Few examples of the behind-the-scenes power exerting its authority over the people are more impactful than the deliberate stranglehold on the free speech of candidates running for office. Today, Ron Paul finds himself in the chokehold of a couple of Iowa organizations that have refused to allow his message to be heard on the same stage as other Republican candidates. Ironically, one of the groups claims to be Christian.
As a former campaign manager for a popular candidate running for the California State Assembly in a wealthy district of San Diego County a few years back, I witnessed first-hand the backroom dirty dealing that goes on in the political parties. In my particular experience, the candidate was the front-runner but was eschewed by the Republican Party (the district was historically Republican and so was my candidate) simply and solely on the basis of the fact that he was black.
After weeks of phone calls, meetings and quiet inferences that the Republican Party of San Diego County would support him if he bowed out of the district for which he was running and moved to a southern district near the Mexico border and ran for Congress against a Democrat who was firmly planted there, my candidate accepted the fact that he would not be endorsed by the county Republican Party (although he held office within that same group). It was a conditional offer made by the party to provide support as a sacrifical lamb in a congressional battle if he gracefully exited the race in his home district. He declined. Not once, but several times.
Eventually, a high-ranking member of the Republican National Committee flew down to see us. The “us” was just my candidate and myself. The three of us were in an office conference room in Northern San Diego County when the proposition was made plain. My candidate declined the “offer.” In the following weeks the field of candidates for the primaries in our district tripled. When it came time to vote, there were 12 candidates flooding the field in the Republican primary, including a couple of very wealthy latecomers. In the end, we finished 4th.
I left politics after that.
It was quite apparent to me during my short involvement in the behind-the-scenes organization of campaigns for issues and candidates that what the public sees is often contrived, manipulated and sometimes cutthroat. I remember when another well respected Republican candidate, Ambassador Alan Keyes, was taken away from a debate (to which he was initially invited) in handcuffs because he refused to acquiesce to the power that informed him he could not participate.
Today, the organizers in Iowa are preparing for a debate between Republican presidential candidates. This time the odd man out is Ron Paul of Texas. His campaign is quite dismayed at the display of hostile suppression by the folks in Iowa who purport to be Iowans for Tax Relief and the Iowa Christian Alliance. Such strongarm tactics to prevent Paul from addressing issues the other candidates prefer to ignore is not in keeping with the spirit of our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and the democratic process of electing leaders.
The gatekeepers that guard access to the public will do no great service to that public by dismissing a relevant voice in the presidential debate in order to kowtow to the candidates that have ganged up against Paul. While there is no outward proof that the other candidates intend to bow out or have exercised some other clout necessary to close the gate on Paul, the result is clear. Paul has not been invited to a debate his campaign clearly desires to attend.
There is really no mystery here. Since the debate where Paul and Rudy Guiliani briefly broached the topic of 9/11, Paul has been cast in the shadows while the rest of the field has steered clear of the issue of 9/11 and Paul’s specific comments. Nevertheless, the American people are interested in the subject even as the national media joins in the effort to suppress the issue from reaching mass audiences during primetime debate coverage.
Unfortunately, much of the American people are quite ignorant, intolerant and impatient, as many in political circles rightly describe the general population. Even a cursory look into the campaigns of numerous candidates reveal methodologies designed to persuade the dumbest among us. Marketing efforts seek to utilize jokes, references to pop culture and an overall appeal to the “Sopranos” fans of America. That isn’t to say everyone watching the Sopranos has the IQ equal to their shoe size. But the overall process of politicking and campaigning employs methods that insult the intelligence of many as candidates clamor to pander to the popular culture of the day.
Analyze the totality of the methods of marketing to the masses and you will learn little about the candidates regarding the most important issues facing this nation. They all just want to be liked, or receive the ultimate compliment of being perceived as “cool.”
The media is complicit in providing preferred candidates with a pass, choosing to focus on issues that segue into great sound bites by the candidates, rather than do the job of journalists and dig deep to expose the true positions of those seeking to lead this nation.
How is it possible that the future Commander-in-Chief is not grilled relentlessly (as are those appointed by him subject to the approval of Congress) about his or her position on Iraq today, yesterday and as far back as they were holding office? This nation has been at war in Iraq since 1991. The rationale for sending more ground troops in 2003 was the case made by a Commander-in-Chief with the approval of Congress in the aftermath of 9/11. How is it possible that the media is not centered like a laser on the issue of 9/11 and grilling each candidate about his or her evolving positions regarding 9/11 and Iraq? Why is there no focus on the controversies surrounding this administration’s reaction to 9/11 and the conspicuously missing Congress members who failed to call for an independent investigation of a scene of mass murder?
There is no greater issue facing this nation than our involvement in the “war on terror” that came as a result of 9/11.
Ron Paul has the courage and integrity to address the issue. He is today alienated by much of the media and his colleagues running concurrent campaigns for the same office. It is no secret that other candidates are unwilling to appear on the same stage as Paul. After all, they are the lying leaders who desire not to have their lies exposed through a thorough scrutiny or debate. No such risk exists in dealing directly with a compliant and complicit media. And no such risk exists when standing on a stage with other puppets.
But Paul is no puppet. And the refusal to invite him to present his point of view to the people of Iowa displays a haughty disrespect for Iowans in general, and those supporters of Paul specifically.
Still, such dictatorial tactics are not the exception in American politics. They are the rule. American politics is filled with propaganda, lies and deception to the degree that the argument that claims every vote counts stands on shaky ground.
Paul’s plight is but one tiny example among many that point to a radically changed nation that bears little resemblance to the one designed by the framers of the constitution — whose deliberate restrictions upon an otherwise tyrannical government have been thwarted by the very people to whom they trusted all power. That’s you and me, and the rest of the American people.