Sunday, December 16, 2007

The campaign of Ron Paul

Two or three hundred of my fellow citizens, lead by a pipe and drum corps, garbed in revolutionary attire, just marched past my window. All were carrying signs and hooraying for Ron Paul, a United States Congressman who happens to be this year's candidate for the quirky and disaffected. I recognized a good deal of these supporters from the recent Kinky Friedman gubernatorial campaign. Some of the older ones undoubtdly stood with Ross Perot in 1992, Ralph Nader in 2000 and John Anderson in 1980. A few of the anti-abortionists in the crowd probably worked with God's last true quirky candidate, Pat Robertson in 1988, who was finally succeded by Pat Buchanan a few years later ,"Don't wait for instructions, ride to the sound of the guns".

A lot of Presidential campaigns have quirky candidates. The best of these candidates was the fictional Hal Phillip Walker who was running for president on the "Replacement Party" ticket in 1976 in the Robert Altman film "Nashville".The candidate (who you never saw in the movie) was stridently anti-lawyer, a stance which he would promote all day long through the use of sound trucks, cruising big city streets with recorded messages. He also wanted to change the National anthem because,as he said of the current one, "nobody knows the words, nobody can sing it, nobody understands it. The lyrics were written by a lawyer, and the tune by a Judge" In short, Mr Walkers's campaign was based on rage. Rage is the best platform on which a quirky candidate can run. The ultimate rage campaigns were run by Strom Thumond in 1948, and George Wallace in 1968. The Perrot campaign was a rage campaign which Perrot tried to hide, but in the end it was exposed for what it was. The Ron Paul campaign also does not appear to be a rage campaign upon first glance, but it is one. Ron has a rage coalition of anti war hippies, anti IRS conservatives and garden variety libratarians and dope smokers. But it is the anti war and anti governement (read anti tax) sentiment which fuels the rage and funds the campaign.Dr Ron himself seems so well under control (self medication?) that he does not seem capable of the Howard Dean meltdown that 2004's rage candidate supplied us. That one was a dandy.You can still see it on Youtube.

Rage candidates perform an important function in the body politic. It keeps the crazies fully occupied with electoral politics and not thinking about acquiring ferilizer to blow up Federal buildings.Are all of Dr Paul's suporters maniacs ? By no means. I am just saying that of the true maniacs working within the electoral system, many are Ron Paul supporters. If his libratarian credentials did not keep him from it, he could tap into the true rage issue in the country today, immigration. There was room in the campaign of 2007-08 for a candidate to take to the streets, a la Wallace and foment hatred against illegal immigrants. One of the Republicans may still pick up the banner, if he finds himself nominated and behind the Demo noiminee by more than 15 points, 90 days before election day. Hatred gets attention and it sells. It just never wins national elections (it can win on the state level, just ask Jessie Ventura). Rage candidates for President are all asterisks in history. Their supporters move onto the next quirky candidate four years later or, as is more usual, drop out of electoral politics all together, bitter over their messiah's defeat.

The best of the rage candidates are third party candidates (something Dr Ron was himself in 1988). Although not all third party candidates are true rage candidates. Some of them, like Secretary Wallace in 1948, Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 and Gene McCarthy in 1976, just have such incredible egos, that they can't imagine the country getting along without them. It always does.Rage parties from the Know Nothings to the Dixiecrats to the American Party, liter the histroic political landscape, and make our nation's history much more entertaining by their appearances.Historian love these movements, it is just when you have to actually live in the same time and space with the people behind these movements, that you become very uncomfortable. But for better or for worse, I like Dr Ron. I would not vote for him, but he is a man of courage, and quite possibly decency as well. He stood up and said the right thing about our adventurism in the middle east at a Repubican debate. That is roughly the same as screaming "praise Allah" during the sermon at the Hyde Park Batist Church 11:00 a.m. service. He knew that no one on that paltform would support him. This gave his campaign just the slingshot it needed to pick up a couple of million Davids, ready to slay Goliath. I doubt that he is truly in control of his campaign anymore. He is probably just enjoying the ride, and the ego boost of being a folk hero ,like his illustrious predecesors. Well God speed to you Dr Ron. Although never forget, I knew Hal Phillip Walker, I supported Hal Phillip Walker,you sir are no Hal Phillip Walker.

"Ever ask a lawyer the time ? He told you how to make a watch didn't he ? That's why we have a country that can make watches, but no one knows the time of day."

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