Webster’s defines a “dilemma” as
“a situation involving an undesirable or unpleasant choice.”
Given that definition, the GOP may want to reconsider changing its name to the “Grand Dilemma Party.” The reasons can be found in what can only be described as the tepid response the party’s rank-and-file have demonstrated towards the party’s Presidential aspirants.
Much column space has been devoted to the vagaries of the Republican Presidential Primary season. The topsy-turvy nature of polls; the fact no candidate can seem to muster more than 40% of the electorate for longer than a week; the inability of any candidate to sustain momentum. The commentariat is busy trying to fit round pegs into square holes, though. They’ve completely missed the boat on what’s actually happening this year, having spent the majority of their professional lives ensconced in the daily trivialities of DC politics.
The narrative thus far runs something like this: there is a natural back-lash against establishment candidates, as represented most wholly by Mitt Romney. Each time a new “anti-Romney” rises (currently, that’s back to Rick Santorum) the electorate looks more closely at said candidate and decides he’s a bit too establishment for their tastes. The anti-Romney of the moment fades back, allowing Romney to capture a few states. The cycle then renews, but in the end the establishment candidate (Romney) wins because he will have the backing of the party machinery. The general GOP membership is resigned to this outcome, even if they aren’t happy about it, and so they’re largely staying home this cycle.
I think something more fundamental is at work within the party. To understand it, you have to return to 1980 and Ronald Reagan’s shock win over Jimmy Carter. (Yes, despite Carter’s bungling of the job, nobody really gave Reagan a legitimate chance of winning that November). Reagan’s magic was in forging a new Republican coalition. He began with the limited government Goldwater wing, mixed in the once strongly Democratic constituency of social conservatives from the Bible Belt, added in the anti-communist/strong defense types (who had fled the Republicans after Nixon’s pursuit of détente) and completed the soup with the Rockefeller Republicans. Most seem to forget now, but Reagan spoke often about his pursuit of a Republican Party “Big Tent” approach – the idea of bringing disparate groups together to work towards a common goal. In 1980, that goal was reinvigorating the American economy through (then radical) changes to monetary and fiscal policy, reducing the size of government while increasing America’s defense capabilities, reasserting American dominance in foreign affairs and direct confrontation with Communism and bringing back the traditional American themes of faith, family and hard work. The new groups in his coalition were referred to as “Reagan Democrats.” These were the people, generally blue-collar types from the South and Midwest, who President Obama derided during the 2008 election as “clinging to their guns and Bibles.”
The dilemma facing the Republican Party is that coalition is fracturing. The former Reagan Democrats and Goldwater Republicans that formed the backbone of that coalition are looking at their choices and felling less than satisfied. Moreover, they sense the Party has moved past them. There are either Rockefeller types (Romney and Gingrich) or aspirants to Jerry Falwell’s throne (Santorum), while the one candidate who hews closest Goldwater’s federalist view is also the one who is the antithesis of a strong US on the world stage (Paul). This leaves those two groups, who desperately want a return to the type of leadership exhibited by President Reagan, without a horse in the race. The result is each candidate has partially captured one constituency, but their individual flaws prevent them from fully claiming it. Romney has the Rockefeller wing for the most part, but it is a small part of the party base (in terms of numbers, not money). Santorum has the inside edge among Reagan Democrats (note his success in the Midwest); although his extreme views on using government to coerce, or even force, his moral code leaves many cold. Paul has captured perhaps half of the Goldwater wing, but his personal character issues and documented degradation of minorities limits his success there.
Can they recapture the coalition? They managed to pull things together enough to get George W. Bush elected in 2000 and re-elected in 2004. They lost a fair number of the small –government types, as was represented by the suppressed turn-out numbers in both years: neither party was putting forward a candidate that met that constituency’s desired goal, although both have been paying lip-service to that goal for 15 years now. The fact that constituency voted en masse for Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 undoubtedly cost the Republican Party the Presidency in both of those elections. But unlike 1992 or 1996, there isn’t a strong 3rd Party candidate who is advocating both a federalist view of government and strong foreign policy, and unlike 1980, there isn’t a defining vision of the future allocuted by any of the candidates to rally the disparate groups within the tent. That would seem to kick in the Republican electoral formula from 2000 – run a social conservative/Rockefeller hybrid and allow suppressed turn-out to allow him to win. The problem is this year, that ploy may not work. For starters, the Goldwater wing is particularly resurgent this cycle. Consider how the TEA Party, which is largely comprised of Goldwater types, pushed the Party into power in the 112th Congress and that Paul is polling at better than twice his career norms (this is his third try for the Republican nomination).
