There seems to be an unwritten and immutable rule in American politics that the candidate who stands little or no chance of being elected gets to tell the truth. This holds as true on the local level—where the town crank calls out the evil mega-buck Potter Family but is still roundly defeated—as it does in the race for the White House. For a variety of reasons, we simply do not gravitate to the truthtellers.
Perhaps it’s as simple as this: they make us think too much and, for that sin, they must be slapped down as too smart for their own good. Or they put too much of the burden of governance on us, telling us, in effect, “Hey, just electing me isn’t going to solve the problems. To keep our democracy alive, you’re going to have to do some work too.” This does not sound promising to the majority of Americans already stretched thin working two jobs to pay off the credit card cartel’s monthly interest charges on a debt they’ll never clear.
Or maybe these candidates don’t entertain us or console us enough with lies or contradict themselves often enough so their real beliefs are lost in a haze of saluting, guffawing and flag lapel pins. Or maybe they don’t make us want to sit next to them at the bar and chug (American-made) beers and watch pro football while we gobble oil-soaked pretzels, blood-soaked hotdogs and freedom fries.
The two truthtellers in this presidential election, on opposite sides of the political fence, are Rep. Ron Paul for the Republicans and Sen. Chris Dodd for the Democrats.
George W. Bush has been such an unmitigated disaster for his party that Paul—who, for expediency’s sake, runs as a Republican but really is a true Libertarian—comes off as the least corrupt and/or insane.
Seriously, Rudy G. or Mitt Romney or McCain or Fred Thompson… can you imagine what eight years under their shaky thumbs would be like? They might even make us pine for George W. Bush the way he makes us pine now for Richard Nixon.
Paul also says things that need saying, that are so basic and sensible that it’s amazing they even need saying on a campaign trail in America (e.g., “We must drastically limit the ability of government to collect and store data regarding citizens’ personal matters”). He’s called “Dr. Paul” because he really is a trained physician who served as an Air Force flight surgeon during the Vietnam War. He voted against the Iraq War Resolution and the Patriot Act. However, his libertarianism does not extend to guaranteeing reproductive rights to women. And then there’s that “R” label on his forehead, like Hester Prynne’s scarlet “A.”
Dodd is a different matter. He’s had a long, distinguished career as a U.S. Senator and comes from political stock far more impressive than the Connecticut Bushes. On paper, he would seem to stand as good a chance as anyone in the field for the White House. Yet he’s been completely ignored by the mainstream media (though he, like Paul, has raised his profile tremendously on the Internet) and served as sort of a garbage man at all of the televised debates.
This despite the fact that he has been nothing but unsurpassably eloquent and consistent in his views and his opposition to the White House. He also stands closer to the views of the 75 percent of Americans who disapprove of Bush than any of the others in the field, in either party. And this week he stood tall by putting a hold on legislation that would absolve the telecommunications companies from the 40 pending lawsuits filed by Americans for violations of their privacy rights.
Sadly, he’s too much of a truthteller to get elected.