Remember Barack Obama? He’s the president of the United States. As a candidate he promised hope and change. Now he defends the status quo. The fact that the status quo is clearly unsustainable doesn’t deter him. His budget’s endless deficits and rising debt takes us down a perfectly obvious road to ruin. But Obama asks us to close our eyes, pretend not to see, and hope against hope that we don’t need to change.
Thankfully, the Republican party in 2011, under the leadership of Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, has decided to be serious about governing. But to govern America requires the presidency. The late Jack Kemp helped inspire the last sea change in American politics from the halls of Congress in the late 1970s. But real change required the defeat of incumbent president Jimmy Carter and the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Thus the current interest, and anxiety, among Republicans and conservatives about 2012.
The 2012 election is likely to be decisively important for the future of our country—but worrying about Election Day won’t make it arrive any sooner. Nor is it at all clear that narrowing the presidential field early, or coming to agreement on a nominee sooner rather than later, would help Republicans prevail. In 2008, Obama clinched his party’s nomination much later than John McCain did, yet Obama’s having to endure a long schedule of hard-fought primaries didn’t stop him from winning the general election handily.
All we can do is let the candidates run who have decided to run, and urge them to be bold and forthright in laying out their plans for the country. And we can encourage other candidates to consider running, too, in the assumption that there may be individuals who’d be good presidents but haven’t chosen to run for the office—perhaps because they’re busy with the jobs they have already, or perhaps because they’re not as certain they should be president as those now putting themselves forward. This lack of certainty, incidentally, isn’t a sign of bad character.
For example, Donald Trump has certainty. He says he’s running for president, and an NBC / Wall Street Journal poll of Republicans last week had him tied for second in the GOP field with 17 percent of the vote. Trump shouldn’t be, and won’t be, the GOP nominee. But this degree of support does suggest unhappiness with the established candidates and an openness to someone new. So does the reaction of our readers to a recent blog post on The Weekly Standard website.
Here’s some context. On April 3, Paul Ryan and Florida senator Marco Rubio appeared as guests on Fox News Sunday. Ryan explained and defended his budget. Rubio called for more decisive action in Libya. Later that day, I wrote a short item half-jokingly suggesting (once again) a Ryan-Rubio ticket in 2012. This is just a small sample of the emails we received:
• I love the two, couldn’t be any better or smarter pair for 2012. They have my vote! I could finally sleep at night with those two running the country. Pray they team up and run in 2012.
• Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio are the future of not only the Republican party, but also America. Get rid of the old hacks, it’s time for these dynamic American leaders. If they won’t run, add Chris Christie to the mix. . . .
• I am a registered Democrat. . . . I agree with you on Ryan-Rubio, and would be willing to work for them in Joe Biden’s home state of DE. I don’t consider myself a Tea Party guy, although I agree with most of what they stand for. . . . Sign me up.
• Tell Ryan we’ll let his kids roller-skate in the W.H. . . . ANYTHING! . . . Seriously, I understand they lack experience in some areas. However, when it comes to fiscal reality Paul Ryan IS the smartest man in the room. And he knows a whole lot about American political history . . . love the guy.
All of this suggests a willingness to consider more and hitherto unexpected options for the GOP nominee. And the following email correctly implies that not Obama but a fatalism about politics and the country may be the greatest obstacle to Republican success in 2012:
While your idea of a Ryan-Rubio 2012 ticket is a worthy one, it just won’t work.
Rubio makes much too much sense for such a new senator; and he would have way too much appeal to the fastest growing population segment of our country.
Much too smart.
Much too sensible.
Much too straightforward.
Much too knowledgeable and specific in his solutions.
Much too knowledgeable in the actual workings of government.
Much too genuine.
And waaaaaaaaaaay too likable.
How can this possibly work?
Make it work.
We at The Weekly Standard can’t make it work. But Republican primary voters can. And they can choose a nominee—whoever that is—worthy of the battle ahead.