A lot of my readers are big fans of yours: on those rare but pungent occasions when I have criticized you, I’ve gotten lots of "blowback" in the comments section and in emails sent directly to my inbox. Whenever I praised you, I’ve enjoyed a veritable avalanche of favorable feedback. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with non-libertarians who praise you to the skies. Many people beyond the narrow confines of the libertarian movement are watching your campaign with great interest, and rooting for you — especially those who are concerned about our foreign policy of perpetual war. A lot of these people are not actually registered Republicans – although some have registered just to be able to vote for you – and that appears to be part of the problem.
You’ve captured the youth vote in practically every contest, while losing among the older set and among hardcore Republican voters. In short, the demographic you do best in winning over is the least likely to be able to vote in a closed Republican primary. I would estimate that roughly two thirds to three quarters of your constituency is outside the ranks of the GOP. In view of these realities, I have a question:
What is the endgame?
Yes, yes, I know, the campaign is educating people, building a movement, and it’s necessary to take the long view. Yet I also know I am not the only one wondering what will happen in the short term.
There has been a lot of speculation, not only among your friends and admirers, but also in the media, about the prospect of a "deal." This is not based on anything you have said or done: every public statement coming directly from you has indicated quite the opposite. Listening to what you actually say in interviews, in response to questions about endorsing Mitt Romney, leads one to conclude it’s highly unlikely bordering on downright impossible.
So what now?
Look, we don’t endorse candidates here at Antiwar.com, for a number of reasons, but I can’t ignore the many emails I’ve gotten from my readers, who are wondering about the answer to that question.
It’s been exciting, even for a non-participant like me, to watch as you mobilize thousands at rallies all across the country, cheering your call to dismantle the Empire and bring the troops home. You were the voice of the majority during the debates, calling for getting out of Afghanistan immediately – not in a year or two or three, not conditional on the generals’ diktat, but now, with no conditions or excuses. That’s a major reason why you have inspired many people to get involved who would never have considered supporting a Republican candidate for any office, let alone President of the United States.
Yet, as the primaries wind down, and Romney gets closer to his seemingly inevitable victory, we are hearing, time and again, that certain individuals high up in your campaign are trying to make some sort of dubious deal. Business Insider reports:
"Sources close to the campaign told Business Insider that, behind the scenes, there have been ongoing discussions between the two campaigns that appear to include, or at least be the precursor to, an eventual deal. ‘The courtship has been underway for a long time,’ a source who declined to be named, talking about internal campaign affairs told Business Insider. ‘They are smart enough to know that he [Paul] can’t win the nomination or get a Cabinet position … but Ron Paul has to go somewhere.’"
I don’t believe this "source," Ron, not even for a minute: if there has been a "courtship," it’s been entirely one-sided, with the Romneyites suffering from a bad case of unrequited love. Just seeing the look on your face when asked by Bob Schieffer about an endorsement is enough to convince me of that — not that I needed all that much convincing.
On the other hand, the last sentence in the quote above is completely accurate: after Tampa, you do have to go somewhere. And the movement you inspired wants to know where you are taking them: is it only as far as Tampa, or will you go all the way and launch a third party campaign?
"You don’t have to be a math genius to know that it is going to be very hard for us to get to Tampa with 1,144 delegates," says your campaign manager, Jesse Benton. "Short of Dr. Paul being the nominee, there would be a substantial price for us to throw our support behind someone else."
I don’t know what Benton considers "substantial," in this context, but I can’t imagine what the Romney camp could possibly offer you in exchange for an endorsement, and neither can the Business Insider: their piece lists a number of scenarios – the promise of a cabinet position for Rand Paul, a speaking slot in Tampa, concessions on the party platform – and then dismisses each and every one.
If I were 76 years old, I know I wouldn’t be sprinting around the country making speeches and tirelessly spreading the message of liberty: I’d be sitting on my deck, taking it easy, watching somebody else cut my lawn. But you’re in much better shape than I am, and besides that I can see you’re clearly enjoying yourself – especially the crowds of young people who cheer you wherever you go.
The fun doesn’t have to end in Tampa: if you decide to run an independent campaign for the White House – a strategy some of your supporters are already urging on you – your celebration of liberty and peace can continue right on up until November, and beyond. Because a third party candidacy will leave a legacy, a lasting monument to your campaign and the movement it created: a viable third party alternative to the twin parties of war and Big Government.
Polls show you getting as much as 17 percent of the vote in a three-way race – and those are just the starting numbers. It’s a long way until November, and a lot can happen: another economic crash, another war, another federal power grab so egregious it makes the PATRIOT Act seem like a mild precursor.
Republicans and conservatives argue that a third party campaign on your part would ensure President Obama’s reelection, a scenario I don’t think is all that credible. If Romney loses it will be because most people simply don’t like him, don’t trust him, and don’t want him anywhere near the Oval Office.
Yet even if it’s true your third party run would cost Romney the election, then isn’t it clear the Republicans deserve to lose? In the face of overwhelming public opposition to their warmongering, the other three GOP presidential contenders have relentlessly advocated escalating our overseas commitments: all three have explicitly threatened to go to war with Iran. Far from listening to your warnings about the dangers inherent in such a position, it’s clear they have nothing but contempt for your foreign policy views. Nor have they made any significant concessions on the domestic front: they’re all big spenders, Big Government "conservatives," and if they ever got into office they would continue along the same path.
