Reason Highlights From RNC Week, and a Counter-intuitive Note of Cockeyed Optimism

The Republican National Convention packed up its booze tents and elaborate security superstructures in the wee hours this morning, as the nation's bloated political class started checking the weather forecasts for Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Democrats will follow suit next week. Before I offer a few closing remarks, here are some highlights you might have missed from our coverage in Tampa and back at the home office in the Cloud. Presented in chronological order:

* "Paul Festival: The Fight for the Ron Paul Grassroots' Soul," by Brian Doherty

* "RNC Shuns Ron Paul, Supporters Root for Romney Defeat," by Zach Weissmueller and Tracy Oppenheimer (Reason.tv)

* "Paul-Fest Crowd Embraces Gary Johnson," by Garrett Quinn

* "The GOP's Disputed Soul," by Matt Welch

* "Ron Paul's Rally: Not the End, Just a Continuation of His Revolution," by Brian Doherty

* "RNC Debt Clock vs. GOP Delegates," by Zach Weissmueller and Tracy Oppenheimer (Reason.tv)

* "Ron Paul Delegates Lose First Two RNC Fights," by Garrett Quinn

* "The Republicans' Selective Reading of the Constitution," by Jacob Sullum

* "Ron Paul Delegates Walk Off RNC Floor in Protest," by Zach Weissmueller and Tracy Oppenheimer (Reason.tv)

* "Papering Over the Republican Divide," by Matt Welch

* "GOP Pushes to Become Seen as Medicare's Savior Despite Fiscal Destructiveness, Unfairness of Program," by Nick Gillespie

* "GOP Platform on Education: More Choice, More Accountability, Much Less Sex," by Katherine Mangu-Ward

* "GOP Platform Calls for and End to the 'Over-Criminalization of Behavior and the Over-Federalization of Offenses,'" by Mike Riggs

* "Fly the Solyndra Skies: RNC Darling Benefits from Loan Guarantees, Too," by Scott Shackford

* "Lazy Commentary at RNC Not Limited to Speeches," by Garrett Quinn

* "Are Social Cons Still Relevant to the GOP?" by Zach Weissmueller and Tracy Oppenheimer (Reason.tv)

* "Ron Paul's Followers and the GOP: Where to From Here, and How?" by Brian Doherty

* "The GOP Is the Party of Medicare," by Peter Suderman

* "Major Party Political Conventions, Brought to You By Taxpayer Funding," by Peter Suderman

* "American Exceptionalism Routs Paul Family's Foreign Policy," by Matt Welch

* "Paul Ryan Hates Obama's Policies. What Would Romney/Ryan Offer Instead?" by Peter Suderman

* "Rand Paul's RNC Speech and the Future of the Republican Party," by Zach Weissmueller and Tracy Oppenheimer (Reason.tv)

* "The National Shame of Major-Party Convention 'Security,'" by Matt Welch

* "Mitt Romney: The GOP's Anti-Visionary," by Peter Suderman

* "Scott Walker Hails the Rise of Libertarian-Leaning Governors," by Garrett Quinn

* "Romney to Replace Hope and Change With Change and Hope," by Matt Welch

This is but a small sampling; click this link for more.

Though much of the above is skeptical/critical–and appropriately so, given that we are talking about politicians, and a political party that truly screwed the pooch when last occupying the White House--I'd like to end on a note of cockeyed California optimism.

Mitt Romney may indeed be a deliberately empty vessel (for the definitive framing on his approach to politics, please read Peter Suderman's excellent cover story from March, "Consultant in Chief"), but empty vessels have a habit of tacking to the wind. One striking, even unrecognizable difference between the 2012 RNC and the convention just four years ago is that there is a generation of legitimately interesting new Republican politicians–Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Texas senatorial candidate Ted Cruz, Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño–who campaigned on tackling the real structural problems facing the country, and have largely (though not completely) kept up their end of the bargain.

These people weren't afterthoughts during the convention, grudgingly given off-prime speaking slots; they were the featured speakers. They reflect (and were mostly brought into the office by) the populist, anti-big-government uprising that has rocked the country since the fall of 2008, and they are precipitating long-overdue conversations within the GOP about cutting spending, reforming entitlements, reducing public-sector compensation, and even reducing military expenditure. They are the ones who have the juice and the momentum within the Republican Party, even if they haven't yet produced a presidential nominee.

Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan (read Peter Suderman's great profile of him here) isn't precisely of their generation, or radicalism, but he's cut from the same philosophical cloth. As FreedomWorks' Matt Kibbe told me, "Ryan is a real market guy–I know all of his flaws, I know all of his bad votes, but by choosing Ryan the party has conceded that it actually has to defend these ideas, including entitlement reform." Ryan's selection can be read as a sign that the S.S. Romney felt the wind blowing from the fiscal conservative grassroots.

