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