Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Invasion of the Paul People

I recently wrote a post that I never actually posted which supported my theory that Howard Dean really never had very much support in 2004. Sure, the support he had was quite firm, but it was inherently limited to the small percentage of people who had already joined his movement. I didn't post it because it was too number-oriented, and I've found that you people don't seem to like my number-crunching posts (I, being an accountant, happen to love number crunching, but I understand why it's not so fun to read).

Basically, Dean had about a steady 14% of the voting-Dems. That was it: 14%. During the build up to the primaries in December, that number doubled, and stayed high going into Iowa. But after his dismal third-place finish in Iowa pulled the rug out from under him, he went back down to his original 14%. In contrast, the other candidates were fairly loose with the numbers, with Kerry never looking very good until his big win in Iowa. After that, everyone seemed to file in behind him, particularly the people who had temporarily joined the Dean bandwagon. Sure, none of this is conclusive, but if I posted the numbers I crunched, you'd see I'm not completely speculating.

And the reason was simple: Dean grabbed a certain segment of the population that he had tailored his platform on. But the other candidates were all fighting for the same crowd as each other, and that crowd didn't give a damn if it was Kerry, Edwards, Clark, or Lieberman who got the spot; just as long as it was one of those guys (I personally would have supported any of those except Joe, though I preferred Clark). And then there were the bandwagon people who joined Dean when he looked like he was the one, but would have supported any Democrat they saw as the front-runner. That's where a big chunk of Kerry and Edwards support came from after Iowa, as all the other candidates stayed firm in the polls except for Kerry, Edwards, and Dean (as well as Gephardt, who dropped out after Iowa).

But the main point is that Dean never was going to get those Kerry, Edwards, Clark, Lieberman people. He just wasn't. So while he looked strong throughout the pre-primary season, that strength was just based upon people who really weren't like the rest of the Democrats. Dean was the one guy who wasn't interchangeable with the others. While he wasn't going to get less than his 13%, he wasn't going to get much more than that either. And that's the reason he lost. My numbers show that of the first nine primaries, Dean averaged 12.7% of the vote, with his best showing in New Hampshire and his worst in Oklahoma. And that backs up much of what I'm saying.

It wasn't the "Dean Scream" or the Washington Establishment opposing him, because most people really aren't influenced by the Washington Establishment. It was just that he had a message tailored for a specific audience, and that message just didn't translate with the rest of the Democrats. Had Edwards, Clark, and Lieberman not been splitting Kerry's demographic, he would have been trouncing Dean in the polls, not lagging with the rest.

Losing Red State

But like I said, I decided to not post that post. But I started thinking about it again today when Carpetbagger made the mistake of writing a post about Ron Paul. As usual, the Paul People got wind of it and descended upon Carpetbagger with their usual tripe about how Ron Paul is the savior of the universe and the only true American in politics.

Sure, Carpetbagger's post was merely a note about how Ron Paul raised a bunch of money in a short period of time, but no matter. They descended all the same, imagining that they can convince liberals to support Paul because Paul wants us to be able to use gold to buy stuff at stores and some idiocy about how Social Security doesn't exist and how it's only our creditors who are paying the Social Security checks (despite the fact that Social Security is still quite profitable and is one of the government's creditors).

And so I wrote a comment there begging Carpetbagger to stop posting about Ron Paul because it makes all the loons come out of the woodwork and rant about Ron Paul. It's like these people are just desperate to find some forum to discuss him in. And I thought that was crazy, because if anyone was going to get into Paul's old school conservative platform, it certainly wouldn't be the liberals at Carpetbagger. So they were all wasting their time.

And then one of them dropped me the final clue: the conservative blog Red State already hates the Paul People. I couldn't believe it. This guy was actually suggesting that I go to Red State because of their anti-Paul policy. Holy shit! If they lost Red State, they're screwed. Because where does Paul go from there? He's an old school conservative further to the right than the Bushies (using the traditional Left-Right Index, of course, and not the revised Bush Loyalty Index).

I mean, the only thing about Paul that could appeal to moderates and liberals is Paul's anti-war policy, and we've got Democrats who do that. And once any moderate or liberal gets a load of Paul's other policies, they jump ship. So if they can't convert the freaks at Red State, what's the point? They could raise thirty million dollars in a week, and it still won't help them. They've already got all the supporters they're going to get and have got nowhere else to go.

Finding the Herd

And I started thinking about this Paul phenomenon and realized it was just like the Dean phenomenon, except worse for Paul. As I wrote at Carpetbagger's, the issue is that you have a certain number of disenfranchised people on the fringes who are lost in a national sea of moderation and compromise. They're all by themselves and need to feel like they're part of something bigger. It's part of our herd-like instincts, to have other people validate our beliefs and let us know that we're not crazy. It's sort of like a bat's sonar; it makes people feel better when they say something to hear the echo come back to them.

