This Ron Paul guy isn't very mainstream, is he?

And yet Paul has appeal (which I find appalling, to riff on Adlai Stevenson’s great old line) among people who would normally find such views risible. I can’t tell you the number of people I encountered in 2008 who said they were Barack Obama supporters first and foremost, but, by cracky, they were also kinda interested in this Paul fellow.

This seemed completely insane to me, a person who sees the world first through ideology. But then I realized that for this cohort, it was more emotional than intellectual (as much of politics is, even though we’re not supposed to admit that). People who like to think of themselves as outsiders gravitate toward … duh, outsiders. Some people take great comfort in backing candidates they know will never win—they prefer, on some deep level, to fall short and be angry about it. It encases their loserdom in a carapace of purity and righteousness. I had a friend, a hard-core leftist (actually, toward the end, he would not have called me his friend), who liked to say: “Vote for the loser, he’ll never let you down.” His posture was more ideological than emotional, but it amounts to the same thing in the end—keep the system’s blood off your hands.