“Getting” Ron Paul

Most journalists simply don’t get Ron Paul. A big part of it is journalists not being able to understand anything other than what they’ve been taught to understand, which in politics amounts to little more than the horserace before them. Journalists understand how to cover a conventional campaign. They really don’t know what to do with a movement. Plus, they can be pretty lazy. Trust me.

In his review of Reason’s Brian Doherty’s book on Dr. Paul, James Antle makes some keen observations concerning Ron Paul and media coverage at Real Clear Books:

Brian Doherty aside, most reporters don’t know what to make of Ron Paul. This observation isn’t simply a clichéd swipe at the “drive-by media” or the dinosaurs of the dreaded “MSM.” To the working press, from the Red Bull-addled gumshoes at Internet start-ups to grizzled veterans of the campaign trail, Paul’s two Republican presidential bids simply do not compute.

This only partly due to liberal bias, the smothering conventional wisdom that sees no practical difference between restoring the Constitution and returning the powdered wig to its proper place in American fashion. Gold standard? Letters of marque and reprisal? Mainstream media eyes glaze over…

The biggest problem is that there is no easy media narrative for what Paul is doing. The success or failure of most presidential campaigns is determined by two simple metrics: winning the nomination and winning the White House. Whatever his principled disagreements with Mitt Romney, when Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign, that was all she wrote. There is no generation of Rick Santorum Republicans ready to run in his place. When John Kerry came up short in Ohio against George W. Bush in 2004, he became yesterday’s news…

 

(But Paul) is still attracting crowds that number in the thousands on the stump. His online money bombs raise millions of dollars even as this late stage of the campaign. Most importantly, his supporters are crowding Republican state conventions and district meetings. The result is that Paul is accumulating a surprising number of delegates…

The Ron Paul forces are still giving the Republican establishment fits months after their campaign was presumed dead. They took 16 out of 19 delegates allocated by congressional district caucuses in Romney’s home state of Massachusetts. Paulites even denied a delegate slot to Romney’s former lieutenant governor. Delegate-wise, Paul may turn out to be the winner in Iowa after all. The state GOP will be chaired by Paul supporters in both Iowa and Alaska.

Paul’s legacy includes dozens of Ron Paul Republicans, the most successful being his son Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, and the up-and-coming young Michigan Congressman Justin Amash. This is what makes Paul so hard for the media to cover: he is clearly having a bigger long-term impact than the 1972 John Ashbrook presidential campaign, but movement-building doesn’t fit neatly into the horserace mentality of most political journalism.

Doherty ends his book with an exchange between Paul and an ABC News reporter. What would Paul do to improve his poll numbers? “I don’t change my message,” Paul replied. He then followed up with what Doherty describes as “that slightly hesitant Ron Paul thoughtfulness”: “I change minds.”

Ron Paul is changing the Republican Party right before our very eyes.