Ron Paul – Ralph Nader, Bill Buckley, or Howard Dean?
John Derbyshire and Andrew Sullivan see great similarity’s between Ron Paul and a young William F. Buckley, Jr. John Podhoretz and Richard Fernandez, though, see more similarities between Paul and Ralph Nader. Ed Morrissey, meanwhile, thinks he’s this years’ Howard Dean.
To the extent he’s following any of those parallels, I’d go with Dean.
As Derbyshire notes, Buckley’s conservatism was founded on anti-Communism as a principle that united otherwise disparate ideologues. Paul’s brand of libertarianism is relatively isolationist and lacks a unifying principle to rally the different parts of the Republican constituency.
Nader ran as an independent to the left of Al Gore and cost his erstwhile party the presidency. I take Paul at his word that, should he not win the Republican nomination, he’ll bow out of the 2008 race. Were he to nonetheless run as an independent, though, it’s far from clear to me that he draws more Republicans than Democrats. While there has been a strong libertarian strain in the GOP since at least Barry Goldwater, there has been a social libertarian strain in the Democratic Party even longer.
Dean, though, strikes me as the likeliest analog. Both raised wild sums of money from a highly energized online constituency and seemed to be the only candidate in their party’s field that sparked genuine excitement. Neither, though, seemed to have the experience or disposition to pass the “gravitas” threshold expected of those who would be president.
The difference between Paul and Dean is that Paul’s campaign is still active and he therefore still has a theoretical chance. He’s got the deepest support of any candidate in the Republican field. Until he wins a primary, though, I’m not likely to be convinced that his support is very broad.