James Antle has a great column at The American Conservative explaining how Ron Paul’s real and ultimate victory is coming to fruition:
There has been a great deal of confusion since the Paul campaign released a strategy document saying that while they are bowing out of the primaries, the fight for delegates goes on all the way to the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
“Unfortunately, barring something very unforeseen, our delegate total will not be strong enough to win the nomination,” campaign chairman Jesse Benton acknowledged publicly for the first time. “However, our delegates can still make a major impact at the National Convention and beyond.”
This kind of talk elicits sneers from those who think of politics purely in horse-race terms. The Christian Science Monitor claims Paul’s influence “may be more symbolic than practical.” Even the libertarian blogger Doug Mataconis concludes, “it’s unclear what Paul’s supporters think they are going to accomplish here.”
To answer that question, it is useful to ask another: What would have done more to advance the Christian right’s goals in 1988 — Pat Robertson somehow seizing the presidential nomination or his supporters winning party leadership positions all over the country? It is easy to forget now that the Robertson forces were viewed as disruptive at the time. They denied delegate slots to longtime party regulars, including sitting congressmen and Republican elected officials. To the extent that party leaders were willing to tolerate them at all, they wished these religious conservatives would simply vote Republican and then go home.
Sound at all familiar? By the mid-1990s Robertson’s supporters were integrated into the state and national party structure. The Christian Coalition played a key role in setting the Republican agenda. Ron Paul’s supporters are using similar tactics, though they hope that unlike the Christian right they will change the party more than they are changed by it.
To be sure, some of the influence Paulites hope to have on the party platform is symbolic. Yet in politics, symbolism and substance can sometimes be mutually reinforcing. The GOP adopted a strong pro-life platform plank partly because of an influx of antiabortion activists into the party. But the platform language itself played a meaningful role in defining Republicans as the pro-life party.
It is easy to imagine Paul having a similar influence over the party through its platform, perhaps by identifying the GOP with auditing the Federal Reserve or demanding more specific spending cuts than likely nominee Mitt Romney has dared to offer. But there is a lot of practical politics going on in the Paul movement too. Paul supporters are now state party chairs in Iowa, Alaska, and Nevada. They have made inroads from Maine to Louisiana. These gains do not evaporate the minute the presidential campaign ends.
Neither do Paul-inspired liberty candidates who win their elections in down-ballot races. The careers of Rand Paul and Justin Amash, the most successful of dozens of Ron Paul Republicans to have sought office since