The Republicans – who wants to be a President (Part 2)
The Republican Party after George W. Bush has failed to produce convincing small-state, free-initiative conservatives with a far-reaching appeal among independents. While Mr. Romney may be the least conservative to qualify for the Republican nomination, it is a wide-spread view that he lags behind some of his rivals in the ability to mobilize a strong republican vote (at least stronger than the low 20s). Ron Paul’s appeal on the other hand reaches deep into the republican heart with his principles of small government, hands-off on personal matters and tax policies. He is also pro-life but at the same time does not oppose gay marriages, saying that this should be a matter not to be decided at Federal level. And it is exactly because of these that he has a strong appeal beyond the traditional GOP voter. Instead of threatening to strike Iran or proposing to double the Guantanamo (as some of the other candidates) Paul is making a strong campaign on rule of law and civil liberties. He is fighting to repeal the Patriot Act and has opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning.
Paul’s positions on the flawed monetary system and the enormous decision-making power of the Federal Reserve have remained unchanged. He continues to propagate limiting the powers and increasing the transparency of the privately owned American Central Bank. This unpopular and radical position has been sustained in the last 20 years, which makes Ron Paul by far the most consistent candidate for the republican nomination. However, he may get a hard time explaining how he is planning to push all the changes through the divided Congress and how he will become an uniting figure for all republicans.
The reason I focus my attention on Paul and Romney is the following. As already stated above, the biggest discourse advantage of the former Massachusetts governor is that he is fighting against the democrat president, not against other republicans. By avoiding the petty in-fights that other candidates willingly enter into, he definitely gains the upper hand morally and this puts him in a better position to challenge the incumbent president if he is eventually nominated.
Ron Paul’s preoccupation with the real issues as opposed to intra-party wars reaches even further. Unlike his opponents he would not comment on the other’s qualities and past controversies so stubbornly. Neither would he mention Obama. (The closest he got is this:“People who are the President right now are said to be working on getting more involved in Syria.”). Mr. Paul will strike directly at what he thinks are the reasons for the popular discontent, the misfortunes of the Republican Party in recent years and the underlying causes for the ailing US economy. This narrative has not changed in the last twenty years and has gone even further in challenging some of the dogma that reproduce vested interest and erodes the foundations set by the US founding fathers (in his words).
Even though it is very interesting, the Republican campaign risks being overshadowed by a very unpleasant phenomenon – the negative campaign. A number of anti- Gingrich ads have appeared in the weeks before the Iowa caucus and thus helped him slide down in the polls.He has been even attacked for the way he runs his campaign, but got applause for the way he defended himself.
The negative campaign has not speared Ron Paul either, with disclosing controversial newsletters allegedly written by him in the 80s and 90s (he denies authorship or approval of their content).
The reason for this is the so called super PACs (political action committees), a powerful political weapon that can pour millions in a campaign without associating itself with any candidate. Having been called “the Holy Grail to unlimited campaign spending”, the super PACs have gained momentum because of the removed limit on corporate donations.
This was possible thanks to two Supreme Court rulings, which also opened the way for direct attacks on candidates. Whether that has opened the Pandora box remained to be seen.
The Right Candidate
Despite the brave ideas put forward and the higher exposure to malevolent scrutiny from PACs, the republicans still have a long way to go before finding the right candidate. The orthodoxy with which they are treating the key issues in their platforms suggests that we will see even more radical statements and heated debates.
In its latest edition The Economist called the republicans’ campaign ideas “cranky, extreme and backward-looking”. And indeed, they have been defendant with quite a zealotry! In addition, the debates so far have pushed some candidates to the extreme while others had to recant previous statements and policies. While Mr Paul vigorously support his radical idea to end the FED, Mr Romney flexibly made a step back on Obama-care (which in the words of the President took as a blue print what Romney implemented in Massachusetts). Rick Perry, who has been advocating for educating the children of illegal immigrants, had to take a tougher stance on immigration; Mr Gingrich had to renounce some of his ideas on climate change issues. The tax-raise, which is a traditional no-go area for GOP has been turned into a fetish, even though there is abundant evidence of many loopholes and that simplification of the current system of exemptions and tax breaks will be of much good (no mention of the deficit issue here, it deserves a special piece).
It seems that after all Obama has brought the change he promised. If the way politics in DC are done does not show this, one can easily see it in the confusion in the Republican lines. Yet Obama’s rating is in the mid-40s, and the economic situation of many US citizens is dire. Only Franklin Roosevelt was reelected with an unemployment rate as high as the current levels.
A seasoned political campaign is ahead. Waiting for the results from Iowa.