Well now, Republicans say, we have a nominee. That may very well be but there was only one clear winner in the confusing GOP nominating contest and it was not John McCain. The winner was Ron Paul. And the effects of his win will be felt for years to come.
Ron Paul made a classic political mistake. He told the truth. In debate after debate he pointed at his party, his president, his fellow contenders for the GOP nomination, shouting aloud like the little boy in the proverbial story, “they have no clothes” and lo and behold, we looked and they didn’t. They were all naked.
He showed that the conservative movement has lost its way, its moral authority and its logic. He showed us that we have become a red team versus blue team. That since we have decided that this is a political war and all normal rules are suspended, conservatives can do liberal things to win it. Conservatives can run up big deficits if it helps their side win. They can dole out needless pork if it elects another “conservative” to congress. They can go to war if it makes their president look like a leader and secures him another term.
But in the process, Ron Paul showed us, that we have lost our way. We are no longer conservatives. We are fighting for power not for principles. We have become corrupted by the process and the only way back is to retrace our steps and find all the things we discarded along the way.
Barry Goldwater lighted a similar fire with his Conscience of a Conservative. Its truth and arguments were so obvious and so honest that one laughed aloud while reading it. But Goldwater, himself, was doomed to political defeat. And Ron Paul had no chance to win this election either. One could see that when he first opened his mouth.
And yet, the words and arguments of Ron Paul are still resonating. They still hang over this election. They are haunting and troubling. They are producing blogs and papers and books and like Goldwater’s revolution they will one day very likely produce their own Ronald Reagan. And when those heady days happen a small but hearty band of pioneers, who first had the nerve to join him and start shouting from the street, “They aren’t wearing any clothes,” will be able to say that they could see what the country missed. They were there when history was made.
John McCain and his poorly chosen words, of staying in Iraq a hundred years, have almost guaranteed that he will be the answer to the trivia question, who was the Republican candidate who lost to the ticket that claimed the first woman and black for the presidency? Another question may very well be, “What other candidate ran that year and launched the movement that has dominated national politics for the last generation?”
And the answer will be Ron Paul.