Could Ron Paul Have Won?
As we speak the heavyweights of the Republican Party are meeting to discuss how to recover from the debacle (for the Republicans that is) that was to 2008 election. Their goal will be to figure out how they can win national elections again. I wonder if they will even consider the advice of Ron Paul. Certainly, they would do well to do so, because I think that absent the newsletter scandal and a couple of other skeletons in his closet Ron Paul could have won the election for the Republicans.
Obama did not win the election. The Republicans lost it. Their entire election strategy consisted of trying to scare people away from voting for Obama. Why didn’t they present a plan or vision of their own that was more comprehensive than the fatuous “Country First” slogan? Because they did have a plan and it was one that they knew voters did not want.
What voters wanted
There were three major things concerning voters: the economy, the war, and corruption.
1) The economy. The corporatist or steroidal mercantilist policies of the Republican party is collapsing. Most people don’t understand why, but recognize that they are being squeezed by rising prices and by falling income. They want someone to fix it.
2) The war. Most people think the war was mismanaged. Badly. They are not pacifists, unfortunately. Rather, they want someone who isn’t going to reclessly plunge into wars, to try to incite them unecessarily.
3) Corruption: Everybody has heard of the “Bridge to Nowhere” and the “Abramof Scandal”. They remember “Heckuva Job Brownie”‘s contribution to the Katrina devastation. They rightly perceive the last 8 years to have been remarkably filled with cronyism and government giveaways to people with pull. They want that to stop.
What the Republicans Offered:
1) The economy: More cronyism! But with lip service to free markets! And McCain saying that one moment he didn’t know what he was doing, then grandstanding to get the bailout passed and failing, then complaining about the Democrats and ….
In the end, the Republican message was that the problems were caused by Democrats and that the Republicans would somehow do a good job. Hardly reassuring, especially coming from a political party that had controlled both and arguably all three branches of the federal government for much of the past decade.
2) The war: More war. Against Russia! Iran! China even! When a presidential candidate gets up and announces that the U.S. will send the sons of voters to places they never heard of to fight in a long-running war that they were unaware of, they are not reassured.
3) Corruption: Nothing other than platitudes about opposition to earmarks. Oh and desperate attempts to point to Democrats who are corrupt. Look over there! No not at us, over there!
What Ron Paul Offered:
1) The economy: I recently read an editorial in a financial magazine that said something to the effect that only two schools of economics had come out of the crisis looking good, the Austrians and the Marxists. Whereas the Marxists have long been discredited economically (Lenin’s attempts to do away with trade in the early days of the Bolshevik revolution and the debacle that resulted stand in mute testimony of how wrong they are), the Austrians have not. Many of their predictions – about how Bretton Woods would collapse, the coming of the Great Depression, the current financial crisis have come true, precisely as they predicted. Ron Paul is closely identified with the Austrian school. He understands the theories. He can speak about them authoritatively. Long before any other national Republican politician, Ron Paul had been warning of the current financial crisis. his policy prescriptions, emphasizing reducing spending and cutting taxes, reducing the financial burdens p;laced on people by government would probably have resonated with a substantial portion of the electorate. His specific, concrete policy statements, far less unfeasible than those of his competitors would have given voters something positive to consider.
2) The war: Ron Paul’s position of bringing troops home from overseas and cutting military spending would have made him many powerful enemies. However, as the consistent anti-war Republican, he would have been in a very favorable position to Obama who is quite the interventionist when it comes to causes that are politically attractive. Ron Paul could credibly promise to end the mismanagement of the war.
3) Corruption: Ron Paul’s vision of the Federal Government would be a far less corrupt one. How many parasites can be supported by a government that sticks to a few enumerated powers? When the farmer stops pouring slop into the trough, the pigs stop lining up to eat.
A positive message rather than a negative one
Ron Paul had a positive message, a set of policy proposals that were a road map as to how he wanted to proceed forward. McCain has no such thing. All he could hope for was that enough people didn’t want Obama to propel him into victory.
Of course, people who found the status quo unacceptable held their noses and voted for Obama. An outsider like Ron Paul who credibly promoted limited government and free markets, whose consistently stood his ground even when it placed him in opposition to his party, would have given many people who hated the status quo but didn’t like Obama’s proposals, a reason to vote Republican.
I don’t think Ron Paul himself could have won the election – the newsletter scandal would have sunk him – however, someone credibly advancing his agenda could have. And, if they want to be anything more than a regional party limited to the band connecting Northern Louisiana to Kentucky, they would do well to consider that fact.