Liberty Candidates on the Rise
In May, I wrote a column about Republican Congressional candidate Thomas Massie in Kentucky. Endorsed by both Ron and Rand Paul, I noted that a strict constitutionalist like Massie finding success in the GOP marked a significant departure from the big government Republicanism we’d become accustomed to under President George W. Bush. After already winning the Republican primary, most polls show Massie easily defeating his Democratic opponent in November, which would make him the next Congressman for Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District.
In June, I wrote a column about Republican Senate candidate Ted Cruz in Texas. Endorsed by both Ron and Rand Paul, I noted that a strict constitutionalist like Cruz finding success in the GOP was also indicative of a significant change happening in the Republican Party, similar to Massie’s example. Since that column, Cruz has found himself in a run-off with his establishment-backed Republican primary opponent David Dewhurst. As of this writing, one internal poll has Cruz at 49% and Dewhurst at 40%. Most polls also indicate that whichever Republican wins the primary will easily defeat their Democratic opponent, becoming the next U.S. Senator from Texas in November.
Both men are closer to being strict constitutionalists in their domestic and foreign policy positions than most Republican candidates I’ve seen in my lifetime. Both men are better on civil liberties issues—opposing indefinite detention, abolishing the TSA—in ways Republicans haven’t been since the Barry Goldwater era. This is not to say that Massie and Cruz are identical. It is to say that they are no longer alone in their constitutionalist similarities. It is to say that, finally, such serious liberty-minded candidates are no longer anomalies in the Republican Party.
In Missouri, there is Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Brunner. Brunner believes our government is far too big, wants to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and believes we can only go to war through a congressional declaration. In other words, he believes the exact opposite of Presidents Bush and Obama on all three issues. Like Massie and Cruz, Brunner is a constitutionalist. He is currently in a three-way primary race with two other Republicans. The latest poll had Brunner above his GOP opponents by twenty points. Virtually every poll has the Republican nominee beating vulnerable Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill.
In Michigan, there is Republican Congressional candidate Kerry Bentivolio. Incumbent Republican Congressman Thad McCotter apparently didn’t get his paperwork in order, and is now ineligible to run for re-election in Michigan’s 11th District. Almost by chance, Bentivolio is now well- positioned to win the Republican primary and the general election according to most polling data. But what kind of Republican is Bentivolio? He is a Vietnam veteran who says we need to stop borrowing money from China to build schools in Afghanistan. Before running for Congress, Bentivolio was lobbying to become a delegate at the 2012 Republican National Convention for Ron Paul. In years past, such foreign policy views, and such political activity, might have been disqualifiers for any serious contention for national public office. Not anymore.
There is Kurt Bills running for U.S. Senate in Minnesota. There is Travis Grantham running for Congress in Arizona. There is Weston Wamp running for Congress in Tennessee. There is Art Robinson running for Congress in Oregon. And there are more of them. I discover new liberty-championing candidates I’d never heard of all the time. Like Massie, Cruz, Brunner and Bentivolio, some of these candidates are likely to win their races. And all of them, to varying degrees, are far more Constitution and liberty-minded than anything the Republican Party has seen in generations. In 2014, I expect there will be more of them. I expect the same in 2016, and beyond.
I fear what Barack Obama would do to this country should he be re-elected another four years. Given the recent record of Republican presidents, I also fear what Mitt Romney might do if he wins—or perhaps worse—might not undo from the previous administration. Let’s just say I’m not excited about my presidential choices for November.
But I am excited about the change currently taking place in the Republican Party, however slowly or small, as evidenced by the candidates profiled. The last Republican model—Bush/Cheney—was a party that didn’t care if we had big government home so long as we kept promoting big government abroad through perpetual war. That was literally the party’s only concern, at least for those willing to honestly recall recent Republican history.
Today, it is no longer neoconservatism but constitutional conservatism that animates the Republican base. This is a sea change. That we could have a House or a Senate with a half dozen serious constitutionalists was not a development I ever expected to see, even just a few short years ago. If the presidential race largely offers Americans more of the same, the same is not true of many House and Senate races around the country. Conservatives have much reason for hope. And conservatives could find themselves—for the first time in a long time—on the winning side through winning candidates who consider limited government to be something more than just a campaign tool.