democrats, traditional conservatives, Constitutionalists, anti-corporatists, free traders, libertarians, Christians, Hindus, atheists, druids, hobbits, wizards, and a host of others. Although a seemingly disparate group, these people share a genuine concern about America's ongoing slide toward authoritarianism, empire, and bankruptcy.

This building wave of support takes many forms -- from the proliferation of Ron Paul Web sites, blogs, and merchandise, to public 'banner brigades' and pamphleteering, to private conversations and e-mail threads -- and some estimates assess the economic value of these independent activities at more than $10 million per quarter.

No candidacy has generated more buzz than Ron Paul's, and the following statistics prove the point:
  • "Ron Paul" recently topped Technorati's search-term rankings for an unprecedented stretch -- current rank #2 (Technorati is the leading authority on Internet media usage).

  • draws more traffic than any other candidate's Web site.

  • On, the Internet's most popular video site, the Ron Paul channel has over 22,000 subscribers, which is 13,000 more than the second most popular candidate (Obama).

  • And on, more than 25,000 people comprise 560 Ron Paul Meetup groups, which makes the Good Doctor the most popular Meetup source in the political category. The next candidate, Obama, is a distant second with 5300 members in 68 groups.

    Notes: All statistics reflect current numbers as of July 23, 2007. Also, for those who don't know, is the most popular Internet site for people with common interests who want to organize events and activities with one another -- consequently, it's the most commonly used online resource for coordinating political activities.
Some commentators say this interest and support is illusory, perhaps even the product of a centralized Internet effort led by the Ron Paul campaign. Yet, the Paul campaign has only spent $600,000 to date, while other candidates have already burned through tens of millions. Although Paul's campaign staff is growing, it doesn't even have the resources to provide timely responses to the flood of incoming e-mails (I speak from personal experience here), much less oversee such a sustained, widespread, technologically-sophisticated endeavor.

The skeptics also ignore an obvious question -- if it's so easy to jerry-rig Internet statistics, why haven't other, better-financed campaigns done the same? (Answer: It's not easy and, in many cases, it's simply impossible.) While I personally don't know of anyone who spends their time spamming online polls or repeatedly Googling their favorite candidate's name, I have no doubt such people exist in the ranks of most political movements. And given the evident enthusiasm of Ron Paul supporters, it's quite likely that a greater percentage of his backers might attempt to do such things.

That said, I believe there are more plausible reasons for Ron Paul's "online success" -- most importantly, the Internet is the primary source of information about Dr. Paul. As early as last fall -- two full years before the election -- the
conventional media and major-party establishments had already anointed the top six Republican and Democratic candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Clinton, Obama, & Edwards). Since then, countless opinion makers have informed Americans that these six politicians complete the list of 'viable' Presidential options. In other words, no need to look further -- we've done your thinking for you.

How and why this happened exactly is a topic for another day. (Hint - Follow the money.) The important point here is that each of the Anointed Candidates has received regular, daily coverage since that time (and, in some cases, for several years now). Although Dr. Paul has benefited from a smattering of media attention since his '
blowback' exchange with Giuliani in May, people who are curious about Paul's track record and platform must turn to the Internet. The conventional media is most unlikely to begin covering Dr. Paul on a regular basis, no matter how much traction he gains.

Consequently, Ron Paul's supporters must assume the task of spreading the word. Fortunately, many of us are happy to do so, and when people first learn of Dr. Paul's track record, they typically want to know more. As regular readers of this blog know, Ron Paul challenges US foreign policy on a refreshingly honest and fundamental level -- a level of inquiry wholly absent from most political forums. And Dr. Paul's forthrightness doesn't stop with foreign policy, as he applies the same intellectual rigor to issues involving civil liberties, health care, immigration, education, our fiat-money system, and so on.

Reading Tea Leaves

Now, I'm not a political analyst, and things could certainly change in a hurry -- but given the current landscape, some future developments seem rather predictable:
First, Ron Paul's Jeffersonian liberalism will give him a significant advantage over his pro-war, neoconservative competitors. While the other candidates vie for the support of the modern Republican base, Ron Paul provides the only real alternative for any traditional conservatives who remain in the party. Without Ron Paul, each GOP debate would be a brain-dead echo chamber.

Perhaps more importantly, Dr. Paul will appeal to those Americans who long ago abandoned politics because the big-government
statism of the two major parties was hostile to their values. With recent voter turnout in presidential elections hovering around 50%, this may be a surprisingly large block of potential voters. For Ron Paul supporters, the key will be finding these people and telling them about Dr. Paul -- a simple, mass-marketing numbers game.

