As you travel east off the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge and make landfall on Aquidneck Island, you'll see an exit to your right marked "Scenic Newport" that will eventually take you into the heart of Newport's tourist trap region. If you ignore that exit and keep going straight, you will debouch onto Admiral Kalbfus Road opposite the Newport Grand Slots emporium. If you make the trip on the morning of November 24, 2007, then on your way to the Newport Grand, you'll see a series of Ron Paul for President lawn signs stuck in the ground on your right. Turn right onto Admiral Kalbfus Road, make a circuit of the Rotary, and then turn right onto the on-ramp leading back to the bridge, and you'll see several more Ron Paul lawn signs.
These signs were all placed there in the middle of the night by one of Paul's dedicated, enthusiastic supporters. By the time the sun sets on Newport, though, those signs will be gone, because it's illegal in Newport to leave unattended signs on public property. But that's all right. The Paul campaign has plenty of lawn signs, and plenty of dedicated, enthusiastic supporters, and more signs will eventually sprout there again, and elsewhere in Newport, before the Republican presidential primary on March 4, 2008.
Make no mistake: Ron Paul is nuts. But he's nuts in an old-fashioned Barry Goldwater way, rather than the newfangled hooray-for-Gestapo-tactics-and-imperialism way of modern conservatism. As a former Deaniac, I can't help but be impressed at the level of commitment displayed by Paul's supporters. Four years ago, that would have been me driving up to the bridge on-ramp in the dead of night and planting Dean for America lawn signs.
And as a former Deaniac I also have a warning for any Paulies who are led by Google to this blog post: the political establishment doesn't like your guy, and if he shows any signs of gaining traction, they will do everything in their power to stop him, and in the end, they will succeed. At that point, your candidate (and you yourselves) will have to decide whether you think that beating the Democrats is more important than getting revenge on the mofos in your own party who screwed you over. Dean himself (and most of his followers, including me) decided that beating the other side was more important than beating his own side. He (and we) fell in behind Kerry, and he (and we) worked our asses off (no pun intended) trying to get him elected. And because Dean remained loyal to the Democratic Party, he became its next Chairman, and his revolution continued from the inside, helping the Dems to regain control of Congress.
So, when Ron Paul loses the Republican nomination (and he will lose), where will he and his supporters go?
Ron Paul's supporters--by in large--are not Republicans in the first place. I do not see any reason for them to flock to Rudy 91u11ian1 or Mitt Romney when Paul inevitably falls flat.
*Shrugs* Plenty of Dean's supporters weren't Democrats. One of the most positive aspects of the Dean campaign was the fact that he was drawing formerly apolitical people into politics. I can't say how many of them remained involved and aligned with the Dems, but I figure there must have been some.
So, if they don't vote Republican, what will the Paulies do? What will Paul himself do? Suck it up and stay with Team Elephant? Run as an independent? Go sulk in his tent?
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