Why Ron Paul's CPAC Victory is Good for the Movement

The response to Ron Paul's CPAC straw poll win ranged somewhere between dismay and outright panic. Let me offer a contrarian take. 

I have written in recent years about CPAC being an insular affair -- a trade show for Beltway conservative groups, but little more. The vibe I picked up at this year's CPAC was a little different -- more students, more grassroots, more friends from outside the Beltway making the trip. Matt Lewis has an astute take on this shift: 


CPAC director Lisa De Pasquale told me: "Our pre-registration numbers were 20 percent above last year's. We're expecting over 10,000 attendees and more than half of them are college students. I think it really speaks to the excitement and energy in the conservative movement right now."

One seasoned CPAC veteran, who asked not be named, bluntly told me, "I've been coming to these for years. This used to be a convention of blue hairs; now it has youthful energy." If you're a conservative -- as I am -- it was nice to see fresh young faces, who attend at a greatly reduced price. "Blue dog" Democrats are one thing, blue-haired Republicans are quite another.


It shouldn't be too surprising then, that a group outside the normal circles of conservative influence was able to out-hustle and out-organize, and win the straw poll on dramatically increased turnout. Across the board, lots of new people are getting involved in the movement (see: tea parties), creating fertile ground for a seismic shift in the results. 

While I won't necessarily be rooting for a Paul 2012 candidacy, I *like* the fact that CPAC was shaken up, for two big reasons. 

First, it shows that Ron Paul and the Campaign for Liberty are engaging constructively in the conservative movement. In 2007, the Paulites were an oppositional force trying to submarine the GOP's commitment to the war on terror, thus threatening traditional conservatives. Today, libertarians and conservatives have come together against Obama's endless expansion of the State, with Ron Paul supporters supplying creative organizing tactics and boots on the ground. 

This leads into my second reason: in terms of grassroots organization, Paul supporters are some of the best -- if not the best -- that we have. The iconography of the tea party movement is heavily libertarian (think the Gadsden Flag) and that's no coincidence. If you broke down the organizers and even those in attendance, you'd find more than your fair share of Ron Paul supporters. 

This is a categorical shift that's happened in the last year. Remember when the image of conservatives in the political arena was that of dutiful salaried workers with families and limited time to engage in the kind of direct political protest perfected by ACORN and MoveOn.org? That image has been turned on its head by the tea parties and 9/12 protests. And I think that's due in no small measure to the influence of libertarians, who've been more willing to employ bold tactics conventionally thought of as leftist (but effective). 

In terms of organizing, conservatives can learn a lot from libertarians. Online, the moneybomb concept originally pioneered during the Ron Paul campaign has started to work for more conventional Republicans like Scott Brown. 

The 2008 Ron Paul campaign can be compared to the 1988 Pat Robertson campaign in helping a movement find its way into the Republican Party and thus establishing itself as a permanent fixture in the party. Like Robertson, Paul did not come anywhere near capturing the nomination, but the influence of Christian conservatives -- and now libertarians -- endures. 

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It's not really much of a story

It's no big shift, or even a surprise. Students made up the backbone of Paul's support in 2008, and if they made up more than half of the CPAC attendees, it would have been a noteworthy story if he hadn't won. His supporters are WAY out of the conservative "mainstream"--he couldn't pull out of single digits in any of the 2008 primaries, he couldn't today, either, and he won't be able to do so at any point in the future.

Ron Paul is on the rise

Many say this financial crisis will help Romney win in '12 because of his 'credentials' as a business Mr. Fix-it, but this crisis blindsided him. He had no idea there was this dangerous housing bubble which would destroy all our wealth. That there was a huge misallocation of capital, and that a huge crash was coming.


Who did predict this financial crisis?


That's right. Ron Paul. Read this statement he made in 2003. THIS ALONE should make everyone get behind him in support. Austrian economics proved itself right. I used to be a Romney supporter, but I was wrong. I will now donate to and support Ron Paul.

Interesting criteria, iamse7en

Paul Krugman predicted our economic situation before Ron Paul.  So, um, based on your criteria, you'd need to support Paul Krugman, or someone else who may have predicted it prior, even.

Just food for thought...

