How Ron Paul Can Fight Like a Guerrilla Terrorist (and win)
There is this guy who emails me 3-4 times a week about nothing but Ron Paul. For the last few months he has been ebullient, sending me updates every time he hits a fundraising benchmark or eats a sandwich. And then today he sent me this:
After learning more about the election process in this country and the various “powers that be”, Ron Paul faces more than we enthusiastic supporters can overcome….in this current election. And as you said, even if he were to be elected, there wouldn’t be enough broad support for his ideas right away. It took me reading this article below [that admits Ron Paul will never be president] to finally come to grips with it and see what needs to be done moving forward.
Anyone who understands basic economics should know the Law of Diminishing Returns–that when one of your variables in fixed, returns decrease over time. The result were inevitable. The internet is a fixed variable, a loud one, but ultimately a fixed and small one.
But it doesn’t have to be over. The only thing he ought to be giving up now is the strategic suicide that is the current plan. Never fight a war of attrition unless you have to. Forget buttons and primaries and the FCC and going door to door–all that body-throwing bullshit. American elections are very much spend, spend, spend and then hope to win by a percentage point. So, it should be obvious to most rational people now, that Ron Paul cannot win a normal victory. That doesn’t mean he can’t force a change.
Here are his strategic assets (or disadvantages, depending on how you think):
[*] Access to cheap money
[*] Mobile, dispersed supporters of a relatively small number
[*] No credibility in the eyes of the media [nothing left to lose]
[*] A fractured political landscape
[*] The ability to equalize or maximize efficiency through technology
[*] Vastly outnumbered and horrible odds
This is terrorism vs. nation-states. This is 4th Gen Warfare. And who normally comes out the winner, even if they’re not the “victor”?
If we follow John Robb’s guide to asymmetric conflict we know the levers he must hit: Menace, Mistrust and Uncertainty.
He should use the MASSIVE inequity in efficiency structures and utterly wreck havoc. He should be fighting a guerrilla campaign to embarrass all the other candidates by exposing their bullshit, he should be making sure that they win by as little as possible (decreasing their political capital and ability to make change once in office) and exposing the flaws in the system.
So what could he do? [Off the top of my head?]
[*] Pay people to follow candidates around the interrupt their speeches. Start screaming about Hillary’s Alinsky thesis until the media has to address it. Film them and release them on YouTube.
[*] Take federal matching funds (doubling his money) and then spend it subversively. Stand outside convenience stores in New York and give people their cigarette tax back. Do the same in California to people with the gas taxes.
[*] Run commercials about how easy and permanent it would be to bribe a member of the Electoral College into changing their vote.
[*] Focus on fragmented or polarized districts to narrow down the margins of victory for whoever ends up winning.
[*] Avoid the popular vote entirely and try to take as many individual districts as possible.
[*] Bankroll serious investigations into voter fraud or media bias and then give it away to reporters.
[*] Fund the campaigns of other 3rd Party Candidates to further reduce the political capital of the future president.
[*] Address opponents directly: Find one or two things that you want each candidate to commit to and just accost them until they do. Get them to do it on television or radio. Every time you make an appearance, demand how they haven’t yet and claim you’ll leave them alone when you do.
That is the question. If you took over Ron Paul’s campaign and rid it of the foolish notion of victory, how would you spend the money to sow the most Menace, Mistrust and Uncertainty?
I don’t see how any of the suggestions you list aren’t anything but just rearranging the furniture on the Titanic for a Ron Paul campaign of any kind. Whether it was based on fighting for victory or just for the purpose of messing with The System, I think in the end he’d only end up labeling himself as an obnoxious rabble rouser outside his base.
He may not be a politician, but Bill O’Reilly pulls stuff similar to that to get his point across. He’s bombastic, disruptive, and even willing to risk a Secret Service confrontation as evidenced earlier this week. The end result is he just becomes a bigger asshole in everyone’s eyes. Sure, he’s got a nice-sized fan base, and he’s wealthy, but his tactics effectively limit him to that base.
