I supported Barack Obama last election. My support for him was not because I’m some hippie socialist liberal. Admittedly, I have a few views that you could call liberal, but I have many conservative views as well. This writer is pro gun rights, pro capitalism, pro life, and pro death penalty. My support for Obama was as much an aversion to Sarah Palin as anything. To me, her nomination was a signal that the leadership of the Republican Party had become unserious about effective governing. And since Obama entered office, I have been pleased to find him far less liberal than — guess who? — the Republican machine made and has continued to make him out to be. He’s been less liberal than even I expected. As Obama’s first term nears its end, I have found my patience for the Republican party, which has explicitly placed getting Obama out of office above any bonafide attempt to construct agreeable and effective policy, all but completely deteriorate.
So it can hardly be said that I was very interested in the Republican debates this time around. I have no interest in listening to a back-and-forth about such meaningless titles as who is the “most conservative” or who would really “repeal Obamacare”—the only government takeover of healthcare in history that did not actually take over healthcare at all—or how Obama hates America, etc. etc.. However, in the midst of each increasingly feckless debate, I would hear this strangely refreshing voice coming from the far corner. That voice belonged to John Huntsman.
Having heard a fair amount now from Huntsman, I have found him to be the most impressive candidate to come out of the Republican party in years—thoughtful, articulate, even proven. I thought, this is a man who really has it: A man who believes that a strong capitalism is the most important part of an effective economy, but that government is not the enemy of capitalism; a man who acknowledges the obvious—that greenhouse gasses are proliferating at an astounding rate and that they have the potential to fundamentally disrupt our way of life, but that our economy can continue to prosper while we address climate change; a man who deeply opposes abortion, yet does not believe that the government is an effective means of spreading Christianity; a man who has incisively surmised the effects of an inevitably more powerful China and the geopolitical importance of the South China Sea in the coming years; and a man who was ready to transform our educational systems to meet the demands of the 21st century. What a candidate!
I really thought Huntsman was going do well. I guess I assumed that, while the most extreme pockets of the Republican party were currently the loudest, over the course of the debates more moderate pockets of the Republican party would hear the brilliance of this man and finally have someone to rally behind who actually supported their views. I assumed that this wave of extremism, anti-government sentiment, and non-compromise was a fad. I suddenly found myself optimistic about the Republican party.
I was wrong.
Huntsman’s support among Republicans nationally currently sits at 2%. He has been the only candidate not to surge at any time leading up to the primaries. Huntsman devoted practically his whole campaign to doing well in the New Hampshire primary, a relatively moderate state in the Republican primary. Last night, he finished 3rd with a meager 17%.
I’m afraid that Huntsman is going to be a case study for future Republican candidates. They will take from this primary how effective it is to recite over and over the same platitudes about smaller and small government; less and less taxes; Ronald Reagan; bigger military; the other candidates not being conservative enough; that I’m the most conservative candidate—how conservative?—THE MOST CONSERVATIVE!; and hyperbole about the Democrats as evil, America-haters, God-haters who want European style socialism, and who aren’t just wrecking our economy but want to! And they will be struck by how ineffective it is to appropriate anything that ever was said by the opposing party or to exhibit even the faintest tinges of balance or moderation.
Unfortunately, Huntsman has been a case study for me too. Because of Huntsman, I now know how I would fare if I ever ran as a Republican. I’m not going to be a part of that party; It represents me in no way. I only feel bad for such a brilliant man like Huntsman who had to serve as my lab rat.