Suddenly, and seemingly overnight, some of the major house organs of both liberalism and neoconservatism are evincing what appears to be a strange new respect for Ron Paul and his candidacy. Some have even hinted that, to use the words of Chris Berman, “he might go all the way!” -- at least as far as the Iowa Caucuses are concerned. So what's going on here? I mean, Ron Paul has inspired equal parts fear and loathing among both liberals and neocons for years now – and they have responded in typical fashion by labeling him “crazy”, “a fringe candidate”, “radical”, and all the rest of it. Have they changed their minds? I suspect not.
Once again, I think that the mainstream media have been running their own version of Rush Limbaugh's “Operation Chaos” for these many months, namely by setting up a succession of Republican candidates as “the front runner” then proceeding to shoot them down as only the mainstream media can do – by, if necessary, digging deep in order to find that one unforgivable sin that will doom their candidacy. Up until recently, Mitt Romney has gotten more or less of a pass, and no one seemed too terribly threatened by the idea that he might wind up getting the nomination, for reasons discussed in previous posts. To the liberals, he's seen as the least threatening candidate (in terms of what he might do if actually elected), and to the neocons he's “one of us”, with no discernible populist baggage. The idea being, in the unlikely event he were elected he would cause the least damage to liberal interests and require no bringing-up-to-speed on neocon interests – and do I have to belabor the point that those interests are, in most cases, indistinguishable? -- especially when it comes to foreign policy.
But then a funny thing happened, and my theory is that some people started to think Romney might actually win. But rather than attack him directly at this point, the decision was made to start giving Newt Gingrich more “face time” and to ignore most, if not all, of his “issues” and offenses against good taste. But Gingrich turns out to be way too much of a temptation, and what I see is that he has already passed his high water mark. He had his fifteen minutes (weeks, months, whatever) of fame as a candidate, and is now being gently, but firmly, ushered out of the limelight.
And that leaves us with whom... or what? No one wants to backtrack and start putting Rockjaw Goodhair front and center again... and after all, the whole idea is to divide and conquer, right? And who better to divide (but not conquer) than Ron Paul, who has already been termed “divisive” simply because he's not in lock-step with the other Republicans on foreign policy (or domestic policy either, for that matter). So the thing to do is stop calling Ron Paul crazy, and start reflecting on the very real possibility that he might be a viable candidate – even though they know he can't win. This might be enough to keep some voters in his camp, and even attract new ones. But Ron Paul has a built-in “ceiling” when it comes to Republican voters, and any attempts to attract a following beyond a certain point has to encounter diminishing returns. After all, even people who “sort of like” some of his ideas will still shrink from the idea of actually having him as the nominee – to say nothing of president. Because, well... he might actually mean what he says! And he might be the first winning candidate in generations to not go to Washington and immediately get that plate surgically implanted in his head that turns everyone else into a neocon killer-robot “war president”, and into a socialist on the domestic side.
I think the fact that Ron Paul scares the daylights out of both the liberal establishment and the Republican neocon establishment says a lot about his ideas... like, for instance, that they might be right. Not only right, but sane. But truth and sanity are, like “rare earths”, the commodities that are in shortest supply in Washington these days – and always have been, in fact, but especially now. When people call him crazy or radical, what they're trying, in their feeble way, to do is express their lack of capability to understand what he's talking about... or if they do understand, their complete disorientation. After all, this country has been running on about the same set of principles and ideas for generations now – at least since the 1930s; there is no living memory of anything else. What was once radical has become established, and what were once “emergency measures” have become business as usual. And after all, the system has “worked” all that time, right? I mean, the Republic still stands; we have not descended into chaos or anarchy – just the opposite, in fact. Our political options have been narrowed and compressed until we're all drinking through a conceptual cocktail straw... comfortably and contentedly, it seems... unaware that there are any other possibilities. Our foreign policy has taken on a perpetual war aspect, and our domestic policies are impacted... petrified... frozen in place. The biggest arguments that break out on Capitol Hill concern maybe 1% or 2% of the national budget... and here Ron Paul is, saying that he would eliminate entire departments – close 'em down! Fire everyone! Drive the bureaucrats out of Washington with guns, hounds, pitchforks, and flaming torches! (At least that's what it would seem like to big-government types.) And then what would happen to all of our “benefits” and “entitlements”? No, surely, this is something that cannot be contemplated – and, in fact, is not contemplated by the majority... not even by the Tea Partiers or the Occupiers. Only a few nut-case “survivalists” living out in the mountains of Idaho would feel good about something like that.
