I was watching
Gandhi recently, as I do every year or two. It is inspirational
to me. It tells the story of a man who could not possibly win the
battles he chose to fight, but did anyway. There is no doubt that
it is a propaganda film, funded in part by the Indian government.
It scrambles his chronology. But, on the whole, it got the story
right. Mohandas K. Gandhi, a lawyer, was able to transform Indian
politics. He did this through force of moral character and shrewd
tactics that made every official response either "Damned if
we do; damned if we don’t." I read "The
Gandhi Nobody Knows" when it was published in 1983, a year
after the movie was released. I know the strange side of the man.
But he mobilized a huge nation without recourse to violence. That
was his great legacy.
I also like
the movie because it is the story of a failed empire. By 1945, the
British Empire had spent itself into near bankruptcy because of
two wars. It was a pale shadow of itself. It would soon grow much
There are many
scenes in the movie that have long grabbed my imagination, but none
so much as the one in which Gandhi is seated at a table with a British
military official. The official asks rhetorically, "You don’t
really expect us just to march out of India, do you?" Gandhi
replies, "Yes, that is exactly what I expect you to do."
In 1947, they did.
What has this
to do with Ron Paul, who is running for President? At least this
much: he also opposes violence, he also opposes empire, and he also
believes in the long run that justice will prevail. So, he does
what Gandhi did. He keeps telling the story of how a better society
can be built, must be built, and will eventually be built when men
reduce their commitment to violence as a way of shaping the world.
This includes violence committed by the civil government.
Gandhi the mahatma: the great self. Ron Paul is the mahatma of self-government.
He gains applause
from the anti-war Left, small as it is. He gains applause from free
market advocates, who are weary of government interference in their
lives. And he drives the muddled middle crazy.
Note: he doesn’t
wear a loincloth.
After the first
debate among the ten Republican candidates, the mainstream media’s
polls ranked Giuliani, McCain, and Romney as the front-runners.
But the on-line polls were blow-outs for Ron Paul.
What was going
After the second
debate, on May 15, broadcast by Fox News, the Fox News website allowed
viewers to vote for the nominee. These presumably were hard-core
Fox News viewers. Over
40,000 voted. Romney got 29%. Paul got 25%. Giuliani got 19%.
Fox News has
been supportive of the Iraq war from the beginning. Paul in 2003
voted against the funding of the Iraq war, one of the handful of
Republicans in Congress who did. So, how could it be that Paul,
an outspoken critic of the war, could receive that high a percentage
on Fox News’ own website?
He had done
even better on MSNBC’s website poll after the first debate, broadcast
by MSNBC on May 3. The
results were amazing. He overwhelmed the others in the four
He got even
higher percentages on the
The two networks
that hosted the respective debates drew audiences above a million
— close to two million. In both cases, Ron Paul did extremely well
on the networks’ web polling pages. Yet he is invisible in the general
polls, which are based on random sampling.
I believe the
general polls are correct. The public does not know who Ron Paul
is. But TV viewers who were politically active enough to go to the
websites of the broadcasting networks are big supporters of Paul.
There is a
disconnect here. The Establishment’s pundits offer various explanations,
but none has any scientific support. One of the least plausible
explanations after the May 3 poll was that Paul’s supporters are
so sophisticated digitally that they found ways to overcome the
designs of the two web polling sites: MSNBC’s
and CNN’s. A few libertarian geeks somehow made it look as though
there is a large army of Paul supporters out there.
is bizarre. There is a huge problem with it. Where did all the other
voters go? Paul got half or more of the CNN voters in some categories.
There were around 75,000 votes recorded. Somehow, the voters who
were for the Big Three had their votes sent into cyberspace by Paul’s
nefarious genius computer programmers, who then substituted votes
for Paul. The Establishment candidates’ supporters did not have
their votes recorded. I call this the "hanging electrons"
In the case
of the CNN poll, the number of votes cast was closer to 70,000 per
question, which were not the same questions as the MSNBC poll offered.
Yet the results were much the same. The libertarian programmers
somehow beat the protective designs of two separate polling pages.
I think there
is better explanation. About half of the viewers who were enthusiastic
enough to go to the networks’ web pages to vote were Ron Paul’s
supporters. The logic of my explanation rests on the percentage
of viewers who voted, compared with the 1.76 million people who
watched MSNBC’s broadcast. The audience size figures are here.
about 4.3% voted on CNN’s site. That is slightly over 4%. It was
just under 4% for MSNBC’s site. We’ve seen this percentage before:
Pareto’s 20/80 law. Twenty percent of 20% (4%) voted on-line. This
is exactly what I would have predicted. In other words, the poll
was a faithful reflection of predictable responses. More than 6%
voting would have been a remarkable statistic, one indicative of
deep and wide interest in national politics. There was no such enthusiasm.
That is why so few people tuned in.
that there were no missing votes for the Big Three candidates. It
also means that Ron Paul’s supporters are hard-core fanatics. They
were the driving force of the web polls.
There are statistically
inescapable facts governing the Republican election campaign so
far. First, most people don’t care and are not watching the debates.
Second, among those who watched, a normal Pareto percentage of them
went to the trouble to vote on-line. These are the elite of the
Republican Party’s ideological activists: 20% of the elite 20%.
About half of these people support Ron Paul.
When I say
"activists," don’t mean people who write checks, knock
on doors, stuff envelopes, stuff ballot boxes, and generally do
the grunt work of political campaigns. I mean people who care enough
about political ideas to sit through hours of political piffle and
then take the time to go to a website and vote.
are presumably the wave of the digital future. Like Gandhi’s supporters
in 1915, they are not numerous. They will not determine the outcome
of the Republican primaries. They will not attend the Republican
Party’s convention. But they are out there, and they are unlikely
to go away.
