After watching the Republican presidential debates on January 5th, a friend of mine has decided he knows how to get Ron Paul elected to the presidency.
He has watched Paul’s performances in several of the debates and analyzed what’s wrong with his home-spun approach to the presidential race and proposed a surefire approach to woo the modern American electorate that is tested, tried and true.
According to my friend…
…Ron Paul needs to take about $500,000 of the monies he has and invest in a marketing firm. He needs to memorize and practice his answers and he needs to work on developing some responses that don’t always end in constitution (sic).
He also needs to take another half million and hire a marketing research firm. In my humble opinion he really needs to know what the public is looking to hear…
…Ron Paul is not sending a clear message and it is not a confident one. That has to change and quickly!!!!!
He needs to hire those two firms, lock himself in a room with them for three weeks and THEN address the public. He also needs to hire a pr (sic) man to head up the frontal assail…
In other words, my friend thinks Ron Paul should transform himself into the other Republican (and Democrat, for that matter) presidential candidates. This is, of course, the stock in trade of the modern political consultant; make the candidate as physically attractive as possible, have him memorize a list of stock populist answers that are to be regurgitated anytime questions with certain sequences of words are strung together by reporters, anchorettes, political bloggers, etc. Candidates under the tutelage of the political consultant are warned never, ever, EVER to delve into controversial subjects and to stick to the script, lest the candidate actually have to think about his answer, as if most modern media types were capable of tripping up the modern political consultant honed and polished candidate. Political consultants guide candidates “right” or “left” of their current positions on issues chosen to appeal to the majority of voters in a given party for primary season then toward the “center” to appease the majority of voters of both parties or neither party for general elections. Of course, these designations (right, left, center) are constantly moving targets in accordance with the will and whim of the electorate, the very definition of the “democratic” process. One election cycle’s “left” or “right” may be the last cycles “center.”
My friend is convinced that a wash, wax and buff of Ron Paul’s image and a disconnection, rhetorically at least, from the highest law of the land, the Constitution, will get him the Republican nomination and he might be right, but then what? In order to understand this question we have to see where my friend is wrong.
First, he thinks that Paul has to stop talking about the Constitution. Stop talking about the Constitution? How can he do this? It is the very core, the soul if you will, of his message and his approach to government. So what polished populist phraseology could one employ to convey a message about say… hard money? What quickie sound byte would convey the message about rising prices in terms of the hidden taxation of fiat money? What polished phrase or phrases would a consultant give to Paul to explain in 30 seconds or less (and preferably 15 or less) the Madisonian constitutional concept of divided sovereignty or designated powers? How could Paul explain in a few well-crafted words, without mentioning the Constitution, his opposition to socialized retirement Ponzi schemes like Social Security and the proposed nationalized health care system? How could Paul put his opposition to undeclared wars and military incursions with a few well-timed and cleverly phrased sentences without the US Constitution as the reference anchor?
The answer is that it cannot be done. The Constitution that every voter claims to love as the document that guarantees his individual rights and yet is woefully ignorant of, is the anchor chain that ties our government to the rock solid foundation of law. Potential Paul voters who ignore it, disparage it, claim it is a “living and flexible” document or are simply bored by it adopt these positions at their own peril. Paul can no more detach his message of limited government from the Constitution than an evangelist can be used to bring elect sinners to God by detaching their efforts from God’s law. Without the Constitution there are no limits on government; without God’s law there is no measurement of sin.
This comparison with modern antinomian practices of politics and evangelism is not merely a passing coincidence. It is really a window into the mindset of the majority of evangelical Christian Americans, both those involved in politics and those who are not. As my friend says in his post…
…I’m a constitutionalist but I’m also a realist and understand that IMAGE is everything. After all this is a popularity contest, right???
Personally I think that this is what is holding him back. I’m not necessarily talking about physical image but the image he portrays. I like many others feel that he has a good message but to the voting populous (sic). . not so much.
This is a very revealing quote. My friend is not really very different in his thinking from the majority of Christian Americans and I am not writing this to belittle him or his thoughts, but to analyze his ideas in the light of biblical principle, which I believe should govern all aspects of government- self, family, church and civil. Unfortunately, what underlies the sentiment expressed in this quote is the false idea that both the concept of constitutionalism and salvation can be peddled to a potential convert by using just the right sales presentation. And since the cause is just, any method that works is acceptable. The end justifies the means, as it were.
If the candidate or pastor is just handsome, funny and/or engaging enough; if he uses just the right words, with just enough meaning to give a vague picture of what he is selling which the imagination of the hearer can fill in as he sees fit; if the message has just the right amount of (down to and including no) talk of constitutional limits, rights and responsibilities or Jesus, sin and hell; if just the right combination can be found then the convert will fall into the candidate or evangelists hands like a ripe fruit. If a candidate or evangelist needs to obscure or hide unpleasant or difficult to explain parts of the agenda in order to sell it to the most people then so be it. The converts will eventually osmose those missing details and thank you for lying about it when it’s all over and done. Or more likely, they’ll feel suckered, again, swear that the candidate or evangelist is nothing but a sweet talking swindler, out for his own power or gain and walk away forever. In politics as in evangelism, the soft sell minus the cold hard facts of the consequences of failing to act according to law yields false converts who fall away after the first emotional rush has worn off or the first trouble arises.
All of the men and women running for president have a track record. Their performances can be checked against their rhetoric. My friend thinks Paul isn’t sending a “clear message or a confident one.” And yet his congressional record speaks volumes about his adherence to the principles he espouses. We would challenge you to compare Ron Paul’s floor votes against the delegated powers and authorities reserved to Congress in the Constitution. If you can find one that violates the explicit intent of the Constitution we will be shocked. Not so for ANY of the other candidates.
And Paul has done this to the detriment of his political career. Republican leaders have, at least twice, attempted to displace him from his House seat with back room Republican party shenanigans and failed twice. Paul cannot get the choice committee assignments that 10 termers can normally count on because he won’t sell his principles down the river for personal gain. Sounds very clear and confident to us.
I’m hearing complaints that Ron Paul doesn’t look good enough or just isn’t projecting a “presidential image.” On one blog that I frequent, a poster said that Paul resembled “Ross Perot on prunes” in the last debate. Well, he’s not as pretty as Mitt Romney or John Edwards, but he’s no Quasimodo or Ross Perot, either. The insistence on sleek looks to go with a golden tongue is yet another sign that Americans are more impressed with style than substance and convinced that this is what is necessary to win. This isn’t a new problem. The book of 1 Samuel in the Bible recounts the selection of Saul as king of Israel. “Give us a king to judge us” was the cry of the people, but God understood what was really happening. He tells Samuel “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.” The 10th chapter of 1 Samuel shows that the people wanted a kingdom over a republic and liked Saul, a truly awful king, because he looked like they thought a king should look.
If Paul heeds advice like this then he will lose his core support. Not if he hires someone to change his suit or tie selection or maybe to polish his delivery a little or minor details like that. But if he allows himself to be manipulated into talking in sound bytes and platitudes and abandons the Constitution as the pivot point of his message, then he’s finished. Real constitutionalists don’t care what Paul looks like or that he may not be as slick in his presentation of his platform as other candidates. They’ve had a bellyfull of gold-tongued glad-handers who make vague pledges to either enrich us from the public coffers or put an end to the nanny state, depending on the crowd with no regard to constitutional authority to do what’s been promised. What they do care about is Paul’s 10-term congressional record which unequivocally shows that Ron Paul cares about the limits imposed on government and the enforcement of those limits as they effect individual rights. The bottom line is that the Ron Paul that you see is the one that you get. And that ain’t bad.