Democrats For Ron Paul ?
Reason Magazine’s Brian Doherty went to a Ron Paul meetup in Pasadena this week and was surprised to meet a few (former ?) Democrats:
The meeting, which I stumbled into by accident (I hadnâ€™t signed up for Paulâ€™s meetup group myself and was unaware it was happening), had, even two and a half hours after its official beginning, a good 75 people filling the room. Attendees told me more than 100 were there at peakâ€”which I found quite impressive, but the Paul rally coordinator I spoke to seemed disappointed. There were more people under the age of 30 in this room then I saw at the national convention of the Libertarian Party in Portland in 2006.
When I asked one former Democrat at this gathering, who told me he got excited by Paul during the first televised GOP debates, whether he was a common phenomenon, both he and another supporter (who came to Ron from the hard money side) shook their heads wonderingly as if Iâ€™d asked them something as ridiculous and obvious as if Ron Paul believes in the Constitution; itâ€™s a constant phenomenon, they insist. The hard money guy, who likes to wear his nifty â€œRon Paul Revolutionâ€ t-shirt (with the â€œevolâ€ in revolution laid out to make the â€œloveâ€ backwards part stand out), says heâ€™s constantly approached by interested civilians, many of them Democrats, excited and eager to know more.
All either of them had was anecdotes, not thorough data. But no one is polling Democratic voters on their thoughts on Ron Paul, so thatâ€™s all weâ€™ve got to go on. The appeal makes sense on some level, especially when you look at the weak-kneed pasts of most of the antiwarriors leading the Dem pack and contemplate the list of issues that sum up Paul on a business card being handed out at this event.
It has the â€œronpaul2008.comâ€ address on top, and lists as Ronâ€™s stances: â€œVoted against Iraq War. Voted against Patriot Act. Never voted to raise taxes. Never voted to increase government. Opposes Internet regulation. Opposes War on Drugs. Opposes Torture. Supports non-interventionist foreign policy. Supports habeas corpus.â€ (Thatâ€™s the full list.)
As Doherty points out, there are many reasons why Ron Paul could be appealing to some of the same people who are attracted to Democratic candidates like Barak Obama:
One of the keys to why Paul should have wider appeal is that while he is certainly very libertarian, he is in many ways more federalist and constitutionalist than libertarian in a strict sense. Heâ€™s willing to leave all sorts of things to the states rather than imposing small-government solutions from the top down. He representsâ€”or should, to most thinking votersâ€”little in the way of a threat to their interests, insomuch as their interests donâ€™t involve living off the federal teat or using federal power to their advantage. As Paul told me when I interviewed him for my book Radicals for Capitalism, â€œthe freedom philosophy shouldnâ€™t be challenging to too many people, when you emphasize that all I want to do is leave you alone.â€
Progressive gadflies at the Nation such as Alexander Cockburn and John Nichols have had kind words for Paul, the former bordering on an endorsement. Paul has spoken of his affection for, and cooperation with, progressive Dem favorite Dennis Kucinich. Democratic voters need to decide, after eight years of Bush, if they can dedicate themselves mostly to stopping government from doing all the bad things they think Bush has done, from wars to Patriot Acts, or if it is more important to use governmentâ€™s power to do all the good things they insist must be done.
In the end, Doherty thinks that most progressives will not able to give up the opportunity that the 2008 election promises for them — namely the opportunity to retake the Presidency and bring back the dream of the do-it-all-cause-we-tax-the-rich government. But that really says more about them than it does Ron Paul:
Ron Paul is the most energetic and consistent advocate on an issue of paramount political importance, especially to left-progressivesâ€”ending our involvement in Iraq. Heâ€™s willing to leave many controversial issues to states and localities. He wants to leave most of us alone to manage our own affairs, as either individuals or smaller polities. Heâ€™s a dedicated enemy of some of the most evil and repressive policies currently afoot in America. If Americaâ€™s progressives canâ€™t manage to give him at least two cheers, the fault lies not with their candidates, but with themselves.
It also speaks volumes about our political system when the one candidate running for office who actually thinks the Constitution means what it says doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning.