Thursday, August 18, 2011
Who Buried Paul?
A lot of hay has been made during the past couple of days over the amount of coverage Ron Paul has gotten coming out of last weekend's Iowa straw poll -- namely the fact that the mainstream media have all but ignored him, despite his very close second-place finish. While it's true that it's unfair to pretend like Paul doesn't even exist, Steve Kornacki at Salon tries to nail why the media don't feel like once again falling for the idea that the standard mobilization of a rabid but incredibly small group of Paul supporters means a damn thing in the big political picture.
"Think back to the later months of 2007, when Paul stunned the political world by raising more money than any of the other Republican candidates. No one was quite sure what to make of it. Paul was supposed to be a niche candidate with no chance, but he wasn't raising niche candidate money. Was something revolutionary taking place? The answer came when the primary and caucus season began and Paul performed ... like a niche candidate. He grabbed 10 percent in Iowa, good for fifth place, and 8 percent in New Hampshire, another fifth-place showing, and that was pretty much it. The media filed this under lesson learned: Paul's supporters could make a lot of noise -- but it was misleading noise.
This is why his string of straw poll successes in the past few years -- including last weekend's -- hasn't gotten much notice. And this is probably the way it should be, until and unless Paul can demonstrate that these performances are anything but the product of his army mobilizing for relatively low-turnout events and producing deceptively impressive results. So far, there's not much evidence for this."
Granted, there are two contradictory arguments that can be made here. One is that the amount of media attention a candidate gets can often help drive how seriously he or she is taken. In other words, if the press completely ignores someone, so does the general public; its subtle proclamation that a candidate doesn't deserve to be taken seriously becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The second is that if the political media are supposedly so wise to being taken for a ride, why the hell did they once again chomp on the unbelievable line of bullshit fed to them a few months back by perennial con-man Donald Trump? The easy answer is that Trump makes for great TV and a lot of page hits; Ron Paul just comes off, as Jon Stewart alluded to, like some crazy uncle you hope skips the big Thanksgiving dinner.
While I disagree with him on a lot of issues -- as well as on his overarching libertarian belief-system -- and I really can't stand his insanely fanatical army of fawning acolytes, Ron Paul at least deserves not to be completely overlooked. Or if you are going to overlook him, citing the reasons Kornacki gives, you'd better damn well overlook every other one-note joke who pulls your political chain during campaign season.