Friday, December 14, 2007

A Turning Point for Paul's Grassroots Supporters?

As many are aware, the overzealousness of some of Ron Paul's grassroots supporters has led me and several other blogs to conclude that those supporters- and Paul's unwillingness to separate himself from them- are not only destroying Paul's already-slim chances at winning the nomination, but also doing long-term damage to libertarianism. Paul supporters have been all too willing to take credit for Paul's rise of a relatively few points in the polls while completely ignoring the even bigger increase in Paul's negative ratings. Thus, for every Republican voter who now has a positive opinion of Paul (and are thus potential supporters), there are now 2 who have a negative opinion of him (and are thus never going to support Paul). The ratio of Republicans with a negative impression of Paul to those who actually SUPPORT Paul is even worse- about eight or nine to one.

Today I learned that this piece is making the rounds amongst a good chunk of the grassroots Meetup group leaders. While the comments section of the piece still has plenty of your typical silliness and unwillingness to engage the author's points in a substantive manner, I was struck that a substantial number of comments were extremely supportive of the author's point, which is similar in nature to what I've been saying for several months now.

Money quote:

There is a large element of self-righteous fanaticism among Paul followers which seems to make them completely incapable of seeing that the powerful gale of enthusiasm which is driving the campaign may crash it hard on the rocks of reality if they don't do something.If they want to save the campaign, they need to get over their egotistical attachment to the idea that Paul's unimpeachable principles and honesty trump all other considerations, and face up to the fact that to win a party nomination you have to make some effort to play the game the way the party leaders–from the lowliest precinct workers to the national leadership–expect it to be played.

Importantly, this piece is circulating amongst the Meetup groups along with a message of, in essence, "this guy is right." While I don't know how widespread the circulation is, this is the first time I've seen a noticeable portion of Paul's grassroots take notice of the effects some of their actions have on the perception of Ron Paul. It is also the first time I've seen such a widespread understanding that Ron Paul is running in the Republican primary and needs to get the votes of "mainstream" Republicans if he is going to have any shot at winning. More to the point, we are starting to see the grassroots learn to be honest with themselves in their self-evaluation.

If the leaders of the Meetup groups focus on this issue, and continue to use articles like this as a way of showing their members what they need to do in order to win, then we could be seeing a turning point for the Paul campaign. It may be too little, too late, but there's also a chance that a more conscious understanding of these issues will allow the grassroots to cool off enough to make Paul palatable to a larger number of Republicans.

I highly doubt it will ever be enough to win, but it may be enough to make the Paul campaign have a positive long-term effect on the American political landscape.

***UPDATE***George Ajjan (whose personal site is always a worthwhile read), at of all places, has a very similar article today. When LRC starts publishing stuff like this, you start to think that the idea of a turning point for the grassroots is very, very real.