If I was running Paul’s campaign I’d pick three points of his that each cross into other party territory and repeat them non-stop. For example, ending the Iraq War. You’ve already got a wide contingency on the far left you can access with that kind of message. Reducing the size of government appeals to the far right. Independents might respond to something cultural or domestic–fixing our broken schools. Just pick three and pound them with slogans until they become memes.
In other words, “frame the debate,” as Dick Morris says. Generally the person who ends up framing the debate in an election has the best chance winning it. Gingrich considered jumping into the GOP race solely for that purpose last September. While that may not be enough to mean Paul could win, I think ultimately it’d do better than the Alinski method.
Wonderful ideas. I think the idea of applying subversive ‘gorilla’ tactics to a campaign is awesome, but it really does rely on the media to get the lion’s share of the job done. And trying to manipulate that animal is a lost cause for any third-tier candidate. Paul’s proven he can instigate new media support, but one can’t win elections without old media, for now anyway.
I think you missed the best strategic point:
-Play for the long term
If Ron Paul and his supporters are serious, why not use this election as a massive commercial for the next election? Just like theatrical release is a big commercial for the DVD, Ron Paul can use all those tactics to establish his brand and get people, most importantly the mainstream media, used to seeing and hearing his name.
But the point of every interaction should be: How can this help me be a legit candidate in the NEXT election?
I find that this would be a churlish and immature response because he can still retain his seat in congress and retain an amount of power there. Congress is a huge part about how Washington is actually run.
I agree with Tucker that Ron Paul should focus on the long term. However, I don’t think it should focus on any particular election or even a particular candidate. Ron Paul’s support comes more from his libertarian ideals which attract broad support than his personality as he’s not that inspiring of a speaker. Ron Paul’s goal right now should be to pick several popular elements of his platform and aim to support their gradual implementation. Instead of aiming to cut spending and taxes by 75% and completely end the War on Drugs, he should be focused on gradually implementing these ideas so they can get more traction. So instead of advocating 75% cuts in taxes and spending, support cuts of 5% per year to gradually reach your aims. Paul should also focus on making sure the support his libertarian platform is getting can survive for decades to comes, not just the next election cycle. Many of the ardent Paul supporters this cycle could becomes disillusioned with the system and completely removed themselves from it. Paul should use his money to institutionalize these elements so they continue to participate in politics and continue to support libertarian policies.
Yes, the article I sent you did say Ron Paul wouldn’t win, but it was mostly suggesing what should happen long term to ensure the message continues and ultimately prevails.
The genie’s out of the bottle now. Any further exposure to RP will be gravy and then this decentralization that helped the campaign helps the war of ideas to truely take place moving forward.
It’s the message/ideas that will be around long after RP’s gone that need to continue to be promoted. His supporters, especially the new/younger ones, need to learn from where he learned (e.g. http://www.mises.org).
Your original post last year stung, but it was correct. The system, set up as it is, won’t allow him to win right now. Someone similar in the future has a better chance as citizens begin to actually educate themselves on these issues and behave/vote accordingly.
I don’t agree with your ideas.
The whole point of Mr. Paul’s campaign is one of taking the high road. His political capital for his ideas is very much based on that integrity.
One has to take the broader vision of this new movement he has spawned. It is a NEW thing, something which will gather like a snowball in the coming years, especially as thing begin to unravel in the American political and economic reality.
This isn’t just about Ron Paul…it’s about the survival of the whole country and what shape that will take.
TM’s suggestion is stupid. It would be strategic disaster to try to ingratiate himself with the MSM. RP’s appeal is as an outsider, not as the running commic relief while serious candidates are selcted. He can help frame the debate, he can push things one way or annother, but he will never have broad based support, it goes against exactly what his appeal is. Lots of people who follow him do it so that they aren’t like everyone else. He will never win outright.
Excellent way of looking at it, RH, and excellent suggestions. His is a 4th generation kind of power, and the moment a 4g force tries to assume mainstream power channels is the moment they lose their strength.
I’m thinking that after taking 8% of the vote in the last primary, preserving what he has isn’t as much of an asset as everyone thinks.
