During the drive back to FOB Borepatch, I had a lot of time to think. Just what is it that's most important about this election? What is it that's "must have", and what is it that's "nice to have"? What will make or break the next two decades? After all, Napoleon said that on any battlefield is a single decisive point. Anything that happens there is everything; anything that happens elsewhere is nothing. So what's the single point of decision on this electoral battlefield?
I think that it's the clash between two views. One side has been ascendant for decades, with a brief intermission during Ronald Reagan's first term. This side believes that experts should run things, that experts should make decisions, and that the population is too dim witted to be allowed much in the way of independent course of action. This takes the form of large government departments issuing vast reams of regulations, it takes the form of a "living" Constitution that means pretty much what the elite want, it takes the form of Congress passing hundreds of new felony laws each year, it takes the form of a large increase in the cost of government. Whether that is paid by you and me, or by our children, or by the "1%" is pretty much irrelevant to the overall world view. While individuals have their own preferences, the overall goal is centralization of power in the hands of a self-selected elite.
The other side is basically the traditional American philosophy of limited government, with enumerated powers granted by the People to the government. It's the American philosophy that was able to build the Empire State Building in 29 months and to build a two-ocean Navy and simultaneously beat the Nazi and Imperial Japanese supermen. It's the American philosophy that put a man on the moon and brought him home safely, all in the span of a decade. It's the American philosophy that did it not because it was easy, but because it was hard.
This is a conflict of world views, very much like the Cold War. Communism collapsed suddenly and completely, but for decades it looked like it might have been the side to bet on. The reason is that all the data that we could use to compare the performance of the West against the performance of the Warsaw Pact was cooked - by the commies. Reagan went very much against the conventional wisdom when he decided that we were going to win, and they were going to lose. Even the CIA thought that the USSR was the second or third most powerful economy. Reagan forced the issue, and the balloon popped, leaving the illegitimacy and incompetence of the system exposed for all to see.
So who will do this in 2012? Because that is the most important priority. The critical point on the battlefield is destroying the elite's image of competence, because without that, there's no justification for them to get more power. Everything else, while perhaps desirable, is irrelevant. So here's my scorecard for who's doing this right now.
He's the most effective at this, so far. He may be crazy as a coot on foreign policy, he may be racist (unlikely) or incompetent (probably) with the newsletter thing, but he's by far the most effective in getting this message across: you should be the captain of your soul, not some self-important busybody. Even the apolitical #1 Son mentioned that he might vote for Ron. And quite frankly, there's no question whether Paul would slash the size and power of government. That clarity, in fact, is his biggest asset.
Newt comes with a lot of baggage, part of which is a tendency to become a bit professorial. Not a surprise, as he was a professor, but we can be forgiven for being a little leery of another Professor-in-Chief. However, Newt understands that the battle is our world view vs. theirs. I've posted before on the ideas which cut through the elite vision, but this is a simply outstanding (if long) recitation on the Second Amendment's proper role in America's history, and of the respective roles of the citizen and the political elite. It's worth watching in full:
There is no question where he stands on this issue. There's no question as to whether he can flay the muscle from the bone of the elite world view of ever more centralized control.
I expect that he understands the American vision. I'm not convinced that he can articulate it, or do more than delay the elite's power grabs until Europe is done collapsing. At that point, their world view takes a substantial - but perhaps not fatal - hit. In short, it's not clear that Perry is the right candidate to crush the elite's philosophy, and this is the point of decision.
Not going anywhere, despite his Iowa win/almost-win. He sold his platform with retail politics, going to thousands of meetings in 99 counties in Iowa over six months. He simply cannot do anything like that in the two weeks before New Hampshire, and then the next two until South Carolina.
He's a footnote, whether this is fair or not.
Whatever. Stick a fork in them.
Notice what Romney does not bring to his campaign? Anything that would undermine the mirage of elite competence. He is the elite, it's part of his image. While he likely would do less harm than Obama, he will leave the Elite Worldview entirely intact, and indeed will almost certainly aggressively expand its reach in some important ways.
Just as he did in Massachusetts with health care and the assault weapons ban.
Both Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have serious baggage to overcome. Perry less so, and Romney perhaps least of all (with the bulk of the electorate, at least). But this is not about tactical maneuvering, this is about crushing the opposition's ability to enact their agenda. Go back and watch the video of Newt on the Second Amendment, and listen to his last sentence. Paul would try to say that (and might succeed - although not so brilliantly), Perry would try (and very well might fail). Mitt wouldn't even try.
Multiply this by the other issues that all revolve around the way to share power between individuals or the elite, and you'll see the same thing: Ron Paul and Newt being the only ones forcefully attacking the very foundation of the elite's self image - not as just being wrong, but Reagan-like, attacking it as illegitimate. As being unworthy of a great nation.
On every battlefield is a single decisive point, and moment, when the enemy will be met and can be overthrown. Fear must be cast aside, and all possible force committed there and then, regardless of the cost elsewhere. Our enemy bases all on his sense of intellectual and moral superiority. That is the battle, to discredit that. Our advantage is that they are incompetent and arrogant, and have given many obvious examples of how they are unfit to rule over us.
That is the battle. That is what we must win, or we face the long, slow twilight of extinction, as an increasingly powerful elite drives us into subservience. Their smug but fragile egos must be crushed, utterly.
And who knows? Maybe Paul or Newt might win. But the battle is over this: individual power, or elite control. We faced down the Soviet Bear, at the cost of blood and treasure. Before that, we sent millions of G.I. across two oceans and darkened the sky with our air fleets. Abraham Lincoln kept firing Generals until he found some that would fight. History tells us that America can be hurt, but if we stay true to our heritage, and like in days past simply refuse to give up, we will come out right side up.
We just need a General that sees the decisive point on the battle field, and who will fight.