The Spoiler: Ron Paul and the Democracy that Sets Us Up to Fail

Ron Paul-lover I'm not, but isn't it depressing that "spoiler" is the only function an independent candidate serves?

Continuing the primary pattern of 2012, Ron Paul has taken his turn basking in the GOP spotlight with a third-place finish at the Iowa caucus. Still, most pundits agree it's unlikely he'll get the party's nomination—even Paul himself isn't so confident—so some supporters have been calling for Ron Paul to run as an independent. If he does, it's not hard to imagine the outcome: He'll lose, splinter the conservative vote, and hand a victory to Obama.

How do we know this? Because that's what we assume about any independent or third-party candidate in a presidential election. When it comes to Congress, the results are a little more unpredictable—consider, for example, Florida's 2010 three-way race, in which GOP candidate Marco Rubio rode the wave of Tea Party fervor to beat out establishment Democrat Kendrick Meek and moderate Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist. But in presidential elections, an independent is a "spoiler," not a visionary, the target of ire from the party most closely associated with his politics. Think Ross Perot. Or Ralph Nader.

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