Ron Paul and Sarah Palin: The Ross Perot Moment
By Bernie Quigley
- for The Hill on 9/17/09
The most startling statistic to come out this month is latest Washington Post/ABC poll that shows 43% of Americans now consider themselves to be independents. Much of the celebrity thrill seems to be gone, as Wall Street Journal commentator Fouad Ajami said it would, with the hip new President who gives such charming speeches. Could be that hip is not what you want in a President when the only difference between Cheney’s war in Iraq and Obama’s war in Afghanistan and Bush’s missile defense program and Obama’s is the better cut of the new Commander-in-Chief’s suit. On the two main fronts, the economy and the war, majorities oppose and he has even lost 10% of the young ‘uns since July. 22-year olds consider themselves to be immortal. They don’t want health insurance.
Change is about, without question, but Obama himself may only be the harbinger, not the change. We could be approaching not a Kennedy or a Roosevelt or a Lincoln moment, but a Ross Perot moment.
Ross Perot came out of nowhere back in the early 1990s and with a kookie Texas freshness, a crate full of his own cash and a bunch of charts, he took almost 20% of the vote in 1992. At one point in the summer he commanded a lead with 39%. What the Perot moment indicated was that World War II or Elvis or the Beach Boys or something had freed Americans from their old constraints. But Ronald Reagan really turned the sea. Prior to Reagan you could with accuracy count on good Boston Irish going to the Catholic Church and voting Democrat every time. You could count on New York Jews and Southern Baptists to do the same. But when Reagan took 49 states in 1984 it was all over with that. Americans were free. With 43% claiming to be independent today, they apparently are still free.
This week Ariana Huffington, the liberal doyenne, and Ron Paul both appeared on Morning Joe. They seemed to like each other and to be in increasing agreement on economic issues. But what was striking was the new legitimacy that Ron Paul has gained since Obama’s bailouts have taken hold. Given the high disapproval ratings on both the economy and the war, it could be said today that the country is moving to Paul’s positions by osmosis. Paul opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He opposed the bailouts. He opposed the entire Keynesian perspective that the Obama administration has adopted lock-stock-and-barrel. Morning Joe – no radical libertarian – pulled out an old script to read in amazement how the housing crisis had played out exactly as Paul said it would back in 2003. Paul advocates Austrian economics and as he gathers continuing respect Austrian economics gains a new authenticity as well.
Sarah Palin and Ron Paul bear kinship. Those who like Paul very often also like Palin. She has said she admired Paul’s independent streak and Paul, like Palin, was considered a pariah when America’s support for Obama was in the 70s and all three networks were head over heels for Obamanomics. But as the sweet and authentic Mary Travis of Peter, Paul and Mary unfortunately passed away this week, I was remembering how the charmed old labor songs that The Weavers used to sing took flight when I was a teenager. Bob Dylan was the pariah then, now he’s everywhere – selling Pepsi and women’s underwear on TV during football games, playing Bar Mitzvah’s. You can’t get rid of the guy.
Such an awakening is ahead again perhaps as the old ideas inevitably yield to time. But different times yield to different ideas.
There are maybe subtle hints that the networks seem to be catching on. Charles Gibson, the ABC News anchor, who led the major networks in their idolatrous backing of Obama, is retiring this year. He will be replaced by Diane Sawyer. Comment was that they wanted a woman for the job. But there are certainly lots of other women who could do it. Sawyer goes way back, to Nixon, to Kissinger, to the Time of Tall Men. My instinct was they were making a correction; ditching the lightweights and getting their best people up front for what lies just ahead.