It would appear that Ron Paul’s heroic but quixotic presidential campaign is all but finished. That said, what lessons can be drawn from the Ron Paul experience? To some degree, it would appear that those of us advocating a “third way” beyond left and right have been on the right track. Ron Paul’s support came primarily from the vast culture of the “radical right” (those so far to the Right as to be outside the Republican Party) and from “moderates” or “independents” (the radical middle), blacks (no doubt due to his stands on the Iraq war and the drug war), antiwar sympathizers, young people and “secularists” (who are mostly independently minded, dissident intellectuals). These are precisely the constituents a serious beyond left and right movement would need to capture.
Ron Paul is a good candidate. He is quite solid on the primary issues: the foreign policy agenda of the Neocons and their liberal-internationalist accomplices, sovereignty, the police state and its “root causes” (the drug war, terror war, crime war, etc.) and essential trade, monetary and fiscal matters. That mainstream Republicans in general and “movement conservatives” in general refused to support Ron Paul illustrates their true colors as the “Party of War and Fascism”. RP is a solid family man, a baby doctor, an evangelical Christian, pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, anti-gay marriage, anti-income tax and anti-immigration. One would think he would be the ideal conservative candidate, but he was rejected in favor of the warmongering AIPAC/Military-Industrial-Complex stooge McCain, the used car salesman Romney or the televangelist Huckster. This means we can pretty much forget about “conservatives” as reliable allies against Big Brother.
It is doubtful that Ron Paul could have done better by defecting to the Democrats or taking more liberal positions on social issues like abortion. His antiwar counterparts in the Democratic Party like Kucinich and Gravel did even worse than he did, despite their social liberalism. The Democratic campaigns are dominated by Race and Gender Identity Politics and all sorts of vested economic interests-business, labor, professional, civil service, public sector- seeking to maintain their place at the public trough. What of the libertarians? Some have risen to the occasion, but the neolibertarians at Cato and Reason have revealed their establishment friendliness. Many left libertarians have been unhelpful with their sectarian ideological posturings and political correctness. The paleolibertarians have been on board, of course, but their sectarian economic views are not sellable to a mass audience. Most Americans support a moderate to limited welfare state. This is a concession anarcho-libertarians will have to make in order to achieve eventual victory on the bigger issues pertaining to war, civil liberties and impending economic meltdown. Better to attack the alliance of state and capital and legislated, subsidized ruling class privilege.
Where do we go from here? Ron Paul seems to have ruled out a third party campaign so as to keep his Congressional seat. What we on the bottom level need to do is continue to agitate for the positions advanced by the Paul campaign and for the beyond left and right movement he has inspired. This means continuing to appeal to the various demographic groupings who have shown an interest in Ron Paul, and perhaps looking for those key issues that could bring more sympathizers on board the next time such a leader emerges.
The RP experience also indicates the limitations of nationally-oriented politics. Recall Tip O’Neill’s quip “All politics is local.” The major parties have repeatedly demonstrated their lack of viability as an institutional vehicle. The minor parties as presently constituted are beholden to ideologues, internal vested interests and organizational megalomania, thereby rendering them ineffective as a means of mounting a serious challenge to ruling class power. Strictly independent campaigns for national offices are not feasible, given the tremendous financial resources required for such efforts.
This leaves the dogcatcher strategy. A bottom up electoral effort would focus on capturing local offices and using these as a platform for building resistance to the empire at the local or regional level. However, any electoral effort is only going to be as good as the grassroots movement that supports it. So what is really needed is the cultivation of politically independent efforts outside the realm of the state. These include things like pressure groups, coalitions of pressure groups acting in mutual support of one another, alternative infrastructure (from schools to media to alternative economics), legal defense organizations, regionalist or community autonomy movements, labor associations, alternative social service delivery methods and much else.
Only a previously established popular movement and infrastructure of this type that is solid enough to resist both cooptation and internal fracturing from external pressures will be capable of forcing the state to cease acting in certain ways. The rejection of the Left/Right paradigm is essential to such a project. An insurgent movement acting in opposition to both the Party of Jingoism and the Party of Race and Gender Welfarism will need to make serious inroads into the constituencies of both groups, thereby creating a massive constituency for the liquidation of the empire and its mother state while recognizing the value and legitimacy of decentralism and particularism.