On Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention, we’ll all be treated to a tribute video. The Cecil B. Downhill Lifetime Achievement Award will go to U.S. Rep. Ron Paul. I’m hoping for slow-motion podium bashing and soft-focus moments of Paul telling Mitt Romney to read the Constitution.
At 77 years old, Paul isn’t likely to run for office again, though he hasn’t ruled it out. An informal poll on his website asks, “What should Ron Paul do now?” Where more than 50 percent of respondents said “prepare for an independent run,” only 9 percent want him to support Romney.
If recent history is any indicator, this could spell trouble for Republicans. When Ralph Nader broke away from the Democratic Party in 2000, it cost Al Gore the race. Eight years earlier, much of Ross Perot’s 20 percent share of the November vote undoubtedly came from people who had voted for the first George Bush just four years before.
Most importantly, Paul has something the Republicans want and desperately need: a young fanbase energized about its leader.
We’ve only had a glimpse of the convention so far, but among Romney supporters, who are almost uniformly mature, whatever enthusiasm exists appears to be channeled in opposition to President Barack Obama.
Adding Paul-inspired planks (investigating the Federal Reserve, for example) to the party platform may help to make the Republicans more palatable to Ronpaulicans, but Paul insists: “I don’t fully endorse him for president.”
Even inviting Paul’s son, Rand, to speak at the convention looks like one in this series of efforts to make Paul like Romney. Or at least to prevent Paul from telling his followers to stay home.
But this whole delicate dance is bound to fall flat. Sure Paul will let his ideas creep into the party platform, and who wouldn’t want to see a fawning film about one’s life or listen to his son speak at the convention?
But in the end, the power of Ron Paul’s preaching is how it emphasizes liberty and freedom. Paul’s die-hards will choose to endorse Romney or not, disrupt the convention or not, boycott the election or not, all on their own.
Paul’s delegates will no doubt try to nominate him for the presidency tonight and they will surely lose. Don’t be surprised if, under a few of those GOP sweatshirts, Paul delegates are wearing T-shirts touting Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson.
I hope that doesn’t make things awkward at the after-party. That’s a lie; I definitely do.