And even though the Romney establishment spent the week behind closed doors muscling out those grassroots on various procedural and point-of-entry grounds, it was striking to me that the disenfranchised Tea Party and Ron Paul activists–people who are deadly serious about cutting the size and scope of government--cloaked their expressions of anger with even firmer vows to see their GOP-infiltration through to the end. They are determined to change a party that has grown far too accustomed to the bloated pleasures of big government. They will be blowing hard into Romney's sails for the next 10 weeks, and the four years after should he win the election.

None of which is reason to let Romney/Ryan off the hook, or to assume naively that they will voluntarily reduce the power they seek to obtain. They are not, after all, campaigning on cutting Leviathan. But as long as there's an active, dedicated, and growing cell within the Republican Party trying to radically change the scope of conversation and policy as specifically regards limiting government, then there's at least an outside hope that top of the ticket can be pushed into the kind of good policies it has not yet allowed itself to contemplate.

A thin reed, for sure. But as we shall see next week, the other major party has long since dropped the pretense of ending big government as we know it, and given itself over to magical economic thinking that has produced a grisly status quo. Stay tuned for more coverage of that in this space.

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  • Lord Humungus||

    You know who else had a counter-intuitive note of cockeyed optimism?

  • Voros McCracken||

    Bobby McFerrin?

  • John||

    Paul Simon. What is more optimistic than feeling groovy?

  • ||

    Can I call you Al?

  • T||

    Sure thing, Betty.

  • Proprietist||

    Ron Jeremy?

  • ||

    The dead guy in Monty Python's Holy Grail?

  • John||

    No. Marty Feldman

  • BakedPenguin||

    Rubber-tree plant ant?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I have a friend who claims that now is not the time for dissent in the Republican Party. He thinks with utter conviction that now you close ranks behind the nominee and work to change the GOP from the inside.

    Obviously that's a fantasy. Even with the threat of losing the White House, or any seat, the Republican establishment refuses to budge from their own brand of self-serving statism.

    "You want to vote for Johnson?" he says. "Enjoy four more years of Obama."

    "You want to ignore small government and libertarian voters?" I reply. "Enjoy four more years of Obama." It works both ways.

  • ||

    "Why you doin' this, Fist?"

    "That guy is my friend."

    "Shit, Fist, I got lots of friends."

    "I don't."

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm your huckleberry.

  • ||

    It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds.

  • nicole||

    Damn, Epi, I was all about to use the "redefine the nature of our association" line, which I must say does seem more apropos, but he says "It appears..." there too, so that would just seem repetitive.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You would have been a daisy if you did.

  • $park¥||

    Y'all can kiss my rebel dick!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Y'all can kiss my rebel dick!

    YOU GET OUT OF HERE WITH THAT COSTNER CRAP.

  • nicole||

    He's no daisy at all.

  • ||

    From now on I see a "Sparky" handle, I kill the man wearing it. So run you cur. And tell the other curs Episiarch is coming. You tell 'em I'm coming! And Hell's coming with me you hear! Hell's coming with me!

  • $park¥||

    Epi, you ever wonder why we been a part of so many unfortunate incidents, yet we're still walking around? I have figured it out. It's nothing much, just luck. And you know why it's nothing much Epi? Because it doesn't matter much whether we are here today or not. I wake up every morning looking in the face of Death, and you know what? He ain't half bad. I think the secret old Mr. Death is holding is that it's better for some of us over on the other side. I know it can't be any worse for me. Maybe that's the place for your Fist of Etiquette. For some people, this world ain't ever gonna be right.

  • ||

    Why Sparky, you look like somebody just walked over your grave.

  • Pip||

    You know I was dating this chick a few years ago and she had a sibling that wanted to find a niche' porn fetish that was being undermarket and build a site for it. We tried to come up with one, but it seemed like there were non left. But recently dawned on me that there is on niche' that I have yet to see - chicks kissing dicks. Not sucking, stroking, licking, etc., just kissing. I bet there's a market for that.

  • ||

    I have two guns, one for each of ya.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I miss Val.

  • ||

    So do I, ProL. So do I.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I wish he had a son who could turn him from the, well, whatever side he's on that involves him not doing great movies.

    I'd like to see him do some comedy again.

  • nicole||

    Nonsense, he has not yet begun to defile himself.

  • ||

    nicole, it's true, you are a good woman. Then again, you may be the antichrist.

  • nicole||

    I'm also not wearing a bustle.

