11.26.2007

Getting back to basics

After reading three of the Op-Ed pieces in the Washington Post this morning, I began to notice a theme: in next year's presidential contest, it's not necessarily something fresh and exciting that voters are looking for, but instead it's getting back to the basics of what made each party - especially the Republican Party - great.

The first column was by Robert Novak. In his blistering critique of Mike Huckabee as a "false conservative" Novak pointed out that although the former-Arkansas governor is painting himself as a staunch conservative, his record indicates the opposite may be true. I've seen this argument before and the outlook doesn't seem as rosy for Huckabee. Novak's broader point, however, was a fear that Huckabee's rise is the result of a party that has fallen victim to single issue conservatism, that which places abortion and gay marriage above all other issues. What ever happened to limited government?

That question is answered by Ron Paul's seemingly inexplicable rise in the polls. In an excellent, in-depth piece on the Paul campaign, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch try to explain why Paul's message is resonating so loudly. The answer is really quite simple: Ron Paul rips both sides. Ron Paul is a lot of things, but politics as usual is not one of them and that seems to be a great selling point to young people especially. It's not just his anti-war stance - it helps, but doesn't explain his popularity - but it's the fact that Ron Paul actually believes that the Constitution matters! He's appealing to anti-establishment college students and also to libertarians who remember the principles of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Those to icons of the conservative movement weren't big-government types like President Bush and - in my opinion - Mitt Romney, they were advocates of getting government out of the lives of American citizens. That used to be the bedrock principle of the Republican Party, not abortion or gay marriage.

The final column was also quite interesting. It focused mainly on the narcissism of the baby-boom generation and why the country is turned off by them. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are the poster-candidates for that generation and while they may be doing well in some state polls, there are an awful lot of voters who distrust them. It's an interesting read and one that I am inclined to agree with.

After reading these columns, I have to say that they make a compelling argument. Maybe, just maybe, if we could get back to the principles and the beliefs that actually united the country - instead of focusing on how to divide enough groups to win an election - we could actually get something meaningful done.