Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Am I the only one who finds Ron Paul's strategy creepy?

First the TL;DR version of this video: The Paul campaign dismisses elections as "beauty contests" and is extremely proud and smug about their ability to game the system. They hope to score the nomination, not by convincing a majority of people that Ron Paul is the best man for the job, but by taking advantage of loopholes in the way the election is organized. They envision a scenario where they can "win" a lot of states even while technically losing badly in the elections of those same states.

Longer version: This dude, who enters the video at around the 6:30 mark, is Doug Wead, senior adviser to the Ron Paul campaign. You may have noticed that Ron Paul is still in the race despite the fact that he hasn't won an election in a single state, and polls don't show him as the likely winner of any future state.

In this and a previous interview with Maddow, Wead proudly explains their strategy, which somehow involves "winning" in delegate states despite not actually winning the popular vote in any single state. Now the mechanics of electoral politics are complicated and honestly kind of boring, so I'm probably going to explain this wrong in some way. But the gist of it seems to be something like this. In some states, delegates are awarded proportionally to the number of votes they get, rather than "winner take all" for the state's popular election.

So the idea is: let's say for the sake of argument, Maine is allowed 13 delegates to the national Republican Convention. But the state election yields a pool of more than 13 delegates -- let's say 200 -- and they will then choose from among those delegates. So let's say maybe Rick Santorum won the election and gets 100 delegates, Romney comes in second with 80 delegates, and Ron Paul gets just 15 because he's not actually that popular among Republicans. The other 5 can be Stephen Colbert write-ins, I guess.

But in the Paul camp's mind, rather than wasting time on actually winning the vote, their best plan is to somehow badger the state party into letting only Ron Paul delegates go to the convention. That means that, in this example, Maine picks 13 delegates, and all of them are Ron Paul delegates even though they won only a small fraction of the vote, and all 185 not-Paul delegates are left out in the cold.

In the video, Doug Wead constantly grins and chortles over the pure genius of this plan, while Rachel looks sort of goggle-eyed and asks questions along the lines of, "Isn't that sort of ignoring who the people actually want to elect?" Wead repeatedly, over and over again, dismisses the actual voting process as "A beauty contest."

Now maybe he's right, that the system the Republican party uses is hopelessly corrupt, and that makes it possible to game the system in this way, and the Paul campaign is perfectly within their rights to take advantage of this and maybe even win.

But what I'm hearing from Wead is total contempt for elections as a means of picking a candidate. Look, I personally think the entire slate of Republican candidates is abysmal and would hate to have any of them win the presidency, Paul included. But this sort of blanket dismissal of elections as a beauty contest indicates what sounds like a much deeper hostility towards democracy as a whole.


  1. Can it really work this way? Won't eyebrows rise once Ron Paul wins the overall nomination after losing in all the states?

    How could the other delegates not be wise to this strategy and just let it happen?

    To your point, the disregard for Democracy is very disturbing. The cynical part of me thinks that Mitt Romney is going to be able to buy the whole thing in the end, but given the random clusterfucks Maddow points out I am at a loss for what to expect.

  2. This is classic "ends justify the means." It's the same logic apologists use when they knowingly lie in public. Their line of thinking is "well, I'm right, so if me lying makes more people come over to my side, then it's okay."

    Ron Paul is not so much a libertarian as he is a fringe states' rights neo-confederalist, but what gets me is that he's managed to convince a number of people who vehemently disagree with his policies to support him anyway, solely because he's against two wars, one of which has already ended and the other that is winding down and will be over sometime next year. I don't understand how someone who marches in the OWS demonstrations can, in one moment advocate higher taxes for the rich and an end to corporate corruption while in the next breath express support for a candidate who wants to lower taxes for the rich even more and completely put an end to any kind of corporate legal liability.

    The people who support him for his stance on ending the drug war don't realize that he has NO PROBLEM with a drug war being carried out at the state level. I call him a neo-confederalist because his voting history and bills he proposes advance this idea that state governments should be able to do whatever the hell they want--including regulating what people do in the bedroom--without federal oversight. They call him a strict constitutionalist even though he tried to prevent the supreme court from hearing cases related to the 1st, 4th, and 14th amendments.

  3. Guys, you just have to get away with the whole "electoral college" thing. Is stupid, anti-democratic and a complete nonesense in the 21st century. Just count the votes and the one that got most of them win the election. Is it really that hard?
    I know there are some complexities (like two-round systems and whatnot) but it's not something that some other countries got right. Like... the rest of the free world?

    I mean, really, Why are americans electing people... to vote on their behalf?

  4. I'd go farther than that, actually. Ideally it would be best to dump winner-take-all presidential elections entirely, in favor of something like runoff voting or even something closer to a parliamentary system. THAT will never happen, though.