January 31, 2008

An Inside Look at Ron Paul, Part 1

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

This three-part series about GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul is based on a UWire conference call he recently participated in with colleges and universities across the nation. The original audio of the conference call can be found here. Additionally, the audio podcast of this article, downloadable here and also playable at the bottom of this article, will contain the audio from the conference call wherever Paul is quoted.

Who is Ron Paul, and Who Supports Him?

Of all the Republican candidates in the primary, no one stands out as much as Ron Paul. Paul may not have racked up the votes or delegates aside from a second-place finish in Nevada, but he has made numerous waves on the Internet and additionally has set single-day fundraising records. On the issues, he often stands alone in debates with his calls for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq, but he also sets himself apart on domestic issues with his calls to abolish the Federal Reserve, welfare, the Department of Education, and most federal agencies. While his prospects for winning remain weak, Paul has still managed to receive a decent amount of attention from others and enthusiasm for his campaign. Despite Ron Paul’s unexpected publicity and momentum, for a lot of people he still remains an enigma.

Although many have heard of Ron Paul, they still do not understand what exactly he stands for, and some have very vocally criticized him. Even though Paul’s views seem strange and inconsistent to much of the general public, for Paul, the theme of his candidacy is very simple: the Constitution. Paul does acknowledge his critics, but he also notes the one thing that never leads to criticism. “People might criticize me, but nobody says I ignore the Constitution,” said Paul. Taking the view of a very strict constructionist, Paul fights against most federal actions including taxes and spending, claiming it violates the Constitution. He often attributes his respect for the Constitution as the source of his popularity.

Among all supporters of Ron Paul, the most visible group exists not in the tangible world but in the virtual world of Internet. Paul wins most Internet polls and often wins with a commanding margin of victory. Anyone who so dares to write opinions criticizing Paul will likely find their website flooded with comments from his supporters. Based on internal polling from his campaign, Paul fares very well among those who get their news on the Internet, to no one’s surprise, but interestingly enough, also among viewers of C-SPAN. On the opposite end of the spectrum, talk radio listeners feel little inclination to vote for Paul. Similar to Obama in some ways, Paul has also performed well among the youth in the primaries. These target groups have proven very friendly for Paul. “When we had a special fundraising day, there were close to 6,000 brand new supporters that came in and donated money.” Despite all the momentum he has gained, however, Paul still has a long way to go before capturing America overall.

Opinions of Ron Paul rarely appear in shades of grey. On one side, fervent supporters of Ron Paul cover all the sidewalks of Cornell University with chalkings about Paul, and on the other side, many fervently describe him as an insane lunatic. Others also find themselves turned off by the belligerence of his supporters. While Paul does understand how his fans can appear zealous at times, he struggles to understand those who hate not his fans but him. “I don’t understand that completely, but I would agree that supporters do get very, very determined and they are very, very strong,” said Paul. Paul says he does not try to act in a polarizing manner, yet at the same time, he adamantly refuses to compromise on the issues of personal liberty and the Constitution. “I deliberately make an attempt not to be provocative,” claims Paul, “but not to ever give up on the principle.” And no matter where his momentum or his supporters go, Ron Paul will probably still continue to make his decisions based on the principles of personal liberty and the Constitution.

Mike Wacker is The Sun’s Assistant Web Editor. He can be reached at mwacker@cornellsun.com.