It should not be a surprise that Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) recently took the GOP presidential polling lead in Iowa. Despite his recent newsletter fiasco – where Paul’s political platforms in the early 1990s come off an awful lot like racism – Paul’s campaign is one that strikes at the core of current American political sentiment: Times are really tough and the current situation isn’t working, so we must change it, no matter what that change is.
With the Iowa Caucus – the first state primary – just over a week away, Paul holds as much as a 3% lead, garnering 23% support compared to Mitt Romney’s 20% and Newt Gingrich’s 14%. Paul has built his campaign on a policy platform of tearing down fundamental institutions in government, including the Federal Reserve, and trying something different. Though many rightly see Paul’s views as radical and far from sensible, his popularity stems from the fact that average Americans have come to believe politics has lost all “sensibility.” The failure of the Super Committee earlier this year to reduce debt, the inability of government to quickly stymie and reverse the downward trend of our economy, the ever-deteriorating American jobs situation, and Congress’ 90%+ disapproval rating paint a picture of a system that isn’t working. Any alternative seems to be better than the current madness, and Paul provides that option.
Paul preaches fire and brimstone in politics. From the United Nations’ "plan" to “steal” America’s money supply, to the "coming" complete economic collapse, to "mass violence" in the streets, the rhetoric that Paul uses is high in doomsday language, but low on logic. While getting rid of the Fed might make sense to some on the surface, how would a decentralized banking system help the U.S.? The European Union has a weak central bank – the likes of which Paul wishes for – but their debt and economic situation look more perilous than America’s. In the EU, there is no organization to provide liquid capital into the failing system, no power that can harness and manipulate the very unpredictable nature of markets, and no independent overseer of government spending. I doubt many Americans would want this EU system, underlining that Paul’s policies seem to lack deep analytic thought.
Still, Paul’s message is one that strikes a chord. Americans clearly are fed up with government. Last month, Obama’s approval rating was the lowest ever for any president in modern history at that same point in their own presidencies. He'll still likely beat any GOP candidate, which shows that the challengers are even worse. The biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression has given way to a debt crisis of historical proportions, with the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s for the first time ever downgrading America’s debt earlier this year. A few months later, the congressional Super Committee charged with fixing the debt proved S&P’s point by failing to come to terms.
Through this, millions of Americans remain unemployed or underemployed, with stagnant wages. Of course, any system looks better than the current system.
And so Paul is surging to the top. Chief Political Strategist Greg Valliere of analysis firm Potomac Research Group says, "Paul appeals to people whose knowledge of major issues is superficial,” and that very well may be true – some of his policies lack political or real-world mechanics. But, he still has his pulse on the American electorate’s frame of mind.
Recent video shows Paul admitting that the views in his newsletter (even the quasi-racist ones) were genuinely his.
Yet voters seem indifferent. As opposed to the establishment (Romney, Gingrich), Paul represents an alternative to the establishment which has never really been field-tested, but might offer the change we’re looking for.
"If (Paul) does well in Iowa, which is likely, it will be an enormous embarrassment to the Republicans," Valliere adds, and he’s right. The average politician has lost sight of Americans' wishes, and if Paul’s faulty logic prevails, it will be testament to the continued “senselessness” in politics.
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