At a gun show in San Francisco's Cow Palace, between a table of switchblades and a rack of Enfield rifles, David McBride sat glumly under a "Ron Paul for President" banner. The shy, 28-year-old software tester had driven in from Silicon Valley and wasn't sure how to chat up nra members chewing elk jerky—or, for that matter, the dozen-or-so Paul supporters he'd come to know via Meetup.com but had never met in the flesh. So he pulled out his iPhone and began searching for the latest Paul headlines. Instantly, the geeks gathered: Was the phone's camera 2.0 megapixels? Was Paul gaining in the Iowa Republican straw poll? "I'm waiting until they come out with the one that has ActiveSync," a ponytailed computer consultant said. The group nodded knowingly.
Their candidate, a 72-year-old obstetrician from Lake Jackson, Texas—land of duck hunters, ranchers, and oilmen—has improbably become an Internet sensation. He counts more Facebook and MySpace supporters than any Republican; more Google searches, YouTube subscribers, and website hits than any presidential candidate; and more Meetup members than the front-runners of both parties combined. In recent months he was sought out on the blog search engine Technorati more often than anyone except a Puerto Rican singer with a sex tape on the loose; his November 5 Internet "Money Bomb" event pulled in $4 million from more than 35,000 individual donors, a single-day online-fundraising record in a primary. (The previous best was $3 million, by John Kerry.) "The campaign calls itself the Ron Paul Revolution," notes Republican Internet consultant David All. "And I don't think that's a far stretch."
Indeed, Paul's literature is dominated by the word "revolution," though with the middle letters inverted to make "love"—a hippie touch that would be countenanced by few Republicans other than the congressman, who has been elected 10 times on the GOP ticket (and who also ran as a Libertarian in the 1988 presidential election). The truth is, Paul's revolution is a conservative one, by his own account—and thus all the more noteworthy for Democrats, who until now comfortably assumed that progressive bloggers, YouTubers, and ex-Deaniacs would give them, and only them, an edge online. As it turns out, nobody has more Internet buzz than a pro-gun, pro-life, antitax, and antiwar Republican.
The San Francisco Republican Alliance (yes, there are Republicans here) fended off a throng of Ron Paul supporters that threatened to overwhelm its annual pre-election banquet last night at Fisherman's Wharf. The dinner was to be followed by a straw poll, but Alliance leader Gail Neira canceled it after the Paulites showed up in droves. Paul supporters are known for swarming and being locked out of online straw polls, but this may be the first time they've shut down a poll in the meatspace. The pandemonium that ensured, captured on video below, looks like a scene from a Democratic tea party in 1969:
Though Paul supporters may not always be polite (or racially sensitive), they're clearly shaking up the GOP with the kind of energy bordering on fanaticism that is normally associated with the acolytes of left-wing revolutionarios. Among their latest exploits: a Ron-Paul-branded version of Google (RonPoogle), a Bands4RonPaul Myspace page devoted to Paul fight songs (there are 16), and efforts to conscript 40,000 donors to build a nuclear version of the Ron Paul Money Bomb by agreeing to generate $1,000,000 a week. Wonkette calls them Paultards, but I prefer the term embraced by the Weekly Standard: Ronulans.
According to the EPA, airplanes contribute 12 percent of transportation greenhouse gases, but they disproportionately harm the atmosphere by leaving heat-trapping contrails and cirrus clouds. So California Attorney General Jerry Brown deserves kudos today for petitioning the EPA to start imposing tough limits on plane emissions within six months. Lighter, more fuel efficient jumbo jets are already on the market, and there's no reason why the government shouldn't encourage their use by setting standards.
The move is another green feather in the cap for Brown, who has already sued the Bush Administration to allow the state to regulate tailpipe emissions, the auto industry over damages caused by global warming, and California counties to force them to reduce suburban sprawl and greenhouse gas emissions--using state laws already on the books. In recent polls Brown has topped all other Democrats as the most popular candidate for Governor in 2010. It's harder to think of a bigger public endorsement for backing up green rhetoric with action.
They both opposed Gitmo, the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq; want to legalize medicinal marijuana; and look like elves. On the psycho-political level, they appeal to idealists and the disaffected with simple, consistent speech and action, a feat normally associated with third-party candidates, but which they've achieved within the shark's mouth of mainstream politics. Beyond this, however, they're oil and vinegar, a classic libertarian and a classic liberal, opposites on everything from abortion to gun control, the United Nations to health care. Yet here was Kucinich on Sunday, at the home of Joanna Dennett in Acworth, Ohio, floating the idea of a joint ticket. Is he crazy?
Probably not. Ron Paul has money, the best Internet campaign in America, and growing legions of dedicated, often rabid, supporters (they number some 60,000 on Meetup.com), many of whom have never volunteered for a political campaign or even voted. Given their disdain for the GOP, Kucinich is wise to court them, if not with his platform, then by dint of his conspicuously independent voting record. Many people support Paul less for his policy proscriptions than his courageous votes against the grain of his own party and the "Establishment." Several Paulites have told me that in past elections they voted for Nader.
But alas, Paul is not interested in this marriage of opposites. A GOP contender who is viewed by his party as too liberal gains nothing by locking arms with one. On the other hand, just by proposing the idea Kucinich appears to fellow Democrats as more moderate (Or at least that's the idea; those familiar with how Paul handles race matters might conclude Kucinich has gone off the deep end). Kucinich also appeals to the Internet energy of the Unity08 campaign, which could yet gain steam in future elections. The idea of fringe bipartisanship is just crazy enough to be a hit online, and perhaps even with Paul's techno-publicans.
Chauncey Bailey, unlike most black men whose brains are blown out on the streets of Oakland, could not be ignored. The first targeted killing of a journalist on American soil in more than a decade demanded the obeisance of the mayor, the congresswoman, and the national press to his kente cloth-draped casket in a packed East Oakland chapel. It would have been an exciting story for Paul Cobb, publisher of the African American-owned Oakland Post, if it hadn't been so personal: Bailey was the Post's editor. Only the day before, the paper had received threats from men who may have been linked to Bailey's murder. Standing at the pulpit, Cobb fought back tears to proclaim, "I will continue to walk towards Chauncey and what he stood for. Even if I have to walk it alone."