One of the first big surprises I encountered after arriving on Maui was the number of Ron Paul supporters who apparently call the island home. Seeing evidence of support for the long-shot Republican presidential candidate in Kahului or Wailuku wasn’t too shocking; bring enough people together and you’ll get all kinds of opinions. Plus there were plenty of Obama and a few McCain decals as well. But when I traveled outside the major population enters, the level of Paul mania really hit home. I think it was after spotting a street sign in Paia plastered beyond the point of readability with “Ron Paul ‘08” bumper stickers that I sensed a genuine phenomenon.
Of course, Mauians aren’t alone in their rabid love of the shoot-from-the hip Texas Congressman who earned few delegates but did energize a previously dormant segment of the GOP base—fed up, anti-tax Libertarian types who basically just want the government to leave them the hell alone.
I guess it’s not all that surprising some of those folks live on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific.
Paul hung on as long as he could, even after his chances of winning the
nomination dwindled to a mathematical impossibility. Eventually he dropped out of the race as a formality, but instead of going the conventional route and grudgingly endorsing McCain he became a champion for third party candidates. (Paul himself ran as a Libertarian in 1988.)
Arguing that the two-party system is broken beyond repair, Paul held a
televised event September 10 to spotlight some of the other contenders/pretenders vying to be leader of the free world—or, failing that, to get their names in the news. In his impassioned but rather rambling introduction, Paul argued that third party supporters are “actually the majority” if you factor in those who don’t vote because they don’t like the two major parties and those who vote for the “lesser of two evils.”
When it comes to candidates, Paul said his take is, “the more the merrier.” Who are these merry men and women? Let’s a look:
Ralph Nader: Yes, he’s running again. Love him or hate him (and
these days most people seem to fall into the latter category) you’ve got to admire old Ralph’s tenacity. Accused by many of costing Gore the 2000 election when he ran on the Green Party ticket and siphoned votes in swing states, Nader’s campaigning this year as an Independent. Though he looks unlikely to make much of a splash (even dyed-in-the- wool liberals are pretty gun shy after eight years of Bush/Cheney), the rabble rousing consumer advocate’s still got vim and vigor aplenty at age 74; we’d love to see his cantankerous influence in the debates.
Bob Barr: One of two former legislators from Georgia mounting a third party challenge, Barr’s presence on the ballot will likely offset any gains McCain might have made from Nader’s run. The Libertarian nominee, Barr could snag a few of the crusty old fiscal conservative votes and maybe win over a share of those Ron Paul-loving Mauians.
Cynthia McKinney: Also a former Congressperson from Georgia,
McKinney gained notoriety as an outspoken critic of the Bush administration and for an altercation with a security guard on the steps of the capitol. After defecting from the Dems, she won the Green Party nomination. I interviewed her in California earlier this year, and though I was impressed by her passion and grasp of history and foreign affairs, she’s far too much of a pull-no-punches contrarian to make any noise, even on the far left fringe.
Chuck Baldwin: The nominee of the Constitution Party, Baldwin has the distinction of being the candidate to send me the most e-mails (three more arrived just today). In addition to being a prolific e-mailer, Baldwin’s apparently won over TV commentator Lou Dobbs, meaning he’s got the cranky old anti-immigration white dude vote shored up. Plus, if we can elect a president named Barack, surely we’re ready for one named Chuck. MTW