From the diaries by Erick
Republicans have a unique opportunity in the 2012 election season–and it comes well before the general election against President Obama. The GOP can win with voters before it seeks to win the election by simply running the right candidates, and taking its rightful place as the party of ideas. That’s the real logic behind a run by Paul Ryan and Thaddeus McCotter.
In recent years, the media has tagged the GOP with the label of “anti-intellectual.” But who’s anti-intellectual, the party that designs a creative and daring plan to save entitlements while balancing the budget, or the party that responds to that idea by filming a video of a man throwing grandma off a cliff? The party that writes three viable budgets (in the Senate alone!) after passing a budget in the House, or the party that hasn’t passed a budget in more than 760 days–and whose president’s budget received exactly zero votes, including from his own party?
The answer is clear. The Republican party is putting forth creative ideas, and the Democrats are playing the classic “dodge and demagogue” games. The challenge for Republicans is–as it always has been–to find ways to communicate that message to the public through traditional media as well as new media. The answer: run for president.
Ryan has quite a support structure in conservative circles for such a campaign, especially since he would immediately inherit Mitch Daniels’ intellectual fan base. The most logical case for a Ryan candidacy is that the Democrats plan to make Ryan’s budget–especially its Medicare component–a central issue in the campaign whether Ryan runs or not. Ryan might as well be the man to defend the plan (if, indeed, the GOP as a party is willing to defend the plan at all).
Yes, the odds against Ryan winning the general election are steep. And I’m not averse in principle to the Jack Kemp or Henry Clay comparisons (though Clay is more farfetched). What I am opposed to is the idea that he shouldn’t run if he couldn’t win. The fact is that Ryan’s inclusion in the debates would greatly enrich them–and the Republican party’s reputation.
As would a run by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter. Here’s why.
McCotter has a devoted following, and for good reason. McCotter’s new book, “Seize Freedom! American Truths and Renewal in a Chaotic Age,” offers a look inside the impressive mind of the Michigan congressman. McCotter begins the book by quoting everyone from Russell Kirk to Demosthenes to Jean-Francois Revel to put the American challenges in context. The second chapter begins with him using Edmund Burke and Destutt de Tracy to refute Jean-Jacques Rousseau–and this is really where McCotter begins to hit his stride.
McCotter is on a crusade against ideology. He quotes John Adams, calling ideology “the science of idiocy” and H. Stuart Hughes in calling conservatism “the negation of ideology.” McCotter has a clear preference for philosophy over ideology.
“Wholly or in part, we are ignoring, belittling, or denying our immense challenges, and the demagogues deluding us are rewarded,” McCotter writes. “No longer do we honor the Latin charge–‘Out of shadows and symbols into the truth!’ Instead, we flit from the truth into shadows and symbols, where yawns the abyss.”
McCotter is also aching to reframe the terms of the debate. The War on Terror, to McCotter, is really the War for Freedom, to be fought against “kufar fascism” with our “arsenal of democracy.” To McCotter, the United Nations is a “global Tammany Hall.” He decries the left’s “civil religion” and the pro-China lobby’s maxim, in his words, “make loot not war.”
McCotter is pro-market–he rails against the overregulation he calls the red tape worm–but he also warns against the transfer from a nation-state to a market-state ruled by global elites, referencing Wilhelm Röpke’s “humane economy.” And while he is pro-free trade, he seeks to advance the cause of “freedom trade”–tying trade agreements to human rights and ethical trade practices (and quoting Natan Sharansky in the process).
On defense, he is a vigorous supporter of peace through strength (instead of “peace through speech”), and he is especially tough on Iran and China. He compares the Iran-Syria alliance to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and calls for a Liberty Alliance that would not include a military component.
I wouldn’t quite call McCotter a culture warrior, but he certainly won’t shy away from those issues. As he said on Fox News over the weekend, “As a Reaganite I don’t think you can have a truce on social issues, because the left will never allow it. You have to remember that conservatives are fighting to defend traditional institutions and traditional virtues in the United States. It’s the left that wants to uproot them radically and impose their amorality or immorality upon us.”
McCotter also sports a sense of humor, the value of which cannot be understated in a presidential primary season (especially on the Republican side, still attempting to shed its cookie-cutter image). Voters were treated to a great example of this in 2008 when McCotter took to the floor of the House to offer a lesson in “speaking Democrat.”
The point is that McCotter brings a fluent, creative, intellectual yet down-to-earth approach to the issues during a time when the media can’t help but grudgingly give the GOP’s ideas some serious airtime: the presidential primaries.
If Republicans can show national voters the Ryan/McCotter side of the party, they will benefit long-term–whether or not either of those candidates ultimately wins the nomination.