The more the merrier… is not the case with the GOP presidential field

Published 10 years ago -  - 10y ago 5


When it was leaked out that U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex) was forming an exploratory committee to run for the GOP nomination for President, the excitement and electricity on the internet was enough to give full power to Baghdad. Paul has long been a favorite among many on the information super-highway for his paleolibertarian views on foreign and domestic policy and his opposition to the war in Iraq. Many were enthusiastic about the possibility of Paul gaining a broad coalition of support among libertarians, “real” conservatives and maybe even a few leftists as well to form a new electoral coalition.

Unfortunately all that euphoria had to be tampered because just a week later another favorite of the internet political posting crowds, U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Col.), decided that he was going form his own presidential exploratory committee.

I’ll give my endorsement of Paul over Tancredo near end of this article. But once again it shows that when it comes to nominating a presidential candidate, too many cooks can spoil the broth on the GOP side. History has shown that anti-establishment or other sincerely conservative candidates have been hurt by the divisions caused when there are too many presidential candidates and not enough pool for them to swim in.

There really hasn’t been united conservative backing to one presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater in 1964. Some may ask what about Ronald Reagan but truth be told when Reagan ran for president in 1968 and 1974 many southern Goldwaterites who become ensconced in the party after 1964, supported Richard Nixon in 1968 and in 1972 and Gerald Ford in 1976. Indeed, it was those very persons, like Mississippi’s state Republican Party Chairman Clarke Reed, that ultimately gave Ford the nomination. Even when Reagan ran in 1980 there was a candidate to his right, U.S. Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.). Crane was the favorite of intellectual conservatives because they didn’t think Reagan had the brain matter for the job (“Its not that Reagan lacks principals,” one conservative joke went. “It’s that he doesn’t understand the one’s he has.”) and thought that if his candidacy collapsed, which nearly happened thanks to the inept leadership of campaign manager John Sears, then Crane would be left to pick up the pieces. Of course Reagan’s candidacy didn’t collapse and Crane was out the door after New Hampshire.  There were Republican candidates like John Connally and Bob Dole in 1980 who were seen as reasonably conservative, but whose ties to a discredited GOP establishment at that time ruled them out among conservative voters.

The apparent unity within the old conservative movement cracked in 1986 and by the time of the next GOP nominating contest in 1988, several factions had their own candidates. In subsequent years, those divisions have only grown worse and the number of candidates has grown each time.  However, each of these candidates are or have been trying to swim in a pool that simply doesn’t have enough water to hold all of them.

What makes a person decide to run for president after all? It would seem that raising the money required to win along with the travel and hard work required would make it too daunting a task for a mere mortal. Walter Mondale thought spending all that time “sleeping in Holiday Inns” was too much for him back in 1974. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) formed an exploratory committee this year and quickly pulled the plug on it when he realized he couldn’t win. And yet others are willing the make the sacrifice even though they don’t have snowball’s chance in hell of being president because modern presidential campaigns are not as taxing as you might think. Federal matching funds provides some cash to work with. You’ve got all sorts of free media nowadays to get your message out. You can live off the land in a low budget campaign to try and gain delegate or two to make a point at the convention. You can even use such a bid to gain attention for yourself for the gigs to come. John Kasich was an also-ran GOP candidate in 2000, but that didn’t stop him getting his own show, “Heartland,” on Fox News. Alan Keyes became a talk-radio host after his losing campaigns. Some loser candidates have parlayed their losses into cabinet posts like Bruce Babbitt or U.S. Senate campaigns like Elizabeth Dole or statewide office back home like Gerry Brown.  Bob Kerry became a college president. You never know what awaits you even if you only gain 1 percent of the vote in New Hampshire. And of course if lighting does strike, as it did for an unknown former Georgia Governor named Jimmy Carter back in 1976, you too can be president.

So this new environment means that lots of candidates can run for president and all the factions in the GOP and the conservative universe gives them the rational. Unfortunately, all these candidacies accomplish is making it easier for the powers that be, both in the Republican and conservative establishments, to maintain their status and their control of the political scene.

The thing I despise most about political reporting and punditry is the fact that that such reporters and pundits lazily continue to mouth stereotypes and formulas and generalizations about voters and voting habits that have long ceased to be, if in fact ever were. This is especially true with the Republican primary electorate. Supposedly the GOP primary electorate is heavily conservative, which is true compared to moderate or liberal GOP voters, but such reporting doesn’t delve into the kind of conservatism such voters espouse. GOP nominating history has shown time and again that most conservative candidates are usually not nominated and yet reporters and pundits seem blind to this fact and report about each candidate in reference to their support from the “conservative movement” or support among social conservatives, economic conservatives and national security conservatives and so forth.

Yet if support among social conservatives was the most important aspect in the Republican presidential nominating process, then we would have had GOP nominees Robertson, or Bauer or Keyes. If support among economic conservatives were important, then we would have had GOP nominees Kemp or Forbes. If strength among libertarian, anti-government conservatives was critical, we would have GOP nominees Gramm and or Kasich. If national security credentials made the difference among GOP primary voters, then we would have had nominees Haig or Dornan.

