The results of the Iowa caucus have the news media spinning a "victory" for Mitt Romney, the Goldman-Sachs candidate, and the supposedly all-but-inevitable nominee of his party. Just why he was deemed the "frontrunner" before even a single vote had been cast is a mystery known only to the professional pundits, who seem to have bestowed this title on him because of his perfect hair and his perfectly unauthentic persona. Romney is the Stepford Candidate, robotically repeating those phrases which are expected of him with all the conviction of a simulacrum. Which leads one to wonder: how can this preprogrammed human automaton ever hope to defeat the personable and relatively authentic Obama?
For those with more imagination, the victor in this fight has been Rick Santorum, whose surge toward the end put him within a dozen or so votes of Romney. Hours after the results were announced, we were treated to the sight of breathless commentators anointing a candidate with no money and no real conservative credentials as the One True Anti-Romney who could snatch the crown from Mittís brow.
The Iowa caucus results are supposed to be all about "expectations," which begs the question: whose expectations? Why, the mainstream mediaís, of course, a fact which Ė youíll note Ė allows these guardians of the conventional wisdom to play their key role as the final arbiters of what all this voting means. And the formulaic "spin" had been determined far in advance: if Romney won, then his coronation was supposed to be foreordained. If anybody but Romney won, it would simply delay Romneyís final victory. If Ron Paul won, then the Iowa caucuses would henceforth be deemed "irrelevant."
Peter Feaver, writing on foreignpolicy.com, was typically dismissive of Paulís showing:
"The Iowa results probably indicate that there will not be a big crack-up within the Republican party on foreign policy because the caucus returns are likely to be the high-water mark for the candidate with the most distinctive foreign policy platform in the field: Ron Paul. He did well enough to gain another week of press attention. But in the one contest best-suited to his unusual political operation, Paul did not beat expectations. He would have to really surprise in New Hampshire in order to remain relevant in the later primaries, and those are likely to be even tougher terrain for him."
Itís all about "press attention" Ė but what if it isnít? What if itís possible to bypass the traditional gatekeepers and create a movement weaned on alternative media and rising populist anger at the Washington-New York power elite? Because that is precisely what Paul has done, and that movement has hardly crested in the wilds of Iowa: itís only owing to a deficiency of imagination on the part of Feaver and his confreres, a curious sort of tunnel vision, that allows them that assumption.
"But also, the great strides that we have made has been really on foreign policy. The fact that we can once again talk in Republican circles and make it credible. Talk about what Eisenhower said that beware of the military-industrial complex. Talk about the old days when Robert Taft, Mr. Republican, said that we shouldnít be engaged in these entangling alliance. He believed what the founders taught us. He didnít even want to be in NATO. We certainly donít need NATO and the UN telling us when to go to war.
"But we have seen a great difference. The majority of the American people are behind us on this whole war effort. Theyíre tired of the war. Cost too much money. Too many people get killed. Too many people get injured. Too many people get sick. And the majority Ė maybe 70% or 80% Ė of the American people now are saying itís time to get out of Afghanistan."
At every debate, and every campaign appearance, Paul is transforming the discourse. Forced to start noticing him due to his steadily climbing poll numbers, the mainstream media invariably dismissed his ability to expand beyond a narrow libertarian base, which was supposedly limited by his "isolationist" foreign policy views. Yet he managed to pull off what was essentially a three-way tie, denying the alleged frontrunner and the media-anointed "conservative" a clear victory.
Iíll note, in passing, that Democrats opposed to our aggressive foreign policy are almost never described as "isolationists," and one can hardly imagine a reporter referring to the demonstrations protesting the Iraq war as "isolationist" rallies. The left-right, red state-blue state lens the media clamps over every event distorts and masks a somewhat more complex underlying reality.
Much has been made of Paulís youthful constituency, and his lead in commanding the support of political independents and Democrats who signed up as Republicans for the evening, and yet less is said about the 18 percent of evangelicals who cast their lot with the one presidential candidate who wants to dismantle the Empire. In spite of a relentless smear campaign led by Fox News and the neoconservative would-be policemen of the right, nearly a quarter of Iowa Republicans stood with Paul at the caucuses.
The icing on this cake is that the candidate made no attempt to downplay or hide his supposedly "controversial" foreign policy views: indeed, he emphasized them even when he was talking about domestic policy, tying the conservative project of dismantling the federal Leviathan to the need to drop the burden of empire. That over 20 percent of Iowa caucus-goers voted to endorse Paulís uncompromising anti-interventionism scares the bejesus out of the GOP establishment because the Paulians arenít going to go away. Well-funded and blessed with a growing army of enthusiastic volunteers, the Paul campaign has the resources to go all the way to Tampa.
January 9, 2012
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.
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