Do Republicans want a freedom loving candidate for the White House or not?
You may not have noticed from the coverage, but Ron Paul came a very close second in the Iowa straw poll. Yet the US media is not giving him his due. Why?
In referring to beauty contests, John Maynard Keynes once famously said: “It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one's judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.”
Ron Paul might not agree with much that Keynes wrote but, applying this insight to his presidential election bid, he might well manage a wry smile of agreement.
Congressman Paul’s liberal views on social issues and non interventionist foreign policy endear him to many left leaning Democrats just as much as his fiscally conservative government- slashing does to conservative Republicans.
He is often the Republican most liked by Democrats, and he polls well among independents. Usually, one would imagine that that would be great news if you’re aiming for the White House.
Yet the man described by an acquaintance of mine as “a crazy nutjob with very extreme financial views,” just can’t catch a break.
This weekend saw the Iowa poll of Republican presidential contenders for 2012. Paul finished second after Michele Bachmann -- 28 percent to her 29 percent.
That notwithstanding, on Monday morning Fox News was running items on the GOP’s “Big Three” which included Bachmann, Mitt Romney (who polled three percent in Iowa having not campaigned) and Rick Perry (who polled 0% having not entered the race until after the poll).
Ron Paul, the man who came second, didn’t make Fox’s Big Three.
This matters. During his 2008 run for the Republican nomination Paul broke fundraising records, most of it from individuals. He put together the sort of committed activist network which helped Barack Obama to the White House, and he connected with people who are typically unreceptive to the Republican party.
Yet he was again ignored by the media -- Fox News on one occasion inviting all GOP candidates except Paul to take part in a debate.
And, as with Keynes' beauty contest, the perception that he can’t win, created in large part by the media, becomes self fulfilling. Electors regard him as a wasted vote and switch to the “mainstream” candidates.
In my view, this is America’s loss. Both liberals and conservatives in America claim to love freedom but often they only love a little bit of it.
Liberals support individual freedom over what to do with one’s body, while placing ever greater government claims over the individual’s pay slip. Conservatives, on the other hand, want freedom for the individual to do what he or she wants economically but seek government limits on the social freedoms of others.
Liberals want a woman’s right to choose and big government. Conservatives want a Constitutional ban on gay marriage, and they want small government.
Neither side seems to realise the inherent contradictions in their positions. If maximization of freedom is your guiding maxim then economic and personal freedom are indivisible, and to deny one is to deny the other.
Ron Paul, by contrast, is utterly consistent. He doesn't want government to interfere in how you dispose of your payslip or your bodily fluids.
The Texan obstetrician is the only consistent candidate in the campaign. Freezing him out of the media will leave the race worse off.
John Phelan blogs atand has written for Conservative Home and The Cobden Centre
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