Ron Paul will not be the Republican nominee for President in 2012.
Barry Goldwater lost 44 states in 1964 and was utterly decimated by Lyndon Johnson in the popular vote. Does that mean he did not change the Conservative conversation in America forever?
Winning isn't everything in politics. Running a good campaign, energizing a block of voters and influencing the next generation of political thinkers is a victory in itself. Ron Paul has certainly accomplished that.
His brand of Libertarianism is still a vast minority opinion in the nation, but is no longer an ideology that can be easily dismissed. His economic views are more popular than ever even if his foreign policy has still not caught fire. His view on regulation and an over reaching federal government is the purest form of Conservatism in American politics today.
The real impact of Ron Paul on the American political conversation won't be felt for a few years because so many of his ardent supporters are under that age of eligibility to even run for Congress.
Of the throngs of young people who support Ron Paul, some of them will change their minds about politics as they get older, start families and move into the broader economy. However, Paul's message has been so powerful for the college educated youth, that many will hold on to the core values and principles of Libertarianism even if some of their views on small local issues change.
You can not overstate the impact of Ron Paul's message on college students and recent college grads across the country. For many, this is their very first political encounter. It is the first time they are even conscious of American national politics and this it the message they are absorbing. All of us formed our initial beliefs about government in those formative years of our lives, and it informed our voting patterns for many years after.
Paul's message combined with the Tea Party movement has created a real force within the Conservative movement. It is deeply fiscal conservative and believes that the federal government needs to roll back to it's most basic functions as it did before the New Deal era.
While social conservatives will continue to play a major roll in the party, especially in the rural and small towns of America, this new fiscal conservative movement will gain more traction in cities, suburbs and college campuses. It's base is in young people, some of whom will constitute the next generation of elected local officials. As Tea Party and Libertarian affiliated candidates win local seats on school boards, county boards and in the state houses across the country, they will gain more traction among established voters.
Tea Party candidates have already succeeded in penetrating the U.S. House and you could make the argument that a few Senators and Governors are very sympathetic to the Tea Party and are instituting policies that reflect that.
The key to political success over the long term is capturing people's imagination when they are young. Democrats have done this successfully since the 60s. Republicans tended to ignore youth voters, assuming that they would convert to conservatism on their own with age. This is a flawed strategy because people get into habits, traditions and patterns that can be very hard to break. Voting Democrat in Chicago has a lot less to do with policy and a lot more with upholding a tradition and pattern of voting for Democrats over the course of a lifetime. The same could be said for Detroit and San Francisco.If you fail to break that tradition at a young age, you can forget about capturing their hearts and minds when those voters turn 40.
Ron Paul and the Tea Party is capturing younger voters. Granted these are unusually engaged young people. The majority of American youth will only come to political consciousness in their middle age years.
However, the young activits today make up tomorrows committeemen, county and state party delegates and chairmen. They make up the next generation of candidates and appointed officials. Paul is making in roads with them because their view of Conservatism is very different than their older colleagues. The base of the Republican Party is more fluid than in the past and if Ron Paul's "revolution" is to accomplish anything, it might be to move the base of one of the two major political parties in America. If that is the case, his ideological legacy will reverberate for decades. Not bad for a guy who never won a state-wide or national campaign. Who says you can't win the war without winning an election?
Filed under: National Goverment