In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Getting Off the Republican Merry-Go-Round

This past Tuesday was caucus night in Iowa, and the contest ended in a near-three-way tie between Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum; Romney "won" by eight votes over Santorum, who didn't lead Paul by that much. As long as the race stays this tight, I can't be accused--if I come out for one of these or the other candidates--of merely jumping on a bandwagon or of backing a loser. So, for better or worse, and for whatever (little) it's worth, this might be a good time to declare my own preference--which is almost certain to fatally jinx whomever I endorse.

None of the contenders for the Republican Party nomination is an obvious or ideal choice. They all have some virtues and some shortcomings. At another time in history, it might be quite appropriate for people to support whichever candidate they thought was the most Simon-Pure conservative or libertarian, business leader or defense hawk, pro-lifer or policy wonk. I don't think we can afford to pick nits or indulge our fondest dreams now, with an overriding need to remove from power a Presidential administration and supporters bent on "transforming" America in ways most Americans don't want, and which is dragging this country into ruin. What we need above all is a candidate appealing to a broad cross-section of the electorate, who can win the confidence of Americans from diverse social, economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds--not a candidate who panders to everyone, but one whose leadership most people can accept and trust on a basic level.

For me, Newt Gingrich is not that candidate. He may appeal to some conservative intellectuals, Republican Party activists, and a few pundits, but not to the average working man or woman on the street. He carries far too much baggage both morally (he's been widely characterized as a "serial adulterer") and politically (his record suggests that he is not reliably more "conservative" than Romney). He strikes many as narrow and self-absorbed, if not downright vain, and is gaffe-prone. He is intrigued with gimmicks and schemes, and has a habit of impulsively suggesting things, such as hauling federal judges before Congress to "explain" controversial rulings, that are ludicrous and irresponsible. He may talk the conservative talk as well or better than anyone (witness his vaunted debating skills) but stumbles sooner or later whenever he tries to walk the walk. Obama's hit team might not need to destroy him; his own mouth and questionable judgment would save them the trouble.

Nor is Ron Paul the candidate we need. He may have been a consistent fighter in Congress for fiscal and military restraint, but his positions on many specific issues have been too narrowly "libertarian" and outside the mainstream of American voters for him to appeal to them very broadly. His foreign policy is too rigidly isolationist, and his ambivalence--if not antipathy--toward Israel would only serve to endanger the survival of peace and the only democracy in the Middle East. He seems to be more of a cult figure than a serious Presidential contender; his most ardent supporters are often belligerent and obnoxious, if not downright unhinged.

Rick Perry is a reasonably sound, if not pure, conservative, who has successfully presided for a decade over a state as large and diverse, geographically, ethnically, and economically, as many countries on earth. But he lacks discipline and national experience, and may still be too rough-edged for that forum. His performance in the recent Republican debates reflect a man who may not be 100 percent mentally engaged in the campaign, or entirely up to its extraordinary demands.

Jon Huntsman remains a virtual non-entity in this campaign, ignored by the media. Although he has an excellent resume, with substantial executive (Utah governor) and foreign policy (Ambassador to China) experience, he's very white-bread and can't seem to find an angle to catch the public's attention or imagination. He would make a good vice-presidential choice, unless the Presidential nominee were Mitt
Romney (two Mormons on one ticket would be more than many people--not including me--could tolerate).

Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are the most appealing to me personally for their social conservatism, Christian faith, and commitment to the preservation of innocent unborn life, but Bachmann is now out of the race. Santorum is soundly conservative on most other major issues, but, like Bachmann, lacks executive experience, and might not find strong support outside rural-suburban and conservative Catholic areas and the "Bible Belt." He may also be tainted by ethical questions and a free-spending record in the Senate. His purported brand of softer, more Main Street (as opposed to Wall Street) conservatism could resonate with broad sections of the electorate, but I think he would fold in a crumpled heap under an onslaught of Democrat attack ads.

Finally, there's Mitt Romney. He certainly isn't an ideologically orthodox conservative, but in the current social climate that would be helpful in the general election. I believe that his bedrock principles are sound, and that a more conservative Congress (with the Republicans winning the Senate in 2012) would effectively keep him "in line." Romney has an outstanding record as a successful businessman, enterprise leader, and state governor. He understands how the free market works. or is supposed to, and is committed to its essential preservation. I don't think he would sell out America, or Israel. He's a solid family man who seems to genuinely care about people. His moral integrity is unassailed; there's been no whiff of scandal about him, and I don't see any deep flaws in his judgment on matters of greatest concern to the country. I think he's trustworthy. If not a "uniter," I think he could at least be a reconciler as President, and would not be divisive. In contrast to Commandante Obama, I believe he would respect the Constitution and the will of the people.

My favorable view of Mitt Romney is not unqualified. His past, more liberal positions on abortion and "gay rights" are especially troublesome, but we can only take him on his word that those positions have evolved in a conservative direction after more careful study and prayer. To counter persistent charges of flip-flopping, Romney needs to hammer home the truth that while mandated health insurance may be legal in the states and supported by their citizens--as was the case in Massachusetts--it is beyond the federal government's powers under the U.S. Constitution, and is not favored by most American citizens (at least in its current form). He also needs to clarify his stance on climate change and "cap-and-trade," in which he expressed a continued belief several months ago, in light of recent evidence that that whole edifice is built on profoundly questionable science.

It's hard to picture any current candidate other than Romney gaining the support of a sufficiently large and broad segment of the electorate, and surviving the certain storm of Democrat defamation with his reputation intact, to win the general election. So, conservatives have to decide which is the greater risk: electing a capable if ideologically wavering--read "moderate" or "centrist"--individual as President, or handing four more years of federal control to an administration that is relentlessly making this country into an empty shadow of what it once was. In my view, this moment is too critical for the future of the American people to waste it on doctrinal quibbles and petty partisan infighting. For now, at least until the crisis has passed, Mitt Romney may be the best we can hope for.

At the end of the day, though, we should all remember and follow what the Bible teaches about political leaders:

It is better to trust in the LORD
than to put confidence in princes.

~ Psalm 118:9

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Once again, your analysis of the current presidential contenders (and campaign) is spot-on. Most of all, I LIKE your last IS better to 'put trust in the LORD, than confidence in 'princes'"! Especially someone like Emperor Barack...who has NO clothes. :) Well done!!