The most interesting Ron Paul Story these days is the Ron Paul Story. What? It's like this. I well understand why so many disgruntled and disgusted Republicans are turning in despair to a man who probably cannot get the nomination, much less win in a general election. Paul's supporters have come, however dimly, to realize the truth of George Wallace's observation that there is not a dime's worth of difference between the two parties. And remember a dime went a lot further back in the days of Little George. The willingness of Middle American Republicans even to consider Ron Paul, for even a moment, should be news, big news both in the official media that is miscalled "mainstream"--if The New York Times is mainstream, what does that make The Nation, slightly left of center?--and in the organs of the Republican "right," which are right only in relation to The Nation.
I do not claim to have been paying very close attention, but the lack of stories is the Ron Paul Story. Today, on the way back from lunch, I tuned in for a minute to Rush Limbaugh. Unfortunately, it was one of those days when Rush is off. It's is clear to anyone how he choses his replacements--they have to make him look good, make the audience long for Rush's return. Listening to Mark Steyn repeat himself, babbling on in search of an object for his verb, is excruciating, Mark Belling, today's replacement, is even worse: he has a voice for print. An annoyed listener had called in to complain about the lack of attention to Dr. Paul. Belling, who poses as a populist type, told him the truth, as he saw it. Ron cannot win, therefore it is pointless to pay attention to any polling numbers until he can consistently get numbers of 17-25%.
Get it? Commentators do not report on or analyze actual events. They decide in advance what is significant, because they know, dear listeners and readers, what is important, who can win and who cannot. I feel sure it has penetrated into the cheese curds that fill the head of Milwaukee's toast of talk radio that these are self-fulfilling prophecies. If even "conservatives" will not talk about Ron Paul, then we can scarcely take him seriously, can we? Certainly not seriously enough to turn off the TV and go out and vote for him in a primary.
The exception that proves the rule is the most honest and intelligent news anchor in television, Jon Stewart. Yes, Mr. Stewart is on the left, and yes he typically ridicules conservatives, but he does take a lively interest in the zaniness of the American scene. Occasionally he even deviates into rectitude. Recently he derided the big networks for openly refusing to talk about Ron Paul. He hit the nail on the head, when he pointed out that all Dr. Paul has going for him is that he believes what he says and has been repeating a consistent message for decades: limited government, low taxes, dismantle the fed, bring the troops home, legalize marijuana, give up our imperialist dreams, and restore the republic. Is it wrong to dream?
I like Ron Paul. He is not my dream candidate, and I do not believe he has much of a chance of winning. But that is not why he is being ignored. He is being ignored because unlike every other candidate of either party in the field, he is issuing a fundamental challenge to the regime. Rick Perry, for all his insincere secession and God talk, is the lackey of the regime who led the Al Gore campaign in Texas. Michelle Bachman does not simply look like the deer in the headlights: she Is the deer in the headlights. And if anyone is going to oppose the establishment, it won't be a wealthy member of the Romney clan.
Talking endlessly about Michelle and Mitt, commentators never have to face the realities of American life, never have to consider the tissue of lies on which the regime is founded. Ron Paul probably cannot win, but he can make the voters begin to think or least to wonder if it is possible to confront the truth and give up the fantasies of equality that underly the American ideology, the self-evident lies both parties tell in order to maintain their power-shared control of 300 million people.
Ron Paul cannot be forgiven for speaking truth to power. The conservatives and liberals don't take him seriously, not because he gives silly speeches--which he does--or looks funny--which he does or takes politically unwise positions--which he does. No, they love all that, because they can use it against him. What they hate about Ron Paul is that he believes what he says, and that, my dear readers, listeners, and sports fans everywhere, is not playing by the rules.
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.