In a Republican Party that has clearly lost its principles over the past decade (see "The Crash of Big-Government Conservatism"), the one presidential candidate who has consistently shown solid adherence to a sensible set of values has had almost no support among the party faithful.
Granted, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has no record as a state executive or national leader (he has served in the U.S. Congress for a couple of decades) and can seem a rather dotty character in his speeches and debate appearances.
He is a former doctor, not a conventional professional politician, and his refusal to be a conventional pol has impeded his ability to generate support from party regulars, especially the big money that is to be had when one panders to various constituencies by promising to use the federal government as a sledgehammer to destroy their competitors).
Clearly he prefers to stay unsullied by such activities, but that puts him at an almost certainly insurmountable disadvantage in the money-dominated politics of the McCain-Feingold era.
In addition, some of his positions are not exactly calculated to appeal to mainstream Republicans. In particular, his dogmatic isolationism and fierce opposition to the War in Iraq have been a small-minority opinion in the party, although that minority can be very vocal indeed.
As a result, Paul has generated very little appeal in the party as a whole, yet he has found an often fanatical band of supporters who idealistically adhere to his vision of individual freedom, good government (which necessarily means small government), and non-intervention in foreign countries unless U.S. citizens or properties within our national boundaries are clearly and directly threatened.
It is a true classical liberal platform of real seriousness and great potential for fixing what is wrong with this great nation—its governments at all levels—and unleashing what is great about America—the initiative and great common sense of its people.
Paul will not be President of the United States in 2009 or ever, barring a huge turnabout among Republican primary voters or an astonishing turn of events at a brokered convention, but the principles for which he stands are wise, honorable, and truly necessary for this nation at this time.
If a stronger and more experienced leader were to express credible intent to implement a political agenda based on Rep. Paul’s political thinking—as Ronald Reagan did in the 1960s and ’70s—that person would become president and do much good. Of that I am certain.
If, as seems likely, Rep. Ron Paul does not become President of the United States, we would do well to honor his effort to bring his party back to its core principles, and would do right by America by implementing those principles in political action. We can only hope that his example will inspire a Republican leader who will take up that mantle in future years.