It’s Not a Horse Race; It’s an Ideas Race

As tonight’s Republican presidential debate approaches, we keep hearing about the “horse race.”

Will Donald Trump call Ted Cruz a name? If so, what name? And how will Cruz respond? Will he be nice, or call Trump names back?

What about Marco Rubio? Will he be asked a question he’d rather not answer, e.g. on immigration? If so, how will he feel?

Will Carly Fiorina look disdainfully at Donald Trump, or will she ignore him?

What about Trump’s hair? How will it hold up?

I exaggerate only slightly.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with evaluating people’s reactions. Ability to cope with strength under pressure is a major qualification for the presidency, or at least it used to be.

But the most important area of all is the area most often ignored: ideas.

In selecting someone for this job, two questions are most important. What are the candidate’s ideas? And what’s his or her record in standing by those ideas, with integrity?

Democrats are far better at this than Republicans. We have little doubt where Hillary Clinton stands. She wants more government spending/borrowing; more government power over the economy; more nationalization, more central control; more government power over people’s lives.

With Republicans, it’s a constant guessing game as to where they stand, what their ideology is, whether they have an ideology at all, and if so—what will happen five minutes after the election.

Ideology is considered a dirty word. Particularly in the general election, the two candidates will try to persuade people that they’re not ideological, and instead that they are the kind who “get things done.”

The last thing we want in a president is someone who “gets things done.” Why? Because the “things” virtually always getting done are things that do harm to individual rights, the Constitution, freedom and liberty as we know (or once knew) them.

The only sort of things worth “doing” are things which would progressively restore liberty and remove controls from business, money-making, private property and personal, consensual behavior of all kinds. Repealing most of government as we know it is the kind of “getting done” we desperately need.

Taxes? Make them simpler but, most of all, make them smaller…way smaller, on everyone, rich and poor.

Regulations? Wipe them out. Or at least reduce them. Promise to prove it after a term in office. For example, pledge to reduce the Federal Register (a book of federal regulations) to a certain number of pages. Pledge at least to reverse its growth.

Economics? Move towards a totally free market. Votes about economic policies should not be fought out in presidential elections, especially ones which focus on hair, pants suits, facial expressions and somewhat meaningless personal utterances. Economic policies should be determined by consumers, voting with their dollars in the free marketplace. It’s not up to government to pick the winners and losers, doctors, mortgage lending policies, the content of health insurance policies, the water pressure in your shower, or anything of the sort.

Republicans need not be defensive about opposing or repealing government programs not mandated by the Constitution. Republicans don’t have to prove that this or that government plan “does not work,” although these programs never do; they only have to argue that it’s none of the government’s business.

Ideas matter. Would you trust a car mechanic, an electrician, an airline pilot or a brain surgeon who proudly proclaims he has no ideas? “I will fix your car [or your brain], even though I have no idea how to do so. I’m not an ideologue when it comes to cars.” Of course you wouldn’t. You’d literally run for your life.

Ideas are the one thing candidates seem most proud not to have.

Ideas are also the things candidates run from when put on the defensive, as Republican candidates almost always are. Watch the CNN debate this evening. Republican candidates will be put on the defensive for having ideas related to the free market or principled attacks against Islamic terrorism. Socialist or Democratic candidates never have to apologize.

Just once, I’d love a presidential debate which sets out to define candidates’ ideas and ask them to prove – in action, over a period of years – their adherence to those ideas, in practice.

I realize this might be too boring, for most.

But then how boring is it to contend with a country and government falling apart at the seams, as ours currently is?

Sooner or later we all will have to confront our ideas. When Social Security and Medicare finally implode, or when the Iranians nuke Israel, or ISIS kills thousands or millions on American soil. We’ll have to summon up our ideas then. Why not do so now, before things get even worse?

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