This entire election cycle, the Ron Paul campaign has been fighting an empirically proven and documented media black out. Ron Paul supporters understandably complain about how the mainstream media has ignored him. But this is not the only challenge faced by his campaign. What is more troubling is how the Texas congressman's own party has treated his campaign.
Here's the good news, Ron: It's nothing personal. The bad news for Independent voters is that the reaction to his campaign is just one example of the two-party system's pressure on candidates to conform. Last week I wrote about how the two-party system fears third-party candidates and tries to keep them off the ballot, but the influence of the establishment does not end there. Each main party also tries to stifle dissent within itself, urging all voters in "the big tent" to march in lockstep behind their approved candidate. The Republican Party fears Ron Paul for many reasons, as John Nichols pointed out on NPR. The first is that he doesn't have the right pedigree:
"That is what frightens Republican party leaders. The notion that the Grand Old Party might actually base its politics on values, as opposed to pay-to-play deal-making, unsettles the Republican leaders who back only contenders who have been pre-approved by the Wall Street speculators, banksters and corporate CEOs who pay the party's tab—and kindly pick up some of the bills for the Democrats, as well."
Both parties fear candidates who don't have the right connections, the right background, or powerful backers. The influence of power in both parties ensures that only the approved survive, and when a candidate with an independent streak challenges this reality, the pressure to conform begins. The second reason for fearing Ron Paul or any candidate outside the "mainstream" is that these candidates question the party dogma. Agree with his positions or not, Independent voters should respect the courage of a candidate who dares to challenge the two-party ideology. Ron Paul publicly promotes an ideological revolution, opposing foreign wars, violations of civil liberties, and the power of the banking class:
"A true revolution has to be ideological. Revolutions can be violent; they can overthrow a government with nothing really improved. An ideologically positive revolution is what is necessary, and that’s what we have going in this country. We may lose a battle here or there. But ultimately we are going to win the war because we are winning the hearts and minds of the American people."
Republican leaders fear Ron Paul's independence and ideology, and so it is not surprising that they do everything they can to minimize his impact. Not surprisingly, national leaders fear that Ron Paul will ruin the campaign of their chosen candidate, Mitt Romney. Party leaders intend to counter any effect the Paul campaign could have.
As the Texas Monthly records:
"This e-mail went out to party regulars over the signature of Bill Crocker, Republican national committeeman: Please plan to attend the SD [Senate District] conventions next Saturday and bring all your friends. We need to be sure we are not overwhelmed by the Ron Paul people, who still want to send a list of all Ron Paul people to the state convention."
Mitt Romney supporters worry that Ron Paul's primary campaign will weaken Romney's chances in the general election. Why? They fear that Paul supporters may refuse to vote for Romney and local Paul-controlled party leadership will not do their best to support him. Craig Robinson, a former Republican leader in Iowa, has concerns:
"[H]e fretted whether others in the state party structure would do the work necessary to help Romney win in the state. 'This could be problematic for Romney down the road and problematic for Iowa Republicans in general,' Robinson said. 'I think Iowa’s going to be very tough, very difficult for Mitt Romney this fall.'"
It comes down to the simple fact that extreme partisans in the two-party system believe in party solidarity and electoral victory more than good policy or the future of the American people. Too many party leaders are so bound up in the prospects for the general election that they refuse to take the time to win over Ron Paul's energized supporters or even the party's traditional, conservative base. Instead of listening to the new ideas and engaging in a real policy discussion, too many Republicans have repeated the party-centric mantra that the most important thing is to defeat Obama in November.
On the Democratic side, no prominent candidate has dared to challenge President Obama in this year's primary. Despite widespread disappointment among the liberal base, party leaders insist on focusing on the general election. Party leaders care about winning. What should be done after winning is a secondary concern.
This is one reason Independent voters scorn the two-party system. Party dogma and power politics have reduced the parties to an establishment demonizing anyone on the other side of the aisle or within their own party who might challenge the status quo. The heated opposition to the Ron Paul campaign is just one example of the pressure imposed on those who dare to be different. Perhaps it is time to look outside the two-party system for independents who care about good policy and the American people.