Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Why young people support Paul

Supporters of Ron Paul chant during a primary night party last week in Virginia. There’s a reason he leads Republican primaries among Millennials.

Getty Images

Supporters of Ron Paul chant during a primary night party last week in Virginia. There’s a reason he leads Republican primaries among Millennials.

Congressman Ron Paul will not be the Republican Party's choice to challenge President Barack Obama. Even many of his most ardent loyalists recognize, at the current rate of his marginal support, Paul will not amass enough delegates to win the nomination.

Yet young people, Paul's most enthusiastic supporters, remain his most reliable voting bloc. In fact, Paul has finished first with Millennials, the 18-29 demographic, in almost every Republican primary to date. In a GOP campaign overflowing with dramatic mood swings, one thing is true: Paul's capacity to sustain the youth vote has been the most consistent feature of this cycle.

Young people have often preferred campaigns, sometimes those lacking mainstream appeal, that boldly challenged the establishment candidate. These candidates, like former Gov. Howard Dean for the Democrats or Mike Huckabee for the Republicans, ultimately fell out of favor with the party elders. One notable exception is Obama. Galvanized by zealous young supporters, Obama rode a wave of momentum to both the nomination and general election victory.

But Paul is far less likely to win, his supporters admit, than those other figures. Why, then, do young people still make him their preference this primary campaign? The answer is in every public opinion poll that describes young people's disgust with the political process. A libertarian rebel in GOP clothes and a frequent thorn in the side of Republican colleagues, Paul represents a path to freedom from a destructive two-party political system.

As the antiparty party candidate, Paul's central appeal, like that of Ralph Nader and Ross Perot before him, is that today's D.C. is neither a success story nor a work-in-progress: The two-party system and its unrelenting entrenched moneyed interests are denying the next generation a decent chance of enduring economic equity for all Americans.

Surely, young people consider Paul, like the rest in the GOP field, a flawed candidate. Some of his social and foreign policy positions are not in sync with the Millennial sensibility. But Paul's constant emphasis on the economic imperative at home — before investments in international commitments abroad — resonates plenty with the average college student carrying the impossible weight of college loans or with the recent graduate who can't find work in the United States.

Obama promised a unified bipartisan government that would work on behalf of the next generation. With continued joblessness and college tuition/debt plaguing campuses and individual young adults nationwide, it is increasingly difficult to believe in that reality. Many disillusioned students do not believe that a traditional party can fulfill that very real change.

Millennial votes cast for Paul, if obliquely, were also votes for a third party. For now, Ron Paul may seem like the only alternative to the typical DNA of major party candidates. But Americans Elect, a nonprofit organization, has launched the first-ever national online presidential primary to nominate an independent-minded ticket, not beholden to party doctrine or dictate.

Odds are that Paul himself will likely remain a fringe candidate, largely excluded from GOP convention proceedings and the fall campaign. That leaves Americans Elect — and the initiative and tenacity of America's young people, that is, if they want to build on their desire to form a truly viable third party.

Alexander Heffner, a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to Perspective, covers the campaign at

Why young people support Paul 03/03/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 3, 2012 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren joins other prosecutors in protesting Jeff Sessions' 'tough-on-crime' policy


    TAMPA — Andrew Warren, the state attorney for Hillsborough County, is among signers of a letter from 31 district prosecutors nationwide voicing opposition to the tough-on-crime policies of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Hillsborough State Atttorney Andrew Warren is among the signers of a letter from 31 top prosecutors nationwide opposing Attorney General Jeff Sessions' 'tough-on-crime' policies. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times
  2. Suspect tells police he killed roommates for disrespecting his Muslim faith


    TAMPA — A man accused of shooting his roommates in a New Tampa apartment told police he shared neo-Nazi beliefs with the two men until he converted to Islam then killed them because they disrespected his faith.

    Devon Arthurs, 18, of Tampa told police  he shared neo-Nazi beliefs with his roommates, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk, until he converted to Islam and shot them because they disrespected his faith.
[Photo courtesy of Tampa Police]
  3. Nelson, Rubio want Trump to back off cuts to drug office


    Citing an opioid crisis “devastating Florida,” Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio are asking the Trump administration to back off plans to gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    A letter to the Office of Management and Budget
  4. US President Donald Trump, left,  meets with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Monday, in Jerusalem. Trump opened his first visit to Israel Monday, a two-day stop aimed at testing the waters for jumpstarting the dormant Middle East peace process. [AP photo]
  5. Study: Florida most friendly state for retired veterans

    Working Life

    Florida is the nation's best state for military retirees looking for somewhere to settle. That's according to a study released Monday by WalletHub which rated Florida the most friendly when it comes to economic factors, quality of life and health care.

    Veterans watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp in 2016. Florida is the most friendly state for retired veterans according to a new WalletHub study. | LOREN ELLIOTT, Times