So why is Ron Paul suddenly being presented as a possibly-sane candidate whom possibly-sane voters might vote for? Again I say, it's all about divide and conquer. You split off a good chunk of Republican voters, the way some of the third-party candidates of the past have done, and you have a guaranteed Democrat victory. You don't even have to try and make Obama look good; that act has gotten a bit stale of late. And you don't have to make anyone look bad either. Just present two (at least) Republican candidates as “viable”, and you've done your job.
But – you'll say – in the end, the Republicans can only nominate one candidate. True, and I'm sure the media are hoping that Paul will peel off at that point and try a third-party run, which would pretty much put the icing on the cake. But even if he doesn't, you might wind up with a good number of Ron Paul supporters sitting out the election, or going with some other third party, because once people have tasted the fresh, clean air of Ron Paul's ideas they're unlikely to slouch into the voting booth and go back to Rockjaw Goodhair, or whomever. There is, in fact, an alienation process going on, which the Tea Party is a symptom of – what the media call “disgust” with Washington and all of its pomps and works. But note, that disgust is almost entirely on the conservative side. The Occupiers are not disgusted with Washington – not really, not in principle. As far as they're concerned, the federal government is still the answer to all their woes, if only it can be redirected a bit. All we have to do is “reprioritize”, from bailing out banks to paying off everyone's student loans. And they have yet to say anything bad about Obama, right? So the Democrat base is firm, and solid – and even the few who say that Obama doesn't “deserve” a second term will vote for him anyway, because what choice do they have?
Let me put it another way. The bulk of the Democrat, therefore Obama, base is made up of tax receivers, vs. tax payers. It's really that simple. And we know now that half the populace is in that category. To which must be added people who are liberal on principle – academics, media types, “entertainment” types, East and West Coast elites... small in number but highly influential. Not to mention the vast majority of career politicians and lobbyists. This includes the people who are chronically afflicted with what is termed “liberal guilt” -- they don't mind supporting socialism as long as they still get to keep most of their own “stuff”. And the tax receivers – the bulk, again – get to keep _all_ their stuff, and maybe get more besides! So it's the perfect coalition. In the long run, economically, it may be unsustainable, but since when has that bothered anyone? No one worries about the national debt if they don't think they'll ever have to pay any of it. See, that's the beauty of socialism, and of collectivism in general – you get all the benefits but none of the responsibility and none of the accountability. No one's ever going to show up at your door with a bill. And all the pleading from the “reality-based community” (I love that term) about the long-term corrosive effect of economic insanity... well, that's easy to ignore, even by people who are starting to feel the effects (like not having a job, for instance).
Now, I'm not saying that this newfound respect for Ron Paul among the establishment elites is going to go on indefinitely; it will depend, to a large extent, on what happens in the Iowa Caucuses and other pre-primary and primary events. The media are quick on their feet, no doubt – once Cain was out of the way, for example, it was as if he'd never existed. There wasn't even any time spent gloating; there was more important work to be done. And if Gingrich continues to slide, there won't be any gloating then either – in wartime, those sorts of niceties tend to get neglected.
And it's funny too because, as I've always said, the Republicans have a built-in handicap when it comes to national elections. They don't own the big-city political machines, and therefore have a much harder time stealing votes or doing other sorts of shenanigans than the Democrats do. So you can count on a lot more Democrat than Republican votes being cast by dead people, or non-people, and legitimate votes being misplaced... but even at that, the Democrats don't win every election. And this doesn't bother the people at the very top of the heap, because they're in control and will continue to be no matter what. But it does upset the political junkies, who still seem to think it makes a difference who's in the White House. Well... it would if it were Ron Paul, but again, that's simply not in the cards. The difference between Obama and Rockjaw Goodhair might be an aesthetic one for some people, but for the controlling elite, as for the international financial elite, it's a trivial matter. In fact, all of American politics is trivial from that ten-mile-high perspective... but it wouldn't be if people starting taking Ron Paul's ideas seriously. Which means that he has to be dealt with – and there's no one better equipped to perform that function than our mainstream media.