  • ||

    We can always dream, ProL. But at least we have Real Genius, Top Secret, Willow, Thunderheart, Tombstone, True Romance, Heat, The Ghost and the the Darkness, The Salton Sea, and his guest appearance on Entourage.

    "Calm down, Hitler. Do you think Ron Howard just wished Willow was great? No...and yet it was."

  • Pro Libertate||

    I thought he did a nice turn as Jim Morrison, even though I didn't like the movie much.

  • ||

    I hate The Doors, so I didn't really care, though from all appearances Val did a very good job. And the chick they had playing Nico was way, way hotter than the real Nico.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I just looked. Dr. Cuddy was in that movie, too. I remember Mimi Rogers, but not Lisa Edelstein.

  • $park¥||

    Seeing you would be a nice change. I understand most of your enemies got it in the back.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    "It appears he couldn't bear the strain...."

  • Pro Libertate||

    At some point, the GOP's role in expanding government's scope and spending is going to matter. I'd prefer to show them why right now, rather than wait until their incremental acceleration off the cliff pays dividends.

    Where that logic is more persuasive to me is with Congress. I think there's a good argument that people should vote GOP for Congress this time around. If they suck, we can vote the House right back.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Mitt Romney will likely destroy what's left of the Republican brand. He will not reduce government but the narrative in four years will be that he did. It will open the door for another Barack Obama.

    "Slashing government is what got us deeper into this mess; only restoring government can get us out! Vote Mitt out!"

  • John||

    Which is why Obama winning might not be a bad thing. Sadly, Obama is such a fucking moron, it looks like he is going to manage to lose.

  • John||

    On the other hand, suppose Romney wins and turns out to be worse than even his critics think he will be. That would not just be the end of the Republican brand, it would be the end of the party. The base would just leave. The party would probably split up. That could be good in that something better would rise in its place. But it could be a complete disaster that would allow the Dems to gain complete control of everything over a divided opposition. Not sure which is more likely to be honest.

  • T||

    The party infrastructure is too valuable to abandon. Think of all the legislatively enabled bennies the two major parties get, like premium ballot access. The two parties will lurch along in some form or other, but the people running them will change.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It still amazes me that the left gets away with labeling Bush and the last GOP Congress as "deregulatory" and "pro-business." What a load of crap.

  • Proprietist||

    Stop lying. Sarbanes-Oxley was the biggest de-regulation in history!

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Well, till 700 MPG* regulations for the carmakers.

    *this figure may be slightly exaggerated from reality

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    PS Please add a "de-" in front of the word "regulation". Thank you.

  • John||

    The drop in public esteem for the Dems under Obama has been dramatic. He is destroying the party. Romney has yet to give me a reason not to let him finish the job. Another Obama term and I am not sure there will be much of a Democratic Party left.

    And I actually spent some time on Johnson's website. Frankly, his proposals, while better than Romney, really are not that radical. Block grant medicare to the states? If he wants my protest vote, he ought to at least give me a true radical program to vote for. And he really doesn't.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Another Obama term and I am not sure there will be much of a Democratic Party left.

    The pendulum will always swing back. One party or the other fucks it up, sending the thing back the other way. It's been swinging pretty quickly of late. But slowing it down means it might swing back to a somewhat different Democratic Party.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Personally, I like that Gary Johnson is running an adult campaign. There is a basic sense of honesty, practicality, and realism in his campaign that has been lacking from LP and third party runs for too long.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    It's easy to run an adult campaign when you're not trying to win.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Tell that to the LP circa 1988-2008, or the Constitution Party, or the Green Party...

  • Pro Libertate||

    Please explain this comment.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    If you're trying to win you have to appeal to the electorate on their level, which is emotional and oversimplified. If Romney and Ryan ran the campaign the way Johnson is, they would get maybe 40% of the vote and be a laughingstock. Meanwhile, GJ can run a cerebral campaign that all the libertarian elite can appreciate and get 0.5% like always, and libertarians will still think his farts are perfume.

  • John||

    That is just it, it is an adult campaign. I was expecting it to be an actual radical platform. It is not. If it were the Republican platform, Reason would savage it for saving medicare and ensuring big government forever.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Tulpa and John's comments ain't far from the truth, but it is still the case that the LP candidate is (this time around) running a very adult campaign, and is a competent person in general. We are not being distracted/ashamed by racist newsletter or child pornography, but instead the LP candidate is fielding a candidate with relevant experience who is running on a serious agenda.

    That is a vast improvement for the LP.

  • John||

    Question Trouser,

    Wouldn't Johnson have been better off running for Senate in New Mexico rather than for President?