While the Rockefeller and social conservatives will likely unite behind either Romney or Santorum come the convention, they currently run the risk of alienating as much as 40% of the party’s base with such a decision. If they do, President Obama will win a tough election in November – and the Republican Party as we’ve known it for 32 years will cease to exist. What will be interesting to watch is what takes it place. Will there be three major political parties, the Democrats (absorbing what’s left of the Rockefeller wing), the Social Conservatives and the Fiscal Conservatives? Or will the big-spending social conservative and Rockefeller wing end up absorbed in the current Democratic Party, while the Republicans re-align around federalists principles? And can the current Democratic constituency accept the social conservatives again? After all, the reason Reagan was able to capture them in the first place was that the Democratic Party began purging them during Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency. Regardless, the outcome of this year’s Presidential election promises more change than perhaps anyone bargained for.
With apologies to the Walt Disney Corporation, Nevada has always been America’s “Land of Make-Believe.” After all, the state’s economy depends on making ordinarily sane Americans think they can show up with $500 in their pocket and leave with a cool million. But after yesterday’s Republican Presidential Caucus, it seems seems as if the state (and national) party sprinkled fairy dust on the nation’s journalists. Why? Because they’re all pretending as if yesterday’s vote is actually significant.
Ssshhh. Don’t wake the sleeping beauties in Las Vegas, but what they’re full of is usually found in a septic tank. But if you’re not afraid of being turned into a toad, here are three things to keep in mind before following the national media in their hallucination…
Point One: It looks as if only 35,000 or so people bothered to vote in the caucus. That’s roughly 1.5% of the state’s population. You could also, for comparison’s sake, note that this is about the same number of people as live in my hometown of Manahawkin. To pretend that Mitt Romney won a “resounding” or “decisive” or even “big” with minscule turnout like that is being more than a bit disingenuous.
Point Two: Of course Mitt won. Everyone expected him to win the state easily, given the inherent advantages he enjoyed. He won in 2008, one of the few states he did win that year. Then there’s the large number of Mormons that inhabit Nevada (I know, it seems incongruous that Sin City and the LDS co-habitate), giving Mitt a natural organizing advantage. It’s hardly surprising that Mitt won the percentage of the vote he did. It might be more surprising if he doesn’t capture 50% of the final tally. (Point 2A – people in Nevada might be able to count cards, but they have hard time counting votes. As of 2pm today, only 71% of the votes were counted.)
Point Three: Ron Paul seems equally caught up in the fairy tale being spun off the Vegas strip. The only candidate other than Romney to actively compete for Nevada, Paul’s third-place finish and fewer than 5,000 votes wouldn’t seem to be something anyone could put a positive spin on. But there was Paul this morning on ABC’s “This Week” program, doing his best to pretend his campaign is actually viable. The reality is that at best he’ll garner 4 of Nevada’s delegates, which would run his total to 8. If he wants to pretend having a campaign that rivals Rick Santorum’s for futility is viable, that’s fine. But he shouldn’t expect those of who aren’t insane to join him in his fantasies.
First off: if you’re a Paulbot, thanks for clicking on this post. Whenever I’m in need of boosting my viewership stats, I can count on you guys. Now, before you get all kinds of upset, you might as well read through to the end. After all, I’ve a serious question there, and your answers are appreciated.
Ron Paul may be ending his campaign for the Republican nomination sooner than later. I don’t pretend to have inside information. Odds are that if anyone from his campaign saw me walk through the door, they’d as soon shoot me as say hello. But as someone who has watched Ron Paul’s career for the past 30 years, the signs all point to Paul once again looking for an exit strategy.
