Passion drives Ron Paul supporters

Passengers on a plane leaving New York could see three words in 4-foot block letters painted on an East Village rooftop terrace as they ascended: GOOGLE RON PAUL. The entreaty to search the Internet for news of the Republican congressman from rural Texas is one of the more visible signs of enthusiasm from a do-it-yourself base of Web fans. Their support doesn’t show up in public opinion polls, but it’s unmatched among presidential candidates in its passion.

On their own, the fans have developed a Ron Paul Revolution logo, marketing the idea through YouTube. Message boards and Web sites debate his virtues.
The Web fans for Paul’s anti-establishment campaign run away with online polls and blanket Web sites with caps-locked, exclamation-point endorsements of the contrarian Republican, even though he measures no more than 2 percent in most national opinion polls.

The supporters have an entrepreneurial drive and get their political news from Internet sources outside the mainstream media, especially blogs and news aggregators that rely on popular vote to determine news value.

That same spirit inspires them to canvass parade routes in 100-degree heat, argue campaign strategy in two-hour meetings or paint the roof of a Manhattan apartment building.

“To get your arms around everything and understand what is going on is really impossible to do,” Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said of supporters roaming the Web.

Paul’s message is gospel among his base, which Benton described as mostly old-school conservatives.

Supporters can recite his talking points at length.

“They forge their own intellectual world to find the obscure, unusual sources of information that lead them to obscure, unusual candidates like Ron Paul,” said Brian Doherty, a columnist for the libertarian magazine Reason.

Avery Knapp is typical of the Paul Web supporter. A 28-year-old radiology resident, Knapp describes himself as a lifelong conservative who voted for President Bush in 2000 before growing disillusioned with the Iraq war and federal spending.

Bush “did nothing but increase the size of government. The Republican Party needs to move back to its core principles,” Knapp said. Many Paul supporters share Knapp’s disdain for what he called a “neo-conservative clique” and hope Paul can spark a Goldwater-style insurgency.

At 46, Kevin Leslie has never bothered with politics. After watching an interview with Paul during his 1988 campaign as candidate for the Libertarian Party, Leslie told himself, “If this guy ever runs for president again, I’ll back him.”

Paul did, and Leslie was good to his word, starting a prominent Paul blog in February and traveling to the recent straw poll in Ames, Iowa.

Paul has attracted a contingent of previously apolitical and even left-leaning Americans like Leslie who support his call to pull all troops out of Iraq immediately and who like his reputation for opposing any legislation not linked to principles already expressed in the Constitution.

“I’ve already been surprised by how much traction his campaign has gotten,” Doherty said. “He’s a clever politician because these netroots types can call him a ‘true conservative,’ a ‘constitutionalist’ or whatever they call themselves, and he’s sensitive to that.”

Whatever their political background, the supporters all consider themselves part of a spray-paint and duct-tape “Ron Paul Revolution.” Four banners with that unofficial logo hang from the fire escapes of the Manhattan building.

“They couldn’t reel us in if they wanted to. Most everything has become an unofficial-official part of the campaign,” said Dave Gallagher, whose cadre of Paul supporters came up with the Ron Paul Revolution logo.

Gallagher claims to have started the first group for Paul supporters on, a Web site geared toward the kind of networking that helped presidential candidate Howard Dean’s supporters organize in 2004.

In the six months since, more than 30,000 people have joined Meetup groups in more than 700 places across the country. Paul’s Meetup presence surpassed Dean’s in just two months, said Andres Glusman, vice president of

“Because people have the power to self-organize here, it’s obvious that he’s hitting a chord that is resonating with people in a way the media is not acknowledging,” Glusman said.

This weekend, Paul will be the major Republican candidate to attend a Texas GOP straw poll in Fort Worth. Straw polls typically are won by the candidate who does the best job turning out dedicated supporters. All the top tier candidates in the race — and a few lower-rung candidates as well — are bypassing the event.

When Paul supporters get together, they often find themselves thrown into the intricacies of running an insurgent campaign, attorney Steven Heath said after a Meetup session in Dallas.

“These guys in Meetup, hardly any of them have any political experience,” Heath said. “These people are newbies. They’re about to get plugged in, and they’ll be plugged in with Paul’s ideas.”


On the Net:

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    Ron Paul calls himself a Republican for a good reason. He would give everything that is left to corporations and he would continue the Reagan-initiated case of the government clap. He says that he won’t screw Social Security. DON’T YOU BELIEVE IT! He is not a popular figure, unless money buys the popularity.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  2. Ardie

    One of the things I have against Paul is his stance of Social Security. He seems to forget, like most Republicans, that SSI means Social Security INSURANCE. And, indeed, it is run like an insurance.

    Republicans also have collective amnesia. They seem to forget that the idea of Social Security was the brainchild of Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, who began what can only be described as political ‘reformism’.

