Ron Paul’s Wildcard: Iowa Progressives?

Young Ron Paul supporters in Des Moines, IowaPhoto: <a href="">Joe Scott</a>

With a New Year’s Day poll showing Ron Paul in a three-way tie with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum going into Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses, who will emerge victorious is anyone’s guess. If it’s Paul, the conventional wisdom goes, he will owe much of his success to a weak Republican field and an adoring flock of disillusioned youth, hundreds of whom have traveled from out of state to work behind the scenes. But there’s one other wild card: Paul’s crossover appeal to liberals attracted to his anti-war platform.

On Monday morning, Ron Paul, introduced by his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, spoke briefly at a downtown Des Moines hotel. Afterward, several Paul supporters told me that they supported the candidate for opposing the National Defense Authorization Act, recently signed into law by Obama, which codified the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects arrested in the United States. Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, was in town for the Paul event. Later, at his nearby hotel where the Democratic National Committee houses its caucus-prep “war room,” he watched occupy protesters echo many of the same complaints about the NDAA. “The only people in America who understand NDAA—I think it’s fascinating—are Occupy Wall Street and Ron Paul supporters,” Scarborough told me. “But you want to talk about the 99 percent—99 percent of Americans have no idea what this is all about.”

Francis Thicke, an organic farmer from Fairfield, Iowa, who ran for secretary of agriculture on the state’s Democratic ticket in 2010, announced that he would caucus for Paul on Tuesday “to keep his voice for peace and his voice to reduce the military in the debate, because he will challenge the other Republican candidates.” Thicke told me that although a Democratic county chairman responded by telling him that he was “stabbing them in the back” by supporting a Republican, he would vote for Obama over Paul without a doubt, because he doesn’t support dismantling the government. “This is a tactical thing” to expand voters’ awareness, Thicke said.

Thicke isn’t the only progressive aiming to use the GOP caucuses to make his own point: Some Occupy protesters have been pushing supporters to show up at the caucuses and vote “uncommitted” in hopes of sending a few of their own delegates for the national convention. But there’s disagreement in the Occupy ranks over this approach. Local radio show host Ed Fallon, a former state representative whose 2006 gubernatorial campaign I volunteered on, has been one of the most visible members of Occupy Des Moines, and on Monday he sent an email encouraging his fans to either attend the Democratic caucuses and cast an “uncommitted” protest vote there or to support “one of the less extreme candidates: Ron Paul, John Huntsman, Buddy Roemer or Fred Karger” on the Republican side.

Thicke told me that while he doesn’t know many other Democrats who plan to caucus for Paul, he thinks a turnout of unconventional voters could put the candidate over the top, pointing to polling that has excluded independents. But at Occupy Des Moines’ headquarters, things didn’t look so hopeful for the libertarian. After Monday’s protest against the DNC, an occupier tried to kick off a sympathetic mic check thanking Paul for opposing the NDAA. “We love you Ron Paul,” he shouted out. “Let’s hear it for Ron Paul!” He was met with a chorus of boos.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.