I have made the case that Ron Paul is not only changing the Republican Party, but is catering to a new, emerging electorate that eschews the big government aspects of both parties. Writing today at CNN.com, Timothy Stanley makes some of the same observations:
Paul’s campaign represents a message that is bigger and perhaps more popular than the candidate himself. As it continues to collect small numbers of delegates and capture control of local GOPs, Paulism is proving itself to be in rude health. Long after Mitt Romney is nominated, feted at the convention, beaten by Obama and recycled as a question on Jeopardy (“In 2012, he lost every state but Utah.” “Who is … Britt Gormley?”), Paul’s philosophy will still be a factor in national politics — something to be feared and courted in equal measure…
I have to declare a great deal of affection for Paul. Unlike other politicians, he seems motivated by ideas — and he communicates his passion with the zeal of a nutty professor detailing the thrilling possibilities of quasars and black holes. This is a doctor who refused to accept Medicare payments but lowered his prices for patients who couldn’t afford him, who declined a government pension and never voted for a tax increase, who told Republicans they need to end the War on Drugs (and most other wars, too). He’s pure…
Paul’s 2012 candidacy has had certain hidden successes. Aside from all the money he raised, Ron Paul also attracted an unusual coalition of young people, libertarian Republicans, and disaffected Democrats — a coalition large enough for him to run even with Obama in some polls. The pull among the kids was big enough to fuel talk of a new generational voting bloc. In Iowa, he took 48% of the under-30s, compared with Santorum’s 23% and Romney’s 14%. In New Hampshire, he got 47%, while Romney took just 26%…
Within the GOP, the Paulites are still the unbeaten masters of the administrative procedure. Last Saturday, they swept a confusing ballot process in Louisiana to give themselves control of 70% of delegates attending the state’s nominating convention, which could mean they end up numerically “winning” Louisiana. Similar things have happened in Minnesota and even Romney’s home state of Massachusetts.
Combine this administrative brilliance with generational politics and you get a silent grass-roots revolution that is putting many Paulites in positions of power. In 2010, more than a dozen of them won elections as Republicans, including Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan and Sen. Rand Paul (son of Ron) of Kentucky. This year, two dozen active Paul backers are seeking election to Congress, along with more than 200 running for local office. The Paulites have effectively taken over the Iowa GOP. The state central committee now has six members who are passionate for Paul, and the head of the local party is now a Paulite. Given the importance of Iowa to the 2016 nomination, this is a coup in every sense.
All of this means the GOP can no longer ignore its libertarian “fringe.” On the contrary, it will have to reach out to a new generation of activists who don’t regard religious piety or continual warfare as sacred tenets of conservatism. Even Romney will have to take Sarah Palin’s advice not to “marginalize” the Paulites if he is to emerge from the nominating convention with a united party.
Whatever happens in 2012, we are living through a significant moment in the history of conservatism. The age of Bush and Obama — twin specters of lavish spending and imperial design — have birthed anti-government movements of right (tea party) and left (Occupy). The one that will last longest and have the most impact is the one that has been the most pragmatic and politically savvy.
The Ron Paul revolution won’t stop here.