The title of a front-page article on the BBC’s home site asks in seeming desperation: “Are the Republican candidates all crazy?” It’s a bold statement, meant to incite the ire of some and reaffirm the beliefs of others, but in actuality it’s misleading. There are Republican candidates that run the gamut from fiscally conservative to socially conservative, from isolationist to foreign policy hawk. What they all have in common is not insanity, but a sincere belief that President Barack Obama is leading our nation down the wrong path, towards European-style socialism and a post-American world.
In Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles believed that a good leader was supposed to have three traits: knowledge of good policies, the eloquence to get those policies approved, and a sense of honest patriotism. In each of the Republican candidates these three ideals can be found. Policy briefs released from the campaign reveal ideas both old and new that would help pull America out of its downward spiral. Some of them never caught on, like the 9-9-9 plan, but many others have flourished, including the flattening of America’s taxes. Questions that have not been raised in generations are being brought up, spurring debate and discourse in areas ranging from foreign policy in the Middle East to the gold standard. This sort of discourse strengthens a party, and is accompanied by the increased prevalence of debates. This pre-primary season has been one of the most open, transparent, and televised yet, allowing American voters to get a better sense for the candidates than ever before.
Mitt Romney is not crazy. He served as governor of the fairly Democratic state of Massachusetts, to generally positive evaluations. As governor, he embraced a centrist outlook, dealing with many fiscal issues conservatively while actually expanding the state government in areas such as health care. Starting in 2008, Romney has tacked rightwards socially, but he isn’t running for office on his laurels as a social conservative. He is depending on his bona fides in the private sector to convince voters that he has an understanding of how the economy works. In this election cycle, the most important issue so far has been the faltering economy; Romney provides a sharp relief to the current administration’s mismanagement.
Rick Santorum and Rick Perry are not crazy. At worst, they are guilty of expounding their ideas inarticulately. Both of them hold socially conservative values that are in line with many of America’s evangelicals. They attempt to fire up the party with exciting, grand pronouncements. Despite Perry and Santorum’s various gaffes and the fact that the latter’s name should never be Googled, neither is an extremist, and both serve to give a voice to those who place social issues first. Rick Santorum fills a niche for those who are pro-life, but do not necessarily think that government needs to be slashed. His more statist ideas concerning social issues correspond with neoconservative values. Rick Perry claims to be more economically conservative than Santorum, and his gaffes hint not at craziness, but at a lack of debate acumen.
Alternatively, Newt Gingrich has proven to be an expert debater. Building on his successes at the debates, Gingrich revived a dying campaign and briefly surged to become the GOP frontrunner. Recently, negative ads have pulled him down, but not because of any sort of insanity. True, his claims of social conservatism do not mix particularly well with his three marriages, and those who are looking for someone to limit the size of government are not likely to fall in love with Gingrich, who has expressed support for cap-and-trade and appeared in an ad with Nancy Pelosi regarding global warming. Though these are not standard conservative beliefs, they are most certainly not insane. Additionally, Gingrich’s economic plan recently garnered the endorsement of Ronald Reagan’s economic advisor, Arthur Laffer. Laffer claims that lowering marginal tax rates will raise output and increase government revenues. Gingrich’s stature as former Speaker of the House of Representatives also shows past experience and leadership ability.
Opposed to Gingrich is Congressman Ron Paul. Paul has consistent beliefs that go back decades concerning libertarian policies. Socially, Paul is unique in his belief that the federal government should not intervene on many issues. Economically, Paul is the same, advocating low taxes and regulations to help our failing economy. Paul’s hands-off foreign policy is one of the main issues for the Republican mainstream. His desire to leave the conflict in Afghanistan has many supporters, but his beliefs concerning foreign aid and a nuclear Iran are far from mainstream. However, this is a condition not of insanity, but of reason. Paul’s libertarian nature appeals to the residents of the next primary in New Hampshire. New Hampshire, a state that claims its motto as “Live Free or Die”, is one of the friendliest early primary contests for Paul.
Finally, former Governor of Utah and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman rounds out the race for the Republican nomination. Huntsman has held little traction so far in the race, and is generally perceived as one of the more moderate candidates. He is young and has also stuck to his beliefs, unwilling to flip-flop on some of the issues less popular with Republican primary voters. Relatively unknown, his ideas are reasonable, well thought-out, and definitely not crazy. Huntsman is holding out hope that a strong showing in New Hampshire will raise his national support, but Romney’s dominance makes this unlikely.
This is what the GOP has to offer for the nomination. Each of the candidates is better suited to be president than Obama. Later this year, the delegates appointed from primaries will gather in Tampa Bay to anoint President Obama’s challenger. This man will have an opportunity to show the world that America is not going to remain on its current path toward socialism and insolvency. His ideas and sincere beliefs will anchor policies intended to maintain America’s status as the best country in the world. Most importantly, this is the man that will stand in opposition to the ideas of the past two-and-a-half years. Obama’s muddled foreign policy and economically poisonous domestic policy leave much to be desired and changed, and hopefully, the Republican nominee, whoever he is, will be able to turn things around.
Eric Wessan is a second-year in the College majoring in political science.