All of these candidacies just go to show how the divisiveness in the nominating process hurts candidates who have the opportunity to put together broad coalitions of support, especially those candidates who have a real opportunity of shaking things up in Washington. I speak of course of Pat Buchanan. In 1996, a little-known former UN ambassador and twice failed U.S. Senate candidate from Maryland, Alan Keyes, didn’t let his electoral failures or lack of notoriety keep him from somehow thinking he was presidential timber. Had Keyes not been around in Iowa, Pat Buchanan would have beaten Bob Dole in the caucus there and, with a win in New Hampshire, could have rolled his way to the nomination. Three years later in Iowa, Buchanan not only had to contend with Keyes once again, but former Reagan White House aide Gary Bauer. Instead of supporting someone whom he had very little disagreement with, Bauer decided to run himself because “Pat’s had his turn. Now it’s my turn,” or something to that effect. Bauer was going to be Pat with a smile face, without all the nasty rhetoric or old newspaper columns that said bad things about Israel or women or whoever else was offended. He began to try and outdo Buchanan on the issues of economic nationalism, immigration and globalism while also coming out for more subsides for Iowa farmers. The end result was Buchanan saw his vote totals at the Iowa Straw Poll cut in half. Instead of being a top tier candidate along with George Bush II and John McCain, he began to run for the Reform Party nomination and the rest is history. Way to go Gary! You did the establishment’s job quite nicely.

Not only that, but many within the conservative establishment of special interest groups, think tanks and political consultants on both coasts stay away from such boat-rockers like Buchanan for fear their own status could be compromised if they support candidates that aren’t given the seal of approval within in the establishment university they exist and work in. No one wants to be an outcast when trying move with the powers that be.

Of course such history doesn’t stop potential GOP candidates who should know better from pandering to such conservative factions which only further splits up the vote into atom-sized measurements. There are three good examples of this:

— In 1988, Delaware Gov. Pierre S. DuPont ran for president with the reputation that all governors have of being a “moderate.” So much so that the campaign staff of George Bush I feared that he could cut into Bush I’s vote totals and threatened his chance of winning the GOP nomination. But DuPont decided to run like a whole-hog conservative, making a speech attacking the “moderate” wing of the party and even proposing a plan to privatize Social Security. Bush I advisers reacted with glee at their good fortune and DuPont wound up with six percent of the vote in New Hampshire.

— In 2000 publisher Steve Forbes, coming off a solid run in his first try for the presidency in 1996, decided, like any good businessman would, that a certain segment of the GOP audience, namely social conservatives, didn’t like his product very much, meaning himself, and decided that he would target himself to this audience until they came around. When they did, he would win the Republican nomination. The upshot was the audience that helped propel Forbes in 1996: economic conservatives and young, libertarian-leaning Republicans along with independents, felt abandoned by Forbes and rushed head-long into the waiting arms of John McCain. The end result was that Forbes slugged it out with Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer for the social conservative vote and saw his campaign end a lot earlier that year than it did in 1996.

— Heading into 2008, both McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have been pandering and tailoring themselves to the conservative voting bloc. McCain, like Forbes, is trying to convince that certain segment of the GOP base to come around to his side by trying to kiss and make-up to their so-called leaders like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, leaders that he once attacked as “agents of intolerance.” Romney is touting his anti-homosexual marriage credentials. This, of course, is the old Richard Nixon strategy of running to the right to win the primary/run to the center to win the general election. Unfortunately, in a day and age where voters are more cynical about politics and distrustful of politicians in general and when Google and You Tube can catch your words in previous speeches or debates, such attempts at positioning can backfire. McCain is trying to convince a GOP electorate that still mistrusts and despises him that he’s really one of them even to the point of supporting an unpopular war just so he can be seen as supporting a President who’s becoming unpopular with Republicans. Meanwhile, Romney’s old debate tapes back from 1994 when he ran for the Senate against Ted Kennedy show this Mormon saying he would outdo Kennedy when it came to promoting homosexual rights and defending abortion. Romney’s says he’s seen the light, but you have to wonder if such conversions have come about the minute he announced his candidacy and what serious Mormon would say such things

Either way, it’s this pandering that adds more swimmers to an ever-shrinking pool to splash in leaving little water for candidates that either do not have the money or bases of support outside of a few thousand hardcore followers. GOP primaries voters are not at all that different than anyone else for wanting to be on the winning team, being bandwagon fans or jumping on the train as it leaves the station. So whichever leading candidate jumps out ahead of the others after the first few primaries and caucuses, will more than likely be the nominee. And left behind will be another large group of candidates like messers. Brownback, Romney, Gingrich, Huckabee, Tancredo, Cox, Gilmore, Hunter, Thompson and any other joker who wants to jump into an empty, mud-filled hole without their clothes on.

