Posted by Brad @ 6:41 pm on August 24th 2011

A Strange Thought

So, I haven’t considered much who I’m going to vote for in the Republican primary. I like both Gary Johnson and Jon Huntsman. But honestly, I gave it a thought today, and I think I might cast my vote for Ron Paul. For strategic reasons. On the grounds of electability.

I shall call it the Ron Paul rule. Vote for the most electable Ron Paulian candidate running. But kind of strange that that happens to be Ron Paul.


  1. I wouldn’t describe him as electable; he’s well-known, and for that reason, in my opinion, not electable.

    Comment by Adam — 8/24/2011 @ 9:03 pm

  2. This is a shocking endorsement. Completely unexpected.

    Comment by Jack — 8/24/2011 @ 9:07 pm

  3. I voted for Ron Paul last time in the general election (he was an official write-in candidate in California, and I couldn’t stomach a vote for Barr).
    I’ll wait around to see who the Libertarians throw out this cycle before I decide.

    Comment by Redland Jack — 8/25/2011 @ 12:09 am

  4. That’s the irony, Adam. I usually base my vote in the primary based on what I think will move the party most in the direction I want it to.

    On those grounds I can make a strong case for all three (Huntsman, Johnson, Paul), but all else being mostly equal, the former two are sitting at around 2%, while Paul is polling anywhere from 8 to 20. It’s essentially a protest vote either way (in that none of them are really electable in the traditional sense), but Paul is likely to register bigger than the other two (if Huntsman can start pushing double digits, I’d likely change my mind; Johnson sadly appears DOA).

    Comment by Brad — 8/25/2011 @ 8:49 am

  5. I think that voting for Paul, at this stage, pushes the party in the wrong direction; his positions were originally the main thing and in those days that was a good reason to support him — well, if you squinted and ignored the goldbugging and so on* — but his campaign looks more like a personality cult to me, now. I don’t think that’s any particular effort on his part, but some of his supporters and, perhaps, campaign people are such self-adoring zeitgeisters that it now looks to me like the campaign exists just to exist.

    Huntsman has the most credibility from the point of view of rational politics grounded in reality — sadly not very important, as it turns out — and Johnson manages not to be nuts while being Libertarian. Paul’s campaign won’t ever go anywhere but I think it’s going to strangle saner alternatives before they can grow, nevertheless.

    *I was going to say “goldbuggery”, but that is perhaps for another time.

    Comment by Adam — 8/26/2011 @ 9:32 am

  6. I’ve already laid out why I think Ron’s running—in some sense I think you’re both too harsh and too generous. Too generous in the sense that I think the cult of personality is to some extent intentional, or at least they’re very aware of it and, clearly, they had a decision point somewhere along the way where they could begin to steer the Paul movement to successors or a kind of party-building structure (like the Reform Party, say), and instead they consciously chose to keep it centered solely on Dr. Paul himself. There is a party structure in the Campaign for Liberty, but really it’s based more on fealty to Dr. Paul than anything else.

    Too harsh in that I do think there’s still a method to the madness, and really the space Dr. Paul is carving for himself in the GOP is, nonetheless, space. Clearly (to my mind at least) the idea is to have Rand Paul step in and fill the space, and after this campaign look to Dr. Paul’s circle to jump to Rand and Ron himself to all but hand over the keys. That’s the next step in this game. And, frankly, Dr. Paul represents, more than anybody, the most purely libertarian wing at this point (versus the moderate wing, or the “fuck the government but praise Jesus” wing that Bachmann represents), and the more space he clears, and the stronger the muscles he can flex, the more, I think, Republican candidates have to start paying fealty to that.

    To put that another way, I think the space he cleared for himself on the gold standard has already appreciably moved the party on Federal Reserve and central banking issues, which is a good thing. I think the space cleared for that nutty ‘ole Dr. Paul circa the Rudy Giuliani debate has materially moved the party on issues of foreign interventionism. I think Dr. Paul is likewise continually giving the GOP outs on issues like federalism, and its application to things like the War on Drugs, gay marriage, abortion, etc. One could more or less forever argue the extent to which Paul was the guy pushing the needle or whether that needle was going to move in reaction to the political barometric pressure anyway, but I tend to come down on the side of both being true, but also to not discount the contribution that one person going has (and, in going first, having the power to set terms for the subsequent debate). In the same way, again, Dean cleared the path and set the terms of the debate for the Democrats to find their balls again on foreign policy and War on Terror pushback.

    Of course, you’ll note how lasting both the Reform Party and the Dean example were, which illustrates the kind of tides you’re swimming against here. But in general, I think the difference in impact between, say, a result wherein Paul gets 15% and Johnson gets 10%, vs. one in which Paul gets 25%, is significant, and if you’re looking to build on the momentum of Paul’s 2008 run and continue to have a more Paulian conception of conservative libertarianism (versus a Bachmann or Perry conception), I think at this point a vote for Paul is the best choice for that. I sort of regret it, too.

