New Hampshire…

Chickenhawk

And so the Presidential race turns to New Hampshire. The only real question is whether a unifying candidate can emerge from the religious conservative wing of the party. Newt Gingrich? Rick Santorum? Neither?

The Republican party today is broadly split in three: there is the establishment represented by Mitt Romney. There are libertarians and constitutionalists represented by Ron Paul. And there are religious conservatives — a large chunk of the electorate, but without a consistent or fiscally conservative figurehead. And that’s unsurprising. Religious conservatives believe in the government legislating morality and redistributing wealth. Certainly, they believe in a different morality, and a different pattern of redistribution than Obama. But it is still tax-and-spend redistribution. Gingrich’s and Santorum’s records speak very clearly on that. And in the current economic climate, big spending is unpalatable. Each religious or social conservative that has surged to the top tier — Bachmann, Perry, Gingrich, Cain, Trump, Palin and Santorum — has crumbled under the spotlight. The Santorum candidacy does not have legs outside of Iowa — he has no money, no organisation, and has a record of voting for various big-spending initatives.

Religious and social conservatives are running out of time, and out of candidates. They may be forced to pin their colours to either Romney or Paul’s mast.

If no religious conservative emerges clearly from New Hampshire or South Carolina it shapes for a very interesting race.

Paul and Romney will maintain their bases. They are in it for the long haul. The winner will be the one who pulls in more of the social conservatives. Romney is confident that this will be him. After all, Paul is not a foreign policy interventionist, and most social and religious conservatives are.

Yet we should not discount economic and fiscal policy. Paul is the staunchest fiscal conservative in the race, and the only candidate with a serious program of cuts. Narrow Romney victories in South Carolina and Florida might not “sew the race up”, so much as drive social conservatives to Ron Paul as the only serious challenger to a Romney candidacy that differs from Obama only in details, not substance.

The other prospect is that social conservatives unite behind one candidate. But who is it to be? Gingrich? Perry? Santorum? None can be described as a consistent fiscal conservative, and that is a problem in this election cycle.

Most likely Romney will win New Hampshire and South Carolina. To many observers that would be game over after just three states. But Romney is an unsettling prospect to many Republicans — too liberal, too Wall Street, too establishment. Ron Paul — the only candidate other than Romney with a firm base —  stands a fine chance of establishing himself as the anti-Romney and winning a lot of delegates.

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Why the Republican Party Needs Ron Paul

From the Washington Post:

Simply, Ron Paul is just too popular to ignore. Republicans will find it very hard to win with him running as an Independent. If anything, a three-way split might play out even more strongly for Paul, as he can bash both the incumbent and the Republican as emblematic of the establishment — an establishment that more and more is failing America.

Of course, many forces are deeply opposed to Ron Paul, because for better or worse, his small-government anti-Federalist policies are a drastic change from the status quo, and embarrass big-government Republicans like Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and George W. Bush who claim they want to balance the budget and end up spending a heck of a lot more.

So Paul supporters can expect a deluge of negative claims: claims that he is a racist, claims that his foreign policy is dangerous, claims he wants to return to segregation, claims that he cannot win and is unelectable.

Ultimately, everyone knows that it is the status quo that is more unsustainable than anything else. America is now the most indebted nation in the history of our planet, bogged down in expensive wars and its role as global policeman, and increasingly in denial of her constitution and the principles of her founders. Congress and Obama — as well as extending the reactionary and unconstitutional Patriot Act — have recently signed some of the most reactionary and illiberal legislation ever in the NDAA of 2011, which allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens without due process. Americans voted for Obama hoping for change from the big-spending interventionist corporatism of George W. Bush, and got much more of the same.

Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy, his civil libertarianism, his strict adherence to the constitution, his rejection of banking bailouts and his willingness to cut spending are not what every voter is looking for, but are a tonic to the disastrous policies of the status quo that are sucking down the American economy.

Of course, many Americans fear radical change. That’s why establishment contenders like Cain, Gingrich, Bachmann and Perry have rapidly risen in the polls and fallen, as voters scrabble around hunting for a viable alternative to the status quo. Paul’s gains have been slow, steady and consistent. This has been in spite of an earlier campaign of media ignorance, and now a campaign of media smears, including the charge that he is either or a racist, or has associated himself with racists.

These media attacks will prove ineffective. Voters are turning to Paul because of his policies, and the fact that he represents a radical departure from what to many Americans is a disastrously failed status quo. He could be the Grand Wizard of the KKK, a shapeshifting Reptilian from Alpha Draconis, or a cross-dressing drug addict, and that would not change a thing because Ron Paul will ultimately be judged on the content of his policies, not superficial smears that have nothing whatever to do with policy.

Voters — middle class voters, poor voters, factory workers, the unemployed — like the idea that the President will cut the debt. Voters like the idea that the President will respect a strict interpretation of the constitution, instead of passing authoritarian legislation like the NDAA, SOPA and the Patriot Act. Voters like the idea that the President will end wars, close foreign bases, and defend America, instead of practicing expensive nation building in the middle east and central Asia. Voters like the idea of not pledging future tax dollars to bailing out badly managed and corrupt banks.

While some of his stances are unpopular with some segments of the population, there is no other declared candidate from either of the major parties who offers any of the above. None. Ron Paul’s rise is just a symptom of the establishment not delivering to the people what they want, need and deserve.