But before we dump Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee onto the ashbin of history, we should ponder their candidacies for a just minute. Both claim to be the champions of social conservatives but they’re not running as fire and brimstone candidates. Brownback plans to spend a night in jail to highlight one of his main issues, prison reform. And Huckabee, who reportedly plays a mean bass guitar, says the U.S. should open its borders and allow in as many Hispanics from south of the border as possible because that will give the U.S. a chance to make up for past racism. Gee, are these fellows vying for the Jesse Jackson wing of the Republican Party? Actually what they are vying for are younger Christian evangelicals, Roman Catholics, (Brownback converted from Methodism to Catholicism so we’ll see if any “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” sentiment still exists alongside anti-Mormonism within the so-called “religious right”) fundamentalists and Pentecostals who are fed up with being nothing more than back-seat drivers in the GOP coalition and who are fed up with being defined as voters only interested in abortion and homosexuality. They want to talk about different issues like the environment, like wealth disparity and poverty, like prison reform, and like immigration and Huckabee and Brownback are here to service them. They truly are “compassionate conservatism’s” bastard children.

The problem is that the trollops that bore them are in the food processing industry and who reap big benefits from open immigration policies that both Brownback and Huckabee have supported over the years. Indeed, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods has been instrumental in taking Huckabee from being an obscure Baptist preacher to being governor and he’s rewarded them with by helping Tyson import their workforce from Mexico and Central America into Arkansas. Brownback too, has extensive ties to the food industry going all the way back to when he was Secretary of Agriculture in Kansas and they have backed his career. And while Huckabee and Brownback, along with Romney and maybe even former Virginiagovernor and RNC Chairman Jim Gilmore, slice and dice up the social conservative vote, the issue immigration could well sink the “compassionate conservatives” in the race. As more and more rank-and-file Republicans oppose any kind of liberal immigration policy, those who support such policies are not going to be on the top of their voting lists. Indeed, immigration could well supersede abortion as a GOP litmus test issue and you heard it here first well before it will be reported in the corporate press or by corporate political writers and pundits.

Tom Tancredo has said he doesn’t think he’d make a good presidential candidate, or even president for that matter, doesn’t think he has a chance of winning it all. But he’s running anyway because he thinks the immigration issue is not being given the proper attention it should from the declared GOP candidates and he sees a vacuum of support for his kind of restrictive immigration policies. Certainly it is a vacuum he hopes to fill using Minutemen activists as his supporters, especially out West. And while many, including myself, have supported Tancredo and realize that without him in Congress we would already be in the process of providing amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, this writer is backing Ron Paul for President in 2008 come what may.

Tancredo’s candidacy is one-trick pony and he knows it. He gave up the opportunity to run a winning campaign for the U.S. Senate in his home state of Colorado, which would gain him a bigger platform and wider audience for his views, and instead decides to go on a fool’s errand. On top of that, he isn’t the only GOP candidate opposed to mass immigration or guest-worker bills in Congress because so is U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Cal.). And no doubt Hunter will be trying play up his opposition to such proposals in order to gain a niche as the anti-immigration candidate. Plus, they both support the war in Iraq. They are virtually the same kind of candidate. So while they’re busy chopping up their shares of vote into pieces like so many outside the establishment, it’s time for people who are serious conservatives, serious libertarians, and even a some serious liberals, those who are on the outside looking in on the powers that be, to give serious look at Ron Paul.

Ron Paul wants to make a serious bid for the White House (meaning no non-major party runs if he doesn’t win) by running for the GOP nomination.Not only does he support decentralization policies such voters can agree with (or at least on most issues anyway), his candidacy, if successful, could represent the beginning of a new movement and or voting coalition of such aforementioned groups who’s primary interest it is to dismantle the empire that’s led us into a bloody and disastrous war, that tries to enforce its values on people who don’t want such values imposed upon them (right or left depending on the community in question), that steals our money for its own vainglorious and unconstitutional pursuits and tries to steal our legitimate freedoms bit by bit. A successful Paul candidacy will destroy the cancer of centralism. This goes way beyond being a protest candidate or running just to “educate” voters in a shell. So much potential can come from Paul’s candidacy that can benefit so many. Paleos of all stripes can join hands with regular Republicans, libertarians, so-called “crunchy conservatives” and liberals for such a movement and members of non-major parties like the LP or CP and maybe even the Greens could leave their enclaves in their respective states and join with a man who doesn’t have to recant his support for this illegal war because he’s opposed it from the beginning. Much this sounds like dreaming I know, but I also know that by the fall of 2007, Ron Paul will be the only Republican candidate (assuming Chuck Hagel doesn’t run) having opposed an unpopular war that will be unpopular with a majority of Republicans. That’s a powerful position to be in with campaign that’s going to be dominated by the war whether the politicians like it or not. Considering the other options out there and considering what could become of a successful Paul campaign, it’s time to support someone standing proudly on shore rather than wallowing in the mud with the other also-rans.

Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”

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