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What a Mess

November 10, 2011

by J. Andrew Zalucky

Barack Obama has been a mediocre and disappointing President, but there is not much to like in the Republican field  either.

Last Friday, I attended a meeting of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy in Stamford, CT for a lunchtime event featuring William Kristol, editor-in-chief of The Weekly Standard.

That’s right! I infiltrated the event as part of my top secret plan to…actually I went with my conservative family-members (my mother’s side) who were nice enough to buy me a ticket. I got to shake hands with Bill and chat for a moment, and though he seemed pretty tired, he was gracious and friendly enough. As the honored guest, he gave a very nuanced, history-minded speech about where conservatism has been, where it is today and where it needs to go to succeed. In fact, his speech was so fair and nuanced that its no wonder doctrinaire conservatives tend to dislike him. In reference to 2012, he seemed resigned to the idea that Mitt Romney is the most viable candidate for president. Since it has become clear that Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and Jeb Bush will not run, Romney seems to be the only viable candidate left. He dismissed the notion that Republicans should try to go for the most ideologically pure candidate, or one that “fires up the base” (I’m so sick of that cliche…). To paraphrase Mr. Kristol, he basically concluded that 2012 will NOT be 1980 all over again, and that for conservatives to pretend it will be is simply foolish.

To me, this all seems self-evidently true, but it also seems a lot of conservatives don’t want to take this practical approach. Apparently, they would rather prop up a sort of “ideological-phoenix” who promises to pacify the party (and the country) and lose, rather than elect a candidate who can beat Barack Obama. Though the country is very dissatisfied with President Obama, his ship has not sunk just yet. And conservatives would be wise to remember when Liberals tried to pacify the Democratic party. Does the name George McGovern ring a bell? How about Walter Mondale? Both defeated in MASSIVE landslide elections. I should say however, that Mitt Romney’s temperament does remind me a bit of Michael Dukakis.

After last night’s Republican debate, the media-consensus has decided that: Mitt Romney remains the front-runner, Cain’s wave will start to dissipate, and after a possible Newt Gingrich wave comes and goes, Romney will emerge as the nominee. Well, actually at the moment the media is fixed on something slightly more hilarious:

…but anyway!

Herman Cain gave a strong performance and continues to poll well, but I have to concede to Mr. Kristol again that this will eventually recede under the weight of scandal and scrutiny.

So what do we have in this field: An unexciting front-runner who conservatives don’t like. A Texas governor who has wrecked his own campaign with his hysterical gaffes. A disgraced and demagogic former speaker of the house. A socially-conservative ideologue who says ridiculous things about vaccines and blames Obama for the Arab Spring (…as if credit for pro-democratic movements should be applied negatively?) Another candidate from Pennsylvania with no chance of winning.

What about Ron Paul? I’ve always seen Ron Paul as an honorable, principled, and consistent politician. As an activist for Libertarian principles, he has risen to be an effective voice in American politics. He deserves to be taken seriously as a politician and thinker.But while I would love to see him in a debate with President Obama, there is no escaping how much of a long-shot he really is. His words have always fired up my more Libertarian instincts, but Libertarianism has its practical limits, as do the American people. And with some of his idea on decentralization and returning to the gold-standard, I doubt that he could truly win over the electorate (willing to be proven wrong here, by the way).

And so, this of course brings us to Jon Huntsman: the only candidate to be applauded for his economic plan, the only candidate who is willing to add caveats to his stance on abortion, the only one who thinks that anti-tax pledges are not a good idea, the only one who has a globally-minded stance on foreign policy, and…he’s the only one who openly believes in evolution by natural selection! Now, I’ve mentioned my respect for Jon Huntsman in the past and I’m becoming more and more disappointed with how much he is ignored. He has not run a perfect campaign, but I am convinced that the media has driven the reputation of the candidates and has dictated the narrative from the beginning. You may say that this has always been the case, but its become more noticeable in this cycle. Huntsman does not fit this epic narrative of the “soul-searching” of the Republican party, so he gets cast aside.

But to be blunt, I don’t give a damn about this stupid narrative, I just want an effective President in the White House. Sure, as I am a Center-Left-oriented voter, Republican operatives probably don’t give a damn what I think either. But I have voted for Republicans, and might do so again if the party can pick a sensible candidate. And while I may live in a solidly Liberal state, there are many independents like me in Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and other swing states.

Republicans: you want those states back don’t you?

 

(By the way, I highly recommend The Economist’s hilarious color-coded Live-Blogs of the debates)

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