Sunday, January 15, 2012

Disappointing Field?

With a Republican caucus and a primary behind us in 2012, what have we learned? Well, to be honest, nothing significant. Although we've probably deciphered that its Romney's nomination to lose, the race is far from over. After all, we've got almost 5 months to mull over these candidates (though the winner is usually clear before then.)

I spent my first half of January listening to political podcasts, tracking poll numbers, nabbing bits and pieces of live stream debates, and of course watching the prcincts report in for the Iowa and New Hampshire contests. At first I was filled with excitement for each contest, and I had felt wonder concerning the destination.

Today, I'm not so optimistic. Front runner Romney has his views while running for the nomination, then a slightly different stance for the general election, and finally a new perspective altogether if he were to be elected president. Romney demonstrated this confusing dichotomy in New Hampshire when stating that he would usher in a "smaller and smarter government," and then immediately after said we would have a military unchallengable in the world. I think that accurately illustrates the difficulty in knowing anything about Romney.

While Newt Gingrich is interesting to me, he carries a good deal of baggage and then stops to heap on more every day. The public has had decades to carefully mull over his voting record, lobbying, personal missteps, and also his day to day gaffes. However, he's intelligent, and there's noone I would rather listen to debate. Although oratory isn't everything, its a powerful tool when running for president, and one the current president uses well. Winning the general election will undoubtedly require someone who can command debates when the time comes.

Santorum and Perry seem hardly worth mentioning as the first wants to continually show America's power to the world while outlawing homosexual acts. Santorum also made a campaign pledge to go to war with Iran. Although war with Iran may prove inevitable, I've never heard of a candidate promising to go to war as part of a campaign pledge. The latter, Mr. Perry, wants to re-invade Iraq. Yes, you did read that right, re-invade Iraq.

Last, but not least, is the ideologically consistent representative Ron Paul. Paul is smart, educated, honest, and probably the only true conservative that would slash the federal deficit in a way that matters (I say this because no other GOP candidate will touch defense.) Although Ron Paul is respected and consistent, he is not a good orator. Paul's ideas are often difficult to summarize, and when given 30 to 60 seconds to describe his position in a debate, he often falters and doesn't resonate with the public.

Although polls show Paul matching up relatively closely against Obama in a general election, it is impossible to know how those numbers would look after the two sparred in a number of debates. It would be foolish to not concede the advantage to Obama on this one. Regardless of whether you agree with Ron Paul or not, few can argue that a Ron Paul nomination would be one of the most interesting election years in history.

Although every candidate has flaws, its hard to not see the current field as being weak. One wonders if a president with 8 or 9 percent unemployment and a skyrocketing deficit would have had a chance at reelection in any other election cycle. Many fiscal conservatives like myself are terrified of what another Obama presidency would mean for a 15 trillion dollar deficit on the verge of multiplying. One step should be taken at a time, and that first step is to choose the right nominee. Let's choose carefully.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Libertarianism to me

The upcoming Iowa Caucus is, as always, generating a good deal of media attention. People are eager to see who Obama's challenger will be. Although we have presidential elections every four years, it feels different as of late. Maybe we feel like we all have more at stake now with an economy slowing to a mere crawl? Or it could be the erosion of many civil liberties in just a short decade. Whatever it is, people are interested.

In the last two weeks, a number of people have approached me to ask which Republican candidate I like for president. When to their surprise I utter Ron Paul's name, they tend to give me the same kinds of responses. "He's good and honest but so extreme." Or else they'll say, "I like his fiscal sense but his foreign policy is just outdated."

Now, I'm not writing this to defend my candidate of choice, but rather to simply talk about my personal brand of libertarianism. After all, any candidate I support, I support with some reservations and some difference of opinion. The only candidate who will agree with everything you believe is yourself.

However, I consider myself to be somewhat Libertarian in my beliefs, and I'll even use the term to describe myself. To some, Libertarian means extreme isolationism. To others its a fiscally conservative philosophy that is also socially liberal. Other's view it as an anarchist philosophy that desires no law or order (drug legalization is often associated with this.)

As is the problem with many labels, a word by itself doesn't always capture that entire perspective. In fact libertarianism in itself probably has the most diverse following of any major American political perspective. I'm just going to tell you what it means to me.

To me, in simple terms, it is the ideal of using government in a way that maximizes freedom and protects liberty to the full extent possible (particularly those freedoms outlined in the Constitution.) This means that although I may personally disagree with something socially, I may still want the government to protect someone's right to do that. I say this because choice is not only important to a libertarian, but important to any free society. Without choice, freedom does not exist.

Appreciating choice, I support other nation's having the opportunity to choose and be free. This doesn't however lead me to an isolationist perspective, but simply one that is "less interventionist." Especially at the grass roots level, the people of a nation have to embrace choice for themselves. After all, if we would have asked ourselves what we could have learned from past foreign endeavors, we would already be traveling down this path of less intervention. From Korea, to Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, one would have thought we would have learned something about intervention.

If I've learned one thing concerning foreign policy from my government, its that long war campaigns not only wary a country financially and emotionally, but the inevitable prolonged collateral damage emboldens and multiplies your enemiees against you.

In very simple terms, this summarizes my Libertarian perspective. However, how philosophy breaks down into specific policies is case by case and a conversation for a different day. If you ever want to discuss more specifically, feel free to leave comments and I will respond.