Of course, if he ran around like a raving lunatic it would be bad, but who said that? Take the little, rational things for granted and focus on the big issues. How could you take advantage of the system if you didn’t plan to be a part of it?
I would get candidates to promise as much as I possibly could, whenever I could. And then post them on YouTube as well.
Depths delve deeply daeadlus.
Well, with the thing about only getting 8% in the last primary… About five months ago, nobody had even heard of him; he had about 2-4% of the vote. And considering how he’s been ridiculed or not taken seriously on the mainstream media, it’s pretty impressive that he’s already doubled his support in such a short time. Granted, his support comes from random people spread throughout the U.S., but that only shows his message is being spread.
Even if he doesn’t win, I agree that he could dictate political discussions and wreak havoc during the election, but as someone mentioned earlier, Paul’s campaign is about taking the high road and being as dignified as possible. How else would he manage to stand his ideals being mocked at every debate he goes to?
Furthermore, one of the reasons I like Ron Paul is that his views have been consistent for over 19 years, and when he speaks publicly, he speaks what’s on his mind, and not what’s been rehearsed to have as many people like him as possible.
Ron Paul has two serious problems as a presidential candidate. First, he isn’t very charismatic. Second, most people disagree strongly with about half of his platform.
Is the goal of Guerrilla Campaigning to make the electorate so disgusted with the political process that they don’t want to vote? Isn’t the real goal of a campaign like Ron Paul’s (or Kucinich’s, or Gravel’s, or any other fringe candidate) to change the focus of the debate so that whoever does win is forced to modify their views to be closer to Paul’s? Wouldn’t his campaign be a success if Romney won, but because of the impact Paul had on the discourse, Romney was forced to pull out of Iraq rapidly?
Ding Ding!. The guy named Poopface gets it better than anyone else. To enact change you first have to motivate people to want change–that means making them angry.
Tucker – Are you serious? The problem with Ron Paul in the media, is that they frame him to be a fool, and they never give him the light of day. It would be one thing to get a lot of time, and just be called a fool; any publicity is good publicity, right? The problem is that they don’t give him airtime, and when they DO, it is in a terrible light.
Ron Paul is a guy who has called the media corrupt, and they are going after him because of that (and proving him right at the same time). They have done things that I have never seen before to a presidential candidate. During a re-show of the last debate, one of his best responses was edited out…how do you combat that? After the NH primaries, Fox News didn’t even show his concession speech? How do you combat that? You can’t just say that stuff during the debates (which he is having a hard time getting into as it is) because it is off topic and annoying.
I just don’t see how he can truly compete in the media, when they control everything. I would liken that to an army deciding it would surprise the US and attack us in the air with planes..not exactly the best plan.
He’s got to continue the little grassroots campaign that we all see on the city streets, but even that won’t have much of an effect if he is continually painted as a conspiratory fool.
What are you talking about? Your genius plan is to keep doing what he’s doing even though it is NOT working? Keep them coming please.
Please point out where I said I had a genius plan Ryan. I am just saying it isn’t going to work fighting in the media. The only way he is going to make an impact is going straight to the people, and that means having large town-hall sessions (He keeps scheduling them in small rooms, he needs to go to the gymnasiums and get people to fill them up. Like the other major candidates)
He needs to keep having performances in the debates like he did last night on Fox News. He did very well in that, and according to the public, he won. The problem was that wasn’t one of the so called “major” debates that is on ABC or NBC. He’s got to follow that up with several very good performances. He’s got to continue to appeal to the common sense of the people.
That is where I disagree with most of you, I think he should stay the course, but with just a few improvements. I haven’t read some of the strategy books you guys are basing your strategies on, but I think he is doing decent, considering the cards stacked up against him so far.
Following core tenets doesn’t equalize in anyway. Your seriously suggesting that he plod along to a certain defeat. That’s fine–your call–but that’s not the discussion. I hate to break it to you but decent campaigns don’t win elections nor do they ever win battles over ideas.
