Guy Fawkes, a 17th-century English mercenary and terrorist who tried to blow up the
Houses of Parliament, is an unlikely figurehead for a US Republican presidential candidate.
But Ron Paul is neither a run-of-the-mill Republican nor a typical presidential aspirant.
His supporters announced yesterday that they had smashed Republican
fundraising records by hauling in a total of $4.3 million (£2 million) for his
campaign from more than 37,000 donors over the previous 24 hours.
And they did it online, through the website ThisNovember5th.com, where
Mr Paul’s speeches have been mashed up with clips of the film V for Vendetta,
in which a sinister – but ultimately heroic – terrorist modelled on Fawkes destroys
a fascist government in Britain. “Remember, remember, the fifth of November”
is moved from British nursery rhyme to a campaign slogan in America.
Mr Paul, a 72-year-old ten-term Texas congressman, has been dismissed
widely as a “kook” in the 2008 race. He advocates “Austrian economics”,
a return to the gold standard and an end to the Iraq war.
He also wants the withdrawal of all American troops from abroad and the abolition
of most government departments, including Energy, Education and Homeland Security
Some of his supporters believe that 9/11 was an inside job by the American Government,
others are white supremacists. Much to his own surprise, Mr Paul has become a cult figure
among libertarians and students who pack rallies wearing “Ron Paul Revolution” T-shirts.
Like Howard Dean four years ago, it is the internet and a host of unofficial websites that
are propelling him forward: Mr Paul’s name is the most searched of any candidate, his YouTube
videos are the most watched and he regularly wins online polls after Republican presidential debates.
Unlike Mr Dean, who came close to winning the 2004 Democratic nomination,
Mr Paul stands no chance of becoming the Republicans’ 2008 nominee.
In national opinion polls he barely registers, and even in New Hamp-shire – the “live free or die” state –
he gets an average of only 3.6 per cent support, according to RealClearPolitics.com, which tracks such surveys.
But his phenomenal fundraising achievements mean that Mr Paul has more than mere
nuisance value in this White House race. In the third quarter of this year he raised
$5.3 million, an amount similar to that generated by the former front-runner John McCain.
He has set a goal of raising a further $12 million by the end of the year.
Yesterday Mr Paul attributed the record-breaking achievement to a “powerful message”
and the frustration of people “who do not like the war and do not like the economy”.
Asked whether it was appropriate to use the image of Fawkes and November 5 in this way, he said
that it was “just a gimmick”. He added that he had never spoken to organisers of the website.
“We advocate a nonviolent – but revolutionary – approach.”
His spokesman issued a further clarification, saying that Mr Paul
did not support blowing up parliaments or assassinating kings.
“He wants to demolish things like the Department of Education, but we can do that very peacefully.”