Whenever people accuse me of being a tool of the Republican Party, I note that (1) I am not a Republican, registered, card-carrying, dues paying or otherwise, and (2) I have voted for Democrats, including the best candidate in Wisconsin’s 1984 Democratic presidential primary: None of the Above.
That came to mind Tuesday night when I watched the results of the Missouri GOP primary and the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses, all of which were won by Rick Samtorum in a blow to supposed GOP front-runner Mitt Romney and to the Not Mitt, Newt Gingrich. The results probably don’t matter for Ron Paul because he seems to be in it to the bitter end, whether as a Republican or a Libertarian.
In deciding on a candidate for office, your preference should be whoever places best based on two measures on a chart. The X axis is the extent to which you agree with that candidate’s positions. The Y axis is the likelihood of that candidate’s winning, because politics is the art of the possible, and it’s not possible to achieve anything in politics if you’re not in office.
I’ve already written in this space that I am not a fan of Santorum’s politics. I find it inconsistent at best to believe that government doesn’t belong in your wallet but does belong in your bedroom. The Cato Institute’s David Boaz quoted Santorum from a 2006 interview on Santorum’s way to becoming a former U.S. senator:
One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. You know, the left has gone so far left and the right in some respects has gone so far right that they touch each other. They come around in the circle. This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.
Regardless of how you feel about same-sex marriage, abortion or who should pay for what form of birth control, those are not positions on which to base your campaign to lead the free world. Those are not positions on which moderate or independent voters are going to choose you, but they could be issues on which moderates or independents will not choose you.
The best thing I can say about Santorum (as with Romney and Paul) is that he appears to live his life the right way. Few would say that about Gingrich the serial adulterer. None of us is perfect and will ever be perfect. It’s not that Gingrich is twice divorced; it is why Gingrich is twice divorced — the flaw in his character that seems to hold that you should stay faithful to your spouse until you lose interest. I wrote this about Bill Clinton back in the late 1990s, so it’s appropriate to say the same thing about Gingrich: If someone was willing to violate vows made before God, his spouse and the community, one should wonder what other vows he’d be willing to violate as well.
For all the correct things Gingrich says about, for instance, work, and the ways he’s able to drive liberals nuts, note the lack of support Gingrich is getting from his former Congressional colleagues, and not just because Gingrich fits no one’s idea of a small-government conservative. (For instance, Gingrich opposed the Medicare reform plan of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R–Janesville), before he said he supported it.) Gingrich’s lack of collegiality ordinarily would be the political equivalent of criticizing late baseball announcer Harry Caray because he was (supposedly) not fun to work with — listeners, the people Caray truly worked for, never cared. Gingrich, however, has always seemed to be more about Gingrich than about the causes he’s supposed to working for, as demonstrated by his personally politically expedient attacks on a core GOP constituency. (Another similarity to Clinton, which is a point in favor of Clinton but a point against Gingrich to Republicans.) Big egos also are not a disqualifying factor, but ask yourself how many non-aligned voters are likely to vote for Gingrich in November, merely for his personality.
Gingrich, Santorum and Paul have a common disqualifying factor: None of them have ever held executive political office. (Nor had Obama before he was elected president, and how’s that working out?) Governors are automatically more qualified to be president because they were their states’ CEOs. (And, of course, Romney was a business CEO too.) As such, governors sometimes have to make political deals that don’t make their parties happy, but governors are elected to get things done, not to vote for things that fail to pass. (Which describes most of Gingrich’s career in the House.)
On the other hand, the best way to assess a candidate is not on what he or she says, but on what he or she does, or did. Romney fits no one’s definition of a small-government conservative either. I eagerly await Romney’s explanation of how and why Massachusetts’ version of health insurance reform has improved health care in Massachusetts. He did have to deal with a Democratic-controlled legislature, but his four years as governor — spending, health care deform, excessive environmental regulations (sound familiar, Wisconsinites?) and “global warming” — haven’t convinced Republicans that he would govern in a recognizably Republican manner.
