Ron Paul won 31% in a Presidential straw poll at the CPAC conservative conference, beating Mitt Romney, who had 22%. All others, including Sarah Palin, scored 7% or less.
The problem facing Republicans is that the 69% who did not vote for Paul are not likely to ever vote for him. But if 30% or more of the grassroots activists share Ron Paul's views, and are motivated to "take over" local GOP chapters, then the 2012 Republican Convention is likely to be a raucous event and could lead to the creation of a third "major" party that could be a factor in the 2012 elections. Obama could win in 2012 by default.
I'm not saying if that would be good or bad, but I am saying (objectively, since I am not a Republican) that it's a problem for the Republican Party. If the GOP nominates a "radical" like Ron Paul, many Republicans would vote for anyone, even Obama, instead. It would be 1964 all over again. But if they don't nominate Paul, or someone who shares his views, they could lose votes and support, in personnel and dollars, at the grassroots level.
It could be, as Everett Wilson suggested a few weeks ago, that the GOP will go down and be replaced by another party. Although his political philosophy is almost entirely opposite of mine, I think he's on to something. Here's why.
The Democratic Party, which was once somewhat libertarian under the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Martin van Buren, and Grover Cleveland, was transformed by William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson into a party that essentially believes in "as much government as necessary." To Democrats today, there are no limits to what government can or ought to do.
For instance, Democrats don't just want abortions to be permitted, they want them paid for through taxation. Their claims to want privacy are laughable as they would force individuals, at gunpoint, to enroll in health insurance plans where their most personal data would be collected by the federal government. On most of the intrusions on civil liberties during the Bush Era, a substantial number of Democratic members of Congress went along. Democrats think local regulations of strip joints violate the First Amendment, but federal censorship laws against campaign speech do not. (This suggests to me that the only reason they object to the local regulations is that they believe the federal government should regulate everything instead.) Democrats were the "original" neocons who got the U.S. into World War I, Korea, Vietnam, and Yugoslavia for supposedly idealistic reasons, not because America was ever actually threatened.
There is simply NO limit to government power in the modern Democratic Party's philosophy. Democrats will claim otherwise and may even tell themselves so. When they do, however, their protestations are so pathetic that one can't even charge them with hypocrisy; they are, instead, liars. They may be lying to themselves and convince themselves they have good intentions, but they'd still be lying.
So the Democratic Party believes in unlimited government. What does the other party in our "two-party system" stand for? Republicans essentially believe in "Limited government, kinda, sorta, maybe, except when Big Government caters to my interests and prejudices."
Republicans believe in "limited government" only when and where the Democratic "unlimited government" agenda threatens their values or their bank accounts. When you mention "Israel," "the Flag," "God," "the military," or "family" they become even more stubborn and close-minded than if you mention "corporation," "greed," or "the uninsured" to Democrats.
But Democrats at least have a coherent philosophy: government for its own sake. Republicans are almost completely unprincipled and intellectually bankrupt.
Ideally, the opposition to an "unlimited government" party like the Democratic Party would be a "no government" party. In real life, however, a consistent and principled "limited government" party is the logical alternative. The Ron Paul Movement provides a consistent view of limited government - particularly of the federal government - in issues affecting personal liberty, markets, and foreign affairs. A literal, common-sense reading of the Constitution is its guide.
In 2012, the Republican Party can't win with an aging Ron Paul, yet it can't win without Ron Paul's libertarian and "Constitutional conservative" supporters. But Paul's insurgency - revolution, as it were - within the GOP will force more and more Republicans into asking what they really want: unlimited government or limited government? Sooner or later, every other voter will be forced to answer the same question.