I was part
of such a group in 1960: the "Goldwater for Vice President"
movement. I was on the geographical fringes. I was not in Chicago
in 1960, nor did I get in the floor demonstration. But I was for
it. That group eventually grew. It got Goldwater nominated in 1964
and got Reagan elected in 1980.
immediately after the debates in May is bad news for the Republican
Establishment. They have dismissed this as irrelevant. They will
forget about it when Ron Paul fails to win the nomination. But there
is no question in my mind that the Republican Party will move toward
the right — the non-interventionist, limited-government Old Right
— over the next three or four decades. This will take place at the
bottom, i.e., at the local level, not at the top: New York City’s
financial district and Washington, D.C. The move toward the Old
Right will accelerate when the checks from Washington don’t buy
much because of inflation. That day is coming.
Ron Paul is building a digital mailing list.
This is the
sleeper fact of the Great Debates.
of the political mailing list is forgotten today. His name was Charles
Bryan. His brother, William Jennings Bryan, is well remembered.
So valuable was that mailing list and the support it represented
that the Democrats nominated Charles Bryan for Vice President in
1924. Charles Bryan had used that mailing list in three Presidential
campaigns: 1896, 1900, and 1908.
In early 1965,
in the wake of Goldwater’s electoral defeat, Richard Viguerie sat
down in the office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives
and began writing down the names of people who had donated $50 or
more to Goldwater’s campaign — the equivalent of about $300 today.
By law in those
days, federal political campaigns had to turn over to the Clerk
the names and addresses of donors of $50 or more. Goldwater’s campaign
had filed 15,000 names and addresses. Viguerie planned to write
them all down and create a mailing list with them.
After a few
days, he realized that he could not get the job done by himself.
He hired some women to do this grunt work. Then, after they had
copied 12,500 names, the Clerk decided that he did not like all
this and forbade them to do it. Viguerie says he should have told
the Clerk to contact his lawyer. But he was young and inexperienced
back then, so he complied.
names became the basis of a mailing list empire that changed American
conservatism and, through Ronald Reagan, the world.
A similar result
took place in 1972. It was George McGovern who first spotted the
potential of direct mail in a Presidential campaign. More accurately,
his direct-mail operative, Morris Dees, spotted it. The pre-convention
McGovern campaign was made possible by Dees’ direct-mail skills.
As far as Presidential
politics goes, three technologies have undermined the Establishment’s
monopoly: the mass-produced paperback book (1964), direct mail (1972),
and the Internet (2004). The Presidential candidate who first made
the Internet work for him was Howard Dean, whose pre-convention
campaign in 2004 was entirely based on the Internet. He raised over
$40 million, but then squandered both the money and his lead by
a lack of local organization in the primaries.
On all media
fronts except direct mail, liberals are falling behind. Network
news shows have steadily declined in popularity. Cable TV is replacing
the networks, which includes network news. Newspaper readership
has fallen like a stone since 1993. In 1993, 58% of Americans said
that they had read a newspaper "yesterday." In 2002, this
percentage was 41%. Three-quarters of Americans under age 30 do
not read a newspaper daily. In the 30—49 age group, it is 37%.
Liberals have bet the political farm on capital-intensive technologies
and government regulation of the communications industry. They are
losing the bet. The best book on all this is by Richard Viguerie
and David Franke: America’s
Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to
Now Ron Paul
is assembling a digital mailing list, or multiple lists, that will
be used to educate and motivate hard-core supporters. It is under
the radar of the Establishment.
It is clear
to all sides that Ron Paul is the most ideologically committed politician
in the country. There has been nothing like him since Howard Buffett
retired in the early 1950’s. Nobody remembers Howard Buffett today
except hard-core libertarians and his son, Warren.
It is Ron Paul’s
uniquely consistent voting record that gets him on liberal-left
television talk shows like the Daily Show and Bill Maher’s show.
The hosts are willing to give him time on camera because he opposed
the Iraq war when nobody else did. He has also voted to shrink the
state ever since he was elected in 1976. While they don’t share
his view of domestic policy, they are respectful to find any politician
who just will not toe the Party line.
he had a narrow but highly committed audience. Now, after three
decades, he is beginning to expand that audience. He speaks his
mind, and his mind is informed by a consistent philosophy of limited
government, meaning Constitutional government as understood in 1788.
The kinds of voters who sit through an evening of bloviating politicos
and then go to a web page to vote are the kinds of people he is
lists, if used to educate people to the principles of limited civil
government and expanded self-government, will begin to affect the
next generation of voters.
It does not
take postage to mail e-letters. It does not take printers, ink,
He has been
committed to a worldview. No other politician is to the same degree.
By being committed at the cost of risking electoral defeat, Ron
Paul can now attract people who are looking for their own areas
If he gets
this message to his subscribers, he can help them become active
in a movement to shrink the strangling hand of tax-funded bureaucracy.
Ron Paul is
convinced that self-government is the wave of the future. Empire
isn’t. That was Gandhi’s message in 1915. It did not seem plausible
back then. By 1947, it did.
has taken until quite recently for India to move economically more
toward self-government and away from Nehru’s Fabian socialism. Sadly,
the U.S. economy seems to be moving back toward Nehru. The state
keeps getting bigger in the visible affairs of this world. But a
great decentralization is taking place: in education, on the Internet,
and with technology generally. The wave of the future is not toward
Fabianism and its legacy. Ron Paul’s campaign is proof of this.
let us sit back and enjoy the campaign.