February 04, 2008

Back in 2004, traditional conservatives were faced with navigating between a Charybdis and a Scylla by the names of Bush and Kerry. On one side lurked something quite monstrous: a self-described conservative who fiddled as the federal government grew to obscene proportions and who allowed sofa-samurai with names like Wolfowitz, Perle, and Kristol to talk him into an unending occupation of Babylon. On the other side swirled the vortex of John Kerry, George Soros, and Michael Moore, all promising big taxes, big government, and plenty of winks and nods to the cultural Left. Seeking relief, I went for Michael Anthony Peroutka of the Constitution Party. Some called it a wasted vote, and, yes, old Peroutka did not win, but I voted for a party rooted in the values of the Founders.

The 2008 campaign might seem to present a similar dilemma. Even after Giuliani has left the race to pursue a career as a mortician and horror-film villain, the top tier of the GOP offers little in the way of change from the past seven years. Among the Democrats, “Billary” would present the country with a fate worse than Kerry, and I’m about as likely to vote for Barack Obama as I am to join Oprah’s book club.

Rescuing me from despair is Ron Paul. Here is a man who makes me believe that the Grand Old Party of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and William F. Buckley might have a second life. Here is a man from Texas, with strong libertarian and conservative values, who has laid out a foreign policy that would put America first. Unlike the rest of them, if Ron Paul ever stood on the steps of the Capitol and swore to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, he’d actually mean it.

And there’s more. Back in November 2, 2004, while I was at Buckley’s place, where I’ve spent every election night since 1976, Henry Kissinger asked me whom I had endorsed. For the life me, I was at a loss for the name of the man I had just recommend to lead the free world. Peroutka is a fine, upstanding gentleman, but he had simply not generated the kind of following that makes his name easy to recall after one has had a drink or two. Ron Paul is a different matter all together.

Much can be learned about a candidate from the people he attracts. Every neocon hack looking for a promotion backed Giuliani early; and the usual collection of Hollywood airheads, ethno-hustlers, and media gatekeepers have clicked their heels behind the Democrats. Paul, on the other hand, has attracted an enormous amount of supporters from all walks of life, many of whom had hitherto shown the good taste to stay out of politics. Paul gets his votes from the real Americans of the heartland and the most dynamic men of industry and the sciences—not from catamites like David Frum, the tubby Richard Perle, and John “4 pizzas” Podhoretz. It seems that a Paul supporter from outside the beltway came up with the idea for his fundraising blitzes, and a political novice from Google led the troops in New Hampshire. They’re all united in an effort to form a movement based on liberty, not nation-building financed with money we don’t have.

Beltway journalists would have loved to cover another election cycle without ever mentioning such unfashionable things as non-interventionist foreign policy, Constitutionalism, and sound monetary policy. But the success of Ron Paul’s candidacy has thwarted business as usual. Even if Paul doesn’t quite pull off the GOP nomination, he will have accomplished a great deal and permanently changed the landscape of American politics. Paul has led an insurgent political movement that has grown larger than I ever thought possible, and he’s created a new camp for liberty within a Republican Party I had just about given up for lost. Ron Paul is the real deal, and his name will soon be jumping to everyone’s lips at the best cocktail parties whenever liberty and traditional conservatism are the topics of choice.


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