This is not an exhaustive list of everyone who is running for the GOP nomination, or everyone who might. It is a sample of potential candidates comprehensive enough to demonstrate the utter futility of relying on the so-called Republican frontrunners or their carbon copies to pose any sort of principled opposition to Obama. This article is also not thorough on all the problems with each of these men and women, but rather just gives a taste.
I do not include Ron Paul here, and it almost pains me to mention his name in the same article. I also am not including Gary Johnson, a candidate whose positions on some important issues are not as libertarian as Ron’s but who is nevertheless far better than anyone explored below. Johnson has been marginalized out of the debates, and I feel bad for that. They would do the same to Ron if they could get away with it.
I think there is at least a strong possibility one of the forthcoming names will be at the top of the ticket in 2012, and if that is the case, there will probably be no reason a fan of liberty should care much about who wins.
Romney the Health Care Commie
Mitt Romney frightened me in 2008 when he suggested we might want to "double Guantánamo." On all the issues where Republicans are bad, he is bad. On some issues where Republicans are not always horrible, like gun control, Romney’s record is spotty at best.
Most conspicuous is his failure to have a principled critique of Obama’s most significant policy achievement that the GOP opposed fairly consistently. Romney is on constitutionally legitimate ground when he mounts the federalism defense of Romneycare while still criticizing Obamacare. His point that in a free republic, the states should be laboratories of democracy and the federal government should butt out, is valid. American socialism is indeed more constitutionally sound and less damaging this way.
But socialized medicine is still bad policy, morally and economically, even if done on the state level. American conservatives deride "Taxachussetts" for its state-level government interventions all the time. What’s more, the constitutional argument carries no weight coming from a big-government Republican. Does Romney oppose Medicare, Social Security, national education standards, plenary federal regulation of industry, the Federal Reserve, the FDA, and the war on drugs? None of these programs are any more constitutionally sound than Obamacare.
This inconsistency will probably not hurt him in the long run, since most Republicans are equally hypocritical. Most American conservatives have become snookered by the mild socialism of both parties. The New Deal/Great Society/Compassionate Conservative agenda of entitlement guarantees, cascading deficit spending, and federal support for the old, sick, needy, and indeed most of the middle class is a fixture of every political program to be advanced in a Republican presidential bid in a general election since the 1960s. Goldwater was the last one who didn’t always sound like he was talking out of both sides of his mouth and much of his party was uncomfortable with him. Unfortunately, Romney’s weak critique of Democratic statism is par for the course.
This is fiscal conservatism today. This is the Republican Party: Medicare D, No Child Left Behind, new national bureaucracies, endless unfunded wars, deficit spending to finance the welfare-warfare state of FDR, LBJ and George W. Bush. Romney is not a RINO (Republican in Name Only). He is in fact a quintessential modern Republican, and that is the great tragedy. He thus has a decent shot at the White House, but no one who loves liberty should help him get there.
Rudy Giuliani’s Handcuffed Entrepreneurs and Nightstick to the Knee
Rudy might throw his hat in or not, but he is worth at least passing mention. Religious conservatives warmed up to this pro-choice social liberal for one major reason: On 9/11, he was able to profit politically more than any politician not in the Bush administration. As was revealed later, it was his decision as mayor of New York to put the emergency response center inside the World Trade Center, despite its known vulnerability, having been attacked in 1993, that exacerbated the situation when the Twin Towers fell. Other problems with the response have also been pinned on him. Such critiques might be hitting below the belt if not for his long record of running on the platform of having been mayor on 9/11.
Giuliani still gets credit for "cleaning up" the Big Apple, although some have noted the mysterious nature of the reduced vagrant and street criminal populations. He has been accused of simply sweeping them into New Jersey. Surely his draconian drug war and other "tough on crime" developments – cracking down on people with dime bags and jailing homeless people for the most minor transgressions – should give us pause about the prospect of Rudy with the nuclear button.
