(I told you he is running because MSNBC has not found out yet.)
Paul is over seventy, too isolationist and, unlike a lot of other pliable politicians, might actually do what he says he intends to do. A simple example of this has been Ron Paul’s willingness to legalize narcotics; the legalization of marijuana has been advocated by some conservatives–notably the late William F. Buckley, Jr.–but has not been a mainstay of the message promulgated by mainstream Republicans.
So, as a consequence, the inevitable question has been raised: Will Ron Paul run as the Libertarian candidate?
The Congressman was on Sean Hannity’s radio program today saying coyly that he “has no intention of running” but declining to unequivocally rule a third-party run out. And there is, after all, a Libertarian Party waiting for a candidate. Third parties do not have primaries in the ongoing tradition of the Republican and Democratic parties. Third parties use the old, often mistrusted system of electing a candidate from within the party itself. From what I understand, if Ron Paul were to show up to the Libertarian party convention in May of 2012 and announce he wants to be the Libertarian party candidate, the party could make it so. (Is Las Vegas a good place to be a Libertarian?)
One has to ask — why would Ron Paul want to be the Libertarian candidate? More than likely it would to be to prove a point since, in the end, the history of third parties has been a history of spoiling elections for others without bringing home a victory.
The first experience I had with this was the presidential election of 1968. George Wallace, who has been governor of Alabama, ran as the presidential candidate for the American Independent Party. He failed to win, but he did win five states and forty-six electoral votes — and put Richard Nixon in office. George Wallace ended up being the transitional historical figure in the South’s transformation from the solid Democratic south to the solid Republican south.
Wallace held a grudge against the Democratic party for its handling of civil rights and segregation. The important point is that the south turned to the Republican party; Wallace’s run did not create a separate third party. Today’s Republican and Democratic parties are even more large and inclusive. All too often third parties appear to be narrow, clinging to a singular mindset that limits the number of people who could join them. That being said, in order to win a national election, a candidate has to attract a wide range of voters. For example,the Democratic and Republican parties include members that are pro-choice and pro-life.
Sometimes a political party or movement becomes idiotic in an attempt to acquire members. I remember a Saturday summer evening in the 1980’s when I was walking around a small, urban artsy rock and roll community by a college when a young man handed me a flyer that said, “Become a member of the NAZIS Against Racism movement.” (I will give the college the benefit of the doubt and choose to believe he was not a student.)
Think of how many people have remained in the Republican Party that possess little reason to stay. (Two senators from Maine come to mind.) The inclusiveness of a party allows it to win elections, but it can also give the appearance that the party has no values at all. In the area where I live, for example, people often say, “I am a conservative Republican,” implying that there are lots of Republicans who are not. The same is true, of course, for the Democratic Party — after all, I have heard people say, “I am a liberal democrat.” (I must admit, though, that this does seem redundant.)
I believe that what is worse, though, is when someone runs as an independent. This seems to just be a “Vote For Me” campaign that relies entirely on the personality of a candidate. At least a party gives the campaign more a platform instead of just a personality. It is for that reason that have never held a lot of regard for independent presidential campaigns.
So what is Ron Paul to do? At what point does he withdraw if the primaries do not go his way? After a bad showing in Iowa? New Hampshire? How bad is bad?
Paul can win the Republican nomination for president, in theory, but the practical nature of the election process does not make that likely. Therefore, Ron Paul must avoid doing a foolish political move that would put President Obama back in office. But, at the same time, he also wants a public arena for his beliefs. This, after all, may be his last great hurrah — to quietly end his campaign at some point and go home does not seem likely to me either.
I cannot predict what will happen, but the fact that talk already exists about a third party bid tells me a bit of disillusionment from his followers may have already set in.