What if classes were in session?
It may have been suspiciously convenient or not that the Iowa caucuses were held during winter break for most Iowa colleges and universities. But if they were in session as originally scheduled (before Florida screwed the primary and caucus schedule up) could they have provided the extra 4,000-plus votes Ron Paul would have needed to win the state?
Such speculation is not based on wishful thinking but on the solid fact that when it comes to the future of the Republican Party and politics in general, what Paul represents will play an important role in shaping it.
The facts are nearly 50 percent of voters between the ages of 18-30 voted for Paul in Iowa according to exit polls and they helped to create a record turnout for the caucuses of over 120,000 votes. Had classes been in session, and organizing turnout for the caucuses easier, the youth vote might have approached 17-18 percent, enough to give Paul, by the rate he was winning the vote, a victory instead of a close defeat.
The youth vote is often dismissed because of its low numbers relative to the rest of the voting population. But no matter what the percentages are, how young people vote does hint at future trends. For example, the reason the Republicans did so well in the 2010 mid-term election is probably due to the fact they have a strong core of support among voters ages 35-55 who came of age during Reagan’s presidency. On the flip side, young voters who grew up in the Clinton years have given the Democrats the edge among these groups in Presidential voting even when party nominees like Al Gore and John Kerry were losing. It was Barak Obama who harnessed these voters to his 2008 campaign and they helped him win both the nomination and the Presidency.
Even though Paul finished a close third in the Iowa voting, one cannot just dismiss it for what it portends for the future. The transformative effects it will have for the GOP and the politics right-of-center will be significant once the old generations pass away. As flawed a candidate as he would admit to being, this Eugene McCarthy for our times has set in motion a process that will change politics eventually the way McCarthy did in 1968. For it was the McCarthy “Youth Quake” of 1968 which led to the McGovern takeover of the party in 1972 and reshaping of the Democratic Party for the next 30 plus years. And if you want to go back even further, it was the Young Republicans of the early and mid-1960s who helped deliver the GOP nomination to Barry Goldwater. Within 16 years they had jobs in the Reagan Administration.
This writer wrote a three-part “postmortem” on the Paul candidacy four years ago but now there’s no need to now. The campaign is far better organized and more professionally run than in 2008, but no amount or organization can change the culture of a party and its voters overnight, nor overcome a candidate’s shortcomings. Ron Paul, to use the cliché, is what he is, and given the forces out there who have made no attempt to disguise the fact to intend to do whatever they can to stop him, there’s only so much a 76-year old man who really isn’t a politician can do to overcome them.
But what if there were no “newsletters”?
For all the talk of how damaging Ron Paul’s past associations, writings and current positions on questions in the 2012 campaign, for all the talk of “fringe-crazy-kook-crank” etc. this is certainly not a one-percenter unlike many would-be President who held more conventional views. Somebody must be listening because a quarter of the electorate in Iowa did and better turnouts and less unsavory associations and disavowals could have carried Paul to a solid win. This other solid fact along with vote totals that also included strength among independent voters and Democrats despite everything working against the campaign means there’s a base for a future, better candidate to pick up. And the most important thing in their favor is time, sheer simple time because their opposition will soon be dead and can’t vote anymore (well, in most cases).
Whatever happens in the rest of the campaign will happen and hopefully the minimum for Paul is his delegates in the convention hall, a prime-time speech, a platform to shape and more of the party apparatus around the country falling into their hands as compared to 2008 when he was shut out. This base may vote for Ron’s son Rand Paul in 2016 but it’s not about hereditary propriety. This is not North Korea. There could a number of future candidates who could pick up this mantle, many of whom probably would never dreamed of running for office or working a campaign until they were inspired by Paul these past four years. Ron Paul has always said “freedom is a young idea” and as it turns out, it’s also an idea for the young.