POLITICO | Joe Scarborough | June 12, 2012
I scanned the list for Republican primary candidates and let instinct take over.
Mitt Romney? Not on your life. A big government Republican who will say anything to get elected.
Rick Santorum? No way. A pro-life statist who helped George W. Bush double the national debt.
Newt Gingrich? Ideologically unmoored. A champion of liberty one day, a central planner the next.
Ron Paul? Yep. I quickly checked his name and moved on to a far more complex task: fixing my daughter a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
After spending six months analyzing each candidate’s every move for three hours a day, five days a week, it never occurred to me that my decision to vote for the quirky congressman from Texas would happen as fast as a tornado whipping through an Amarillo parking lot. After all, who would vote for a candidate that criticized the killing of Osama bin Laden, blamed U.S. foreign policy for Sept. 11 and wants to abolish Social Security?
Certainly not me.
But I also would never vote for a GOP candidate who was the godfather of Obamacare, or another who added $7 trillion to Medicare’s debt or yet another who bashed Paul Ryan one week and venture capital the next. Faced with this truckload of big government Republicans, I cast my vote for the only candidate who spent his entire public career standing athwart history yelling “stop” to an ever-expanding centralized state.
While Romney was distancing himself from Ronald Reagan, Paul was fighting with Republicans to balance the budget for the first time in a generation. While Santorum was supporting an unprecedented expansion of entitlement spending, Paul was warning of a great recession that would be caused by government interference in the housing market. And while Gingrich was talking about how he would build up the federal government to push his conservative agenda, Congressman Paul spent all his waking hours focused on dismembering that big government beast.
It was the first “protest” vote I’ve ever cast, and it felt … well, it felt good. Suddenly I understood a bit better why the Ross Perot or the Pat Buchanan or the Ralph Nader voters did what they did.
They thought the system was so broken that they couldn’t sit out but also couldn’t stomach voting for a conventional candidate at a time of unconventional problems.
Do I think a Ron Paul presidency is ever possible? No, I don’t. But I do want some of the Pauline virtues of candor and non-poll-tested conviction to play a larger role in our politics.
So now I’ve cast my protest vote. It felt good.
What I really want, though, is a party and a politics that’s commensurate with the problems and possibilities of the country. We’ll get there one day — and then we can focus on progress, not protest.