And so when they find some politician who will speak to them, they immediately are attracted like moths to a light, where they find each other. Finally, they've found a group of like-minded individuals. These are people who don't even get along well with people of their own ideology, and so they think it's something special when they can find so many people who think just like them. And the Internet is a big help in that, as now it's easier for thirty thousand people to get together and form a group. But while that's a lot of people, that's really not very many on a national scale.

In the old days, a local politician with a thirty thousand man army of supporters would be quite powerful, but if most of those people couldn't vote in his district, and if this was the most he could get out of the entire nation, it won't help much. Sure, the politician will look good, particularly in national polls, but all those people can't support him in individual state primaries. Nor is it particularly impressive in an age where a presidential nominee can get over fifty million votes and still lose.

While the Internet has been a big help in combining little guys into big forces, those forces can be deceptive. Atrios getting thirty thousand people to send letters might help sway a politician on a particular issue. But thirty thousand votes in a presidential election won't even amount to a small joke. Republicans can toss out more than thirty thousand votes before breakfast. Sure, it's better than being lost in the wilderness, but it still won't put your guy in the Whitehouse.

Nowhere but Down

And as I said, the other issue is where you go with your army. If you've got a solid 14% of the population as Dean did in 2004 and you're moving from a moderate position and can gather huge chunks of the other nominee's votes, you're sitting pretty. But if you got 14% from a fringe that is pretty much limited at 14%, you've got nowhere to go. Instead, you could get snookered by a moderate like John Kerry, who barely made it into double-digits and whose support was never as steady as Dean's. Because again, Kerry was sharing the majority of the Democrats with the other moderates; while Dean was usually grabbing a steady share all to his own.

And the reason Dean wasn't sharing those votes is the same reason he couldn't win: Because nobody really wanted his voters. He got all that support because the other candidates were neglecting that part of the population. But they were being neglected because they were fringe people who rejected moderation and compromise. They latched to Dean because he was the one guy telling them what they wanted to hear; accusing the others of being "Bush-lite". And if that was a smart position to take, you can bet that other candidates would have latched onto it and would have stolen much of Dean's support.

So in essence, Dean was only as popular as he was because he had adopted a position which wasn't very popular. As I suggested at Carpetbagger's, it's like being the only CB radio repairman in town. Sure, every CB owner will flock to you when they need repairs, but there just aren't that many of them. Getting 100% of six million people isn't as good as getting 40% of fifty million people. And that's what we're talking about.

Cheney Buttinski Wins

But for Paul, it's even worse. First off, we're already in November and he's still not polling as well as Dean was. By the end of October 2004, Newsweek had Dean at 13%, where he had been for months. They've got Paul at 3%. And for context, Dean was tied in first with Clark, and was only losing to the "Don't Know/None/Other" category, which stayed steady at 27%. Paul, on the other hand, isn't even included in the General Election polls I saw.

But even worse, the CB radio analogy is quite appropriate. Because the thing is, Ron Paul is an anachronism. He's not a fringe candidate because he's too radical. He's in the fringe because his entire party went off the deep-end and left him there. Sure, his ideas are radical and would be rejected by large majorities, if they were to know what he wanted to do. But the thing is, he's really no different than what most Republican politicians were saying just a decade ago. He didn't change, the party did. But he's just as loony as he ever was.

And just like with Dean, the only reason he's being noticed is because he's taking up a huge chunk of ideological real estate that's been abandoned. The only reason why he stands out is because no other major Republican is taking that stand, yet there are still quite a few diehard conservatives who are still there. Or who have come back from the deep-end, after they saw how much of a disaster it is. But while Dean was the fringe candidate who was too ahead of his time, Paul just stands out like a sore thumb and is a nasty reminder about how conservatives used to be, before the Bush-Cheney machine came along and ruined everything.

And while that should be a good thing, these are people who don't like to admit to mistakes and are still living in a fantasyworld. They don't want to hear about how they all went off the rails. They want Giuliani to torture the shit out of people (literally) and they want the guy from Law & Order to come riding in on a horse and save the day. They don't want small government and isolationism. They want a government that kicks butt, takes names, and then kicks some more butt.

And Ron Paul won't give that to them. Because that's one of the odd things about the Bush-Cheney movement: They're actually more moderate than the conservatives of the 90's. I guess it's that Compassionate Conservative thing. They believe in powerful government. They went global. They now think it's good to deny individual rights in order to benefit society, just like liberals; the only difference being that they think they own society and that society should work for them. The problem isn't that they're too conservative. The problem is that they're batshit crazy and they really don't give a damn.