In short, Republicans need to be taught a lesson, one they will never forget. By disdaining the substantial and growing libertarian wing of the GOP, and ignoring the desire for peace on the part of the larger public, they have earned nothing but defeat. You have said you are trying to save the Republican party, but it’s too late for that: what’s needed now is for someone to save the country from the GOP.
Yes, the Democrats also pose a major threat to liberty and peace, but the Republicans, I would argue, pose a much deadlier menace because their leaders and much of their base are unabashed militarists and dogged opponents of the Constitution. When it comes to foreign policy and civil liberties, the Obama administration is just as bad if not worse, but the difference is rhetorical: the Republicans openly proclaim their intent to continue and escalate our policy of permanent warfare, and take great pride in their willingness to throw the Bill of Rights overboard in the name of an endless "war on terrorism." Obama, on the other hand, is careful to sugar-coat his authoritarianism and belligerent foreign policy in terms of "liberal" bromides and appeals to "pragmatism."
The best thing that could happen would be for the GOP to split, with your supporters hiving off, leaving the GOP remnant to become a primarily southern-based regional party. This is their future, in any event, in spite of your energetic efforts to "save" them. Unfortunately – for them and for us – they don’t want to be saved.
In looking at the Ron Paul web sites, of which there are several, and speaking with a number of activists, I’ve encountered the following argument against taking the third party route: the Paulians, they say, are in this for the very long term. They mean to take over the GOP at the local level, and eventually dominate it at the national level. One blog entry estimated it would take them 20 years or so to accomplish this goal.
Twenty years? By that time, if we aren’t dead we’ll be wishing we were. If this country doesn’t change course soon, in 20 years we’ll be bankrupt and well into our senescence as a nation — a declining empire beset on every front, with the last tattered remnants of our Constitution thrown to the four winds. Indeed, we are almost at that point right now.
Dr. Paul, I know I speak for many of my readers when I say you have accomplished what none of us thought was possible: you opened up the political debate in this country, not only in the GOP but more generally. Now you have the chance to take that achievement and build on it: not by telling your supporters they have to wait 20 years or more before they can hope to effect real change, but by forging ahead and taking the next logical step in our long, harrowing, and yet energizing journey to reclaim our country and our old republic.
In this radio interview with WMAL, you come pretty close to saying you will consider going third party "when the votes are counted" – i.e. after the Tampa convention, at the end of August. Unfortunately, the Libertarian party national convention is being held in May. While running on the LP ticket is just one possibility, it seems like the most viable. In spite of there being several declared candidates, the LP nomination would be yours for the asking – but you have to ask for it. LP rules forbid nominating a candidate who hasn’t declared his intention to actively seek the nomination.
The other viable alternative is running for the "Americans Elect" nomination. Yes, I know the whole "Americans Elect" operation seems dubious on the face of it, but they qualified for ballot status in 35 states and counting. The "Ron Paul Draft" is already the top-vote getter in the Americans Elect nomination process, which runs through early May, with more than double the number of votes of the nearest competitor.
In fact, Americans Elect does not require candidates to accept their nomination until after they win their Internet primary (held in late June). Throughout May and June, you can expect your supporters to campaign for your nomination as the Americans Elect candidate, regardless of what you do right now.
There is also the independent option, which means getting on the ballot in all fifty states via petition, like Ross Perot did – but that seems prohibitively expensive.
Ron, I know you’re out there speaking to huge crowds – 10,000 at UCLA, even as I write – and how thrilled you must be by this kind of reception. And I know you’re remembering the time when those crowds amounted to a few dozen, at most – and I imagine how gratified you must feel. Finally, the pro-peace pro-liberty camp is making some progress – but it doesn’t have to end in Tampa. Please consider carrying the banner of peace and liberty all the way to November and beyond – because the future of the country, and the peace of the world, depends on it.
April 5, 2012
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
In a recent column on the death of Shaima Alawadi, an Iraqi immigrant who lived in San Diego and was found with a note next to her dead body indicating it may have been a hate crime, I attributed her brutual bludgeoning to the general atmosphere of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment in the area. As it turns out, the note may have been a fake, and the circumstances surrounding her death are increasingly cloudy. Although I had no way of knowing this when I wrote the piece, I should have waited before jumping the gun, so to speak, and rushing into print with accusations against the usual hate-mongers. I specifically mentioned a number of those hate-mongers by name: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Councilwoman Debra Pauly, congressmen Ed Royce and Gary Miller, and conservative activist David Horowitz. I owe each and every one of them an apology, and here it is.
While the facts are not yet clear, what is clear is that I need to do what every ideologically-inclined writer must constantly do, and that is guard against confirmation bias. Of course, the Geller-Spencer-Horowitz crowd will crow that this just confirms their contention that all Muslims are evil, deceptive, murderous, you-name-it, but it confirms no such thing. It only tells us that the human heart, no matter what body it rests in, is capable of nearly infinite evil.
Again, my apologies to one and all.