Ron Paul has ended Mitt Romney's three-year run as conservatives' favorite for president, taking 31 percent of the vote in the Conservative Political Action Conference's annual straw poll.
Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas known for his libertarian views, ran for president in 2008 but was never a serious contender for the GOP nomination.
Romney, former Massachusetts governor and also a 2008 GOP candidate, has won the last three presidential straw polls at the annual conference. This year, he came in second, with 22 percent.
Sarah Palin, who didn't attend the conference, was a distant third in the straw poll, with 7 percent, followed by Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor, and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana.
Perhaps it's not such a surprise since Congressman Paul represents the type of consistent constitutional conservatism that opposes over-reaching invasive government as much as a tool of religious "right" theocrats and Wilsonian neoconservatives as of social-engineering leftists.
Despite the histrionic flailings of Bushian neocons and the ever-present meddlings of moralizing social "conservatives", the reality is becoming clear that the driving energy and the emerging future of successful popular conservatism lie with conservatives unwilling to bastardize, betray and defile conservatism by ceding it to ideologies and agendas that, at core, are based around control, power and social uniformity.
The neocon/theocrat power nexus, so perfectly embodied in the Bush administration that so turned off the country and nearly destroyed the Republican party, is now looking for illicit redemption by (re-)insinuating its hybrid ideologies into the growing populist revival of true conservatism.
This is the persistent ilk of the mind that "big spending is ok, so long as same-sex unions [for example] aren't".
These are the false "conservatives" who believe that big government is only a problem when it is serving an ideology other than their own.
These are the duplicitous clannish partisans who talk a good game about limited government and liberty in their quest to seize power, only to betray that power itself is their true end game.
These are the ideologues who reveal themselves in such stunts as the Mt. Vernon Statement , going off the rails of constitutional conservatism by attempting to shoehorn justifications for ideological ends into the constitution such as:
- It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end
The constitution neither explicates nor supports global messianism of any sort as the proper role of our national government, nor does it provide for a national interest in advancing global objectives.
The inevitable result of reading such Wilsonian liberal ends into the constitution has been to ignore or reject the unambiguous wisdom expressed by Mt. Vernon's original owner as he departed the presidency with stern warning against foreign entanglements, to any end.
This is not to say that the United States should be ignorant of or mute about tyranny and oppression in foreign lands.
This is not to say the United States should not make common cause with nation-states dedicated to securing the freedom of their people.
This is not to say that the United States should not offer international leadership towards peaceful relations and free commerce with and among all nations.
But the constitution simply does not empower our government to act as the arbiter of freedom and tyranny around the world.
The United States can best be a beacon of liberty by standing as an exemplar of a free society and a free people, not by misusing our national power and resources as an international police force.
- It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood,
community, and faith.
This bland statement makes little sense other than to interject into conservatism an end so general as to be meaningless, except for what social "conservatives" want it to be.
Such sweeping social "conservative" rhetoric cannot mask the reality that what social "conservatives" really want is their rendition of "defen[ding] family, neighborhood, community, and faith" to inform constitutional interpretation so as to justify using the power of the state to advance their particular social or religious dogma.
Without need of PR stunt re-statements of belief, Ron Paul has successfully made the case for constitutional conservatism without taint of social or other ideologies beyond the elevation of individual choice and personal liberty over the creeping coercion of government-based collectivism.
Paul speaks to libertarians and conservatives who reject those who would add modifiers like "neo" or "social" to mutate conservatism into an expression of ideologies that are anything but conservative.
It is unlikely that the conservatives at CPAC who gave once-GOP-pariah Ron Paul their nod for president and the straw poll win did so because they believe Paul would be the strongest contender or the most adept candidate or the most skillful politician.
Most interestingly about the poll is that 54% of those who participated in the poll were between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. These young people surely don't believe Ron Paul himself is the future of conservatism as a successful grass roots political force.
But just as surely they do believe the ideas and principles that Ron Paul articulates are. As Paul himself often says when asked about the enthusiastic over-capacity crowds he draws on college campuses and with young people: "Well, freedom is popular!". Paul has gotten many young people excited about and engaging in the consonant causes of individual liberty and limited government.
The CPAC poll was a bold statement that not only has Ron Paul been the most consistent, unflappable, principled advocate for liberty and the most tireless champion of our constitution, but moreso that his expression of conservatism rooted in the constitution as a restraint on power rather than its handmaiden, an instrument of liberty rather than a statement of its limits, is what it's really all about.