Paul Derangement Syndrome and the Iowa Caucuses
In what is surely a complete coincidence, Ron Paul’s rise in the Iowa caucus polls has been accompanied by an incredible rise in anti-Paul rhetoric on the right. Now, certainly some of this is valid - I, like many others, am very bothered by Paul’s newsletters and many of his associations. But the level of hate and anger at Paul exceeds even that directed at Obama. It’s routine to see Paul referred to as anti-American, a charge heretofore reserved for liberals. It has even led to many claiming that, despite months of fetishistic obsession with the Iowa caucuses, Paul winning those caucuses would somehow render them meaningless.
Some, like Margaret Carlson, argue that a Paul win in Iowa would reduce the Iowa polls to obsolescence. She makes a number of other arguments as to why Iowa should be reduced in meaning, but the central tenet is that if Paul wins, they are essentially done. Now, I’m not going to defend the idea that Iowa’s claim to the first vote in the primary is somehow sacred, because I generally feel it is not. But if the caucuses were irrelevant, they have been so for a long time. It is nothing new that Iowa is not representative of the nation as a whole, that it is a poor predictor for eventual winner, or that the style of the caucuses is so unique as to be an entirely different beast from normal primary elections.
What is new is that a candidate with views that conflict with mainstream thought may now win them. I’m personally averse to supporting Paul for a number of reasons. But it’s clear that he is challenging some very well-established ideas within the GOP - mainly, that America is always the good guy when it comes to foreign policy, and that the GOP has often been on the wrong side of issues like torture, indefinite detainment, and warrantless surveillance. It is simply deeply uncomfortable for many on the right to accept that Paul’s positions have resonance among many voters.
So instead of arguing their case, conservatives have decided that ridicule, derision and mockery are the way to go. Paul certainly has some followers that are less than tactful, but now even moderate supporters are called “Paulbots” and “cultists.” Paul’s poll numbers are regularly in double-digits, yet he is ignored and treated with less respect than single-digit losers like Rick Santorum. And now the vaunted Iowa caucuses are suddenly being called irrelevant. It’s enough to make one marvel at the tizzy that Paul has caused amongst the right.