I want to show you something. Here are two Republican candidates for president on some of the big issues of the day. Check it out.
ON SPENDING AND DEBT
Candidate A – We must reign in spending and “not postpone the debt so as to place that burden on future generations.”
Candidate B – "This country has a cancer growing right now, that we have to take care of, it’s called debt it’s called spending -- and until such time as we excise it, we radiate it, we cut it out, the next generation is in deep, deep trouble."
ON GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC INVOLVEMENT (These answers will be vague…for now.)
Candidate A – Proposal includes rolling back a host of laws that include regulations and intervention in the economy. Would privatize a government jobs program.
Candidate B – For now…the same.
Candidate A – Proposed cutting taxes 5% every year for 5 years. Resulting in a 25% reduction over five years.
Candidate B – Proposed a radical restructuring of the tax code that does away with expenditures, deductions, loopholes and drops rates up to 36% in the first year.
Who are these candidates? Candidate A is “Mr. Conservative” Barry Goldwater. (He wanted to roll back the New Deal and privatize the TVA.) Candidate B is Jon Huntsman. (His positions below.)
“What??!!!” You say. “I don’t want to hear that @#$! Huntsman is a smug prick who should challenge Obama in the Democratic primary!”
I know. I know. And trust me…if I could remake the Republican Party in one man’s image…it would be Barry Goldwater. Jon Huntsman is no Barry Goldwater.
Say…did you know that only one Republican candidate for president (this year, no 1964 tricks this time) has endorsed Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform proposal? Who? Oh, the same guy who advocates a full repeal of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley, and was one of the first to propose a radical restructure of the IRS tax code…Jon Huntsman. (Mitt Romney has come close to endorsing Ryan’s Medicare proposal.)
“What??!!!” You say again. “I don’t want to hear that @#$!. Huntsman is a moderate, a RINO, a liberal!” Yes…yes…I know.
For Chris Matthews or James Carville or Pat Robertson (!?) the fact that Jon Huntsman – a candidate that would privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and drop the corporate income tax from 35% to 25% - is called a moderate is evidence that the Republican Party has been captured by extremists. But I don’t think so.
It’s not a problem that Republican presidential candidates will “not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before first determining whether it is constitutionally permissible.” It’s not a problem that they show “little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient”, rather they talk of “reducing its size.” And it’s not a problem that their “aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them.”
These aren’t problems in my mind because, as Barry Goldwater said (he said all of the above as well), “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
Substance is not the problem. Style is the problem. If Republicans have indulged in any extremism…it’s the extremism of style.
In this Republican primary a candidate’s conservativeness seems to be measured by his venom toward Barack Obama. And I’m afraid we’ve elevated style to such a degree that it’s clouding our view of what is conservative.
Jon Huntsman worked for the Obama Administration as the Ambassador to China. Done. Finished. End of story for many conservatives. That association, which evidences nothing of his ideological principles, is a total deal killer for too many.
Huntsman believes man is contributing to climate change. Again… too much for many conservatives to stomach. But he doesn’t support a cap-and-trade bill or carbon tax or any government intervention to adjust the world’s thermostat. Making his point, and conservative’s condemnation, one of style…not substance.
Huntsman seems to muster more animosity toward his fellow candidates than Obama, making him seem like an outsider to many conservatives. But again, chastising Rick Perry and Mitt Romney for bickering, is not an issue of substance…it is an issue of style.
But let me be clear about this…Jon Huntsman has contributed to the stylistic cross upon which his campaign has been crucified. From his overly thought out “H” logo…to his hipster motorcycle ads…to his snarky jokes on the debate stage…to his daughters’ SNL-style spoof of Herman Cain’s smoking ad…Jon Huntsman is playing the presidential version of a mean girl. Everything is calculated for effect. Everything filtered through “cool”. And it comes off as condescending.
Some, like my friend SE Cupp, would say that Huntsman stands to the left of the Republican Party on many big issues such as civil unions and foreign policy. And I would say, first that there is a great debate taking place on the right about both of these issues. But…I truthfully don’t think many conservative voters have judged the merits of Jon Huntsman’s positions. I think they see a condescending man who worked for Obama and immediately dismiss him. And in a way, I don’t blame them.
The lesson for Huntsman, though, is…don’t do this. The lesson for conservative voters is, in the words of Barry Goldwater (yes, again), “to disagree, one doesn’t have to be disagreeable.” We should judge these candidates on their substance, not their style, because in the words of Jon Huntsman: voters "should not confuse a moderate temperament with a moderate record."