First, consider that his entire campaign has been about building support for his nascent movement. To that end, he’s dedicated his campaign to winning convention delegates. While he realized he likely couldn’t win the outright nomination, the hope was his campaign would garner enough votes to accomplish two things: get a plank or two on the party platform and build a base within the party to further son Rand’s political career. Despite all of his bluster about only three primaries having been competed, the stark fact is that Paul is last in delegate count with only 4. That’s only 6% of the total awarded. If he holds to that percentage until the convention, the best he could hope for is to be a disruptive force – a result that would do absolutely nothing to help Rand’s career and everything to harm it.
Second, rather than gain momentum, his campaign has actually been losing steam. He won 21.4% of the vote in Iowa, 22.9% in New Hampshire, fell to 13% in South Carolina and so far is only polling 8% in Florida. Not that the Paul camp put much into Florida – a campaign focused on merely winning delegates would prefer to avoid winner-take-all states. Still, the trend line has to be disappointing for a campaign that hoped it build on a loyal base of support. But rather than build on that base, the more voters get acquainted with Ron, the more they seem to shun him.
Finally, there were two lines from Monday night’s debate that probably had a few Paulbots heads exploding. The first came shortly in, when Brian Williams asked Paul if he could support a Gingrich candidacy. “You know, he keeps hinting about attacking the Fed…If I could just change him on foreign policy, we might be able to talk.” Willing to endorse Gingrich probably isn’t what Paul’s supporters wanted to hear – but kow-towing to a potential nominee fits nicely with Paul’s goals. The second was his continued denial of a potential third-party bid, which is also in keeping with his goals this year. Besides, he has no easy route to a third party candidacy. In order to obtain the Libertarian Party nod, he would have to challenge Gary Johnson. And forming a new party for a one time, longshot bid at the Presidency is something that the Presidential campaign veteran wouldn’t consider.
So, here’s my question for those Ron Paul supporters who’ve made it this far: given that he has virtually no chance at winning the nomination, what should Ron Paul do next? Feel free to vote below and leave your comments.
Well, you knew it was coming, right? Establishment Republicans, as I’ve pointed out before, are determined that Mitt Romney will be the party’s Presidential nominee this November and will brook no compromise on the matter. Since last summer, I fully expected the party would do it’s best to eliminate anyone who dared get in the way of that result. After rising in the polls in early December, Newt Gingrich faced a potent barrage of negative coverage that dropped him to fourth place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. Then came the drubbing Gingrich delivered Romney in South Carolina and a 31 point swing in Florida polling, along with the two men virtually tying in national polls.
Cue the extensive establishment machinery. This morning, it seems every Republican-leaning pundit opened up on Gingrich in what seems suspiciously like a coordinated broadside aimed at derailing his campaign. Among the articles that stood out:
Ann Coulter, writing on her blog:
“To talk with Gingrich supporters is to enter a world where words have no meaning. They denounce Mitt Romney as a candidate being pushed on them by “the Establishment” — with “the Establishment” defined as anyone who supports Romney or doesn’t support Newt…
“This is the sort of circular reasoning one normally associates with Democrats, people whom small-town pharmacists refer to as “drug seekers” and Ron Paul supporters.
Romney is the most electable candidate not only because it will be nearly impossible for the media to demonize this self-made Mormon square, devoted to his wife and church, but precisely because he is the most conservative candidate.”
Former Senator and failed Presidential candidate Bob Dole:
“In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad. He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it, and I’m not certain he knew either.”
Rich Lowry, in an article damningly entitled “Gingrich: The Republican Clinton“:
“Newt is the Republican Clinton — shameless, needy, hopelessly egotistical. The two former adversaries and tentative partners have largely the same set of faults and talents. They are self-indulgent, prone to disregard rules inconvenient to them, and consumed by ambition. They are glib, knowledgeable, and imaginative. They are baby boomers who hadn’t fully grown up even when they occupied two of the most powerful offices in the land.”
In a similarly themed article in The American Spectator, Emmett Tyrell’s writing is nearly syllable-for-syllable:
“Newt and Bill are, of course, 1960s generation narcissists, and they share the same problems: waywardness and deviancy. Newt, like Bill, has a proclivity for girl hopping. It is not as egregious as Bill’s, but then Newt is not as drop-dead beautiful. His public record is already besmeared with tawdry divorces, and there are private encounters with the fair sex that doubtless will come out. If I have heard of some, you can be sure the Democrats have heard of more. Nancy Pelosi’s intimations are timely.”
