If you have a favorite candidate it is easy to dismiss alternatives, particularly when they have significant flaws. But, as Jim DeMint has said, it is important that conservatives pay attention to why Ron Paul got 23% of the vote in New Hampshire.
First let's get past some of the obvious:
- Paul would be 84 at the end of his second term - a bit long in the tooth for the leader of the Free World;
- His racist 1980s newsletters could not be explained away in a presidential campaign;
- His 35 year Congressional record contains a bunch of other unacceptable trash, particularly on foreign policy, with little accomplishment.
Then the areas where his voice resonates, often better than any of the other Republican candidates:
- Small government. He really does want to eliminate the departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development. Perry might start down that road, but history does not suggest that Romney, Gingrich, or Santorum would really push to get federal spending back under its historic 19% of GDP from its current 24% (35% with state and local.) Instead, the leadership will need to come from the Congress - and it likely will, assuming the Republicans hold the House and take over the Senate.
- Individual liberty. We really are at a precipice, with Obama signing legislation to allow indefinite detention of anybody thought to be affiliated with terrorist groups at a time when technology allows ubiquitous surveillance on line and in the concrete world. Romney and Gingrich have trumpeted an "individual mandate" on health care. The federal government wants to regulate how much dust farmers can generate. DeMint calls for an alignment of conservatives and libertarians - Amen.
- Government corruption. Paul's libertarians are in tune with the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street revulsion against the bailouts, the stimulus corruption (Solyndra et al), the military-industrial complex, the Wall Street-Washington complex, the exemption of Congress from laws like the prohibition of insider trading, earmarks, and the power of big donors. Gingrich and Santorum, as former legislators, played the game and peddled their influence. Perry has his "pay to play" issues in Texas. Romney and Huntsman did not have as much temptation in their state capitals, but none have been pursuasive in their promises to clean up the mess. Advantage Paul.
- Foreign policy. Congress raised hardly a peep when Obama ignored the War Powers Act to wage war in Libya. Paul appears naive as a neo-isolationist who is not concerned about a nuclear Iran, but there is something to be said for an affordable military posture and a less imperial presidency.
Fortunately for the Republicans, Paul has a son in the Senate and would not want to trash that career by running on a third party ticket that gave the election to Obama. No way. But it would be prudent for Romney or any successful candidate to reflect deeply on the youthful enthusiastic support of the Paulistas, and incorporate some of the libertarian views in their platforms - not just to win an election, but to restore a nation.
This week's video is an interview by Rudy Giuliani with Fox reporters who clearly do not understand capitalism. More about this "teachable moment" next week.