Second, due to this ideological edge and campaign realities, we'll witness a steady whittling of the Republican field in coming months -- a thinning that recently began with Jim Gilmore's exit from the race. With the exception of Ron Paul, the other candidates have spent their funds like drunken Congressmen, and the 'second tier' has little to show for their binge. Most of these campaigns suffer from anemic fundraising, a moribund Internet presence, and lackluster crowds (certainly nothing approaching the numerous crowds gathering on Ron Paul's behalf, as documented here, here, here, here, here, and here). By next spring, the existing field of contenders will be reduced to a Final Four -- Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul.

Third, Ron Paul is in this race for the long haul -- at least until next September's Republican convention. Thus far, the Paul campaign has run a frugal operation, relying primarily on the efforts of grassroots activists. These efforts are steadily snowballing support, as evidenced by Dr. Paul's three-month ascent from anonymity to 3% in national polls, and that figure will continue to rise at the rate people learn about our candidate. As Jennifer Haman pointed out, Ron Paul leads in the polls of those who have heard him speak. In the meantime, the campaign is shrewdly storing its dry powder -- mounting millions to be meted out at judicious points throughout the campaign.
Only time will tell what the future holds for Ron Paul's presidential bid -- but for now, there's great cause for optimism.

Friday, July 13, 2007

8. The principled anti-war candidate

"When weaker nations are intimidated by more powerful ones, striking back very often can be done only through terrorism, a problem that will continue to threaten all Americans as our leaders incite those who oppose our aggressive stands throughout the world. But when a foreign war comes to our shores in the form of terrorism, we can be sure that our government will explain the need for further sacrifice of personal liberties to win this war against terrorism as well."
Dr. Ron Paul, April 21, 1999

As a conscientious and consistent critic of American militarism, Dr. Ron Paul has no peer in the 2008 presidential race. From the habitual warring of the Clinton administration to contemporary belligerence towards Iran, Ron Paul has stood fast and often alone against the martial zeitgeist of our time.

In the 1990s, Dr. Paul:
  • Opposed the widespread deployment of American troops in non-defensive, unconstitutional wars.

  • Challenged the false and flawed rationales for such deployments as those in Kosovo and Bosnia.

  • Voted against the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which made 'regime change' the official policy of the US government — a measure that Dr. Paul correctly predicted would lead to open war.

  • Opposed the brutal embargo and repeated bombings of Iraq.

  • Advised Congress that US policies needlessly anger many people around the world, while repeatedly forewarning of terrorist 'blowback.'

In the years prior to the invasion of Iraq, Paul:
  • Opposed the pending conflict on moral, practical, and political grounds.

  • Refuted the 'evidence' that served as the Bush administration's casus belli.

  • Voted against the 2002 Iraq War Resolution, which Dr. Paul accurately described as giving the president "the authority to determine when, where, why, and how war will be declared."

  • Apprised Congress and his constituents of the ugly, expected consequences.

And since the invasion, he has:
  • Voted against all bills for further funding of the war — a minimum requirement for any candidate in Congress who claims to be 'anti-war.'

  • Advocated US withdrawal, while pointing out that continuing American involvement in an unjustified, unwinnable war is no way to 'support the troops.'

  • Explained the pernicious influence of neo-conservatives on US foreign policy.

  • Called for a thorough investigation of the Bush administration's fraudulent campaign for war.

Some presidential candidates protest select instances of militarism if the opposition party occupies the White House
but dutifully support such actions when a member of 'their' party calls the shots.

Some candidates criticize the Bush Administration's 'mis-management' of the US occupation
despite their role as advocates and enablers of this elective war and others.

Some candidates now chastise the administration for its Iraq propaganda campaign
despite their active participation in spreading alarmist falsehoods during the march to war.

And some candidates carefully calibrate their rhetoric on foreign policy to suit the particular views of each audience.

But not Ron Paul the principled anti-war candidate.

!!! NEW PAGE Ron Paul on foreign policy during the Clinton years NEW PAGE !!!

"An autocratic system of coercion, in my opinion, soon degenerates. For force always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels ... This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business. And yet so high, in spite of everything, is my opinion of the human race that I believe this bogey would have disappeared long ago, had the sound sense of the nations not been systematically corrupted by commercial and political interests acting through the schools and the Press."

— Albert Einstein, The World as I See It (1931)