Tuesday, May 1, 2007

2008 Update: Searching for Reagan and... Thompson?

The Reaganite impact has been seen in the establishment of an ultimate idiom for national leadership. A man who can unite the party's vast internal ideological differences. Individualist lovers of liberty that make up the quasi-libertarian branch of conservatism (the "New Right"), the traditionalists of neoconservatism who long for the men who will opine to their cries for society bound by a transcendent order, and those "anti-communist" members of the party (whom today would be "anti-terrorism") who stand firm in the hawkish zeal to defend the homeland against those totalitarian forces of aggression who wish to see us dead. The battle for a balance between order and liberty drove wedges in the party for much of the 20th Century, yet Reagan was able to unite them under their common goals. Their Jeffersonian libertarian ideals that the "government which governs best governs least," and their neoconservative ideas that a strong military and national defense must be maintained to save the Western World and the Shining City on a Hill. This fusion of ideas, produced Reagan. The economic zeal of Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek and George Stigler drawing from frustrated calls for return to sanity in The Road to Serfdom and Free to Choose. The staunch defense of the free world, aggressive, definitive, and imperative; laden with Churchillian and Lincoln poetic rhetoric. A defense inspired by the terrorizing tales of defected Soviet spy Whittaker Chambers in Witness. These factions of the party united to defend the natural and necessitated rights of men esteemed by Locke and Hobbes, the Burkean ordered liberty of society, the Hayekian and Chicago School ideas of free markets and monetarism, the fundamental values of Kirk and Milton, while preserving the individual autonomy of Bastiat-style classical liberals.

But is it even comprehensible that a GOP candidate in 2008 could unite the tory notions, drive away the gathering storm of neo-liberalism, and land a seat in the Oval Office?

The Reagan legacy has impacted many great leaders of our day. Names ring in the minds of his students: Quayle, Williams, Gingrich, Sowell, Meese, Kirkpatrick, Weinberger, Noonan, Bennett... McCain? Giuliani? The vacuum is opened.

Of the present field of candidates, for balance of ideology and electability I draw nearer to supporting Mitt Romney than anyone else. Charismatic, well-grounded, deep fund raising pockets, and understands liberty. He's lurched to the right in the past few years, but it seems more sincere than others, and could be in the same style that Reagan lurched right before running for President. His economic record in Massachusetts is impeccable, and his advocacy on other issues impressive. Yet, his lackluster support in comparison to Giuliani, and the prejudice from some of the Religious Right over Mormonism (however preposterous a gripe) still leaves a spot in the candidates. Sure, Brownback, Gilmore, and Huckabee are noble chaps. But $1.5 million or half a million in fund raising is going to get you no where.

A new factor is actor and former senator Fred Thompson. A relative latecomer, his window of opportunity for announcing may be short, yet as Bob Novak puts it, "many conservatives may embrace Thompson with a sigh of relief." The popular senator from Tennessee has had a strong limited-government record on virtually all major issues, and has sustained some of the limelight while starring on NBC's "Law and Order" and maintaining his PAC. A current fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, he's garnered a good deal of support from GOP base publications ranging from Human Events to Patriot Post to the Wall Street Journal.

His support is not universal, however. Pulitzer Prize winning conservative columnist George F. Will scoffs at the notion of a Reaganite Thompson. Mr. Will cites his age, lack of experience in a tightly contested campaign, and hypothetical lackluster energy. He also details, to my hearty agreement, discontent with Thompson's support of the reprehensible McCain/Feingold Campaign Finance Reform legislation. As of a March interview with Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace, Thompson maintained his support of the freedom-suppressing measure. An additional area of concern is his 1995 vote against Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

All other aspects of his prospective campaign may prove strong. A recent LA Times poll, according to Dick Morris, has Thompson at second place behind Giuliani, trumping McCain, Romney, Huckabee, and the undeclared Newt.







If Gingrich feels Thompson represents the cause fully, there's a good chance he won't declare in September (his deciding point). Thompson would be a likely choice for many Gingrich supporters, while Huckabee will likely be forced out due to lack of competitive fund raising. Leaving the vote of those like me to be split between Romney and Thompson, either of whom I would be happy with. A true blue lover of liberty at the helm of the GOP ticket may be the only thing that can prevent a second Clinton White House. Thompson/Romney '08?

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