How do you combat that? Actually, fairly easily, by going around traditional media outlets. I’m currently setting up the ad campaign for a different election, and I’m using youtube, facebook, anything but mainstream media to get voter’s notice. This stuff is generally disregarded by most campaigns, and the people that are taking advantage of it are making huge gains because of it. Edited out on fox news? put it on youtube, veoh, metcafe, wherever necessary, and get your supporters to view it again and again till it hits the front pages. He has a dedicated force of supporters, so that’s the way he can get to the forefront, by taking advantage of the millions of facebook users, youtube/veoh viewers, and Google users.
The money is being used in the wrong ways. A sign on the roadside has never worked, and is an unnecessary expense. TV ads? More people don’t watch TV or have tivo than ever before, and they simply skip over the commercials. Use advertising they can’t skip over. Put ads on online showings of popular television shows, so that 5 times in the show, you are forced to watch the ad. There are so many ways to do this and get around traditional media outlets it’s ridiculous. And it’s an as yet untapped resource.
Very good postings and comments. Some of your tactics remind me of LBJ´s tactics, as described in the Robert Caro´s three/four volume bio on Lyndon B. Johnson. At one point during a democratic primary — I think for congress — Johnson was in dead last. The more established and backed campaigners were thought of as the frontrunners. He used some of these guerilla-like tactics that you described to jump ahead. He had people heckle crowds; he planted people, etc. He concentrated on fragmented votes (rural areas)
Ron Paul´s principles, and all those who praise them, may be all good and well, but let´s face facts: American Politics isn´t about logic or principles — it´s about emotion. The net crowd may decry Mike Huckabee and his record, but damn is he likeable (to me, a non evangelical democrat). I like Ron Pauls views but I thought he came off as a cranky old man. The media isn´t going to treat him fair ever until he learns how to get his message through in an appealing manner. Coke Stevenson, the man Johnson went up against in a senate primary, was a very popular in Texas (and most think he won that campaign — google: Landslide Lyndon) but he was not a good campaigner and didn´t have the politically acumen that LBJ did nor the machine. Even then, it seems like he won and probably did, save the fact all the missing ballot boxes. Coke Stevenson was a self-described man of principle who refused to attack or do things unethically.
Cheating accusations were thrown all over the place, and Coke took LBJ´s crew to court, but in the end, LBJ won … by 48 votes. Even if Coke was popular — and he was very popular in texas — I think he could have benefited by working in the system just a little bit, perhaps making some compromises here and there, perhaps establishing some relationships with people in the media and the like. Maybe I am wrong to compare paul and coke, but clearly things are corrupt, but as Alinsky might say, life is corrupt.
Paul could gain something by working in the system, just a little bit, and if not that, doing some of the things you said, Ryan or something similar. Remember the movie/novel — All The Kings Men? Not the horrible verson with Sean Penn but the classic film? Huey lost is first election, but he said, having lost his first election, something like this:
I may have lost the election, but I learned something important: How To Win (Not Verbatim!)
He set himself up for the next election and won it. Okay, I know, just a movie … but …
I actually like the “Using-Matching-Funds-to-give-people-their-tax-money-back”. That’s a page out of the Seth Godin/Purple Cow school.
Monkeywrenching this election by trashing other campaigns, though, solidifies the “libertarianism-is-thinly-veiled-anarchism” smear.
I challenge anyone to google Ron + Paul + prisonplanet and google Ron + Paul + stormfront. You’ll see that Ron Paul has strong support amongst the kooks and antisemites. Before you hand your cash over to Ron Paul decide whether you are a kook, an antisemite, or both.
Or maybe neither. Like he rebutted someone talking about the racist groups: They are supporting HIS beliefs, and he is not returning the favor by accepting their donation.
By the same logic, Hilary has strong support amongst racists who don’t want a black president. Don’t donate any money to her campaign because she’s white!
Whacko shit…actually a bit scary since Paul is well domented as a racist (more is coming out daily) and the bulk of his support comes from racists, 9/11 truthers and assorted conspiracy believers.
Ryan, you do realize that you have said he should do what he can to lose by as little as possible? As in not win? Are we not saying the same thing?