A couple of days ago a piece appeared in the New York Times about Ron Paul’s supporters, who have apparently taken over the activist bases in several state Republican Parties:
In Minnesota, Paulites stormed the Republican gathering in St. Cloud last weekend, bumping aside two conventional Republican candidates to choose one of their own, Kurt P. Bills, a high school economics teacher, to challenge Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, this fall.
Backers of Mr. Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas, crashed Republican conventions in Iowa, Maine, Minnesota and Nevada in recent weeks, snatching up the lion’s share of delegate slots for the Republican National Convention in Tampa this August, a potential headache for the national party and its presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney.
And Paulite candidates for Congress are sprouting up from Florida to Virginia to Colorado, challenging sitting Republicans and preaching the gospel of radically smaller government, an end to the Federal Reserve, restraints on Bush-era antiterrorism laws and a pullback from foreign military adventures.
“I’d call it a strict constitutional approach,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky and Ron Paul’s son. “And I think it’s spreading.”
The younger Paul is a first-rate turd who apparently likes to ignore things like the Necessary and Proper clause, the Commerce Clause, and several other, you know, important parts of the Constitution. But whatever.
The local angle on this story is that Paul’s supporters really spiked the ball at the recent state GOP convention, and now have a handle on its levers of power. Mainline Republicans aren’t happy about it, but what are they to do?
As far as I can tell, the real issue is this: Tea Partiers hate Obama. Mainline Republicans hate Democrats. True Paul believers hate what they see as government overreach, and sometimes those three groups find themselves aligned. But sometimes not so much. Team Paul is just as likely to hold Republican feet to the primary fire over jingoistic foreign adventures, military-industrial corruption, or government in the bedroom as they are to oppose a federal health insurance mandate. And that makes for a dangerous situation for the Republican power structure, in Minnesota and across the nation: with a shrinking, greying, and increasingly white base, they need to hold on to every last vote they possibly can from anyone who ever agrees with them on anything.
But Paulites can and do step quickly away from the Republican line on many issues. As a personal anecdoate, I didn’t win anywhere near enough votes in my own campaign earlier this year, but I did spend a few minutes at the door of an avowed Paul supporter. I told him “well, I’m not a true libertarian by any stretch — I believe that a strong government made up of committed public servants can help make people’s lives happier and healthier. But there are definitely parts of the libertarian platform with which I don’t disagree, and I’m always willing to listen and discuss those things with people who really care about the issues and not just the politics.”
The gentleman nodded thoughtfully, and told me I’d earned his vote. It was a great feeling for me, but it’s a terrible, terrible sign for the Republican Party.
Not that I’m complaining.