And as it turns out, while conservatives liked the "I've got mine, leave me alone" rhetoric, they really liked conformity and butting into everyone else's business. Both those strands were within the crazy conservative ideology, but with Cheney at the helm, the Buttinski's won. They're now the Party of Big Brother and they like it.

The Lonely Paul People

And so all those poor Paul supporters just can't figure out what's going on. Finally, they've found a candidate who represents what they believe. And sure, while they themselves may have lapsed after 9/11, they're now back and have a candidate to support; the kind of candidate they used to have in the good old days. Yet he can't even bust into double-digits among weak competition. Everyone they know whose opinion they trust is supporting Ron Paul and this looks like the real deal. But alas, it won't be.

Again, the only reason why they all support Paul is because his position is so unpopular. Supply & Demand wins again. The bigger demand something has, the more suppliers will show up to fill that demand. But if demand is low enough, you'll be lucky to get even one supplier. And that's what the Paul People have: Their one CB radio repair guy who's getting all the business in town and still can't catch a break. And the more they rally behind him and insist that he's unlike all the other candidates, the more everyone else will reject him.

And that apparently includes the Red State people, who were really his only hope. The Paul People can try to pretend he's the next Dean and try to woo some anti-war support from the left, but all that does is remind us how crazy they really are. Paul may have a tight group of rabid supporters, but it won't do him any good.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a well thought out piece of writing that keep intellectually lazy name calling to a minimum.

There are alot of rough around the edges types and anarchist kids that support Dr. Paul, but his support is not niche or confined to these demographics.

As a historian, I think we are witnessing a new rise of the long dormant Antifederalist strain which has always been present as a populist force in American politics since the time of our founding (and even before).

It seems like many people are dismissive of Dr. Paul either because they are too cynical or because they have not fully researched his positions. He policies are not radical within the context of the situation we find ourselves in currently.

Any progressive would support the lower and middle class. What many of Paul's supporters are trying to elaborate, is the instability of markets and the rapid inflation of the dollar. Price inflation and excessive indebtedness with insufficient reserves has weakened our nation and put in jeopardy our ability to service our national debt and make entitlement payments. Did you know Dr. Paul is one of the only congressmen to vote against looting the Social Security fund? He's trying to save the "butter" by rolling back the "guns", which would interestingly make the world more stable and the US more secure.

With all respect, thanks for hosting and considering my humble commentary. I'm just an old army vet who wants to make this a place worth defending... that's all.

-- Rob from GoldenAgeOfReason.com

Anonymous said...

nice reverse psycho-babble.

Alan said...

Interesting analysis, and you may very well have something here. Still, why does the phrase "whistling past the graveyard" come to mind?

I think, in the end, Dr. Paul will prove to have more lasting impact than Howard Dean ever could have had.

Anonymous said...

nice to see you have absolutely no idea what your talking about. Don't quit your day job. I hope your accounting isn't as shitty as your blogging.

Anonymous said...

And another thing:

Most of us Paulites would easily abandon the calls for a gold standard and ending the Fed and IRS in order to vote for the Republican nominee who gets chosen next summer.

But NOT if that nominee is against individual rights and libertarianism.

We know the nominee will be Giuliani. The ball is in his court to woo the Paul people. He is going to have to distance himself from neocons who believe, for instance, in regulating the Internet and he is going to have to promise to clean house of all the loyal Bushies in government.

Right now, too many of us believe that Giuliani has assured the Bushies that they can keep their jobs in his administration.

We will judge him by how arrogant he is or is not to us after he takes so much in the 2/5 primaries.

Keep in mind that Rudy's opinion on the Iraq War is not an issue for lots of us because so many of us agree with Giuliani on the war and still support Paul for the libertarianism.

Anonymous said...

Blogger failed to take the previous comment I made which said that Dean's people were more than ready to adapt to Kerry after the primaries, because they were mostly just kids who wanted grownups to publicly say "I am anti-war" at a time when that was not expedient. A few holdout Deaniacs did force Kerry to say "I am against the war" before they finally agree to vote for him in the general elections.

That was a success of the Dean movement: remnants of a former candidate forced the main candidate to make a major concession just before the general elections.

Ron Paul's people, who are more military and businesspeople than students, will probably be harsher in forcing their leverage on what Giuliani says and promises for the general election.

After Giuliani wins the primaries, the 10% of Paulites who opposed him, will demand campaign and cabinet positions in order to support Giuliani in the general elections. We could demand that certain anti-rights Bushies be fired from the Giuliani campaign, etc.