Giuliani also has a record of anti-capitalist witch-hunting that easily compares to the socialistic biases of Obama’s crew of pinkos. As the great, late Burt Blumert reminded us on why he hated the man with a passion, Rudy’s oppressive takedown of the heroic capitalist Michael Milken was such a stark act of persecution that it alone should dissuade anyone with any respect at all for the market economy or the rule of law from the notion of ever, under any circumstances, voting for this megalomaniacal monster.
Rick Perry, Totalitarian from Texas
On Groundhog Day, 2007, Rick Perry climbed out of a hole and cast a shadow upon the land. It was on that February 2 that Perry issued an executive decree forcing adolescent Texas girls to get the HPV vaccine, an inoculation that is seemingly effective against a fraction of the human papillomavirus, one of the causes of cervical cancer. There was an opt-out option, but it was still an edict so sickening and invasive we could only expect how social conservatives would react if President Obama attempted such a measure. The presumption of universal sexual conduct among teen girls, the pretentious intervention into every household, the health risks disregarded, the neglected fact that many if not most cases of the very disease being targeted wouldn’t be addressed – the full insidiousness of Perry’s measure escaped most commentators’ notice, including on the right that is today up in arms, correctly, about Obamacare and TSA.
It didn’t hurt Perry’s motivations, probably, that the only FDA-approved vaccine for HPV was produced by Merck, a company that had contributed to Perry’s campaign and had other lobbying connections to his administration associates. The cynical corporatism and predatory statism of this one executive order tell you all you need to know about current frontrunner Rick Perry.
It was no surprise recently that Perry betrayed and derailed the efforts within Texas to hold TSA accountable. For once, there was a proposal to protect the liberty of citizens, in this case against the federal government, and of course Perry sided with the Obama administration against his own subjects. Why challenge the national groping apparatus you are seeking to inherit?
Perry stabbed fiscal conservatives in the back when he supported a rise in the state franchise tax and a controversial property tax reform bill. Like the other Texas Republican governor George W. Bush, Perry would make a terrible president.
Michelle Bachmann: Theocon Israel-Firster
Presidential candidate and Tea Party heroine Michelle Bachmann sure knows how to rile up the red-state base. Talk up the threat of socialism. Praise the Constitution. Even criticize the Federal Reserve a little bit. And this is all well and good, although her consistency even on fiscal issues is quite questionable, given her support for Cap, Cut, and Balance and other such Republican frauds.
But Bachmann holds at least one position that is at complete odds with the more admirable principles on which the United States was founded. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington warned about the danger of permanent and entangling alliances. The United States, as John Quincy Adams put it, "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."
In her recent video, Bachmann takes a very different position. She says that America’s "alliance with Israel is critical for both nations at all times."
This is a deeply unAmerican sentiment, and you don’t have to be the least bit anti-Israeli to recognize this. She is saying the alliance with Israel is permanent and unmoving, that what is in Israel’s interests is the same as what is in the United States’s interests. Even more troubling, she explicitly conflates the two countries in terms of their national identities:
"Israelis and Americans are two sides of the same coin. We share the same values and the same aspirations. We even share the same exceptional mission – to be a light to the nations. After all, the image of America as the Shining City on the Hill is taken from the Book of Isiah."
This is bizarre, at the very least. Could you imagine a prominent politician getting away with saying this about another country, even one as culturally similar as Great Britain? "Two sides of the same coin"? This video, an attack on Obama for being insufficiently pro-Israel, is essentially arguing that most Americans, unlike the president, recognize that the Israeli nation and the American nation are one and the same.
Indeed, the next line, about how Americans and Israelis supposedly have "the same values and the same aspirations," is also troubling for anyone who thinks the U.S. should look after its own interests. But aside from the objections on America-First grounds, consider the collectivism here, as well as the strange notion that Israelis in particular have the same values. We need not be the slightest bit disparaging of Israelis to see this is not the case – but it is especially ironic coming from someone who claims to defend limited government and free enterprise. After all, Israel is not a capitalist paradise. It is a welfare state. It is more domestically socialist, probably, than the Democrats in the United States. Its militarism and police state might inspire confidence in the Republicans who typically but inconsistently want to defend economic liberty but champion an interventionist military and law enforcement regime. But even by confused Republican standards, Israel is not some sort of paragon of Reagan conservatism, however defined.
