The Media and Ron Paul
So you’ve all seen the Jon Stewart clip about the media ignoring Ron Paul. Here are my thoughts.
First, the media are ignoring Ron Paul. This is so obvious that it hardly bears mentioning.
I find it sad, because while he’s far, far from perfect, Paul tracks my own policy preferences much better than any Republican candidate other than Gary Johnson, who gets (I believe) even less press coverage. In an election between Paul and any Republican other than Johnson, I’d pick Paul instantly. No question.
So why are the media ignoring him? Because Paul couldn’t win the nomination no matter how much they talked about him. He has a hard core of supporters, but growing beyond it is going to be impossible. The Republican Party remains solidly pro-war, and Ron Paul is still… Ron Paul. Folks in the media know this — and about Johnson, too.
Now, being unable to win is in itself is not a sufficient reason to ignore a candidate. Paul himself got much more press last cycle, when his polling numbers were as I recall far lower. But back then he appealed as a novelty, at least for those who didn’t remember his 1988 campaign on the Libertarian ticket. He has no such novelty this time around, and the only other interesting narrative — “look, Republicans won’t vote for an antiwar candidate even after we all know the wars are giant boondoggles” — only has legs for so long. (Still waiting for the narrative “look, Democrats voted for someone they thought was an antiwar candidate, but he wasn’t!” Which would be true, of course, but depressing.)
Far more than novelty, and more even than embarrassing the Republicans, what the media want most are close elections, both primary and general. Landslides are snoozes. That’s why we get talked up to us candidates who are increasingly similar to one another; the refinement and expansion of polling, also a creature of the media, has done much to further this development. It should be clear by now that Ron Paul isn’t interested in tailoring his message to produce a close election when the other choice is to lose and lose well. So Ron Paul doesn’t fit in this world. Nor do any principled but eccentric candidates, who campaign not necessarily to win, but as an expression of belief.