Perhaps no author sums up the Establishment’s “Fear of Newt” better than Eliot Abrams. Abrams, in decrying Newt’s penchant for publicly disagreeing with policies he views as flawed:
“Presidents should not get automatic support, not even from members of their own party, but they have a right to that support when they are under a vicious partisan assault.”
Comparing Gingrich supporters to Ron Paul supporters and Democrats is ignoring the fact that unlike either of the latter, Gingrich’s support has waxed and waned weekly. You can attach many adjectives to Newt’s supporters, but “fanatical” would be the most disingenuous. Of course, anyone willing to call Mitt Romney “the most conservative candidate” has already escaped the bounds of reality. The remaining establishment attacks seem to focus on two themes.
The first is that Newt is the ultimate RINO, willing to abandon the party in order to further his own views. This probably is an accurate depiction, but not much of an attack. Abrams’ attack line is viewed by most Americans as a positive – we prefer our Representatives to vote their conscience and not the party line. In a year when the electorate is largely disgusted with the way the party establishment has failed, attacking a candidate for preferring to vest in his own beliefs over orthodoxy is probably not a smart play. The base wants a candidate who’s willing to shake things up a bit – that certainly isn’t Romney. It could be Ron Paul, but by pointing out that Gingrich has a history of breaking with party orthodoxy the establishment allows him to claim that mantle.
The second is that Gingrich is flawed in character; volatile in nature and unable to lead. This line of attack is similar to the one employed in December with success. The problem is that line of attack isn’t new. Voters are well acquainted with Gingrich’s peccadilloes from the 90’s. If they’re as willing to overlook them in Florida as they were in South Carolina, the establishment is likely out of bullets.
This is just a sampling of the pile-on that seems to be taking place. Fear is in the establishment air, understandably so. Gingrich already leads in delegates. Florida is the first “winner-take-all” primary; adding another 50 delegates to his total guarantees that Romney can’t get the lead in the delegate count until March. What the establishment still hopes to sell the party – that Romney is the only electable candidate – would be forever gone as an argument. Because of that, fully expect party leaders to turn up the heat even further on Gingrich until January 31. They can’t risk having a “rogue” candidate win.
The debate just ended and I thought this one was more spirited than the previous 217 debates.
I think Newt Gingrich won this one, but just barely. His opening was like a shotgun blast, hitting his ex-wife and John King with enough birdshot to wound both. Rick Santorum had his best debate to date, but it was fueled solely by his animosity towards Newt. On the issues, he skitchy – and his answer on SOPA was Orwellian double-speak. Mitt Romney once again survived relatively unscathed, but it’s amazing that he still hasn’t come up with a solid answer about his tax returns. (Hint: we know you’re rich, Mitt). As for Ron Paul, he was a non-factor, although the Paulbots did force King to let him answer a few questions.
As for the questions, several real issues were left out of the mix to allow for rambling, nonsensical answers to rambling, nonsensical questions. But, hey at least we avoided the Diet Coke question.
In case you hadn’t noticed, yesterday New Hampshire had a primary. Mitt Romney won. Here’s five other things you should know.
- Mitt Romney may be inevitable: Romney wasn’t running so much against the other Republican candidates as against expectations in New Hampshire. Since the state is a second home for the front-runner, he was expected to win – and win big. Earlier, I wrote that anything less than 40% of the vote would be disappointing for his camp. Well, Romney met and possibly beat expectations. 40% of the vote? Check. Double digit lead over number 2? Check – second place finisher Ron Paul finished 17 points back. Increase in share over his 2008 run? Check – he even beat 2008 winner John McCain’s share. On top of all that, he pulled off a feat no non-incumbent Republican has managed: first place finishes in both Iowa and New Hampshire. That’s pretty impressive. One can forgive Mitt if he’s feeling a bit smug today.
- Then again, maybe not: Now comes the hard part for Romney. The campaign shifts to the South, with the South Carolina primary on January 21 up next, followed by Florida on January 31. Yes, South Carolina, home to the Tea Party and where over half the Republican electorate identifies as being evangelical. The state is about as diametrically opposed to New Hampshire as one gets. Look for the attacks to come fast and furious now, as the various conservative alternatives pile-on in an attempt to paint Romney as nothing more than Barack Obama in Mormon clothing. If he falters at all, it could open the door to one of the other challengers to get a crucial win and pull the shine off the campaign’s front runner.
