Ah, Ron Paul. I can think of very few political figures who inspire such bat-$h!t, unwavering (and some would say myopic) devotion in his followers. It's a curious phenomenon, one I'm not sure I understand completely. Paul doesn't have the gift for oratory or good looks of Barack Obama, or the fiery, off-the-cuff populism of Chris Christie.
Yet there they are, the "Paulites," at Republican events, at town halls, at protests, wearing their Guy Fawkes masks (lately and clumsily co-opted by #OccupyWallStreet), holding up signs clamoring for a "Ron Paul rEVOLution" (see, they put the backwards 'love' in revolution - which sounds kind of ominous to me, frankly).
|Even Ron Paul looks kind of confused and distressed by this sentiment|
The media also doesn't seem to know quite what to make of Paul (I'm actually watching Congressman Paul on Fox News Sunday right now - it's been a very strange program). Take today's Reuter's story: "Ron Paul declared winner of Illinois Republican straw poll:"
Ron Paul was declared the winner on Saturday of a weeklong Republican presidential straw poll in Democratic President Barack Obama's home state of Illinois.
That's quite the lede, Reuter's. Ron Paul, libertarian-except-when-it-comes-to-abortion, riding high in the Socialist home state of our Usurper in Chief!
Before you move your retirement into gold and run Old Glory up the flagpole in preemptive celebration of a new Red (state) Dawn in America, however, read a little closer (emphasis mine):
Texas Congressman Paul won 52 percent of the combined 3,649 online and in-person votes cast between October 29 and Saturday evening. He won 66.5 percent of the votes cast over the internet and 8 percent of those cast in person.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney earned 7 percent of the online votes cast and 35 percent of the in-person votes cast at 22 locations, the party said.
So, to parse: Paul won a landslide of online votes and virtually no polling-place votes, while Romney won the polling-place voting by a fair margin while collecting a microscopic quantity of internet votes.
On a planet populated by organisms with large brains and the ability to transmit information by reading and writing, a media outlet like Reuters might choose an "angle" for this story such as; there is an interesting disparity between online support and polling-place support for candidates in the Republican primary. Why is this?
It's a good question. Ron Paul is widely considered President of the Internet: his online support is so deep and well-organized that his followers invented the moneybomb, a new, weaponized form of online fund-raising that was first deployed back in 2007.
Maddeningly, the media still repeats each Ron Paul "victory" that involves online polling as though it represents a phenomenon that would or could translate into actual, physical-world electoral victory. Perhaps this is at least partially because of the media's other fixation with Paul - a fixation in which Paul plays the role of eyeball-grabbing circus freak.
I don't know. Most of us enjoyed the Smurfs as kids - maybe an internet-fueled libertarian insurgency DOES stand a snowball's chance. Stranger, more awful things have surely happened.