From the ‘applause poll’ to the straw poll: Ron Paul can’t be ignored


Ron Paul at CPAC 2011 in Washington, DC. Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

Ron Paul at CPAC 2011 in Washington, DC. Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

Thunderous applause and raucous cheers rise up each time Ron Paul makes a statement at one of the debates between the Republican presidential candidates. The response seems so disproportionate with that of the other candidates, I’ve heard several people comment about it. Even so, Ron Paul doesn’t seem to exist as far as the mainstream media is concerned.

Ron Paul finished a close second in Saturday’s straw poll in Ames, Iowa. He was just 152 votes short of Michelle Bachmann’s winning tally. But Sunday’s headlines tended to focus on Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, who came in third, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney, who finished sixth and seventh, respectively.

Ron Paul did finally make the news today. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart was talking about how the media seem to be ignoring Ron Paul. At least someone noticed.

But seriously, why the media blackout? Presumably, the media ignore Congressman Paul because they think he’s a fringe candidate, a long shot. But the enthusiastic applause in those early debates and–even more–his strong showing in the Iowa straw poll demonstrate that Ron Paul is more than just another face in the Republican candidate crowd. The media have made the wrong call. Ron Paul can’t be ignored any longer.

Of the top 10 candidates in the straw poll, including Perry’s write-in votes, nine of them have relatively similar platforms. Most of them have indicated that they are in favor of torturing prisoners if it serves America’s interests. Most of them are in favor of continuing our wars and military presence all over the world. Most of them are in favor of expanding the powers of the federal government over the lives of individuals in America and around the world in one way or another. They all represent various similar-but-different shades of the Republican establishment. That establishment received 12,003 votes in Ames on Saturday.

Ron Paul, on the other hand, stands for individual liberty, sound money, and a small, Constitutional government that is accountable to the people it serves. His ideas resonated with 4,671 straw poll voters. Among those who cast ballots for the top ten candidates in the straw poll, one quarter saw that Ron Paul is something different. That’s more than a fringe. That’s a number that can’t be ignored.

  • Dale

    He currently has a very strong following within the very faithful base. It’s similar to respectable, good-sized cult following–they are the Trekkers of the Republican Party. The one thing that is keeping others from joining that merry band is his foreign policy. Granted, it’s not all bad. But as long as he continues to suggest that it’s ok by him if Iran gets nukes, and other such comments, he will be cast as a bit of a kooky genius who is out of touch with reality, and he will not gain the trust of the majority of conservatives.

  • I agree that there’s a lot being said about Ron Paul’s commitment to non-aggression and non-intervention in foreign affairs. He has a pretty good grasp of history (not necessarily “state-sanctioned” history), and I think he applies his knowledge well to current events. Still, his ideas do not arise within a kooky vacuum. These are tried-and-true libertarian ideals. In fact, they’re foundational elements of libertarian political philosophy.

    What we might call “conservatives” 60+ years ago (often called the “Old Right”) would have strongly agreed with Ron Paul’s foreign policy. Unfortunately, today’s conservatives are not conservatives, they’re neoconservatives. Neoconservatives believe that America has the right and duty to take what it wants when it wants it at any cost, and without any regard for anyone else. The neocons’ agenda for entitlement programs that promote the “greatness of America” abroad is as wrong-headed as the Left’s agenda for entitlements that promote the redistribution of wealth at home. Both are in favor of increasing the power of the federal government.

    That’s why it’s hard for a libertarian (or anyone who doesn’t like logical fallacies) to hear Michelle Bachmann say that the government should be smaller and more limited. What she really means is that it should be smaller and more limited domestically (except for regulating marriage, abortion, and drugs; and except wherever it chooses to apply the PATRIOT Act). On the other hand, the U. S. Government should expand and exert its power whenever and wherever it can on the international scene. The implication is that Americans have inalienable rights (when they agree with the government), but foreigners do not.

    That being said, I think it’s interesting that until very recently, it was Ron Paul’s monetary policy that was lambasted as silly and irrational. Instead, the other candidates have started actually echoing the sentiments that Ron Paul has been promoting for a long time. Just yesterday, Rick Perry made some negative remarks about the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke. These cookie-cutter Republicans wouldn’t be venturing that far away from their standard “save the fetuses; kill the foreign people” platforms if it weren’t for Ron Paul.

    • Dale

      I understand and agree with all of your comments. However, Paul doesn’t stand a chance if he can not *clearly* explain to the folks why he said he would not try to stop Iran and the madmen running that country from acquiring nuclear weapons. I understand there are some valid and rational reasons for saying that (one example being the nukes in Pakistan are likely a greater threat at this point than the Iranian program, another being that Israel seems to be doing a pretty good job containing the issue). Maybe he means it, but not quite in the way people interpreted it (as in, “sure I *care*, but there are other urgent matters I care about also). Whatever the case, the candidates are going to beat him up one side and down the other if he does not come across as a rational, grounded person with thought-provoking answers to the questions you and I both know are going to be thrown at him. In the latest debate, with Romney just standing there like a Ken Doll with a Hollywood smile, staring him down as he spoke, Paul came off almost as a cross between a grumpy old man and Howard Dean. That must change if Paul is to see any traction in this election! He must improve his image and the clarity of his message–immediately, if not sooner.

      By the way, you must not be a patriot because you don’t support the PATRIOT act. (hehe… I kid, I kid!)