- Kiss Jon Huntsman good–bye: Huntsman bet the ranch on if not a win, then at least a strong showing in the Granite State. A 17% third place finish doesn’t really meet the standard. Really, he has no one else to blame but himself (and maybe his campaign manager). I’ve been watching politics for over three decades and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more disjointed campaign. His only concrete position seemed to be anti-everything Republican Party. He never adequately defended his diplomatic service in the current administration – and seemed pro-China in his foreign policy. Actually, I’ve never figured how he lasted this long, other than that the mainstream media loves the guy. Unless he’s willing to spend his considerable fortune to fly around the country bashing Romney (it’s possible), Iook for Huntsman to slip quietly away. And for David Brooks to write a column lambasting fellow Republicans for not giving Huntsman a fair shot.
- New Hampshire still hates social conservatives: Beware social conservatives in 2016. You may want to skip New Hampshire. The combined vote totals for the three social conservative candidates didn’t even match Huntsman’s total. This comes four years after social conservatives Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson and Duncan Hunter split 13% of the vote. New Hampshire may be the home of fiscal conservatism and small government, but they don’t want their politicians dealing with personal matters of faith or family.
- Can Ron Paul keep the momentum moving? Paul has managed to harness large numbers of college students, independents and disaffected Democrats in both Iowa and New Hampshire, each time coming in with slightly more than 1/5 of the vote (21.8% in Iowa; 22.9% in New Hampshire). But neither electorate is as conservative as South Carolina’s. And Florida’s electorate is more than slightly older than college age. Can he continue to pull 1/5 of the vote (and be a thorn in the GOP’s rear at the same time)? If yes, then look for him to seriously contest Romney in the remaining caucus states. If his decidedly isolationist foreign policy scares the large number of military retirees in South Carolina and anti-Social Security/Medicare stance riles up the Floridians, Paul will be a footnote in a history text.
- Can conservatives rally in time? South Carolina is social conservatives last real opportunity to derail the Romney train. So far, it looks like a repeat of 2008, when Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson beat each other up. McCain wound up winning the state; Thompson was forced to drop out and Huckabee was never a real factor again. This year, you can cast Rick Santorum as Huckabee and Rick Perry as Thompson – but the script looks awfully familiar. (The difference is this year we have Newt Gingrich, but more on him in a moment). Like Huckabee, Santorum pulled off a surprising finish in Iowa. Like Huckabee, he virtually disappeared in New Hampshire. Perry, like Thompson, was an also-ran in Iowa. Unlike Thompson, he didn’t even register as a blip in New Hampshire (really Rick? Less than 1% of the vote?). The conservative’s best hope is a pair of confab’s taking place this weekend, one in Texas and the other in South Carolina. If the powers that be can’t decide to back one of the conservatives left in the race, look for a replay of 2008.
- Newt Gingrich is now…a Democrat?!? We all knew Newt loathes Mitt. We all knew Newt was waiting for his chance to go “nucular” on Mitt after the way Romney and his SuperPAC demolished Gingrich’s chances in Iowa. None of us realized how far Newt would go. In fact, over the past 48 hours, Newt sounds more like Barack Obama than a Republican in his denunciation of free markets and Romney’s participation. He’s already been blasted by conservative media (see video below). And, his attack didn’t help him in New Hampshire, where he only polled 9% of the vote. Is Newt going to continue along this line, or will party bosses work to neuter him? If there’s one thing the past 25 years has taught us, it’s that Newt will always put himself above party. But still, it’s an amazing turn-around for a man who only ten days ago was chiding his fellow candidates for breaking the Reagan Commandment – even for Newt Gingrich.
- The Obama Campaign better be nervous: Ok, New Hampshire really isn’t indicative of the country as a whole. But still, turnout in yesterday’s primary beat 2008 by better than 10% as unhappy Democrats and Independents showed up to vote Republican. Even taking away the pull of Ron Paul, that’s a lot of people who voted for Obama in 2008 who decided to vote for somebody else this year. The first referendum on the Obama presidency is in, and it isn’t good news for the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Iowa caucuses are over. As usual, they haven’t defined who will win – but they appear to have narrowed the field considerably. Here’s five things other things Iowans clarified last night.
