Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Key to Ron Paul's Success

While there is a tendency for Ron Paul supportes to argue that his amazing statistics in terms of money-raised, and his recent surge in the polls (which is impressive given his initial status as a third-tier candidate) is just that he has a good message, it is, I think, more complicated than that.

The fact of the matter is, despite the de-centralized nature of the Ron Paul for President campaign (i.e. including the informal campaign, not just just the official one), it did not come out of nowhere.

The idea that Ron Paul simply spoke truth and suddenly people listened, while attractive, and not entiurely false, is not the whole picture.

Yes, Paul has good, attractive, ideas (I would argue that 90% or better of the time he has the right ideas), and that is what has attracted people to him and is the ultimate source of the enthusiasm for him. However, the idea that without any infrastructure, formal or informal, that he could have had the single biggest internet fundraising day of any candidate (or the bigges one-day fundraiser of any sort for a Republican if you count only actual donations and not pledges) is simply incorrect and, if you think about it, ludicrous.

What it comes down to is that the infrastructure for the Paul campaign has been building since at least 1999, when LewRockwell.com went online. Or perhaps even earlier in the mid-1990s when Antiwar.com was created. Or maybe in 1982 when the Ludwig von Mises Institute was founded.

The point is that for a long time, people have been working to build up a movement for Austrian economics and against foreign interventionism. This movement has slowly built up the infrastructure needed to support a movement toward freer markets, sound money, and non-interventionism abroad. We (by late 2000.early 2001 I had become one of them) already had enough infrastructure in place by 9/11/01 to be able to provide a counterbalance to the pro-statist forces that dominated the debate over the next year, and we were poised to strike at the arguments for the Iraq War and to critique the war in real time when it happened. (Not that I am happy for the Iraq War as a chance to pimp my political positions; but given that the war was going to occur, it was good that we were ready when the time came to disseminate our critiques of the policy).

Pat Buchanan's presidential runs, to some extent, and the founding of The American Conservative, came from a similar persuasion, at least on foreign policy, and wound up overlapping with much of the movement by the time TAC got off the ground. Definitely TAC is one of the more prominent publishers of paleolibertarians, and can be thought of as containing part of the extended infrastructure of the Austro-libertarian movement.

The point is, by the time that Ron Paul decided to run for the 2008 presidential election, there was already a large infrastructure (yes, I like to use that term) of supporters for the types of policies he espouses. These people were well-connected by the internet, and many of them were looking for someone to lead the movement or to run for president to try and make their ideas policy (and ultimately of course, we were/are looking for people to run for other political offices as well). To some extent, this grass-roots campaign selected PPaul as their standard-bearer and are the ones who encouraged him to run.

So what Paul has done to a large extent is tapped into the grass-roots infrastructure that already exists to support his ideas. Yes, he did this largely simply by expressing his ideas, which the grassroots agreed with. But, ultimately, were Austro-libertarians not already connected and semi-organized through the efforts of Llewellyn Rockwell, were anti-interventionist conservatives not united by The American Conservative, were both anti-interentionist libertarians not gathered by Antiwar.com, were not a thousand other similar sites up, all interconnected into a community, he could have railed all day against the Fed, the income tax, and the war and virtually no one would have noticed.

What does this prove, in the end? Well, if Paul's campaign wins the nomination, or even just does incredibly well in the process, it shows that organizing a grassroots movement around ideas, even "fringe" ideas with little following, can pay off - big time. So don't be discouraged if you fight for what you believe is right and it seems lonely. It seemed lonely for the Austro-libertarians at one time. But not anymore.

That is all.

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