My colleague, Connie Reece, preaches to me about social media being all about transparency and authenticity. She’s right. Ron Paul, a libertarian who is serving in Congress and running for President as a Republican, has struck a nerve in the American online community by being absolutely who he really is and by letting everyone know, who will listen, just exactly how he sees the national and international situation today. In an age of consultant driven politics, he is defying conventional wisdom. Because of social media, he is becoming relevant. Wired magazine has an excellent article on the online phenomenon surrounding the insurgent effort by Paul. Most interesting to me is that the Ron Paul phenomenon is a spontaneous grassroots and ‘netroots movement, not one engineered from a campaign “war room.”
The one point the article does miss is that the Ron Paul “movement”, while made possible by the new technologies associated with social media, is really inspired by the message. Paul is speaking out directly in contradiction to the party he hopes to get the nomination from. He’s openly critical of his party and the President on matters ranging from the Iraq War, which he opposes, to the federal budget crisis, which he sees as very not-Republican. His willingness to be completely honest, within a process that is known for spin and nuance, is apparently winning him supporters. Will it make a difference in the end? We will see whether his adoring fans, who are proficient at participating in online polls and commenting on blogs, are willing to mix it up with the folks who are already out there “in the trenches”, organizing political efforts and voting on election day. If they do show up in person, Ron Paul’s followers might just be one of the big stories of 2008.