What about Paul, you ask? While Paul’s domestic positions appeal, his foreign policy positions emulate a turtle retreating into its shell. National Review’s Jamie M. Fly points out that most Americans don’t subscribe to Paul’s stated foreign policy:
American administrations of both parties end up intervening in foreign conflicts and supporting our allies with overseas deployments because doing so is in our interest and because it embodies the values upon which our nation was founded.
If Paul and his fellow libertarians want to be viewed not as isolationists but as prudent noninterventionists, what are the instances in which they would use American military power? Paul often says that he supports a strong national defense, but who does Ron Paul think the American people need to be defended from? It isn’t al-Qaeda or fundamentalist Islam, since he wants to end our engagements in the War on Terror and has expressed concern about acts that don’t even involve significant troop deployments, like the targeted killing of U.S. citizen (and terrorist) Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. …
So who do Ron and Rand Paul think threatens the United States? If not Iran, Syria, Russia, or even China, then who? Or is their plan to reduce American military capabilities to the point where the American people can only be defended from an invasion by Mexico or Canada?
Also troubling is the fact that people who call themselves constitutionalists, such as the Pauls, argue that their foreign policy would be the type of foreign policy espoused by the Founders. They are obviously overlooking the inconvenient fact that there is no way that those men gathered in Philadelphia in 1776, who faced death if captured by the British, meant the words of the Declaration — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” — to apply to just those thirteen colonies at only that time. Anyone who doubts this should look no further than Thomas Paine’s comment at the time that “the cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.”
That’s actually the greatest problem with Representative Paul’s views. He doesn’t grasp what America is, what we have always stood for, and what our global responsibilities are as the world’s sole superpower, and he clearly has no sense of who actually threatens our way of life. A country governed by a Paul administration would lead to a much more dangerous world, embolden our enemies, and likely result in significant American casualties.
If all of this sounds drearily familiar, the GOP presidential race increasingly echoes the 2008 race at least in style. This year’s Romney is 2008’s John McCain, an honorable man who clearly loved his country (unlike the current president) who nonetheless generated little enthusiasm among GOP voters, as demonstrated in November 2008. And make no mistake about it: Obama and his clique of toadies and apparatchiks need to be fired by the voters.
Obama utterly (and probably deliberately) misread the mandate voters gave him in November 2008. He was elected to improve things, not merely change them to fit his own leftist worldview. He was not elected to generate trillions of dollars of new federal debt. He was not elected to raise gas prices toward $5 per gallon to suck money out of our wallets. He was not elected to declare war on those more successful than y0u.
Everything that has happened to create the economic mess we’re in now is the result of either too much government or government’s screwups. To suggest that the solution to government’s screwing up is to expand government’s role in regulating whatever bad guy you care to create ignores the fact that the feds are incompetent at regulation with the tools they’ve been given. Not even tax-happy Warren Buffett believes that more government regulation is needed to fix our economic problems.
The best argument Republicans appear to have right now is that their taking over the House of Representatives in 2010 prevented Obama from the dumber things the closet socialist in the White House wants to do, such as drastically increasing taxes on energy and punishing businesses and the successful through higher taxes. An Obama win coupled with Democrats’ retaining the Senate and taking back the House will remove all roadblocks. It will also speed the way for Obamacare, which is poised to make health care worse yet more expensive. And as Catholics now know, Obama has absolutely no respect — none — for moral views that he doesn’t share. (Those who work for Catholic institutions will figure this out when their employers end their employee health insurance because the Obama administration wants Catholic employers to pay for forms of birth control that cause abortions.)
Every election is by definition a referendum on the incumbent, even elections where there is no incumbent. Obama has given Americans millions of reasons to not vote for him, including …
… but at some point a candidate needs to give voters reasons to vote for the candidate. Which of the GOP four have done that? None. And the GOP nominee will be one of these four; a brokered convention and alternative candidate is the sort of thing that happens in political novels, not reality.
At this point, the best outcome in November appears to be the GOP’s retaining the House and taking over the Senate to prevent Obama’s stupid second-term ideas from escaping Washington. That means at least two more years of gridlock. The fact that that’s the best possible outcome says a lot about politics today, not to mention our country.