Magazine article The American Conservative

The Republic Strikes Back

Magazine article The American Conservative

The Republic Strikes Back

Article excerpt

American political discourse, defined as it is by Arthur Schlesinger's ghost and Bill Bennett's ghostwriter, has contracted to such a pinpoint that I half expect a Big Bang to blow it all apart, as forbidden thoughts--Peace! Liberty! Localism!--bust loose from the thought prisons and the air is filled with the glorious cacophony of patriotic debate as free men and women relearn the language and habits of vigorous citizenship.

Ah, well: dare to dream.

I saw this dream last Labor Day weekend when Ron Paul, the legislative embodiment of John Quincy Adams's gnome--"Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost"--threw a "Rally for the Republic" in Minneapolis as a Twin Cities counterpoint to John McCain's zombie dance in St. Paul.

I was a last-minute addition to the rally's roster of speakers and hell-raisers. As I paced antsily, waiting to take the stage at the Target Center, it occurred to me that if my jokes bombed I would hear the sound of 10,000 people not laughing. (Happily, the crowd was terrific; you can find the speech on YouTube, though I must caution you: I am far better looking in person.)

The campaign put me up at a bed and breakfast in Excelsior, Minnesota, whose contribution to Top 40 culture was seeded when, in 1964, Mick Jagger, having played at the Danceland ballroom the night before, was standing in line to get his prescription filled at the Excelsior drugstore. Seems a local character named Jimmy Hutmaker started yapping about how he loved his cherry coke but that morning he was given a different flavor and y'know, Mr. Jagger, you can't always get what you want...

Call it a suburban legend, skeptic, but no man born with a living soul denies it.

At breakfast the morn of the rally, I sat across the table from a friendly dude wearing a peace-sign T-shirt and looking like an affable old surfer. He introduced himself as Gary Johnson, the former two-term governor of New Mexico. Over the next day, I spent a fair amount of time chatting with Governor Johnson: mountain-climber, triathlete, vetoer of 750 bills.

He told me that he may take a shot at the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 as an antiwar, anti-Fed, pro-personal liberties, slash-government-spending candidate--in other words, a Ron Paul libertarian. …

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