The Ron Paul-Era in American Politics

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To Politico’s Roger Simon, Rep. Ron Paul was “shafted” by the national press, despite his strong second place finish in the Ames Straw Poll. “Any fair assessment of Ames . . . would have said the winds of the Republican Party are blowing toward both Bachmann and Paul,” writes Simon.

Ron Paul’s Iowa campaign was dismissed by the national press, but that wasn’t an unfair decision. Paul’s supporters are more motivated than most, but they form a small percentage of the Republican electorate. During the 2008 GOP primaries, Paul polled mostly below the double-digits, and in the latest Real Clear Politics average, Paul garners 9 percent support among Republicans, well behind Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. If the political press is most interested in following the campaigns of plausible Republican candidates for the presidential nomination, then it makes total sense to ignore Paul.

Where it makes less sense – and where the press has definitely dropped the ball – is in the story of Paul’s influence over the entire Republican Party. The Tea Party may have been inspired by Rick Santielli’s rant against underwater homeowners, but it’s radical libertarianism comes straight out of the Paul’s free market gospel. Paul’s 2008 campaign was what energized this wing of the Republican Party, which has now become a large and important part of the GOP governing coalition. Indeed, you can’t make sense of Rick Perry’s attacks on “loose money” and the Federal Reserve without grasping the extent to which Ron Paul opened the door to that kind of rhetoric.

If President Obama wins reelection and secures his accomplishments, I doubt he’ll be overshadowed in the history books. But you could look back at this period and plausibly describe it as the Ron Paul-era in American politics.

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