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    After he lost in the primaries, yes -- that would have been my preference. My understanding is that he dislikes the legislative functions, and that it factored into his decision not to run for Senate.

  • Proprietist||

    I think both Bob Barr and Gary Johnson were partially a result of the 2006 sea change in the LP where us moderates took control of the platform and cut the extreme parts out, leaving only a platform feasible within the next four years. This attracts more mainstream candidates. The party became more incrementalist and realistic as to what they could accomplish. Badnarik was the tip of the iceberg for many of us - a nice man, but hard to take seriously as a legitimate presidential candidate. Most of us had had enough with the incumbent Rothbardian sector and it's complete lack of political success.

    I still felt that we need a fresh start completely, but went along with the reform effort, and I think it has been relatively successful in providing dissatisfied libertarians and independents a more pragmatic anti-government party.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    That is the logical direction for the LP to go, if we're interested in more than being America's Cassandra.

    Ideally, this more moderate platform will attract better candidates for local office (which is where the LP should really be attempting to maximize its returns).

  • BakedPenguin||

    So you're saying you want Bednarik?

    At the point we're at, even the LP realizes the only way were going to get out of the mess is slow attrition in killing off the dumbest legislation and regulation one at a time.

  • John||

    So now that this is over, what are the Dems going to do? Is it really going to be the abortion convention? Have they really lost their minds that much?

  • Pip||

    "Is it really going to be the abortion convention?"

    I AM OBAMA'S VAGINA.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I AM OBAMA'S VAGINA.

    Ugh. Are you still spitballing new adult entertainment concepts?

  • Grandpa Whithers||

    "We are the vaginas we've been waiting for.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    The LP has to be kicking themselves for not having that Code Pink person come to their convention and wrap the vagina flag around Johnson.

  • ||

    This fuckin thing (GOP Convention) is longer than the Olympics.

  • rts||

    And had much less beach volleyball.

  • Pip||

    WHERE ARE THE ANTI OBAMA STORIES?

    /Cenotaph

  • mustard||

    Let me know when you're done kissing Republican ass, libertardians. You're much funnier to point and laugh at when you're impotently pouting over Obama, so I'll tune in more next week.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Impotently?!

  • ||

    mustard, you're the worst sockpuppet ever.

  • John||

    Mary is off the meds. I suspect it will be a category 1 outbreak by the weekend.

  • ||

    It looks like they've already banned her Cenotaph handle.

  • T||

    No more being castigated for lowering Republican morale? How ever will we survive?

  • Cenotaph||

    You have a serious hard-on for me getting banned. Despite your claims of being anti-authority, you wish for and prematurely celebrate the ultimate exercise of authority in this little corner of the world against the powerless.

    The indicators for your emotional-cognitive development are not looking good. They're pointing to a strong lack of it.

  • mus-TARD||

    I know.

  • OO=======D||

    Say that to my face, you cruciferous bastard. Say it to my face!

  • Calidissident||

    Hilarious. We have this guy accusing Reason of kissing Republican ass, and we have Cenotaph calling them big bad bullies for picking on Romney and shilling for Obama. These two need to meet

  • Loki||

    They're actually the same person. And your mind is blown!

  • Cenotaph||

    You think that was kissing ass?

  • OO=======D||

    Just for fun:

    Big Daddy's Rap (The Lord's Prayer)

    Yo, Big Daddy upstairs,
    You be chillin
    So be yo hood
    You be sayin' it, I be doin' it
    In this ere hood and yo's
    Gimme some eats
    And cut me some slack, Blood
    So's I be doin' it to dem dat diss me
    Don' be pushin' me into no jive
    And keep dem crips away
    'Cause you always be da man, G,
    Straight up

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Solid

  • Kinsey||

    He's our generation's Marlon Brandon, for good and for ill. We had Hot Val, now he's dropped out, and at some point he'll be back, fat and crazy but still a better actor than most of them, and he'll make some great movies and then die. Hopefully won't leave behind the same level of human wreckage Brando did.

  • ||

    True story: for some reason that escapes me now, I found myself watching MacGruber in the theater. Not following celebrity gossip much, I didn't know what had happened to Val. I still thought of him from Tombstone and Willow.

    Anyway when he first appeared on screen, not recognizing him, I leaned over to my buddy and said, "Hey you know what? That actor sort of looks like a fat, shitty Val Kilmer."

  • Kinsey||

    I will never be able to answer correctly to threaded comments. Apparently I'm just that stupid.

  • Cenotaph||

    This is much better Matt Welch, and not counterintuitive at all. I hope I'm proved wrong about the ulterior motives of you and your charges next week.

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