"It is on great occasions only, and after time has been given for cool and deliberate reflection, that the real voice of the people can be known." —George Washington.
There are two stories coming out of New Hampshire. The big story is Mitt Romney. The bigger one is Ron Paul.
Romney won a major victory with nearly 40 percent of the vote, 16 points ahead of No. 2. The split among his challengers made the outcome even more decisive. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were diminished by distant, lower-tier finishes. Rick Perry got less than 1 percent. And Jon Huntsman, who staked everything on New Hampshire, came in a weak third with less than half of Romney’s vote. He practically moved to the state — and then received exactly one-sixth of the vote in a six-man contest. Where does he go from here?
But the bigger winner was Ron Paul. He got 21 percent in Iowa, 23 in New Hampshire, the only candidate other than Romney to do well with two very different electorates, one more evangelical and socially conservative, the other more moderate and fiscally conservative.
Paul commands a strong, energetic, highly committed following. And he is unlike any of the other candidates. They’re out to win. He admits he doesn’t see himself in the Oval Office. They’re one-time self-contained enterprises aiming for the White House. Paul is out there to build a movement that will long outlive this campaign —Libertarianism
Charles Krauthammer writes in the Washington Post:
“Paul is less a candidate than a “cause,” to cite his election-night New Hampshire speech. Which is why that speech was the only one by a losing candidate that was sincerely, almost giddily joyous. The other candidates had to pretend they were happy with their results.
Paul was genuinely delighted with his, because, after a quarter-century in the wilderness, he’s within reach of putting his cherished cause on the map. Libertarianism will have gone from the fringes — those hopeless, pathetic third-party runs — to a position of prominence in a major party.
Look at him now. He’s getting prime-time air, interviews everywhere and, most important, respect for defeating every Republican candidate but one. His goal is to make himself leader of the opposition — within the Republican Party.
He is Jesse Jackson of the 1980s, who represented a solid, African American, liberal-activist constituency to which, he insisted, attention had to be paid by the Democratic Party. Or Pat Buchanan (briefly) in 1992, who demanded — and gained — on behalf of social conservatives a significant role at a convention that was supposed to be a simple coronation of the moderate George H.W. Bush.”
Those who slight the Republican primary candidates and sneer at their campaigns are either innocently misinforming their audience or strategically misinforming them. In fact, this is the all-around spunkiest campaign season I have witnessed since 1968.
1968 was the year that the Occupy Chicago folks turned the Democratic Convention into a third-world smack down in front of millions of TV viewers and began left-wing takeover of the Democrat Party. We watched as radical leftists and anarchists battled Mayor Daley’s cops while a hapless Hubert Humphrey tried to rally the party faithful inside of the convention. The big issue of the time was the war in Vietnam, or so the leftists claimed. However, what they really wanted was a socialist state and big government.
The 2012 election does not promise to be nearly as amusing or as destructive, but what it has already delivered the most engaging Republican race in my memory, likely ever. In the last year, no fewer than seven candidates — Romney, Paul, Gingrich, Cain, Santorum, Perry, and, early on, Michele Bachmann — have flirted with front runner status.
Although Romney is threatening to, no one has yet run away with the race. There are several reasons why. For one, the major media anoints only Democrats, most notably JFK in 1960 and Obama in 2008. For another, the Republican candidates are appealing to the best-informed electorate since the Athenians elected Pericles.
Historically, in one survey after another, conservatives have proven to be the most knowledgeable of all voters. This year, thanks especially to the social media, blogs, cable news and the Tea Party, they are better informed than ever.
As always, relatively few people watch the primary debates. After this season's debates, however, supporters of the various candidates now post their guy's brightest moments and the front-runner’s dimmest. On paper, Rick Perry seemed the best candidate. On YouTube, he was the worst.
In weeks between debates, Republicans have seen an endless stream of charges and counter-charges flow through their email and Facebook accounts. Unlike in the past, these charges are backed by actual documentation, including video. We can see what Mitt or Newt or the two Ricks actually said in moments of RINO weakness, and they have all had them.
To survive, candidates have been exploiting such weaknesses in their opponents or explaining away their own. With the possible exception of Jon Hunstman, all of them are running to the right, and they are not afraid to say so.
On the Sunday MSNBC debate before the New Hampshire primary, Romney declared himself "a solid conservative," one who was "very proud of the conservative record I have." Gingrich described himself in that same debate as a "Reagan conservative." Santorum boasted of his "90 percent conservative voting record." Rick Perry took them all to task, "There's a bunch of people standing up here that say they're conservatives, but their records don't follow up on that."
The Democrats, by contrast, inevitably run away from labels and strong positions. In an April 2007 MSNBC primary debate — with a broad field that included senators Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, and Obama as well as Rep. Kucinich and Gov. Richardson — no one dared to the use words "liberal" or the more trendy "progressive."
In ABC's primary debate of April 2008, with just Clinton and Obama left standing, the candidates and their sympathetic moderators likewise ducked the "L" word. Unwilling to define themselves, the candidates killed the time in both debates with vapid platitudes and hyperbolic attacks on George Bush.