And this doesn’t touch on the religious implications of her video. Of course, Christians have long been attacked for speaking their faith in the political and public spheres, and this is a disgrace. Religious conservatives have been demonized by the secular media. Yet when it comes to foreign policy and the actual governmental agenda of the U.S. executive branch, Jefferson was right that there should be a wall of separation between church and state. Madison, the author of the Constitution, was right when he said that religion and government "will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together." The whole notion of determining the proper stance of the United States in international affairs on some lines from the Old Testament should frighten even the most devoutly Christian or Jewish, for war and government are not the proper means of salvation. Those who oppose theocracy as well as those who want America to pursue a foreign policy free of permanent, entangling alliances – both groups of whom should include all sane Americans – can’t help but cringe at the sight of Bachmann’s video.
Will she at least stand up for all Christians? Maybe now, but it is at least potentially troubling that the church that she quit only this month held the position that the Pope was the anti-Christ.
Herman Cain, Overrated Modal Conservative
Jon Stewart, in mocking Herman Cain’s proposal that all federal legislation only be a few pages, drew fire from the politically correct right for having mimicked Cain’s voice as well, presumably because it was racist to do so. Stewart shot back with footage of his doing dozens of voices over the years, clearly with an equal-opportunity approach that spared no ethnic or regional group. Yet the same conservatives denouncing all leftist accusations against the Tea Party for being racist are now claiming that the only reason anyone would dislike Cain is because he’s black.
What is confusing to me, however, is why so many have become enamored of Cain. Perhaps it is just his modal conservatism – his willingness to spout old Republican talking points in favor of business but without much substance behind them, and then go off on some culture warring point about the sanctity of marriage or whatever.
Tom Woods has a great video explaining many of the particular problems with Cain. As Tom notes, Cain endorsed Romney in 2008, favored TARP against the "free market purists," defends the bulk of the Patriot Act, has a despicable record on the Federal Reserve, and has no real understanding of economics.
There is one reason, however, that Cain stands up for being particularly dangerous. He has no conception at all of religious liberty in a time when it is under attack. He believes Americans have a right to prohibit mosques from being built, out of the hysterical paranoia that Sharia law will take hold and wipe away all out freedoms and Christian identity as a nation. For similar reasons Cain says appointing Muslims to government would be a big problem for him, as you never know which of them is a terrorist. This ugly anti-Islamism should all by itself should be a deal-breaker for anyone every remotely interested in liberty. Cain is targeting the group most likely to be rounded up and interned should another terrorist incident occur, a group that is already the subject of warmongering hatred, and he is legitimizing this through his candidacy. The bigotry Cain espouses helps foment the aggressive wars that have done more to undermine American freedom in recent decades than anything else.
Rick Santorum’s Crusade Against Freedom
Rick Santorum says he’s in the presidential race to win. In typical campaign-season Republican fashion, he has condemned Obama for having "wrecked our economy, and centralized power in Washington, DC, and robbed people of their freedom."
Of course it is true that Obama has been a disaster for American liberty. It doesn’t take a genius to see this. But one might wonder, what is the alternative Santorum represents?
Santorum’s War Against Contractual Liberty: Central to a free society is the concept of freedom of association. People should be free to disassociate from others as well, for any reason. One application of this principle would be the right of employers (and employees) to end their employment relationship at will – only with the caveat that premature termination in violation of an employment contract be remedied through damages. Certainly, no boss should be forced to hire anyone against his will.
This principle has been eroded severely through Civil Rights and anti-discrimination laws. This is a tragic abandonment of the cornerstone of a free society. But Santorum has proposed, with the support of such Democratic stalwarts as John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Kennedy, to gut this principle even further, by forcing employers to accommodate the religious practices of their workers. This is an egregious attack on economic liberty. It means that a boss would have to make "reasonable" provisions for his employees’ prayers and religious rituals, even if these are at odds with his own values. In a society of religious and contractual liberty, employers wouldn’t have to hire people of any religious persuasion that they didn’t want to, much less subsidize religious practices they did not support. Of course, customers could boycott companies if they found the discrimination or lack of accommodation unfair. But this should be up to free individuals working in the market, never the state.
