Three thousand people showed up on the Memorial Union Terrace the other day and it wasn't just to enjoy the sunny weather and a beer.
They were there to hear GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul and most of them were young. What's going on here?
To me, Ron Paul is an absolute flake. He talks about eliminating the Federal Reserve and nutrition programs for women and children. In a debate he essentially said that a hypothetical young man without health insurance who was involved in a serious accident should be allowed to die. He allowed blatantly racist and paranoid articles to be published under his name.
So, why is a guy like Ron Paul the only presidential candidate to get young people excited this year?
I think it's because Ron Paul comes off as sincere. Like a table lamp with a short in its cord, he occasionally and unexpectedly snaps on with brilliance. He'll sometimes say things that sound courageous, sane and refreshing, and sometimes he says them in front of audiences that he knows won't like his message.
Compared to the transparently self-serving, clichéd, pandering rhetoric of most politicians, Ron Paul can come off like a breath of fresh air. The contrast is essentially strong with front-runner Mitt Romney, who will tell any crowd anything to get elected.
Ron Paul is a deeply flawed candidate who never should be and never will be President of the United States. If he were a more serious challenger, his long record of nuttiness and paranoia would be more exposed. For a catalogue of the goofy things this guy thinks and says, including the fact that he's unsure about evolution, see here.
But Paul's success with young people should be studied by future presidential candidates and by candidates for other offices like, for example, governor of Wisconsin. Pandering, clichéd attacks, and saccharin insincerity just insult the intelligence of those audiences. Voters and, especially young, idealistic voters, want a new, sincere language of politics. If that could be employed by a candidate who was also not crazy, we'd really have something.