Thursday, January 10, 2008

Whither Ron Paul

Ron Paul finished a disappointing (for his supporters) 4th in New Hampshire, getting even fewer votes then Giulliani, who barely campaigned there. Given the strong libertarian sentimentalities in New Hampshire, he was expected to do at least better than he did in Iowa (where he got 10%). He failed to reach even that mark.

So what does Paul do now?

Jason Rosenbaum lays out two options for him: (1) go 3rd party and become a spoiler and forever destroy any influence he has in national politics (see Nader, Ross Perot, etc.) or (2) build a movement and become a reformer (see Howard Dean).

I think the latter would be the better option. Paul would have no chance of winning if he went 3rd party and he would just end up being accused of throwing the election to the Democrats (most likely) by the Republicans. The GOP would naturally hate him (even more than they already do) for this. But the Democrats shouldn't be to happy as a spoiled election damages the credibility of the Democratic President to claim any kind of mandate (see Bill Clinton circa 1992).

But Paul has tapped into a rich vein of libertarian sentiment in this nation that could become an active part of politics at both the local and national level, IF he decides to forgo the ego-soothing dreams of his own candidacy. Howard Dean did this after 2000 when he decided to run for DNC chair and laid the foundation for making progressivism a viable movement within the Democratic party. Paul could do a similar thing for the Republicans (though I have my doubts that he would have any hope of becoming RNC chairman).

I agree with Jason on something else. I would greatly enjoy a world in which the Democratic and Republican debates were mostly about progressive and libertarian principles. That would be refreshing.

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