Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Why Ron Paul is not going away

By Timothy Stanley, Special to CNN
updated 4:26 PM EDT, Fri May 4, 2012
Timothy Stanley says Ron Paul appeals to those who don't regard religious piety or war as sacred tenets of conservatism
Timothy Stanley says Ron Paul appeals to those who don't regard religious piety or war as sacred tenets of conservatism
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Timothy Stanley says Ron Paul has gained influence, if not a nomination
  • Paul's brand of libertarian Republicanism deserves GOP notice, he says
  • Paul represents a message that is bigger than the candidate, Stanley says

Editor's note: Timothy Stanley is a historian at Oxford University and blogs for Britain's Daily Telegraph. He is the author of the new book "The Crusader: The Life and Times of Pat Buchanan."

(CNN) -- Newt Gingrich quit the presidential race on Wednesday. Long after he exhausted the patience of the voters, he finally concluded that the mathematical probability of winning the Republican nomination was next to nil. Why spend money and raise false hopes if you can't win? Best to get out now and join the veepstakes.

That's the kind of logic that an ordinary, candidate-focused campaign employs. Ron Paul, on the other hand, refuses to drop out. Commanding a plurality of delegates in only one state, and having taken just 10.61 percent nationally so far, it could be argued that the 76-year-old libertarian has even less reason to carry on than Gingrich -- except perhaps to collect the air miles.

However, unlike Gingrich, 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.

Timothy Stanley
Timothy Stanley

Team Paul has certainly made some big errors this year, such as exclusively focusing on Iowa and New Hampshire. Although he did well in both, only a first in either would have really justified the expense. Thereafter, the campaign unwisely ignored South Carolina and Florida, reasoning that their expensive media markets weren't worth the effort. As a consequence, Paul was ignored for weeks until Nevada. I am informed by Paul sources that their campaign was counting on Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to drop out after they realized they couldn't win, which would have allowed Ron Paul to emerge as the only conservative challenger to Romney.

Of course, that's not what happened.

Ron Paul: Too soon to write people off
Paul: We will win future primaries
Ron Paul: We are doing quite well

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook.com/cnnopinion.

Strategy aside, the candidate had his faults, too. 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.

But Paul has also been around a long time and is starting to look like a perennial candidate. His emphasis upon a noninterventionist foreign policy might be what attracted so many activists and donations, but it has also contributed to the sense that he is a marginal candidate. There simply aren't enough anti-war conservatives within the Republican Party to justify the energy that Paul generates around the issue, while the GOP brand is too toxic to attract enough crossover anti-war liberals into the primaries to turn him into a contender. Ann Coulter's remark that "I love Ron Paul on everything but Iraq," is a good summary of his problem: While Paul's platform is attractive to many conservatives, he remains solely identified by his opposition to the war on terror.

Nevertheless, 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%.

There was a problem, however. In Virginia (the only state that was a straightforward Paul vs Romney vote), Paul's vote was overwhelmingly young but not orthodox Republican in its views. His supporters were more inclined to be pro-choice on abortion, nonevangelical, and opposed to the tea party. Given that Paul is pro-life, religious, and wildly supportive of the tea party, this confirms the growing tension between the man and his movement. In the future, a Paulite candidate might do better by running third party on a more socially tolerant platform. Young people seem to like their libertarianism to be socially tolerant as well as fiscally prudent.

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.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Timothy Stanley.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
updated 9:48 PM EDT, Sat October 25, 2014
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT