"Politics should be limited in scope to war, protection of property, and the occasional precautionary beheading of a member of the ruling class." — P.J. O'Rourke
As evidenced by the success (financially, at least) of Ron Paul's presidential campaign, many Americans have become libertarians, even if they don't seem to know it yet.
Hardened views on the left and the right dominate the political scene in Washington, D.C., with efficient and competent management of government the casualty of an ideology war between the two mainstream parties. We have become a red state/blue state country, with most elections won by 51 percent to 49 percent.
Little noticed in the increasingly shrill sniping, however, is the emergence of a purplish centrism. These centrists who will shape future elections are we libertarians — fiscally conservative and socially moderate. We believe in personal responsibility and minimal government — and not just while running for office. In short, we say smoke all the crack you want, just don't expect us to pay for your rehab. We do not meddle in places where it is not our business, e.g., Iraq, your bedroom, your religion. Libertarian thinking is gaining traction in our culture by those fed up with the far left and the far right.
The best example of this thoughtful attempt to claim the broad center between the red/blue political bickering is Paul, the independent-thinking OB-GYN doctor from Texas. I think it would be great if we had another party with influence in Washington. Currently, the White House is controlled by Republicans, at least supposedly. I'm not really sure what Bush is, but he certainly is not what I understood a Republican to be. The Senate and House are controlled by Democrats. But the truth is, both parties are controlled by lobbyists. Lobbyists say that they are necessary, since politics is about give and take. The problem is that neither lobbyists nor politicians know which is which.
And it looks like nothing will change in 2008. Both parties' leading candidates are going around the country stirring up apathy. The Democratic and Republican conventions are coming soon. In fact, the Republicans are already auditioning a few folks to be the African-American Republicans we see on TV. And the Democrats are trying to find normal-looking, non-union, and non-unemployed people to star in their convention cameos.
In the primaries, Democrats are trying to please the loony left, while the Republicans are trying to prove that they love Jesus the most. Our current commander in chief says that Jesus is his favorite philosopher and that he reads the Bible every day. (I sort of doubt Bush on this one; it seems he would be done reading the Bible by now. But maybe he's a slow reader.)
As a strict Constitutionalist, Paul has struck a chord with many dispirited and disenfranchised people in both parties.
Core Democrats view themselves as morally superior because they give money to anyone who says they need it, especially their inept teacher union friends. Bush and his big-government faux Republicans call themselves "compassionate conservatives." But there is nothing compassionate about running up $9 trillion in debt to fund an inefficient and self-perpetuating federal government.
In his 20 years as a congressman, Paul never voted for a tax increase. He voted so many times against his party that he became known as "Dr. No." He actually returns the unused portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. Treasury on principle.
Paul is not your typical politician. He strikes me as the only person running for president who might actually be listening to his constituents, rather than getting a $400 haircut or running his opinions by a focus group. He is smart, conscientious, and an accomplished private-sector physician who went into politics for the right reasons. He is a man who stands firm in his beliefs and doesn't seem to pander for votes. As such, if history is any guide, he has no chance in hell of winning.
Ron Hart is a columnist and former resident of Memphis.