Washington Babylon — December 7, 2007, 11:26 am

What’s driving the movement for Ron Paul? A conversation with Republican consultant Tom Edmonds

Though he receives very little media attention and is frequently dismissed as a crackpot by mainstream observers, Ron Paul’s presidential campaign has been extraordinary by any measure. Even as Mike Huckabee surges in the polls and is followed by hordes of reporters, Paul, in near total obscurity, “is poised to out-raise the rest of the Republican field this quarter, fueled by his rock star status on the Internet,” The Trail, a Washington Post campaign blog, reported earlier this week. “As of Monday afternoon, he has clocked in $10.5 million, mostly through the Internet.”

It seems unlikely that Paul will be a serious candidate for the Republican nomination. Nonetheless, and whatever you think of his politics, the grassroots movement behind Paul is vibrant and growing. What’s driving Paul’s support? Where do his fans go from here? What are the long-term implications of his surprising campaign?

My colleague Thessaly La Force recently asked those questions of Tom Edmonds, a prominent conservative political consultant who has worked for candidates and causes, including the National Rifle Association. (He is not working for any of the current presidential campaigns.) Below are excerpts of Edmonds’ remarks, which have been edited for clarity and length.

There are huge blocks of Republicans who are not satisfied with any of their choices. Paul has tapped into that. People see him as fresh, direct, not trying to manipulate, not offering calculated answers, just being very honest, blunt, and sincere. I am a diehard conservative but my wife is a Democrat. She watched Ron Paul and said, “I like that guy, who is that?” I told her, “He doesn’t agree with you on any issues.” But a lot of it has to do with presentation and style. He is the anti-hero hero. He’s a maverick. The first rule of marketing is to be different, and he’s different. They all look alike, except for him.

The voters are disenfranchised from their government. Congress, the presidency, all institutions have low approval ratings. Paul is a way of venting a pox on all the other houses.

No one is giving Paul money because they want to influence government policy. That’s what donors to the other candidates are doing–they’re thinking, “We’d better support him because we’re going to need him in the future.” People are supporting Ron Paul out of conviction. The early debates primed the pump. The old media got him exposed. Now, the new media has provided the base for him. You can’t go to the street corner and find a Ron Paul for President office, but you can go online.

Part of Paul’s appeal is that he doesn’t fit squarely into either political party. His positions are libertarian, but also eclectic. All of the Republican candidates tend to support President Bush and the war, but he doesn’t. On the other hand, a lot of his libertarian positions on the role of government don’t agree with Democrats. Ron Paul is a rejection of the Republicans and the Democrats. He is a rejection of the political process. People are tired of being spoon fed these debates and issues.

He’s not going to win, but all he has to do is exceed expectations. He’s gotten so little attention out of the press, all he has to do is show up on the screen and it’s going to be news. He has nowhere to go but up. He has such magnetism that we could see him as a third party candidate. But you can’t run successfully as a third party candidate in this country. I don’t think he’ll run for president again. If he does he’d become part of the problem.

Where will his supporters go after the campaign? I think it’s kind of like a solid turning into a gas–it will dissipate but it will still be there if someone else comes along whom they can coalesce behind. They could turn out to be some kind of continuing force. Maybe they will help elect a few people who share the same values at the state level or the congressional level. If Ron Paul pointed to other congressional candidates who were worthy of support, that might work. So instead of focusing on the presidency, start the revolution at a lower level.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2015

Loitering With Intent

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Polite Coup

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Findings

What Went Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Shooting Down Man the Hunter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Legends of the Lost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“A bond with reality has gone, and sometimes you wonder whether that fosters our feeling that movies are a fleeting art.”
Photograph by Alexander Perrelli
Article
What Went Wrong·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In the seventh year of his presidency, Barack Obama was presenting himself as a politician who followed the path of least resistance. This is a disturbing confession.”
Photograph by Pete Souza
Article
Surviving a Failed Pregnancy·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If this woman — who spent her days studying gray screens for early signs of gestation — could not see my pregnancy, what were the chances that anyone else would?”
Illustration by Leigh Wells
Article
Interesting Facts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My husband is forty-six. I am forty-five. He does not think that, in my forties, after cancer, chemotherapy, and chemically induced menopause, I can get pregnant again, but sisters, I know my womb. It’s proven.”
Photograph by McNair Evans
Post
Kid Chocolate’s Place·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Cuban eyes often look close to tears.”
Illustration by the author

Number of British women killed last fall by lightning conducted through their underwire bras:

2

British women wear heels for fifty-one years on average, from the ages of twelve to sixty-three.

Thousands of employees of McDonald’s protested outside the company’s headquarters near Chicago, demanding their wages be increased to $15 per hour. “I can’t afford any shoes,” said one employee in attendance, “and I want Versace heels.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today