1. The GOP establishment is in trouble: The Republican Old Guard has rallied around Mitt Romney, pitching him as the “electable” candidate who is “inevitable.” They may not say as much, but they have to be worried. Their inevitable candidate has yet to blast through his glass ceiling of support, ending up with only 25% of last night’s vote. Or, to put it in terms they don’t want to hear, 75% of Republican rank-and-file aren’t buying into either the electability or inevitability of Romney – margins eerily similar to the polling prior to the caucus in both Iowa and the national party. They’ll continue to pour in their support (see: John McCain), but Romney is in for a much tougher fight than he or his establishment backers originally thought. A real sign of trouble will be if Romney can’t get past 40% in New Hampshire. If that happens, expect the establishment to really open up with a full barrage – and risk alienating their party’s base of support.
2. Tea Party Conservatives are coalescing: around Rick Santorum. This is the big story out of the caucuses, and already the left is going off a cliff at the idea of a legitimate Santorum candidacy. The real question is how far can Santorum go? He has limited funding and a skeleton operation. He finished strong in Iowa based on old-fashioned retail politicking, a method which is impossible in a nationwide primary. Still, with Michelle Bachmann now officially out and Rick Perry sounding like he is, Tea Partiers are waking to the realization it’s either Santorum or Gingrich for them – and most have an understandable aversion to Newt. Romney may think Santorum will be easy pickings, based on the latter’s lack of political organization. But, the existing Tea Party groups (such as Tea Party Express) may give Santorum all the organization he needs to compete. If they publicly endorse Santorum in the coming days, look for his campaign to take off.
3. Newt Gingrich is back in his comfort zone: Newt as the peacemaker never really fit his temperament or his history. Based on his statements leading up to last night’s vote and his remarks after, it sounds as if Newt is going to happily stick around for as long as he can, if just to make life miserable for Romney. Lord knows hell hath no fury like a Gingrich crossed and it looks as if Mitt is about to discover that first hand.
4. The real “flavor of the month” was Ron Paul: No candidate needed a win in Iowa more than Paul. Although he tallied 21% of the vote, the stark reality is that among registered Republicans he only garnered 14%. This comes less than a week after leading all candidates among Republicans in Iowa. It seems once they became familiar with some of his zanier ideas and positions, GOP voters decided a man from Venus wasn’t their best option. Yes, Paul did well in bringing Democrats and independents in to vote for him and the fervor among his disciples is reminiscent of Obama in 2008, but his candidacy is basically over. Look for him to do well in New Hampshire’s open primary, then bolt to challenge Gary Johnson for the Libertarian Party nomination after getting whitewashed in South Carolina.
5. The key to the race is still held by Rick Perry: Perry is still officially in the race, although he has gone back to Texas to reexamine his candidacy. Politicians rarely return from self-imposed exile to resume a campaign. However, Perry still has the second largest war chest of any candidate and several PAC’s that were supporting him. Assuming he drops out of the race, the question is: does he keep his money for a potential bid in 2016, or throw that financial might behind a Santorum candidacy? Buoyed by Perry’s finances, Santorum becomes much more formidable – a fact that Perry, who harbors as much (if not more) animosity towards Romney as Gingrich should be all too aware of.
UPDATED 1:02PM: No sooner did I hit publish on this than I read this article from AP, insinuating Perry is going to continue at least through South Carolina. If that is the case (no confirmation yet one way or the other), than point number 5 becomes moot.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
“After 13 debates and most of a year of campaigning, the selection of a Republican nominee begins Tuesday night in Iowa.
“There’s one candidate in the field of seven whom Republicans cannot trust with their votes: Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
“Behind the grandfatherly, unpolished demeanor is a radical with economic and foreign policy views so dangerous they make him utterly unfit to be the party’s nominee, much less commander-in-chief.
“The congressman doesn’t simply want to reform the Federal Reserve bank, one of the pillars of a stable international monetary system. Paul wants to “end the Fed.”
“He doesn’t simply want to shift foreign aid, which, at about 1% of the U.S. budget, is generally a wise investment in saving lives and advancing American values. He wants to eliminate it.
“He views Social Security and Medicare as outright unconstitutional.
