According to a new Rasmussen poll, a 2012 presidential race between Republican Congressman Ron Paul and Barack Obama would end in a dead heat, with Obama favored by 42 percent of those polled and Paul by 41 percent. It was the biggest political news this month you probably didn't hear about.
Some dismissed this news as being significant only to the faithful followers of the outspoken, anti-government congressman, while ignoring the much larger revelation that if the election were held today, the "fringe" 2008 Republican primary candidate could feasibly become the next president.
The Drudge Report noted the significance of Paul's showing by running the headline "Shock Poll," but most mainstream cable and network news outlets, talk radio, and print media said little about it. However, plenty of coverage was given to Rasmussen's possible 2012 presidential matchups between Obama and Republicans like Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, both of whom scored about the same as Paul, with Palin doing slightly worse.
The media and political establishment have never been keen on any news that is not of their own making, but their continued focus on only alleged "serious" Republican contenders at the expense of supposedly irrelevant figures like Paul shows that it is the establishment and their official, predictable narrative that is truly becoming less relevant.
Things are changing. Social issues, like abortion and gay marriage, have long served the Republican leadership well, delivering votes to the GOP and turning elections. Yet, as government spending snowballs and the national debt continues to explode, social issues may no longer be a top concern for many conservatives, or as The Politico reported:
"Tea Party activists are divided roughly into two camps, according to a new Politico/TargetPoint poll: one that's libertarian-minded and largely indifferent to hot-button values issues and another that's culturally conservative and equally concerned about social and fiscal issues."
The report added, "The results, however, suggest a distinct fault line that runs through the Tea Party activist base, characterized by two wings led by the politicians who ranked highest when respondents were asked who 'best exemplifies the goals of the Tea Party movement' — former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) ..."
The pro-war policies of George W. Bush, still promoted vigorously today by Romney and Palin, have held significant sway with a plurality of voters in the past. But in a Pew Research Center Poll released in February, roughly half of Americans now believe the United States should "mind its own business internationally," a platform promoted by Paul alone among his fellow Republican primary opponents during 2008. In December, a Rasmussen poll found that the Tea Party received more support than either of the major parties amongst independent voters and even bested the GOP among Republican voters. In the most recent Rasmussen poll, Paul scored better than any Republican among independents, while Palin was considered the most divisive by voters at large.
What we might be seeing with Paul, the GOP, and the mainstream conservative movement is similar to what happened to rock music in the early 1990s, when the music establishment was still banking on glam metal acts like Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Warrant, only to see a grungy Seattle trio called Nirvana come from out of nowhere and revolutionize the music industry. Yesterday's hair metal and mainstream pop fans immediately flocked to this newer "alternative" music. Alternative music was considered more attractive because it was perceived as being the real thing, as opposed to the music of the day, which many found to be stale, manufactured, and uninspiring.
The truth is alternative music had been developing an under-the-radar following for over a decade before the mainstream figured out what was happening. So-called college bands like R.E.M., The Pixies, and The Replacements and heavier acts like Alice in Chains had already readied millions of ears for something edgier than what they were hearing on the radio at that time.
Similarly, Paul's conservatism is really nothing new, as the congressman has been peddling his brand of fiscal and constitutionally focused, Barry Goldwater-style libertarianism under the radar for decades. Now, Paul's old-fashioned conservatism is increasingly seen as fresh, attractive, and exciting to a possible majority of Republican, Tea Party, and independent voters.
Of course the media and political establishment do not, and will not, appreciate any emerging Ron Paul revolution, anymore than the hair metal acts appreciated the rise of Nirvana and alternative music. However, trying to stop an idea whose time has come is almost always unsuccessful, and whether or not Ron Paul's time has truly come remains to be seen. That the mainstream media and GOP establishment will never see him coming does not.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.