The 2012 primary race is far from over and Ron Paul is not out of the hunt with only 3 contests complete. But I wanted to address the third party question. The establishment press most recently embodied by Brian Williams on Monday night are addicted to asking Ron Paul the third party question again and again for 5 years. There is a reason that the same political establishment that attempts to marginalize the Ron Paul candidacy also repeatedly asks him if he will run as a third party candidate. Those asking the question are hoping to cast Paul and his followers out into the wilderness of third party politics. A wilderness where candidates no longer have the privilege of participating in debates or appearing on TV or even radio. Just ask Gary Johnson how his campaign is going if you can find him. Or how many Sunday morning shows Chuck Baldwin was on during his 2008 run.
The genius of the Paul campaign is that by running in the Republican race he has been able to spell out his message to US voters by contrasting himself with the mainline GOP candidates. And while the media can attempt to marginalize him, there is such a stark contrast between him and every other candidate that his small amount of air-time is amplified by the freshness of his arguments.
It is important to keep the Republican avenue open for not only his son Rand in 2016, but also for constitutional conservatives in local races such as Justin Amash of Western Michigan, the 31 year old heir apparent to Ron Paul in the House of Representatives. And then for the hundreds of candidates that will be born out of the Liberty movement over the course of the next several decades.
If Rand Paul does indeed run for the GOP nomination in 2016 he will likely take the trail blazed by his father. He was able to win a statewide race in Kentucky for Jim Bunnings Senate seat by beating an establishment Republican in the primary and then beating his Democratic opponent by 10 points in the general election. Rand presented a more nuanced view on national defense. In this early video from his Senate campaign Rand lays out the difference in his approach to national defense from his father. This nuanced approach coupled with his relaxed, intellectual delivery on the stump made him an elite candidate from day one.
A third party run by Ron Paul in 2012 would make the presidential campaign path much more difficult for Rand in 2016, a year when the field will be much stronger than this cycle. Any harm caused by a 2012 third party run, which Rand would back either directly or by proxy would effectively shut the door on a 2016 Republican run. I think the 2016 cycle is likely to bring out the candidates that the Republican Party was swooning over just months ago, namely Palin, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie. With a field like this it will be important to have very few obstacles to overcome on day one.
I think the ultimate question will be whether the Liberty movement began by Ron Paul will take over the Republican Party leaving the current mainline Republicans to break off into a third party. The other outcome would be the Liberty movement failing to take over the Republican party but growing strong enough to establish their own third party alternative that will be part of the mainline political process. I think there is no question a break down will come in the next eight years.
About the Author: Andy is a graduate student who lives in Milwaukee.