I’ll admit I would have liked to see Ron Paul win Iowa, but it’s likely that with the results – a strong showing but clearly third place – he has been consigned to Republican presidential candidate oblivion again this election cycle. He’s the only candidate in either party who has anything interesting to say, and there was a chance that the quadrennial election pageant might have yielded some actual, thoughtful political debate and discussion for once. That is probably now impossible. So for that reason alone there is cause to be disappointed this morning.
I am not the most politically astute person, but I would hazard a guess that the late fade of the Paul campaign might have had a lot to do with things like this. Evidently, the campaign engaged in sort of scurrilous political tactics like “push polling“.
It’s only my opinion, but I think this showed extraordinarily poor political judgment. In sales terms, the candidate Paul had appeal as the avuncular, principled and honest elder statesman, which is entirely undercut by resorting to tactics like that. It’s a self inflicted, fatal electoral wound, all the more tragic because it’s not consistent with Paul’s personality at all.
Paul has had a long term close relationship with Lew Rockwell. Push-polling and negative attack ads are more like him.
Rockwell has his good points and I think his websites offer a lot of interesting material. To some degree their online popularity has changed political discussion in very good ways, and that may be part of the reason Paul did as well as he did. But while I read LRC just about every day I don’t link to the site for a couple of reasons: first, while the LRC crowd is very clear about what the oppose they offer little or nothing of a tangible nature as solutions to the problems they identify; and second, they’re a bit too cult-like for my tastes.
It’s ironic that libertarians have a tendency to behave like insular cults, but it’s probably an inevitable corollary to the siege mentality they often acquire. Us v. them may be in many ways the reality of the situation, but you can easily wind up at de facto misanthropy despite your best intentions and protestations to the contrary. That’s where Ayn Rand wound up. And that’s where the LRC crowd winds up, too.
Insularity gives you a political tin ear. The big controversy Paul had to deal with once it became clear he was a contender in Iowa was the flap over racist newsletters from the 1980′s and 1990′s. That, too, was in all likelihood a Lew Rockwell thing. It was bound to be politically damaging in the long run, even if it generated some fundraising in the short term. Certainly anyone could could have surmised that even at the time.
Water under the bridge, at this point.
Lew published a couple of pieces of mine in 2007 and I’ve learned things from him, his site and the whole group over there. I like Tom Woods, too. But if I were Lew, or Tom Woods, I’d take this opportunity to reassess some basic principles and future direction.
Update: Another episode of mean-spirited conduct here, and gratuitously mean-spirited conduct at that. This kind of thing gets around and really alienates voters. Again, it’s not Paul himself, it’s just not his style. But he’s way too close to people whose style it obviously is.
Update 2: I have yet to see any discussion about this, but from a political operative standpoint it would seem rather obvious that Santorum was brought in by the Romney campaign and is not a serious candidate on his own. He has no money and no national organization. The idea was that since Romney was losing the Christian right vote to Paul, or even to just staying home, Santorum’s belated effort was required to draw those votes away from Paul. Without Santorum’s effort, Paul would have won handily over Romney. The cui bono analysis indicates this was Romney’s idea, and it wouldn’t be the first time Santorum has made himself useful to a moderate Republican who had trouble shoring up the right wing of the party: he did the same thing for Arlen Specter in PA.