Facing mounting pressure from Republican Establishment leaders and Mitt Romney supporters to withdraw from the presidential race, Rick Santorum ended his campaign for the presidency this week. Now, it seems almost inevitable that yet another Republican Establishment favorite, Mitt Romney, will be the Republican nominee for President this year.
In the post-Reagan period of American politics, conservatives repeatedly have failed to nominate one of our own for President and been forced to choose between “the lesser of two evils” in the general election. It looks like 2012 will be another case of “here we go again” as the Republicans rally around (what we used to call in the old days) a “Rockefeller Republican” with no real ties to movement conservatives.
Now that Rick Santorum is out of the race, the calls will mount for Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul to stand down as well and throw their support to Mitt Romney. Let me raise my voice as a longtime conservative, who was part of the “Reagan Revolution”, to encourage Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul to stay the course and continue their presidential campaigns until the Republican convention in Tampa.
One can agree or disagree with these two men on specific issues- and I have policy differences with both. Yet, the fact remains that Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have engaged in policy-driven campaigns in this election cycle rather than simply rejuvenate the same old buzz words and talking point clichés that certain Republican politicians spout at the behest of their highly paid “hired guns.”
Newt, for example, has been very eloquent in making the case that we ignore the cultural crisis facing America at our peril. I agree strongly with Newt when he points out that, no matter what we do to address the serious economic and foreign policy problems facing our nation, we have to fix the culture, or everything will be for naught. We have gone from a nation founded on a belief in God to one which the secular fundamentalists wants to change in order to completely separate God from the public square. Newt Gingrich is an important voice in challenging the assumptions of the secular left. Unlike Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich is not afraid to take on the “Hollywood Culture” that routinely bashes Christians and the principles of our faith.
In a similar vein, Congressman Ron Paul has been an often lonely voice in warning of the flawed monetary policies of Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve Board which kept interest rates artificially low and fueled the credit excesses which ultimately led to the bursting of the bubble and our economic crisis of 2008. A consistent advocate of the principles of limited government, Ron Paul has not hesitated to criticize Republican administrations when they defend “big government” so long as Republicans are in charge. They call that “big government conservatism.” From my perspective, big government conservatism is little more than a watered down version of the big government liberalism. Ron Paul has not been afraid to say “the emperor has no clothes” even when Republicans are in charge as he did when he vigorously opposed the taxpayer bailout of the “too big to fail” financial institutions engineered by President Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson in 2008. (By the way, Mitt Romney supported the bailout.)
“Ideas Have Consequences” is the title of a book written by a great conservative scholar, Richard Weaver. The last president who appreciated how sound conservative principles can be implemented in order to change the world was Ronald Reagan. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul understand the importance of the power of ideas to influence public opinion. Barring an extraordinary set of circumstances, neither Newt Gingrich nor Ron Paul is going to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. Even so, I believe, it is important that both Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul stay in the race for President as a manner of principle until the Republican National Convention so that they can continue to lay out their respective visions as to how to bring America back to its founding principles.
But if not for Barry Goldwater running for President in 1964, Ronald Reagan never would have been elected President of the United States. By staying in the race for President, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul can lay the groundwork for an authentic conservative to emerge in 2016 who can put back together that Reagan coalition of social and economic conservatives.
Tom Pauken is a former Reagan Administration official and author of BRINGING AMERICA HOME.
Photo Credit: patrickgensel (Creative Commons)