The Ron Paul Revolution will demand a seat at the Giuliani table, or we will vote for Paul as a 3rd party candidate and let Hillary take the White House so we can then completely take over the Republican Party in December 2008.

I would rather give the Democrats complete control for 4 years than allow the Republicans to continue like they are going

Doctor Biobrain said...

Wow, I am impressed with y'all's ability to get out the comments. I posted that at two in the morning and already see six comments by the time I got my coffee the next morning. That's the sort of invasion tactics that got me to write this post.

All the same, you people are quite clearly loony. You really think that Giuliani's going to give cabinet positions to woo a candidate's voters who barely made a blip in the primaries? Dean got stomped in the primaries and still had far more support than you guys will be able to muster. Sure, there's still a lot of time between now and the primaries, but I made a fairly convincing argument suggesting that it won't get any better.

Even crazier is your idea that any of you could support Giuliani. That guy is crazy. He's the guy who will make Bush & Cheney look reasonable. Give up on the neo-cons? He's entirely embraced the neo-cons. As I've argued in the past, the top three GOP candidates are being marketed as the three strains of Bush's political appeal: Romney is Mr. Republican, Thompson represents the Downhome Southerner, and Giuliani is the Nutso Neo-Con. The fact that any of you would ever support him tells me everything I need to know about your sham movement. If you support freedom and liberty, you really would be better off supporting the Dem than Rudy.

Besides, I still think Romney's going to win the primary. But in any case, if anyone has anything decent to say, say it. For instance, explaining why you think liberals would ever support a pro-life, pro-gun, small government guy like Paul. Or how you can possibly go higher than 5% in the primaries when you've already alienated your fellow conservatives. But if you're just going to insult me, you needn't bother, as you're only reinforcing what I wrote.

And overall, you might not like my analysis, but it's solid. You guys aren't on the vanguard of a growing movement. You're just a small group of like-minded people who happened to find each other thanks to the Internet. While that does give you more power than before, it's not enough to sway an election.

Doctor Biobrain said...

BTW Anonymous #1, the Social Security Trust Fund is technically not being "looted". Rather, the government is borrowing money from it that it will need to repay. Whether or not it ever is repaid is the issue, but seeing as how all the other creditors loaning money to the government expect to be repaid, I see no reason why Social Security shouldn't be too.

Secondly, why do you guys continue to cherrypick a few of Paul's issues that agree with us? I don't care if he agrees with me on a few issues. He disagrees on most of the big issues, and I already have people I'd rather vote for; namely every top tier Dem candidate, including Hillary (though I won't be so happy about that one). Face it, it's hopeless. You've lost the majority of conservatives and the liberals don't want you. You're fighting for a lost cause.

adam said...

It's astounding and frankly creepy how quickly Paulites seem to come out of nowhere to lambaste anyone who speaks ill of him. Reddit's been destroyed by a constant barrage of duplicate Paul articles, and they seem to make a point of swamping online polls for... some reason. It's starting to raise my Ralph Nader Annoyance Alarm.

Stranger still is that I haven't actually met any Paul supporters in real life, despite the fact that they seem to make up half the internet.

With all due respect to Rob, are you sure that there's not some hacker running a botnet from his basement somewhere hyping up Paul? :)

Seriously, I'd be a lot more supportive of the guy if his supporters weren't so quick to label anyone who even tries to discuss his policies as a lunatic or a shill. I mean, I think some of Gravel's policies are nuts, but I respect the guy and I think that his positions are legitimate and reasoned out, even if I disagree with some of them. Likewise with Paul. (Giuliani is a bonafide nutcase, but his supporters don't seem to know who he is except "the 9/11 mayor," so I'm not sure he counts.)

The Paul supporters remind me more of Nader supporters than anyone else (and I don't mean Green Party supporters, I mean Nader supporters), which is weird. I'd always thought that Nader supporters were crazy assholes because Nader is a crazy asshole. Paul seems like a good guy who'll rationally defend his policies (even if I disagree with him) rather than pulling the Nader move of "everyone's out to get me!" and walking out of the room in a huff. I'm OK with that. I don't think I've ever seen such a huge disconnect between a candidate and his supporters.

Seriously, if y'all would just calm down a bit, I'd be wishing you luck, if for no other reason than because I think Paul is in a good position to expose some of the problems with the GOP. That's fine. But why all the hate? Dr. Biobrain is a nice guy and you're certainly not convincing anybody by insulting them, which is mostly what I see Paul supporters do. And I don't think it reflects well on Dr. Paul. Is that really what you want?