Purge Ron Paul from GOP
Every year, thousands of Conservative and Republican activists descend onto Washington D.C. for the Conservative Political Action Conference. CPAC holds a straw poll for its participants to express their opinions on whom they want to be the Republican nominee for president in the upcoming election. Texas Representative Ron Paul won last year, and he won again this year — as widely expected — with 30 percent of the vote. Winning two CPAC straw polls seems like a high-water mark for Mr. Paul's ambitions. But in fact, Ron Paul remains a marginal, yet dangerous figure.
While Congressman Paul's victory will grab the headlines, it is worth placing the straw poll in proper context. Straw polls do not actually reveal anything other than the opinions of the people in a room at a given time. The CPAC straw poll tabulates the opinions of highly biased — both in the statistical and political sense — people. New Jersey, for instance, had an overrepresented group of activists at CPAC, due to New Jersey's geographic proximity to Washington D.C. During actual Republican primaries, California has more delegates than New Jersey, but it is more difficult for a Conservative Stanford student to attend CPAC than it is for someone like me. Wealthy Americans are also overrepresented at CPAC, as they are more able to afford taking off several days of work, renting a hotel room and paying for admission. Eleven thousand people attended CPAC this year, but only about 3,000 actually voted in the straw poll. Out of those 3,000, 30 percent voted for Ron Paul. Consider that among a group of highly motivated Conservatives — only about 30 percent even cared to vote, and out of that 30 percent, 30 percent voted for Ron Paul. That means approximately 9 percent of CPAC voted for Ron Paul.
Conservatives should be wary of using revolutionary imagery, but using the word "revolution" is justified in some cases. The "Reagan Revolution" and the "Gingrich Revolution" refer to specific points in American political history where the status quo was greatly altered by Republican victories. Ron Paul uses the word "revolution" to refer to his libertarian movement of supporters. At the beginning of his CPAC address, he declared, "I'm glad to see the revolution is continuing." Ron Paul's manifesto is titled, "The Revolution." Ron Paul wants to be the head of a serious movement to reshape the Republican Party in his image, but the reality is that Ron Paul is just as marginal as he has always been. He is a 10-term congressman who until this year has failed to receive any major congressional assignments. During the 2008 Republican Primaries, Ron Paul won 1.6 percent of the delegates. Considering that pathetic statistic, it is no wonder Ron Paul supporters were so excited when 9 percent of CPAC voted for him.
At CPAC, Ron Paul supporters made their presence felt, as they repeatedly interrupted speakers with whom they disagreed. Most of them yelled about auditing and ending the Federal Reserve System, because, as one Ron Paul supporter explained to me, "The Fed is the biggest threat to humanity." Never mind nuclear Iran or Jihadist terrorists, it was so clear to this person that not only is the Fed unconstitutional, but its very existence is threatening American autonomy. That the U.S. has managed to live with the Fed for close to a century without crumbling did not register with him. Then the conversation took a stranger turn, as he told me that he believed the 9/11 attacks were an inside job — that no terrorists hijacked the four airplanes and the World Trade Centers collapsed because of controlled explosions. I quickly ended the conversation. A couple of minutes later, he and his friends moved to different seats. But towards the end of CPAC, when they announced that Ron Paul had won the straw poll, I spotted this person celebrating by shouting, "End the Fed! End the Fed!" It is easy to dismiss this as one crazed individual who does not represent the vast majority of Ron Paul supporters, but a significant portion of Ron Paul's base believes the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 attacks. Worse still, those who do not believe in 9/11 conspiracies accept the Truthers among their ranks.
If there is one area Ron Paul has been truly successful at over the years, it is his ability to draw in the lunatic fringe of the conservative movement into his base of supporters. What is it about Ron Paul that attracts these kinds of people to his base? For one, Ron Paul allows them to exist within his movement. He has repeatedly refused to condemn and ostracize the 9/11 Truthers who support his mission. Secondly, many of these conspiracy-oriented Ron Paul supporters live under the assumption that someone — often the government — is always out to get them. Ron Paul plays into that thought process by vilifying American foreign, monetary and fiscal policy. When Ron Paul argues that America brought 9/11 on itself by stationing American soldiers in Saudi Arabia, his supporters see that as a nod and a wink for them to continue their efforts. The fact that Ron Paul frames the issues in revolutionary terms further emboldens his supporters. Americans ought to be skeptical of their government and they ought to ask serious questions to make governments more transparent, but both Ron Paul and his supporters engage in unhealthy cynicism.
My disdain for Ron Paul has nothing to do with his libertarian beliefs. On the contrary, I wish more people held libertarian beliefs about the proper role of government. Originally, I opposed Ron Paul because I disagreed with his naïve, isolationist foreign policy beliefs, but I still respected him as a libertarian. The longer Ron Paul remains on the political scene, though, the more he exposes himself to be an opportunistic charlatan who attracts the very worst of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. To oppose Ron Paul is not to oppose libertarianism, because Ron Paul is the not the sole libertarian in Congress. Republicans ought to embrace libertarianism as an integral part of a winning coalition, but they should purge Ron Paul and his rag-tag band of supporters.
Noah Glyn is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in economics and history. He is president of the Rutgers College Republicans. His column, "Irreconcilable Differences," runs on alternate Thursdays.