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The Ron Paul surge, explained

November 26, 2007 |  6:14 pm

The L.A. Times employee formerly known as Matt Welch goes directly to the competition to scream "Go Ron Paul!" before hanging up. In a Washington Post Op-Ed, Welch and Reason editor Nick Gillespie explain Dr. No's cross-cultural appeal. No report on the Ron Paul phenomenon would be complete without swipes at the mainstream media's long silence on his campaign (to which there were some honorable early exceptions) and the really loathsome terms with which the new right has attacked this avatar of the old right:

Yet Paul's success has mostly left the mainstream media and pundits flustered, if not openly hostile. The Associated Press recently treated the Paul phenomenon like an alien life form: "The Texas libertarian's rise in the polls and in fundraising proves that a small but passionate number of Americans can be drawn to an advocate of unorthodox proposals." Republican pollster Frank Luntz has denounced Paul's supporters as "the equivalent of crabgrass . . . not the grass you want, and it spreads faster than the real stuff." And conservative syndicated columnist Mona Charen said out loud what many campaign reporters have no doubt been thinking all along: "He might make a dandy new leader for the Branch Davidians."

When conservatives feel comfortable mocking the victims gunned down by Clinton-era attorney general Janet Reno's FBI in Waco, Tex., in 1993, it suggests that a complacent and increasingly authoritarian establishment feels threatened.

And little wonder. In the 1990s, conservative Republicans rose to power by relentlessly attacking Big Government. Yet the minute they took control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, they kicked out the jams on even a semblance of fiscal responsibility, signing off on the Medicare prescription drug benefit and building literal and figurative bridges to nowhere. From 2001 to 2008, federal outlays will have grown by an estimated 29 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

The biggest Big Government expansion during the Bush era is the one that Americans now despise most: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, whose direct costs are already an estimated $800 billion, plus 4,000 American lives. Paul's steadfast bring-the-troops-home stance -- not just from Iraq, but Korea and Japan as well -- is the major engine powering his grass-roots success as ostensibly antiwar Democrats in the majority can't or won't do anything on Capitol Hill.

But if war were the only answer for his improbable run, why Ron Paul instead of the perennial peacenik Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic congressman from Ohio whose apparent belief in UFOs is only slightly less kooky than his belief in the efficacy of socialized health care?

The answer, and the rest of the article, here.

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