Commentators are citing the unpredictability of the Republican primary contests as proof that Reagan conservatism is dead when precisely the opposite conclusion is warranted.
The main reason the conventional wisdom is being shattered in the primaries is that conservative voters, so far, have not been persuaded there is an electable, reliable conservative in the race.
But as I've stated before, I believe Fred Thompson is a reliable, consistent conservative. There are others in the field I could support, but not without some reservations. The more I learn about Fred and observe him in action, the more convinced I become that he's the right choice.
I was among those who urged Fred to step up and prove to the people he wanted the job. Regardless of whether Fred actually had "fire in his belly," the unmistakable perception out there was that he did not, so I encouraged him to add a little spring to his step.
But I've also appreciated Fred's unwillingness to be somebody he is not. He will not respond like a puppet when a debate moderator tells him to raise his hand to signify a childishly simplistic approval or disapproval of a certain policy. He will not be goaded by interviewers into saying things he doesn't feel comfortable saying. He won't divide us with class envy or pretend we can be friends with rogue regimes or terrorists. He does not promise a chicken in every pot or pander to liberals on global warming.
He will not otherwise tailor his positions to suit the demands of particular constituencies. For example, he has the courage to preach that Social Security is in trouble, but unlike most others, he doesn't surrender to the oppressive populist seduction to urge government fixes for it or for health care. Instead, he courageously tells us -- if we'll listen -- that the answers lie in greater market forces. (Listen up, conservatives.)
Fred does not run from his record -- more to the point, he doesn't need to. He shoots straight without the constant self-serving reminders that he does, as in telling us he's driving the "Straight Talk Express."
More importantly, Fred is right on the issues, and there's little doubt his positions are firm. Research his stances; read his position papers. You'll find he's very strong in all areas important to mainstream conservatives, including national defense, taxes, spending, life, immigration, federalism, appointing originalist judges, health care and education.
I'm not drooling over Fred or saying his record is flawless, but I am saying he's the real deal, and it's a bit disappointing that more haven't taken a closer look.
I think this is due partly to his laid-back personality and partly to his timing. He peaked about the time he was contemplating entering the race but not acting on it. By the time he jumped in, it was anticlimactic, and he still hasn't recovered from that reversal.
There has also been a negative momentum hovering over his already-stalled campaign, acting as a psychological barrier to his catching fire among conservative voters.
There is simply too much herd mentality among us about electability. We tell ourselves a candidate is not inspiring, then pretty soon we're convinced he's unelectable, and, voila, he almost becomes so. Yet, at that very moment, he's proving to us that he is quite presidential, quite electable and quite motivated for the job -- if we can only shed our predispositions against his "electability." Since electability is often a matter of collective perception, it can turn on a dime, as with the reversal of the respective fortunes of screaming Howard Dean and somniferous John Kerry in 2004.
This primary season, relatively speaking, has just begun. But Fred is now up against the wall. How can we expect him to have done much better than he has to date with everyone prattling on about the overwhelming odds against him? The "experts" continue to be wrong at almost every turn, so why can't they be wrong about Fred, too? It's time to quit empowering them by following their dictatorial doom-prophecies. Its encouraging that John Zogby's latest South Carolina poll shows that while levels of support for McCain and Huckabee "have remained static," Fred is starting to move up.
Supporters have asked Fred to step up, and he has -- he has shone brilliantly in the last month, setting himself head and shoulders above the pack in many cases. Now it's time for conservative voters to step up and quit placing artificial limitations on Fred, and on themselves.
Fred has answered the conservatives' call. Shouldn't we answer his?