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Could Ron Paul Be the Ralph Nader of 2008?

Rep. Ron Paul, the maverick Texas Republican who is running as an anti-war libertarian in the Republican primary, has come charging out of nowhere to become the leading fundraiser in the brief history of the Internet. Yesterday, his campaign reported a one-day take around $3.8 million, with an average donation of $98.

In one respect, Paul deserves his success. He is a far more articulate and coherent critic of administration policy in Iraq than any candidate on the Democratic side, speaking as he does the frank and plain language of the isolationist. “The fundamental question remains,” he said in 2004, “Why should young Americans be hurt or killed to liberate foreign nations? I have never heard a convincing answer to this question.”

What distinguishes Paul from the anti-war gadfly Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic Party is that Kucinich speaks alternately the language of the brainless pacifist — he would form a Department of Peace to replace the Pentagon — and the language of the far from brainless New Left, according to which the sins of the United States are sufficiently grave to deny it any kind of moral legitimacy abroad. Paul’s isolationism is rooted in the age-old American fear that we will be morally compromised by the sins of other nations who do not breathe the same sweet air of American exceptionalism.

At the same time, it seems to surprise many that Paul’s undeniable grassroots effectiveness hasn’t translated to a showing either in national or state polls. That’s surely due to the fact that many if not most of those who are sending money to Paul are not, in fact, Republicans. They are more plausibly among the 3 million or so who voted for Ralph Nader on the Green Party line in 2000, or even among those who rained money down on Howard Dean in the summer of 2003.

Which brings to mind an interesting scenario for 2008: Could Ron Paul run an independent candidacy for president in 2008 on a libertarian/anti-war/anti-monetarist platform? At this moment, it seems plausible, especially if the Democratic party nominates Hillary Clinton, who is bizarrely considered a neocon hawk by the Left netroots.

And despite Paul’s nominal standing as a Republican — and it is nominal — wouldn’t his candidacy draw more from disaffected Democrats, as liberal Republican John Anderson’s 1980 third-party candidacy pulled voters away from Jimmy Carter and not from Ronald Reagan?


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