Santorum’s Attack on the Constitution: Santorum has argued that the federal government should build a wall and use national guards to enforce border security – a usurpation of the proper authority of the states under the Tenth Amendment. He has been an enthusiastic defender of torture, despite the Eighth Amendment, due process rights, and every single standard of human decency. He also voted in support of making warrantless wiretapping easier, in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment; the flag-burning amendment – not actually in violation of the Constitution, but with the opinion, apparently, that the First Amendment needs changing; harsher penalties for drugs, when there is absolutely no authority in the Constitution for the feds to be involved in this at all; draconian penalties for gun violations so long as drugs are involved; federal abstinence education programs, when in fact education is the proper province of the states; a presidential line-item veto, when this is clearly an unconstitutional deprivation of Congress’s legislative authority; the Patriot Act and the evisceration of habeas corpus for detainees in the war on terror. And if you think he only supports cruel measures against those deemed by the government to be "terrorists," keep in mind that this is the man who callously said that victims who didn’t successfully flee New Orleans in the midst of Hurricane Katrina should have been burdened by "tougher penalties."
Santorum’s Battle Against Rationality in Foreign Affairs: Santorum has voted to expand NATO, an outdated Cold War relic; supported stronger sanctions against Syria, Cuba, Iran and even Japan in direct tension with the human right to free trade and the interests of the United States; and backed Clinton’s unconstitutional and unnecessary war with Kosovo, despite the better judgment of many other Republicans. But what else is to be expected from a man so deluded he thought as late as 2006 that Weapons of Mass Destruction were found in Iraq – even as the Bush administration insisted this was not so – and has seriously argued, even in a time when political correctness threatens freedom of inquiry and academic liberty at our universities, that criticism of Israel on college campuses should be federally punished?
Is He Good on Anything? Some will insist that at least Santorum is a fiscal conservative, but he voted for Bush’s deficit-enlarging budgets and does not support abolition of the huge unconstitutional, wasteful and counterproductive federal programs that are drowning this nation in debt – the empire, Social Security, Medicare, and all the rest. He might be marginally less spendthrift than Obama, but wait until you see him in power. He has no compunctions about using the force of the federal government and tax dollars to impose his vision on America – a vision in which employers have to accommodate workers’ religions against their will, a vision in which Washington teaches kids what kind of sexual values to embrace, a vision in which campus criticism of America’s closest Middle East ally is socially engineered out of existence, a vision of social conservatism not nurtured in a humane and virtuous manner by families, churches, and communities, but by the largest political body in the history of the world – the U.S. government. He has no respect for free speech, the Fourth Amendment, or Constitutional limits on the federal police power. Like so many other politicians, he thinks Americans have all too much liberty in many areas, and yet has the temerity to criticize his ideological mirror image, Barack Obama.
Obama has been a nightmare for liberty across the board. So was Bush. If Americans want to finally awake to a future of liberty, they will reject the authoritarian right-wing socialism of Rick Santorum.
Oh No. Another Reagan Republican: Jon Huntsman
Jon Huntsman announced his presidential bid in front of the Statue of Liberty, evoking images of Reagan’s announcement of his own run over three decades ago standing at the same spot. Huntsman, a former Reagan official, reminded his audience that Reagan had "assured us we could ‘make America great again,’ and under his leadership we did."
In 2007, Jon Huntsman openly favored an individual health care mandate – the most directly anti-liberty element to Obamacare. Also as governor of Utah, he signed a global warming initiative agreeing to cut greenhouse gases. Under his stewardship, state spending increased by about 10% a year.
