Saturday, February 04, 2012

Ron Paul's thick blue line

The fact that Ron Paul blows the rest of the GOP presidential field out of the water when it comes to campaign contributions from military personnel is one that the Republican establishment can't profitably address. This isn't 1975. In 2012, US military personnel are among the most respected and honored people in the country. Consequently, asserting that the soldiers making the contributions are "nutty" or "disgusting" as they do Ron Paul isn't viable.

So it ends up being discussed on leftist networks like MSNBC more than it does on neocon organs like Fox News or in the WSJ, where ignoring it is the favored tactic. The working assumption among those who do confront it is that those who are on the ground actually doing the legwork for the nation-building efforts that define contemporary US foreign policy are the most strongly opposed to them. It serves as a pretty powerful endorsement of Paul's views.

But occupations aside, Paul's civilian base of support--conservative- and libertarian-leaning young men--is demographically similar to that of active US military personnel. So it's conceivable that this overlap, more than any specific affinity for Paul's non-interventionist foreign policy, explains his popularity among American soldiers.

The country's police forces are comprised of men and women cut from a similar cloth as its military personnel are, but in their day-to-day lives, police officers are presumably a lot more concerned about domestic policy issues and correspondingly less focused on foreign policy than their military brothers are.

Following this line of reasoning, I went to the FEC's website and downloaded the donor listing for all individuals who listed "police" as their employer or occupation through the end of 2011, and then backed out MPs from those listings. The proceeding table ranks all 2012 (current and former) presidential aspirants who have received campaign donations from those in police forces across the country by the amount of money each has taken in:

$ received
1. Barack Obama
2. Ron Paul
3. Newt Gingrich
4. Rick Perry
5. Herman Cain
6. Michelle Bachmann
7. Mitt Romney
8. Rick Santorum
9. Tim Pawlenty
10. Charles 'Buddy' Roemer

In contrast to military money, nearly two-thirds of which flows to the GOP candidates, police money is almost evenly split among Republicans and Democrats (Obama). Paul's police advantage over the rest of the GOP field is not as gargantuan as his $6-to-$1 military advantage is, but he still beats the next highest Republican recipient by a $3-to-$1 margin.

To the extent, then, that this crude attempt to tease out how much of Paul's support among the military is due to his non-interventionist foreign policy and how much is due to the general appeal of a less intrusive, less bureaucratic, and less powerful federal government to right-leaning young guys full of testosterone is useful, it suggests the answer resides somewhere in between.


Anonymous said...

There seems to be a pretty high number of police who think the drug war is a bad thing. I have never seen any studies on this, but hearing from policemen it is common. The drug war has been good for the top ranks of police, funding and power, but not so good for the rank and file. This issue would cut in RP's favor, I'd think.

Audacious Epigone said...

Yeah, that's probably what the sum of my experiences talking to cops would tell me (and because of my job, I do a lot of it). I'm surprised there apparently hasn't been any systematic survey on law enforcement's view of federal drug policy. I'm finding various organizations that support legalization, of course, but nothing statistically rigorous.

Mikey said...

I'm not sure a simple comparison between police and military contributions will tease out what you are looking for unless you take into account the mean ages of military and civilian police.

Police would tend to swing older, and I think that would have more to do with the differences than anything else. With apologies to MSNBC, I think the demographic answer, that "Paul's civilian base of support--conservative- and libertarian-leaning young men--is demographically similar to that of active US military personnel," is probably closer to the true answer.

Of course, I'm basing it on me. That described me as a young soldier many years ago, and as I've aged, my politics has mellowed out as well.

The idea that military is contributing to a candidate because they support an isolationist foreign policy that would leave them safe and sound in US barracks is wishful thinking on the part of the left.

Fascist Blogger said...

This is very interesting data. Based on there ostensible love of liberty and their anti-authoritarian bent, many wouldn't expect libertarians (Paul supporters) to be found disproportionately in rather authoritarian occupations (military and police).

I'm having trouble understanding how the US military personnel being disproportionately right-wing would explain their disproportionate support of Paul relative to other republicans. Right-wing is not the same thing as libertarian and it seems to me that it would be expected that the military would be more right-wing but not necessarily expected that among the military right-wing, there would be disproportionately many libertarians.

The youthfulness of the military would be expected to skew them in favour of Paul but, as Mikey pointed out, that doesn't work very well wrt Paul's disproportionate support among the police.

That the military supports Paul doesn't necessarily lend credence to anti-interventionism. One could suppose that the troops are merely cowardly and/or selfish and that they want to collect their paychecks without having to risk their life, regardless of whether the mission is just or not.

Audacious Epigone said...

Fascist blogger,

That could be supposed, although never suggested in polite company. It'd be interesting to see donations broken down even further by branch, but that's not practical with the amount of information the FEC requires, unfortunately.