Paul Krugman

Was an ENRON consultant, too. And Dr. Paul has said the same things for a LONG time. A very long time. Especially regarding bubbles.


Less a Ron Paul victory, than an Obama failure

You are not giving Obama, Pelosi, Reid credit for creating a Grass roots Surge to Conservatism.
The Seas have stopped rising, due to IPCC suddenly being honest.
The Tea Party is surging because Obama lied about the Stimulus, Jobs Saved/created, Health care, C-span, etc.....the only Success for Obama is the record gun sales across the country.
Even the Nobel peace prize is a lie.
Ron Paul has great Ideas, and then you hear his Foreign Policy......and then you look for common Sense, like Sarah Palin or even Rubio.
Ron Paul has excellant conservative principles, and we love that, but he is not Presidential material.....its above his pay grade.

No, it was a Ron Paul Victory

Had nothing to do with Obama.  As Patrick rightly notes, the Paulists had a job to get done and they got it done.

I think Ron Paul could be the Ross Perot of 2012, and like Patrck implies, maybe that's not a bad thing.

There is still a question as to whether there IS a " grass-roots surge" in my mind.

The Brown election notwithstanding, the Ron Paul C-PAC selection over Romney, Palin, Gingrich and every other mainstream Conservative says that the Conservative mainstream may be very shallow indeed.


I hope this isn't a contrarian opinion

Patrick writes: "The response to Ron Paul's CPAC straw poll win ranged somewhere between dismay and outright panic. Let me offer a contrarian take."

I hope his following analysis is the conventional wisdom and not a minorty opinion. How can adding the energy and organizing ability of Paul's thousands of hard core supporters not be a big addition to the GOP and more importantly to the conservative movement?

I never have, and probably never will vote for Paul, but I am more than happy to have the Paulites on our team.

the ironic thing about Paul's CPAC win

Is that it was effectively CAUSED by antilibertarian bias, this time on the part of CPAC instead of the news media, for once. How? Let me explain.

It's been blatantly-obvious to anyone on Facebook and anyone else even on the fringes of Libertarian-Republican-ism that Gary Johnson has been sniffing around at, if not yet quite running for, the Republican Presidential nomination. Instead of putting him into the CPAC poll, which would have effectively diluted Dr. Paul's vote because of fmr. governor Johnson's many similar positions (uses veto pen, rational on pot portion of tax & spend drugwar instead of being a prohibitionist idiot, fiscally conservative in other ways, supported Dr. Paul last time, etc.), CPAC did the antilibertarian biased thing, and ignored Johnson (even though he attended!) in favor of bland ho-hum candidates like Haley & Newt (unless you count Newt's personal life/baggage!!). This effectively gave most of the young & libertarian votes to Dr. Paul. The irony part is that in an actually-fair poll, one of the "you kids get off my lawn!" candidates -- probably Mitt -- would have had a MUCH better chance, and might have won. Instead, as CPAC sowed, so CPAC has reaped.

Finally, I'd only HOPE fiscal conservatives like me could in the future have the outsized influence Pat Robertson's nutty crew has had...But I doubt it. Still, the moral to this story is for CPAC and the rest of the media, who are trying to ignore Johnson this year much like they tried to ignore Paul last time. Don't ignore libertarians, even if you dislike 'em. Do your jobs, instead. Johnson should have OBVIOUSLY been in that poll, and whoever made the decision to exclude him wasn't just stupid, he was *biased* in a very dangerous way for the future of the conservative movement. IMO. And whoever it was is gonna be very UNlikely to admit the bias, now that I've made the charge, but that's ok. I've admitted it for him. :)

Oh, and as for all the whining about the behavior of Paul's supporters? I have yet to see ONE non-Ron-Paul "conservative" say anything about the RUDE behavior of booing at CPAC. Maybe someone here said it and I missed it (have you gotten rid of the spam problem yet, I hope?) and can please point me to the comment. But in general, it wasn't said in Fox's or MSNBC's anti-Paul spinfests. And rudeness needs to be called out consistently, if you don't want people like me to suspect you're hypocrites. (Which, frankly, I sorta do anyway in many cases, but this tolerance for blatant rudeness by "conservatives" was yet-another convenient example of the BLATANT double-standard I've seen held against Ron Paul supporters, so I thought I'd bring it up now!).