Two Ronalds: Ron Paul and Ronald McDonald

 

In 1988, in the waning days of the Reagan Administration, I was a cub reporter in Boise, Idaho. I covered what the photo editor called in jest the “Ronald McDonald beat.” If Ronald McDonald made a public appearance, the editor slapped my skinny shoulders and said, “Go get ‘em, Scoop.”

I was trusted with only the simplest, most innocuous subjects to interview. So one day, I sat down at the Boise Airport with another Ronald. Namely, the official candidate of the Libertarian Party, an unknown Texan doctor named Ron Paul. As I recall, he was traveling solo. If he was insulted by being delegated to the lowest-ranking reporter in a politically irrelevant state, he didn’t show it. 

He rattled off the talking points of libertarianism, which I dutifully transcribed. I noted the copy editors had already laid out the Post-Election Day Front Page, with George Bush Sr. front and center.

“So do you think you’re going to win?” I asked.

He gave me a wry smile. “Not today. But we are going to win.”

So I marvel a little, when I see today’s high-production Ron Paul television ads, bragging about how he will cut $1 trillion in federal costs his first year in office. “Department of Education? Gone! Department of Interior? Gone!”

Of course, if I were that reporter today I would ask: “Really? No more hot lunches for poor rural school kids? Yellowstone National Park, sold off to the highest bidder?”

Ron Paul’s anti-government positions drift into the right-hand breakdown lane, too extreme even in a conservative state like Idaho.

Yet, today in the far more politically important state of Iowa, Paul is running third in the polls, behind Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney among likely voters in the Republican primary.  Paul isn’t as fringe as he used to be.

One gets the sense that the Gingrich and Romney campaigns, at the core, are about little more than individual political ambition. Paul, it must be said, has a vision that goes far beyond his ego. When he dies, his son, Rand, and a legion of faithful will carry it on.

Paul followers are passionate (hell, in my county they still have their yard signs up from 2008). But Paul’s eyes are not focused on 2012, rather they aim to do damage to the conservative establishment and to advance an ideology. Just by showing up on the stage, he pushes the conversation to the right.

I disagree with Ron Paul’s ideology, but I admire his strategy. It’s something anyone with a cause can learn from.  There is something to be said for simplicity of message and dogged determination. Even if it takes 25 years or more years.

Is Ron Paul going to win? Maybe he’s already winning.

 Image: Politico Ron Paul should not be confused with hamburger pitchclown, Ronald McDonald.

Ben Long wagers on the political underdogs from a voting booth in Kalispell, Mont.   He is senior program director of Resource Media, which takes no partisan positions at all.