“Paul opposes sanctions to stop the Iranian mullahs from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He wants to withdraw all U.S. armed forces from Afghanistan, even if the Taliban and Al Qaeda take over again. He showed his warped thinking in an Op-Ed penned for these pages in October that ludicrously claimed the American drone strike that killed terror master Anwar al-Awlaki violated the Constitution.
“A former senior aide who worked with Paul for 15 years recalls that after the 9/11 attacks, Paul ‘engaged in conspiracy theories including perhaps the attacks were coordinated with the CIA” and “expressed no sympathies whatsoever for those who died on 9/11.’
“And we haven’t even mentioned the racially inflammatory and anti-Israel newsletters sent under Paul’s name in the 1980s and 1990s that he disavows and claims he never read.
“Late polls show that this man could win Iowa.
“Republican caucusgoers Tuesday night should do the country a service and bury Paul’s campaign in the cornfields.”
Ron Paul, the Libertarian leaning Congressman from Texas, will not get this Libertarian’s vote for President.
This probably comes as a surprise. Given the legions of Ron Paul fans, which appear poised to capture the Iowa caucus for their hero tomorrow, that’s understandable. But there are very good reasons I can’t support Dr. Paul in his Presidential bid.
For starters, although I have no personal knowledge as to whether or not he is a closet racist, there’s been enough written about the subject to give me pause. There are the newsletters authored in his name during the late 80’s and early 90’s. There is a litany of anti-Jewish statements made throughout his long tenure in politics. There’s his curious refusal to disavow the support he’s receiving from David Duke, various Ku Klux Klan factions and the American Nazi Party. If Dr. Paul were a true libertarian, he would be justified in supporting those groups right to spew their hate, as I do. But as I and every other Libertarian I know does, he would also condemn such speech for what it is: not fit for human consumption, except for the buffoons who speak it. To date, Ron Paul has yet to so, although he has taken significant sums of money from those baboons.
And about those newsletters: I am willing to give Dr. Paul the benefit of the doubt that the hateful passages in them were ghost written. However, if you’re going to be President of the United States, you need either an incredibly meticulous attention to detail or to have someone on your staff who does. If, as he has claimed, he was unaware of what was published in his name until confronted with them in 1996, then that shows a lack of oversight that is completely unacceptable in the nation’s Chief Executive. If he was aware of what was being disseminated in his name, but took no action to stop it – which seems more likely – then that shows the type of poor judgment and moral character that should never be allowed into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. After all, those newsletters brought in millions for Paul. It speaks to Dr. Paul’s priorities. Combined with those contributions from the hate groups, it appears Dr. Paul is more concerned with personal profit than dispelling the worst racial and ethnic stereotypes our society has to offer.
There is no doubt that Congressman Paul’s devotion to the cause of personal liberty is real. In the year of the ideological candidate, Dr. Paul is easily the most ideological of them all. Listening to his stump speech (which has only been slightly modified from his original Presidential run in 1988), you get the impression that this is a man who firmly believes what he says. In fact, that unwavering adherence to his ideals is partly responsible for the allegiance his candidacy creates among his followers. While I also support the ideal of personal freedom, the nation as a whole is not ready for the other side of the coin: personal responsibility. If you doubt that, then look no further than the past year. The fights we’ve had over budget priorities; the Occupy movement; these point to a nation still enthralled with Big Government over the hazards of personal freedom and responsibility. Forcing that on the country will lead to blood on the streets. I believe the long-term solution for the country is to return to the Libertarian government we were founded on; I’m pragmatic enough to understand that undoing 100 years of government creep needs to be undone incrementally. If your’e certain I’m wrong, end Social Security tomorrow and watch what happens. Pragmatism is not a Paul strong suit, at least when it comes to governing (it is, of course, when it comes accepting those infernal campaign donations).
That lack of pragmatism is particularly evident in his proposed foreign policy – or perhaps lack of a foreign policy. It’s understandable that a nation that has been at war for 43 of the past 50 years would grow tired of foreign entanglements. But we cannot renounce our international obligations, pack up and come home without plunging the world into utter chaos. One truism has ruled the world since the dawn of civilization: power abhors a vacuum. In a world that is increasingly interdependent, someone had to provide the glue that keeps humanity from entering into a war over resources and economies that would incinerate the globe. Whether or not we like it, absenting ourselves from the world stage would result in just that. After World War II, the world was left with two superpowers. With the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, only the USA remains. The treaties, alliances and trade we’ve developed in the past 70 years are all focused on keeping us prosperous. Abandoning them now would be cataclysmic at best.