Some will say this means Huntsman is clearly not a real Reagan conservative. Yet Reagan is the president who:
About doubled the size of the federal government
Increased Social Security taxes and the overall tax bite from the American economy
Promised to abolish the Selective Service, the Department of Education, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau, and did nothing of the sort
As governor, Reagan:
Signed the Mulford Act, banning the carrying of firearms in general terms, setting the stage for California’s modern anti-gun atmosphere
Increased taxes more than any previous governor, including his $1 billion hike in his first year – the largest tax increase in CA history
Immensely expanded the welfare bureaucracy and added over 30,000 employees to the state government payroll
Created 73 new state government councils and commissions, including the horrible California Energy Commission
Oversaw a 122% increase in the state budget
This is the reality of the Reagan legacy. Even as a governor, with no military enemy as an excuse, he acted even worse than the Democratic governors before and after him. And why not? Reagan was a unionist, a Hollywood New Deal Democrat who took on the role of touting free enterprise because he was hired by General Electric to do so. He was a performer who acted his way into the White House, and to this day the Republicans all jump over themselves to claim his mantle, all competing to be described as the most Reaganesque.
Huntsman is indeed a Reagan Republican: a defender of big government who stands in front of the Statue of Liberty without any credibility on what that statue represents.
Tim Pawlenty, Second-Rate Bore for More Government and War
Poor guy. Even given his close relationship to the 2008 John McCain presidential run, Pawlenty has been unable to turn that experience into the credentials needed to run another losing presidential campaign in 2012. He is not the most frightening of the bunch, however, although his dedication to smaller government is par for the course among Republicans. That is to say, he doesn’t have any.
Pawlenty as governor of Minnesota was an enthusiast for public works projects, rail lines, and Target Field, two-thirds of the funding for which was billed to the taxpayers. He is well known for his bill raising the ethanol requirement for gasoline up to 20%. In environmentalist California, the figure is closer to 6%.
Back in March, before Obama committed the United States to yet another anti-Muslim war of aggression, Pawlenty scathingly attacked the administration for being soft on Libya. Condemning the president for caring what other nations thought about American wars, Pawlenty intoned: "What's most important is our nation is secure and respected." Ah. "Respected." So that is the point of these foreign adventures – being treated like the international mob boss. While the other Republicans in the field are now toying with America-First rhetoric concerning this war, Pawlenty has not taken off his campaign website the numerous examples of his being a visionary ahead of the curve, goading the emperor to flex his muscles before Obama himself felt inclined finally to let the bombs drop.
Newt Gingrich the Career Political Outsider
If there is a great silver lining in this election it is that Gingrich is doing so poorly. What a joy to watch him get nowhere, to watch his ego take a beating every day.
Gingrich has boasted that he is not a "Washington figure" and claims that he "will clearly be the most change-oriented, the most fundamental reform candidate in the race." Yes, this from the guy who was recently taken to the woodshed for his comments that Paul Ryan’s ridiculously moderate budget cut proposal was an example of dangerous "right-wing social engineering."
This only demonstrates what is meant these days when someone is called a "Washington outsider." Obama was supposed to be such a candidate, despite his record-busting campaign donations from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street powerhouses, his unequivocal support for the agenda of AIPAC and other establishment lobbying groups. But even Obama was a better example of an outsider than lifetime government employee John McCain, who laughably ran as a maverick in 2008, defending virtually every element of the Bush regime – the wars, the bailouts, the compassionate conservative welfare statism.
There was a time long before his stint as Speaker of the House when Gingrich was a little bit interesting. In 1982, Newt Gingrich wrote to the Journal of the American Medical Association in defense of medical marijuana. He noted that "Federal law. . . continues to define marijuana as a drug ‘with no accepted medical use,’ and federal agencies continue to prohibit physician-patient access to marijuana. This outdated federal prohibition is corrupting the intent of the state laws and depriving thousands of glaucoma and cancer patients of the medical care promised them by their state legislatures."
Almost 30 years later, is he still asking for a liberalization of federal marijuana law? Quite the reverse. He strongly suggests we need to look at such countries as Singapore for our inspiration on drug policy and does not flinch when it is pointed out that that nation executes drug dealers and issues mandatory drug tests to the general population. These are totalitarian proposals, and Gingrich seems to endorse them emphatically.
Newt’s Contract with America – the Republicans’ literature offering hope and change to the American people – was filled with reforms supposedly aimed at limiting the power of Washington, but much of it had to do with expanding government to crack down on crime or uphold family values. One thing is for certain: the Republican Congress in the 1990s did not cut back government overall. To the contrary, in the 1990s the last federal budget passed by the Republicans was hundreds of billions higher than the last one passed by the Democratic Congress. In some areas, like farm subsidies, spending went up substantially.
