The Myth of Bad Republican Candidates
Repeat a big Democrat talking point often enough, and it becomes the truth. There is a certain liberal narrative that has recently filtered down to many independents and even some conservatives: the idea that the current crop of Republican candidates is weak, wanting, and worrisome. The lament is, "Hell's bells, the guy in the White House is out of his depth, but what alternatives does the GOP offer?" The idea, I suppose, is that we might as well just re-elect Barack Obama. At least he has four years of golfing, government-growing, and greenback-gobbling experience.
This characterization of the Republican field much reminds me of the gratuitous criticism of the U.S. by the hate-America-first crowd. Okay, you say America is a bad country. Compared to what? Some imaginary Utopia that will never exist? Because in the real world, the U.S. has been besting her competition for a long time.
Many repeat the statist talking point about the GOP contenders' alleged ineptitude simply because of media spin and the branding iron of repetition. Yet others do, in fact, have unrealistic expectations. They have in mind an ideal, a utopia of a politician -- a person who agrees with them on every major issue, possesses eloquence and decent looks, and has never strayed from ideological purity. And when this imaginary figure doesn't appear, they ask, "Is this the best our political class has to offer?!"
Yet to what are we comparing these candidates? And are we being mindful of Bismarck's sage observation that "[p]olitics is the art of the possible"? For even insofar as a true traditionalist's ideal candidate does exist -- and this is important to understand -- he could not win election given the current state of our culture.
So there is something I'll now say. And I must preface this by stating that, although no conventional label adequately describes my ideology, I have what many would call unassailable paleo-con credentials. My ideal presidential candidate is Selwyn Duke (I agree with myself almost 100 percent of the time); my second choice would be someone such as Alan Keyes. My vision for civilization is something akin to the Middle Ages meets Mayberry, with modern technology, the best virtues from every age, and medieval piety. And when I apply my merciless standard, all our politicians look like Lilliputians. But I also live in the real world, and when I judge them under its light, something seems plain.
The current GOP hopefuls are the best group of presidential contenders we've had in a very long time.
Yes, you read that right.
Do you doubt this? If so, let's look at what the real world has given us, taking both major parties into consideration.
I'll start in 1972. That year, the Democratic nominee was George McGovern, the ultra-lethargic ultra-liberal. He was trounced in the general by sitting President Richard Nixon, who was no great shakes himself. With policy as wanting as his persona, he gave us wage-and-price controls, the EPA, and Title IX, among his statist triumphs. With Nixon's resignation, the GOP would be represented four years later by Gerald Ford, who, being bald in a television age, wouldn't have had the looks to win even if he hadn't been a button-down-shirt, country-club Republican who pardoned his old boss. He was vanquished by peanut farmer Jimmy Carter -- 'nough said. Nineteen-eighty gave us Reagan, a once-in-a-lifetime figure who has become the almost mythological gold standard by which contemporary Republicans have the misfortune of being measured. In 1984 his opponent would be banal Minnesotan Walter Mondale, a fitting sacrificial lamb whose promise to raise taxes helped lower his vote count and author the worst Democratic electoral defeat in history. It would have been a neat trick, finding someone who made Mondale look charismatic, but that's exactly what the Democrats did with Ma. governor Michael Dukakis in '88. He lost to George H.W. Bush, a Ford-like politician whose major selling point was his status as Reagan's vice president. This wasn't enough to carry the latter through four years later, however, when he lost to slick but soulless Bill Clinton. In '96 it was the Republicans' turn to offer up the economics teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off in the person of Bob Dole, whose candidacy was described by Pat Buchanan as "the bland leading the bland." This brings us to the third millennium and George W. Bush, the big-spending, "misunderestimated" statist, and his 2000 and 2004 opponents, Plastic Man Al Gore and the quite stuck-up John Kerry. And then in 2008 we had John McCain, who never saw an amnesty plan he didn't like.
The above paragraph is what's known as perspective. Most Republicans currently running for president are superior to every major-party nominee of the last 40 years except for Reagan, especially when factoring in both substance and style. All the candidates exude passion, most have some charisma and are at least relatively articulate (except for Perry, although he has been better of late), and most are more ideologically sound than everyone above except, again, for Reagan. More significantly, today's contenders are actually talking about what should be central to American governance: adherence to our founding document, the Constitution. They've also been talking about fundamentally changing the tax code and eliminating federal agencies. Of course, it's easier and more advantageous to do this today, as the Tea Party movement and unprecedented federal-government usurpation of power have made constitutionalism and proposals to cage the Big Brother beast fashionable. But this is the point. Sure, Machiavellian politicians will preach whatever is in style, but another factor is that our more constitutionally aware GOP electorate has allowed constitutionally oriented candidates to finally have what will at least be their 15 minutes of fame -- and hopefully their day in the sun.
One reason why the media want to portray the GOP hopefuls as inept and insane is obvious: the myth of Obama as Superman long ago was shattered. Thus, there's only so much they can build the president up -- they also must tear his opposition down. Yet another reason is something that vindicates my assessment of the Republican candidates: the leftists in the media really do see adherence to a two-hundred-year-old document as crazy. They actually do consider efforts to upend the statist status quo, disempower Washington, and uphold states' rights as radical. They truly do view traditional virtues as troglodytic. Remember, these are the folks who thought Reagan was a dolt and McCain a delight. If they don't like you, you must be doing something right.
The reality is that, on balance, the GOP has the best set of contenders it has had in a very long time. The best of them outshine all presidential nominees (except you-know-who) of the last many decades, and whoever the Republican standard-bearer will be, he'll compare favorably to anyone in that group (except you know who).
Most significant, though, is this: consider all the individuals I've mentioned, past and present, and then pick the worst of them. Then realize that even he is better than the crypto-Marxist in the White House.