Ron Paul Phenomenon Not About Ron Paul
Joe Carter, in an interesting reflection on his 30 days working for the Huckabee campaign, makes this observation:
The Ron Paul Phenomenon is Not About Ron Paul — It will take a more astute political mind than I possess to comprehend this Ron Paul phenomenon. All I know is that it has less to do with the candidate than about people’s desire for something different. When Rod Dreher, Andrew Sullivan, Vox Day, John Derbyshire, and the 9/11 Truthers all agree on a candidate its safe to say that they aren’t all seeing the same thing.
On last night’s episode of OTB Radio, I likened it to the Ross Perot phenomenon in 1992, which was also more about “Something Different” than about Perot. There, though, there was also a minor cult of personality going on; Paul can’t be accused of that.
The bottom line is that there are a huge number of people simply fed up with the major parties, a trend that has been visible at least since George Wallace’s 1968 campaign when he famously asserted that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between the national Democrat and Republican parties. While that feeling is, in my view, exaggerated it’s certainly true that there’s far less choice in American politics than in most Western democracies. Both of our parties would fit comfortably within the British Conservative Party, for example.
Both Micah Sifry and Matt Yglesias point to this political polarization network visualization which shows that books by Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs occupy the center in American political thought, not the extreme fringe that they do in terms of elected officials.
Matt gets it just right:
[I]nsofar as there’s some kind of excluded middle in our current political situation it’s not the brand of Bloomberg-style “centrism” that the bemoaners of partisanship tend to favor. Instead, it’s something akin to Dobbs-style populist nationalism. It’s not a point of view I favor, but unlike Bloombergism it is a point of view that has a lot of support and only a little representation.
A lot of those folks are gravitating to Paul, not because he’s necessarily one of them, but because he’s as close as they’re likely to find in a respectable candidate. Given that the presidential nominating processes of both parties favor the activist Right/Left base, though, there’s virtually no chance that a Paul (or Buchanan) would get the nomination.