Republican candidates have rarely embraced such strong conservative positions as they are doing this year almost uniformly on hot issues like life, marriage, immigration, regulation and more. In 2000, George Bush felt the need to qualify his brand of conservatism as "compassionate." His father downgraded his own to an even more tepid "kinder and gentler." If the 1996 Republican candidate, Bob Dole, or the 2008 candidate, John McCain, even had a clear position on any domestic issue, it escaped me.
In 1980, Reagan's uniformly squishy primary opponents — John Anderson, Howard Baker, Bob Dole, John Connally, Lowell Weicker — held his conservatism against him, and the media amplified their charges. This year, unless Jon Hunstman successfully poisons his opponents' water glasses at the next debate, the Republican nominee will run the most conservative campaign since Reagan in 1984, and I will vote for him.
That candidate will know, however, that millions of conservatives, armchair or otherwise, will hold him to his stated positions. If he waffles before the election, images of that waffling will spread as quickly and destructively through the Internet as the “ILOVEYOU” virus, and some good portion of us will sit the election out. If the chosen candidate wins and waffles afterwards, he will face a primary challenge in 2016 and lose.
All the Republican candidates are smart enough to know this. Our job is to hold them to their promises and vote Obama out of office. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.
This brings us back to Ron Paul, the nutty Libertarian. Think what you will of Dr. Paul he has moved the Republican debate to the right, especially in matters of the size of government and our fiscal policies. Yes, I realize that many of his supporters are in his camp because of their stance on our military involvement around the world and a laissez-faire philosophy. In this sense they have a lot in common with those Occupy Chicago freaks of 1968. This aside the real impact of Paul’s campaign will be on the Republican’s stance on the size and involvement of government in our lives. For this I commend Ron Paul for his being the tip of the spear in the fight for smaller government and a return to the Constitution.
Paul’s belief in Austrian Economics sits well with me. He professes an adherence to the writings of Bastiat, Hayek, Hazlitt, and von Misses, all advocates of the philosophy of John Locke. He believes government’s role is to protect our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with the latter including you property which includes the fruits of your labor.
However, there are many of Ron Paul’s beliefs where I deviate by 180 degrees such as accusing Abraham Lincoln of causing a “senseless” war and ruling with an “iron fist.” Or regarding Ronald Reagan’s presidency as a “dramatic failure.” Or proposing the legalization of prostitution and heroin use. Or calling America the most “aggressive, extended and expansionist” empire in world history. Or promising to abolish the CIA, depart NATO and withdraw military protection from South Korea. Or blaming terrorism on American militarism, since “they’re terrorists because we’re occupiers.” Or accusing the American government of a Sept. 11 “cover-up” and calling for an investigation headed by Dennis Kucinich. Or describing the killing of Osama bin Laden as “absolutely not necessary.” Or affirming that he would not have sent American troops to Europe to end the Holocaust. Or excusing Iranian nuclear ambitions as “natural,” while dismissing evidence of those ambitions as “war propaganda.” Or publishing a newsletter stating that the 1993 World Trade Center attack might have been “a setup by the Israeli Mossad.
Since the election of Barack Obama in 2008 there has never been such a wide-spread knowledge of the Constitution and Austrian Economics among voters. People are now looking at the role of government in a much different light than four or five years ago. This is a good development. Much of this is due to the debate over the passage of ObamaCare, something the American people do not want.
In closing I refer to what Krauthammer had to say in his recent Washington Post column, of which I find much to agree with:
“Paul won’t quit before the Republican convention in Tampa. He probably will not do well in South Carolina or Florida, but with volunteers even in the more neglected caucus states, he will be relentlessly collecting delegates until Tampa. His goal is to have the second-most delegates, a position of leverage from which to influence the platform and demand a prime-time speaking slot — before deigning to support the nominee at the end. The early days of the convention, otherwise devoid of drama, could very well be all about Paul.
The Democratic convention will be a tightly scripted TV extravaganza extolling the Prince and his wise and kindly rule. The Republican convention could conceivably feature a major address by Paul calling for the abolition of the Fed, FEMA and the CIA; American withdrawal from everywhere; acquiescence to the Iranian bomb — and perhaps even Paul’s opposition to a border fence lest it be used to keep Americans in. Not exactly the steady, measured, reassuring message a Republican convention might wish to convey. For libertarianism, however, it would be a historic moment: mainstream recognition at last.
Put aside your own view of libertarianism or of Paul himself. I see libertarianism as an important critique of the Leviathan state, not a governing philosophy. As for Paul himself, I find him a principled, somewhat wacky, highly engaging eccentric. But regardless of my feelings or yours, the plain fact is that Paul is nurturing his movement toward visibility and legitimacy.
Paul is 76. He knows he’ll never enter the promised land. But he’s clearing the path for son Rand, his better placed (Senate vs. House), more moderate, more articulate successor.
And it matters not whether you find amusement in libertarians practicing dynastic succession. What Paul has already wrought is a signal achievement, the biggest story yet of this presidential campaign.”