The ringleader of the 1990s Republican non-revolution has no hopes, and for this at least we can be grateful.
Sarah Palin: Will the Bulldog with Lipstick Run?
Many have long argued that she would have no chance at the presidency. Only half the Republican voters like her, and none of the Democrats do. Obama is polled to easily defeat her in her own state of Alaska.
Perhaps I am playing into the media zeitgeist by not being a lot more substantive in this discussion. What about Palin’s political positions? Well, she has flip-flopped and equivocated on quite a few questions. But it would be fair to say that she is slightly more fiscally conservative than Obama, in the same ballpark in terms of foreign policy (although with the distinct possibility of surprising us in either direction), and otherwise comfortable with the status quo of bailouts, corporatism, entitlements, huge government, and central management of the economy, with some perfunctory areas where she mildly dissents from the Washington consensus. In other words, she is a typical Republican politician, who might sound a little better than the Democrats when she is out of power, but who always has the potential to prove a neocon in the White House.
Yet it is a mistake to assume the above is the most substantive thing to be said of her. Palin was primarily always a culture-war figure: a rallying point for the heartland to unify and cry out that it had enough of the coastal elitism of the central state and media giants. Yet what were they rebelling against in 2008? Was it the Bush legacy they had voted for? He was, after all, a counterfeit middle American, a Connecticut transplant in the heart of Texas who always advocated big government. The biggest issue to unify the proto-Tea Party uprising of 2008 was, of course, the gigantic Wall Street bailouts, which were advocated and supported by Palin, as well as McCain and Obama. Palin had the problem of running on a ticket calling for hope and change when the Democratic opposition had already trademarked those slogans and was running against the sorry record of her own party’s mismanagement of the economy and two wars. Now the setting is ripe for a run against Obama-style elitist liberalism. The problem is, Palin is a TV star and her own very red state backs the incumbent over her.
There’s lots of talk about whether she can beat Michelle Bachmann. Maybe not. Nevertheless, I still don’t think it’s impossible for her to be president one day, if not in 2013 then down the line. Palin is still very young. She could run every election cycle until 2028 – five elections, inclusive – before she’s any older than Hillary Clinton was in 2008. Think of that. Even if she’s decisively defeated this time, she has plenty of opportunities to make a comeback like Richard Nixon, or Peewee Herman, or Freddy Kreuger, depending on how you regard her.
I for one welcome Palin into the race, as I find her entertaining and somewhat refreshing. My appreciation is nuanced, as I do not think she is any sort of champion of freedom but rather an establishment politician, but it can be fun watching the liberal media stumble over themselves to attack her for cultural reasons, perennially and invincibly clueless that much of the country is on board with her social values. Part of me even wants her to win the White House, not because she will be any better than Obama, necessarily, but because it would serve to educate at least some people. Either the liberals will learn that she is not the devilish threat to their social democracy as they’ve been fearing, or some conservatives will learn that the problem wasn’t Obama but leviathan, or some feminists will learn that a woman in the White House doesn’t mean a more peaceful or less corrupt executive branch any more than a black president means a less predatory criminal justice system. The problem is political power itself, and no modification to the cultural lipstick worn by the empress will mean a damn thing. Perhaps Palin will help bring us closer to the day when Americans recognize that.
The Grand Old Party: A Circus of Fascists, Clowns, and Creeps
As I’ve noted repeatedly here and elsewhere, the Republican Party has always been a party of big government. The exceptions only prove the rule. If any of the above people get the presidential nomination we will again face a contest between two candidates with no reliable respect for the liberal tradition, free trade, peace, freedom of association, civil liberties or free-market capitalism. The bright side is we’ll only be closer to the day when Americans give up on electoral politics as a means to achieve freedom.
Much of this material is adapted from material first published on JohnDennisReport.com. Note this, as well as LewRockwell.com, in any reprints.
July 23, 2011
Anthony Gregory is research editor at the Independent Institute. He lives in Oakland, California. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.
Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.