The following piece was produced by the Huffington Post's OffTheBus.
The blogosphere is alive...with the sound of disgruntled Ron Paul supporters.
For a while, the ardent Paul fans complained that the mainstream media were ignoring them. Now, though, the not-so-mainstream-media has joined in as well. On Monday, conservative blog Red State banned Ron Paul-related comments from users who have been registered on the site for less than six months. In a post explaining the new policy, Leon Wolf wrote:
"Now, I could offer a long-winded explanation for *why* this new policy is being instituted, but I'm guessing that most of you can probably guess. Unless you lack the self-awareness to understand just how annoying, time-consuming, and bandwidth-wasting responding to the same idiotic arguments from a bunch of liberals pretending to be Republicans can be."
The first thing to get out of the way is that this does not impinge on Paul supporters' freedom of speech. This is not the government censoring the site. Red State's owners have the right to run their site the way they want. It's their sandbox and they can decide who gets to come in and play. They think the Ron Paul supporters are annoying, obnoxious, and bratty and don't want them around anymore. Okay, that's what they want, they can do that (though considering that bloggers and commenters on Red State often refer to the Ron Paul group as moRons, it is questionable as to whether they should be judging anyone's maturity and fitness to contribute to a discussion).
The Wolf statement, though, shows that Red State's problem with Ron Paul and those who clamor for him is not just that they are pests--it's that they are, well, not Republican enough or conservative enough. They are considered "liberals pretending to be Republicans." The trouble with this belief, though, is that Ron Paul's conservative views are a lot more stringent than some of the other candidates: he's for small government, he's anti-tax, he's pro-life. But his stand against the war has gotten him labeled as a liberal--undoubtedly the most peculiar Democrat ever. So is being anti-war all it takes? Doesn't the rest of his classic conservative points count? The GOP, it would seem, has a bit of an identity crisis.
In the beginning, Ron Paul was regarded as kind of the slightly crazy (well, more than slightly, depending who you're asking) uncle crashing the party. But then he raised five million dollars in the third quarter. On Red State (of all places!) a poster notes that a recent Rasmussen poll shows Paul losing to Hillary Clinton, 38% to 48%. That's far worse than leading GOP contender Rudy Giuliani, who has a 48% to 41% lead over Clinton. However, it's better than Fred Thompson, who loses to Clinton 52% to 38%. Suddenly the crazy uncle can't just be shoved into the corner with a piece of cake; he's standing in the middle of the crowd, telling the same story over and over and louder and louder.
And it's the way they keep telling the same story over and over that's driving everyone else over the edge. Red State isn't the only blog that has been frequented, well, frequently, by the Ron Paul supporters. Editors of newspapers and other major blogs have received more than their share of emails demanding more Ron Paul coverage. On Sunday night, the Fox News crew was visibly annoyed after the debate when it became clear that Ron Paul was winning the viewer poll. To show what they thought of this result, they cut to one of their correspondents, who asked a roomful of supposedly ordinary voters if any of them thought Paul had won the debate. No one raised a hand.
Fox's point was that the vote had been skewed by a small group of Ron Paul supporters who ruined the poll by texting votes over and over, thus overwhelming those who voted once on their (of course) honest opinion of who won the debate. This fits the general perception of Ron Paul supporters as a bunch of Internet geeks who use their fierce powers of geekdom to overwhelm blogs, polls, and online votes.
It is true that much of Paul's support grew over the Internet. And this isn't campaign-generated support either--the actual official Ron Paul campaign site is pretty bare bones. All the other websites, commenting, and voting comes from people who have just devoted themselves to the Ron Paul cause.
The question, though, shouldn't be how news outlets and blogs can get rid of these irritants. Instead, shouldn't the GOP be asking why the other candidates don't have the same level of support? They can text in their votes as many times as the Ron Paul voters. They can spread out to comment on as many blogs as the Paul posters. They can start as many websites as the Ron Paul fans have. They can organize groups of supporters and bring them cheer at debates. No one is stopping them from trying to outwork or at least equal the Ron Paul group. But since they don't seem to be doing that, the only conclusion that can be taken from this little blog-banning spat is that voters just don't seem to care about their candidates as much as the Ron Paul supporters do. Indeed, the GOP is much more passionate about Hillary Clinton and getting rid of Ron Paul than the other candidates. At the Fox News debate, everyone talked about Hillary Clinton more than anything else; saying something negative about Clinton got a bigger response from the audience than any position or view aired by the other debaters. It's really nice to be united by a common opponent, wouldn't it be much more helpful for voters if the candidates did something that made them feel happy to be voting for a specific nominee rather than just happy to be voting against Hillary Clinton?
It's easy for the GOP to ignore Ron Paul and to act like his supporters are a bunch of cranks who should be put down. The real winner, though, will be the candidate whose supporters care enough to out-Ron Paul Ron Paul.