A new poll out of Iowa suggests that Ron Paul could win the upcoming caucus there and that Gingrich is losing support amongst conservatives in the state. So says this story while various other polls also show Paul’s strength in Iowa. Even the New York Times is in on the Paul-mania, with a Ross Douthat column on the “Ron Paul Rising” theme. Indeed, this piece is beautifully written (HT: my main man on the main line) and contains this gem:
Should Iowa really come down to Paul versus Gingrich, the clash will make for a fascinating contrast. Physically, neither man resembles a classic presidential candidate (especially compared to Romney and Perry) but for completely different reasons. Paul is all bone and sinew and nervous energy – an Ichabod Crane or a Jack Sprat, hunched and herky-jerky in too-large suits. Gingrich is broad and self-assured and faintly decadent, with a Cheshire Cat’s face and a body that looks like it’s ready for its toga.
Has anyone ever described Gingrich this well? In one sentence, Douthat tells us so much with so little. Masterful. Worth reading the rest, including this insightful point that well-describes why so many libertarians love Ron Paul:
Paul, for all his crankishness, is the kind of conservative that Tea Partiers want to believe themselves to be: Deeply principled, impressively consistent, a foe of big government in nearly all its forms (the Department of Defense very much included), a man of ideas rather than of party.
Now I think the chance of Ron Paul winning the nomination is higher than a meteoroid hitting the earth or Bruce Willis landing on one to save the planet – but not a lot more. His principled “conservative” positions scare liberal Republicans and irritate crony capitalists. His foreign policy views anger neoconservatives, Israel supporters, and many in uniform. Although pro-life and ethically conservative, he isn’t exactly the candidate of choice for “theocons” and their allies. Moreover, party insiders dismiss Paul given his lack of “electability” and possible negative effects on the rest of the ballot.
When the powers in the Republican party imagine Paul on the ticket they see Goldwater, less than 40% of the popular vote, and an electoral wipeout. But is this the correct analogy? Might 1800 be more accurate? In that election, Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans swept aside the Federalists and ushered in the Revolution of 1800.
Well, I don’t really think so. We aren’t going to see a party realignment or a serious turn towards libertarianism. Our political culture, as presently constituted, simply cannot sustain such a path even if Paul could capture the
throne Presidency. Many Americans fear big government in some sense as Marc noted yesterday, but they also love particular big government programs and many are generally afraid to be free as economist James Buchanan so eloquently stated in this seminal paper. Moreover, federal institutions constrain the ability of the President in so many ways as Obama has found out.
Yet a President Paul would be able to make significant changes – ironically enough due to the very patterns of post-WWII executive empowerment that he disdains. For example, President Paul could radically change our foreign policy and military posture around the globe. I can’t imagine any Libyan, Ugandan, or Iraq adventures under Paul. Nor would we see an expansion of NATO to include McCain favorite Georgia or any other country so critical to the security of our island-continent (sarcasm alert). Indeed, a reduction of our foreign presence would be a lot more likely! In trade policy, we’d see him use a renewed (assuming Republican control in Congress) fast-track authority to speed along trade liberalization (and all of the benefits that flow from freer trade).
Well, one could only dream….It wouldn’t be 1800 overall but it certainly would be a revolution in foreign policy. And imagine the scenario where Paul is nominated and the economy tanks even further (perhaps spurred on by a European crisis). At that point, the ABO vote might be large enough to elect even a radical like Paul. Again, one could only dream….
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