The Ron Paul Revolution’s Thermidor

There’s a big piece at the New York Times today from Richard Oppel inquiring into the occlusion of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. Having failed to achieve the long-awaited breakthrough victory in any state, and best by allegations of complicity with Mitt Romney and/or subjection of The Revolution to the ambitions of Paul the Younger, the much ballyhooed candidacy has largely sunk from public view (unless you spend a lot of time on Twitter or on comment threads, where the fire still burns brightly).

Oppel covers a lot of the essential ground, and concentrates especially on several examples of places on the campaign trail where more people were showing up for Paul’s rallies than were actually voting for him. That is not the kind of anomaly that can be explained by the traditional Paulist complaints of inadequate media coverage or GOP elite hostility.

Paul himself argues convincingly that his campaign was attracting a lot of people–particularly young people–who just weren’t comfortable participating in Republican primaries or caucuses. Were it not for the abundant evidence that the candidate is increasingly comfortable with putative GOP nominee Romney, this observation might be viewed as a rationale for a third-party candidacy in the autumn, perhaps via a Paulist takeover of Americans Elect.

It may well be that Paul is simply satisfied with the progress he made in achieving something close to respectability in GOP circles this cycle. He didn’t have to fight his way into televised debates, where his supporters certainly seemed well represented in live audiences. He was frequently allowed to air his cranky monetary policy views, some of which his rivals even began emulating. And most remarkably, he got relatively little heat for his radically non-interventionist foreign policy views, which undoubtedly put a low ceiling on his ability to attract Republican voters but didn’t get him hooted off the rostrum. You can only imagine how conservatives would react if Barack Obama spoke sympathetically of Iran’s reasons for wanting nuclear weapons, dating back to CIA intervention in the country in the 1950s.

So I guess Dr. Paul figures he’s accomplished everything he could reasonably expect in his long battle to take the United States to a never-never land of libertarian virtue, considering that the country has seen nothing remotely like it since the administration of Grover Cleveland.

And then there’s the rising Son, a bona fide member of the United States Senate, to pick up the torch. Perhaps his career will represent the Revolution’s Thermidor: its final reconciliation with conventional GOP politics.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.