And finally, there are is cult of personality that is propelling the Ron Paul candidacy. Fanatical to the core, these people scare me far more than Ron Paul ever will. The world has seen other leaders come to power whose only qualification was the ability to inspire slavish devotion from their followers: Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Napoleon, Julius Caesar. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks those results were positive. Less extreme, but much more recent, we have the current President – whose tenure thus far has been a disappointment to his followers but about what the rest of us expected.
RON PAUL SUPPORTERS: If you’re looking for a Libertarian who is pragmatic enough to actually accomplish something without alienating 80% of your fellow human beings, look to Gary Johnson. Abandoning Ron Paul would be the smartest decision you’ve made.
Here we go again. In four days, the nation is going to let a state representing 7 electoral votes set the tone for the quadrennial Presidential Election process. This state is hardly representative of the nation as a whole, either. The residents of Iowa have more disposable income than the rest of us. Demographically, Iowa is less ethnically diverse, less educated and more rural than the country in general. The state’s largest city, Des Moines, is ranked 106th in total population and 98th in population density – making it more a large suburb than an actual city.
Why do we do this? Why do we allow 1.2% of the nation’s populace decide the fate of the Unites States for the next four years? I can’t think of a particularly good reason. But I can think of a particularly good way to end the charade. Have all primaries conducted on the same day.
To be clear, I am NOT advocating for federal administration of primary elections. The states have done a fine job running them. If they would rather have the circus atmosphere of a caucus than an election, fine. If they want restrictive and onerous ballot rules, okay. This is directed at the national parties, who are responsible for creating the primary schedule and have perpetrated the insanity of allowing a very non-representative portion of the population to determine their candidates for President. (After Iowa comes New Hampshire, with its four electoral votes and even less representative of the nation).
But a National Primary Day does several things to help end the confusion common to Presidential primaries. First, it effectively ends the candidacy of people with marginal appeal. Let’s face it, by focusing all of their energies on one small state, some pretty marginal people have been able to enter the national conversation based on one position – only to fade into political oblivion. Mike Huckabee won Iowa, only to become a talk show host. Pat Buchanan used Iowa to re-energize a fading career as a political pundit. Howard Dean made plenty of noise in Iowa, only to become a punch-line on late night television. This year, can anyone really imagine that the race baiting history of a Ron Paul wouldn’t be a political albatross in states with more than a 5% minority population? Or that single issue candidates Michelle Bachmann or Rick Santorum would be players on a national stage?
Second, having all Presidential primaries contested at the same time would require candidates to create a national political organization. Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry were surprised by their inability to get on the Virginia primary ballot. Yet the underlying reason is their inability to properly organize. Gingrich can be excused, in a sense; his campaign is underfunded and was largely seen as a joke until last month (although, residing in Virginia probably means he should have understood the rules better than any other candidate). Perry, however, has oodles of money – more than anyone in the race not named Romney – and his inability is due simply to a lack of campaign oversight. Seriously, do we want a President who can’t organize well enough to ensure he’s on every state ballot? Or hire someone to do that for him? Making speeches is one thing, but ensuring the basics are attended to is an essential leadership trait. The United States federal government is a much larger enterprise than any political campaign. A candidate who can’t assume the responsibilities of Chief Executive of a political campaign certainly can’t be trusted to be the Chief Executive of the United States.
Finally, a National Primary Day ensures that every primary vote carries the same weight. The essential element is this: by giving various states an initial say in the nominating process, the citizens voting later have less input. Odds are that by the time “Super Tuesday” rolls around, the parties have already settled on a presumptive nominee. By the time I get to cast a ballot in June, the nominee has been decided – voting becomes nothing more than a pro forma exercise in civic responsibility. The effect, of course, is suppressed turnout in those states, which has dramatic effects on down ballot candidates and initiatives.
It is time to end the madness. Allowing the voters in Iowa (or New Hampshire) to have more input than voters in California (or us poor New Jerseyans) is one 19th century idea whose time has passed.