I consider myself an across-the-board conservative but of the paleo sort, therefore I tend to disagree with mainstream conservatives on a few issues, most notably foreign policy. I say this to indicate that I am not a single issue voter. I have several issues that I prioritize in importance when evaluating a candidate. A discussion of which ones and why would take a separate article, but suffice it to say that foreign policy is currently the most important issue I consider, and unfortunately, given the current dynamic, it is usually a criteria I use to rule out supporting a candidate.
There are a few reasons why I rank foreign policy the most important issue. First, this is the issue where mainstream conservatives are the most wrong. They aren’t wrong by degree, they are wrong by direction. Thus on foreign policy they need to be actively countered. Second, interventionist assumptions so dominate the current discourse that an alternative desperately needs to be put forth. Third, foreign policy is a very imminent issue. Unlike some issues that are important but nothing is likely to happen on them one way or the other any time soon, we currently have a bunch of uber-hawks who seriously want to plunge the U.S. into an unjustified and immoral preventive war with Iran and escalate several other conflicts. Here a few voices of reason might actually make a difference.
Due to my desire to see a true noninterventionist run, I have been unhappy with the potential 2016 GOP field so far. It is a field made up mostly of rhetorical hawks including some uber-hawks, such as Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who really seem to have drunk the neocon Kool-Aid. Based on his past statements, Donald Trump has some potential as a less hawkish and more reasonable alternative, but I don’t know if he is grounded enough to resists the call for hawkishness in the GOP primaries. With no real ideal options, many of my fellow noninterventionists are supporting Rand Paul as the only recognizably different voice on foreign policy in the crowd.
I have, however, been very disappointed with Rand because I think he has conceded too much rhetorically to the interventionist side, and I have, therefore, not been able to enthusiastically embrace his campaign, although I concede that he is so far the best of the potential lot on foreign policy with some hope held out for Donald Trump.
Disappointment with Rand has prompted me to have several private conversations with fellow like-minded paleocons brainstorming potential Republican candidates who could boldly articulate the noninterventionist message. The problem for us noninterventionists is that since the interventionist paradigm is so dominant, noninterventionists have very little “bench,” to use a sports analogy, to call upon. It is no coincidence that even the far from ideal but best of a sorry lot candidate so far has the last name of Paul.
One name that does consistently come up in these brainstorming sessions, however, is Rep. John Duncan (R-TN). (Apparently he often goes by Jimmy.) Rep. Duncan is one of only seven Republicans who voted against the invasion of Iraq. He consistently articulates a relatively noninterventionist position in the House. Some of his speeches can be viewed on YouTube. He is on the Advisory Board of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He also has a reputation as one of the more paleoish Representatives in Congress. He is rock solid on immigration, and better than average for a Republican but not perfect on opposition to trade deals.
It was thus filled with excitement when I saw this article, “A Return to the Peace Party,” at The American Conservative written by none other than Rep. John Duncan. I highly encourage everyone to read the article. Sorry Rand fans, but it is a much clearer articulation of nonintervention than your guy has managed since he first declared for the Senate in Kentucky.
The article is not a crystal clear enunciation of noninterventionism, because it doesn’t really address specifics of current issues such as the negotiations with Iran, but it is a very well done statement of general principles that hits some important notes and is potentially sellable to a Republican audience.
One very important point Rep. Duncan makes is that a bellicose interventionist foreign policy is not necessarily popular with average blue collar voters who make up a substantial portion of the Republican Party voting base. Bellicose interventionism is unfortunately popular with mainstream conservatives who heavily identify with the Republican Party and can be reliably counted on to pull the lever that way, but it is much less popular with Reddish Republican leaning swing voters.
I’m actually skeptical of the argument Rep. Duncan makes that the Republican Party was once the party of peace and that a more noninterventionist posture would represent a return to the status quo, although there are elements of truth to it and the GOP was clearly not always as shoot first hawkish as it is now. It is, however, a common argument made in interventionist circles so it indicates that Duncan has some fluency with the issue. It is also an argument that is more likely to sell to the Republican base.
Rep. Duncan also addresses the American “exceptionalism” canard, which often serves as an all-purpose justification for U.S. intervention when arguing with hawks. Again, this indicates that Rep. Duncan has at least some fluency with the issue and isn’t just repeating boilerplate.
I have no idea if Rep. Duncan wants to be President, although the conventional wisdom has it that every Congressman and Senator really wants to be President. More to the point, I do not know if Rep. Duncan has ever seriously considered running for President or if he is doing so now. There is something about the tenor of the article, however - the way he calls out the current candidates and hits important points without marginalizing himself – that suggests to me the thought has crossed his mind. I hope it has.
I say run Jimmy Duncan run! He is better on foreign policy at this point than Rand Paul, and the combination of reasonableness on foreign policy, being strong on immigration and being (mixed record) opposed to trade deals could make him a formidable candidate representing the paleo, populist, blue collar wing of the party which currently has no real spokesman. There is a real void to be filled there Rep. Duncan. I humbly suggest you give serious consideration to trying to fill it.