Monday, November 26, 2007

The Ron Paul Phenomenon

Media continue to proclaim themselves somewhat bewildered by Ron Paul's "improbably successful" presidential candidacy.

There's nothing bewildering about it, because it's not that successful. Even after all the hoopla, and the one big day of fundraising (Paul raised $4.3 million on November 5), Dr. Paul's national poll rating is a whopping 6%. In New Hampshire, he gets 8%. I haven't seen him out of the single digits anywhere.

Ron Paul is just the Republican equivalent of Ralph Nader's failed presidential bid on the Democratic side. It's not that hard to appeal to 5 or 6% of the voters. You just take extreme positions. Paul has called for abolishing income tax (he's the darling of the anti-income tax crazies) and withdrawing from international organizations. He deplores the Federal Reserve and yearns for the days of the gold standard. He thinks the federal government lacks constitutional power to fund schools. That sort of thing.

Becoming President is not about appealing to 5% of the country. Anybody can do that. You have to take positions and forge coalitions that get you to a majority, or at least somewhere in the high 40s.

Sure, it's refreshing when a politician candidly speaks his mind about everything and takes undiluted positions without worrying about the consequences. But politics is the art of compromise. In a few months Ron Paul will be an amusing footnote in this important election.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that we're finding, with the Tea Party for example, that appealing to 5% of the population is enough to make you a serious contender. About 70% of eligible voters register, about 55 to 60% of them show up at the polls and you only need a plurality of that to get elected (30% or less). That 5% support is almost 20% of the votes you need for election. Then toss in that both parties' nominating/endorsing processes can be dominated by much smaller groups (in terms of absolute numbers) and you can quickly find "fringe" candidates running with a major party endorsement.