When the supposedly conservative Republican candidates attack the leading GOP contender for being an evil capitalist, you know the world has turned upside down. Mostly, though, you know there’s not much of a market anymore for people who believe in economic freedom.
Some of my best friends are highly invested in a futile effort to elect Ron Paul president. I’ve talked before about why it’s going to fail, and I’ve also talked about why I won’t be voting for him (or anybody else). But I’ve been told forcefully by my friends that I’m wrong — that Paul can be elected. I’ve also been told that even if he’s not elected, he’s “educating” voters and the effort will pay off some other time, when the masses are (apparently) suddenly going to ditch their core values and start agreeing with libertarian principles.
Anyone who’s paying attention to the realities of this year’s Republican campaign can see that this is pure fantasy. Most people don’t want our ideas. Even if you’re willing to accept a “limited government” — if such is even possible — there’s no evidence that people want such an animal. If you listen to the Republican candidates bicker, it’s clear that everyone other than Ron Paul will say whatever it takes to win votes. And it’s also clear that Paul isn’t going to break out of his core support among a minority of libertarians and economic conservatives.
In Monday night’s GOP debate in South Carolina, the “conservative” candidates attacked Mitt Romney for having spent years at Bain Capital, which made its money buying companies and making them more profitable. As part of that process, many people in unprofitable companies lose jobs. Self-styled super-conservative Newt Gingrich has been attacking Romney for this, despite the fact that anybody who knows anything about free market economics understand that this is the way the market functions. It always has and always will. (Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter called it “creative destruction.”)
Meanwhile, Rick Perry was attacking Romney for not having released his tax returns. Why? That’s just what candidates do these days. And the reason for that is what, exactly? I have no idea what it’s supposed to prove. All I know is that if I were a candidate, I wouldn’t release my tax returns, either. I also wouldn’t parade around naked for people to inspect my body. Both inspections seem to serve purposes that would make just as much (or as little) sense.
In the meantime, Romney was downplaying the importance of a recent law giving a U.S. president the power to send Americans to military prisons with no right to trials. He said during Monday night’s debate that Barack Obama would never misuse that power — and he wouldn’t, either — so we should just trust our royal sovereign instead of insisting that we have rights. And these are supposed to be the guys who are closest to supporting individual freedom?
It’s very clear that Romney is a big fan of the big government status quo. He was the architect of the Massachusetts health care plan that was the model for ObamaCare. He favors a president having tyrannical power to arrest people and send them to military prisons without trials. Wouldn’t these sorts of positions mean that he’s being punished by conservative GOP primary voters?
Nope. In fact, Romney has won the two states that have voted so far — Iowa and New Hampshire — and he has a 21-point lead in the allegedly conservative southern state of South Carolina. Are you starting to see the picture? The voters don’t want what libertarians and economic conservatives are selling.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, reporter Kimberley Strassel explains how you win the GOP nomination. You put together a coalition of religious social conservatives, warmongering military hawks and whatever economic conservatives are willing to vote for the GOP candidate out of fear of the Democrat. (OK, she didn’t word it like that, but that’s what it boils down to.)
The bottom line is that if you want to win the Republican nomination, you have to be something that no libertarian or traditional conservative can be. You have to love big government — and promise to use it to give voters what they want.
The vast majority of voters don’t want what we want. They don’t want government that’s actually smaller. Oh, every group would like some piece or other of government trimmed, but not the pieces they care about. What almost nobody wants is a wholesale dismantling of the welfare state and the military-industrial complex. They’re not going to start wanting it just because we say it enough.
I know that. The other candidates know that. The media know that. Everybody seems to know that except for people delusional enough to believe that voters are suddenly going to reject what they believe and start agreeing with us. That’s not going to happen. Why do people persist in believing this fantasy?