I had a chance to watch presidential hopeful Ron Paul on C-SPAN last night (Campaign 2008: The Road to the Whitehouse). He was on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, stopping at Pete’s Gun and Tackle in Hudson and a pharmacy in Hollis.
Judging by the large volume of his virtual supporters on the Internet I expected a decent crowd for Paul. The turnout was, and there is no other way to put it, pathetic. His entourage actually outnumbered the small group that had gathered to hear Paul talk about his supposed “strict Constitutionalist” stance. Anyone who says—and I’m paraphrasing—that we need to “get rid of the law” that makes babies born in the U.S. automatic U.S. citizens clearly knows little about the Constitution. After all, it is the 14th Amendment to our Constitution that gives citizenship to anyone born here.
If Paul and the Paulistas don’t like this, they need to amend i.e. change the Constitution. Instead, Paul and his supporters are willfully misinterpreting the Constitution. They should simply stop referring to themselves as strict-Constitutionalists and instead adopt the label of Constitution-modifiers as that is their true goal. I suppose when your political reality is restricted to the Internet you can say pretty much whatever you want (for example, Paul is supposedly a libertarian, but he is against free-trade). Back in the real world, in actual politics—not virtual reality—words have distinct meanings.
Another misused term by the Paulistas is “corporatist.” Corporatism does not mean “rule by multi-national corporations” or capitalism run amok. Far from it. The roots of the term are not English where the word corporation is generally thought of as a big company or private enterprise. In fact, a better word would be cooperative or collective. A corporatist system is, in fact, based on organizations representing the state (government), employees (labor), employers (business), consumers and, in a fascist state, the party. For more information have a look at António Almodovar and José Luís Cardoso, “Corporatism and the Economic Role of Government,” History of Political Economy. 2005; 37: 333-354.
What else did Paul talk about at the gun shop? Not much. His rhetorical style tends towards mumbling and it was often difficult to hear what he was saying. Peter Goyette, of Pete’s Gun and Tackle, stole the show, such as it was. He had more enthusiasm for Paul’s campaign than Ron Paul himself who looked befuddled, confused and downright uncomfortable at times.
Paul did manage to blame Sarbanes-Oxley for many of the country’s current economic problems, rather than a lack of oversight in sub-prime lending. He also railed against illegal immigration and the war in Iraq. Prior to watching him in action, I believed Paul was the head of a cult of personality of sorts. Now I realize the man has no personality and no support outside of the Internet, as evidenced by the feeble crowds that came out to see him in New Hampshire. Meanwhile, he’s still doing well in those (meaningless) straw-polls…