    Not only did he [Teddy Roosevelt] call for women’s suffrage and the direct election of senators, he demanded minimum wage legislation, factory and min inspection standards, workmen’s compensation laws, strengthening of the pure food law, social security insurance, business regulation, help for farmers, and conservation of natural resources. — The Three Roosevelts by James MacGregor Burns, page 132

    Teddy Roosevelt was not Mugwump, but he was much closer to being a progressive. He had just contempt for big business and didn’t think of them as being examples of moral virtue.

    Paul is not quite up to the standards of Teddy Roosevelt as a true reformist. He might be even anti-progressive.

    Per omnia extrema

  3. Richard Kanegis

    I couldn’t think of a scenario where Paul would become President. And I could think of several if he did that it would be bad news for the country.

    However, he is a breath of fresh air. Before Ron Paul, antiwar protests had to include praise of women, Blacks, and the poor and criticize minimum wage being too low as well. No sexists, hetrosexist or speciests need speak at rallies, and not totally welcomed as ordinary participants either. I hope Ron Paul can prevent the Republican Party from emphasizing English only instead of morality.

    He so far did a lot for the world with his out of the box insights and efforts.

  4. allan hirsh

    Picking a President is more like the NBA draft than has been mentioned. I’ve got a neighbor who knows landscape design. Why not pick her? She’s breathing fresh air also. If you don’t want a female, well why not her husband? He’s an engineer and handy with a chainsaw. Come to think of it, maybe he’d be better for the #2 spot. Why don’t we trade up and pick somebody who is electable, on the other hand, and is not a Republican?

  5. history guy

    Social Security in NOT insurance!
    It is Ponzi scheme that simply takes money from one group and gives it to another without any reference to need or what was contributed initially. It was based on a population that died within 2 years of retirement. It can not continue unless my children pay an enormous FICA tax from their income. How does one quarter of their gross income sound? That is what it will take to continue to pay my generation (the baby boom) till we die.
    Is this what we should leave to our young, a crushing tax burden?

  6. bryan mcclellan

    Nice try but the vultures in the form of the mainstream media have already crapped on their sign and any hopes of getting the guy on the ticket are nil at best.Paul should stay where he is at,as should the lot of them and fix what is ailing this country right now.We can’t wait for 16 months to address this debacle that smirko has perpetrated on the world.Time is running out.They(Dems and Reps) need to get back to DC and do the peoples business and stop mooning for the cameras.I don’t give a rats ass what they plan to do in 2009.It’s what are they doing NOW?They have the machinery in place and the mandate from the public to stop this war.What the hell good will it do to fawn before the media and throw hissy bombs at each other while trying to convince the public of their moral convictions. Prove to me you actually give a damn,get off the campaign trail and get your ass to work doing the job you were hired to do.Show us some real conviction in the House and the Senate instead of wiping your asses in an Iowa corn field with the hopes, dreams and lives of our military.As Allan stated above,no one of you impresses in the least,so cut the crap,and work together to end the abuses of this WH. Those who worked the hardest and most diligently will come to the forefront. Then We the People(your employers)will have a clear picture of who we deem fit to lead this Republic,as it stands right now I’d wipe my ass with fiberglass before supporting any of you..

  7. Paolo

    “History Guy” notes that Social Security is NOT insurance! Absolutely true! It is, as he says, a Ponzi Scheme.

    Any insurance company that tried to set up a program in the same manner as social security would, rightly, have charges brought against it for fraud.

    Not only that, Social Security is a terrible “investment,” and will continue to get worse as, inevitably, the number of retirees grows against the number of young workers paying in.

    The best situation, from the perspective of the government, is to soak up the earning of a worker for 40 years, and then have him die the moment he retires. The government gets the interest-free use of his money over all those years, and doesn’t have to pay out a cent in benefits. What a rip-off!

    It has amazed me for years that this insane program has remained popular since its inception: probably on the basis that it seems to offer “something for nothing.”

    Ron Paul is right to point out what a scam Social Security really is.

  8. Ardie

    Nope, you guys must be watching the Revisionist History Channel. Social Security Insurance (SSI) fits within the four corners of the definition of “insurace”.

    Insurance is the method of sharing risks. It was born out of the shipping industry in which risk was greatest for all concerned.

    In an ideal world the fairest insurance is where the cost to the insured, and the cost to the insurer (i.e., the Federal Government) does not exceed the totally payout on risks. SSI does this. Period.

    Evidently, you don’t know much about insurance or the history of SSI not to mention the antecedent conditions which made it necessary. Please get thee to an academic library.

    Per omnia extrema

  9. Ardie

    There is no SSI tax burden. You are paying an “insurance contribution”, i.e., a premium. The value of SSI has to be assessed is terms of the risk vs. benefit. It is one of the few gems this country has on its bloody crown of thorns.

    Corporatists and especially the rustic low-brows who believe their nonsense, viz., that SSI is a burden, are all of them sociopaths.

    Per omnia extrema