First things first: I consider myself a conservative with a decent libertarian streak. I consider libertarianism to be a helpful in-house critique of conservatism. So the presence of Ron Paul and Ron Paul fans in the Republican party is largely a good thing, I think.
But Ron Paul fans are a diverse lot. You can largely filter them by asking the question “Will Ron Paul ever be President?” If their answer is “No, but I’m voting for him to send an important message,” then no worries, and you can probably have a good thought-provoking conversation. I’ve had several and enjoyed them.
If their answer is “He’s the only one who can beat Obama,” or “the party bosses would never let that happen,” or “Yes, if it weren’t for the system / Romney’s evil minions / the secret cabal of Communists meeting at Chris Christie’s house,” I find it best to back away slowly. These are the guys who use “neocon” like a curse word for everybody other than Dr. Paul and claim there’s no difference between Obama and Romney. (Now I have my qualms with Romney, but as I tweeted recently, if you can’t tell the difference between him and Obama, you deserve Obama.)
Which brings me to my point. A lot of Paul fans are frustrated that the party isn’t taking them seriously, to which my response is: Why should they?
You have all these voters who 1) can’t out-and-out win a single state for their guy and 2) are not going to vote for the nominee. Voters supporting a Republican candidate who argue that the Republican candidate is perhaps a worse choice than Obama. In other words, these are not Republicans. These are folks who are going to take their toys and go home if things don’t go their way. From the standpoint of the party, they’re haters– people you’re never going to win. So why should you try?
Barack Obama would be foolish to spend one cent or one moment’s worth of energy to persuade guys like me to vote for him. It’s never going to happen. The same is true for Romney and some– not all– Ron Paul fans. The thing for him to do is talk fiscal sanity, make his case to those who are persuadable (whether to his right or left), and not chase the haters. That just makes sense.