    The question of the relative sanity of Huntsman vs. Paul vs. Johnson doesn’t interest me much, and I’m not sure why it would you either. Because, at the end of the day, credibility is defined as the ability to win votes and marshal support, and clearly, in the Paul/Huntsman/Johnson threeway, only one of those guys can lay any convincing claim to credibility in this race at this point. Although I still hold out hope for a late Huntsman surge (and if it materializes, I may well join it).

    Comment by Brad — 8/26/2011 @ 10:18 am

  7. The sanity issue interests me more because I’d prefer sane policies proposed by people running for office, and executed by the winners; part of my issue here is that I don’t think that Paul will ever jump to having power — which is OK, no one expected him to — but that his cult of personality stops anyone else harnessing the enthusiasm and sentiment and packaging it in something remotely electable on a wider stage. Clearly the main problem is with the GOP primaries/caucuses, in that some of the people casting votes in those have opinions and priorities that appear to be sort-of crazy, but the fact is that you need a foothold to get traction and I think that Paul’s Cult occupies all the footholds whilst being doomed not to progress any further because, let’s face it, he’s not electable.

    As for Rand Paul, I like him enough but leader of a movement? I can’t see it even if the visuals of handing on the reins to family weren’t bad (and if the idea were actually for Paul to keep running to crowd people out until Rand Paul could take over, that sucks rancid yak testicle).

    Paul’s goldbugging isn’t what’s moved the Fed; you can have concerns about Fed activities, as many others do — albeit some of them nuts, like Perry — without thinking gold reserves are a sensible way to underwrite currency, particularly when you constrain the amount of currency in accordance with the value of gold held. It seems to me to be another example of typical Paul, some legitimate concerns and ideas and some crazy ones, and I don’t think that we should conflate them even if Paul does.

    Comment by Adam — 8/26/2011 @ 10:37 am

  8. I don’t disagree with any of the thoughts expressed in the first two paragraphs, and have expressed them in a softer way myself. As I said, I’d have preferred a race in which Paul explicitly hands the reigns to Johnson, but I do think Rand Paul will be a strong candidate when he chooses to run – possibly even a frontrunner. So building to that does make some amount of sense, and frankly goes a bit back to that movement building discussion we had awhile ago in relation to Norquist.

    The only thing that might mitigate somewhat your take on it (and mine) is a point Rojas has made a couple of times. While it doesn’t feel, to me, that Paul is doing much more than just running the cards again, there is a fair bit of evidence that he has, in fact, broadened his base since 2008. Our assumption is that Paul running again doesn’t contribute much forward momentum, but if he is indeed going from an 8% candidate to a 16%, with the other assumption that, that assumption is, in fact, wrong. Our other assumption is that, absent Paul, Johnson or Huntsman would be running a lot stronger, and I’m not wholly sold on that one either (it seems at least as likely that the lion’s share would go to Bachmann and Perry and a huge bulk of the rest would just crawl back into the woodwork, leaving Johnson and Huntsman a relative pittance – to split between them no less). If those two assumptions are wrong, then perhaps the better way to look at it would be, would you rather a race where Johnson and Huntsman each combine for 4%, and Paul moves from 8 to 16% – or would you rather a race where Johnson and Huntsman each combine for 6%, and…that’s it, no Paul.

    As to your third paragraph, I think you’re being pretty unfair of Paul’s position on the Fed, which is a lot more multifaceted than just the gold standard, or at least it takes on the fed at a lot of other layers. The notion that Paul has nothing to say about the Fed besides “abolish it” and any and all discussion revolve solely around the gold standard is provably false. His Audit the Fed bill, his QE2 rabble-rousing, his grilling on contributing to bubbles, all are not “conflations” but rather a multi-faceted front on both the ideas behind and the practice of central banking. You no more have to be a goldbug to support his work against the Fed than you need to be a racist to support border enforcement. It helps, but….

    Comment by Brad — 8/26/2011 @ 11:15 am

  9. If the lion’s share of the Paul vote would go to Bachmann and Perry, I fear that the movement doesn’t have much in common with what I want anyhow and if that’s really what he’s achieved, bringing people who’d otherwise support Bachmann or Perry under his umbrella, how much progress has been made anyhow? At best, in practice, he’d be a spoiler for Romney’s benefit (huzzah! Not). I do think that disengagement by some would be an issue, but I wonder how many of those people are really in this for a cult of personality (not unlike Obama’s in 2008, although Obama’s political base is obviously much wider); that’s good for Paul, but only for Paul.

    On the Fed, that’s really my point, I think, the goldbug thing isn’t related to the other headway he’s made on the Fed. Indeed, if he wasn’t a goldbug I think he’d probably have made moreheadway.

    Comment by Adam — 8/26/2011 @ 2:00 pm

  10. Have there been recent polls that show GOP likely voters second choices? I would be interested in seeing that data.

    Comment by Jack — 8/26/2011 @ 4:14 pm

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