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The silly seriousness of the also-rans

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With both major party presidential tickets now boasting "rock stars," how are minor party candidates supposed to get any attention?

Turn to yet another political rock star: Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Democrats have their superstar in Illinois Senator Barack Obama, a media sensation, a talented orator in the Martin Luther King tradition, and, if elected, a very notable slice of history as the first African American president.

Republicans now have their own potential history-maker, as Alaska Governor Sarah Palin could become the first female Vice President. Moreover, she's a tough-talking, moose-hunting, hockey mom with five kids, who befuddles the Democrats with gender judo and bedazzles Republican as both a real conservative and a "hottie."

And then there is Dr. Paul, the Texas congressman who found an extremely energetic following during the GOP primaries, especially among young people, and raised $35 million — far beyond what those garnering similar vote percentages were raising.

How a policy wonk like Paul, who eschews clever sound bites to offer longer lessons on the Federal Reserve and the gold standard, could attract so much attention is one of this year's great mysteries. Could it be that the public nurtures as much interest in the actual governmental policies that will affect their lives as they do in following the horse race? Could substantive issues actually outweigh the latest gotcha gossip or sweeping themes like "hope" and "change," which are regularly dished out by mainstream politicians only to be gobbled up and regurgitated by the media?

At least for a growing number of people, the answer is Yes.

At a September 10 news conference in Washington, Paul announced that he would not endorse fellow Republican John McCain. Instead, he urged voters to support one of the "major" minor party or independent candidates for president.

Those candidates are Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party, former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party, and independent candidate Ralph Nader. All four joined Congressman Paul in signing on to a bold agenda around four critical issue areas: (1) foreign policy, (2) privacy, (3) the national debt, and (4) the Federal Reserve.

Liberals Nader and McKinney agreed with the more conservative and/or libertarian Barr, Baldwin, and Paul:

    • The war in Iraq should be ended as quickly as possible.

    • U.S. troops should be removed from that region as well as from Japan, Europe and South Korea.

    • The Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act and FISA legislation should be repealed or "radically changed."

    • The country should "reject the notion and practice of torture, eliminations of habeas corpus, secret tribunals, and secret prisons."

    • The national debt should not be increased by even a penny.

    • There "should be no taxpayer bailouts of corporations and no corporate subsidies."

    • The Federal Reserve should be audited.

    • The "arbitrary power to create money and credit out of thin air behind closed doors for the benefit of commercial interests must be ended."

That's pretty weighty stuff, and there's more.

Whether one agrees with each position or not, here — finally — is some serious discussion of the issues, along with a willingness to take positions not nuanced and masked by a battery of pollsters and spin doctors.

Also on display? A rare willingness to find common ground.

That's even more meaningful than the latest major party brouhaha about pigs wearing lipstick, or silly tit-for-tat big lie strategies interrupted only by the sounds of our financial markets crashing down around us.

This past week, I spoke to the Conservative Leadership Conference in Las Vegas. Chuck Muth, the event's organizer, played up the debate taking place in conservative and libertarian circles between those supporting McCain, as the best defense against even bigger big government, and those supporting a third party candidate, believing it more important to send a message by voting for someone advocating truly limited, constitutional government.

Some wish to play the best defense they can. Others seek to vote their conscience. I sympathize with both sides.

And yet, more important than who you vote for this November — or even who wins — is whether the forces of freedom are willing to work after November 4, even with those they disagree with on some issues, to restore citizen control of government.

The threat to our freedom is far too great for conservatives and libertarians not to work together. In fact, on a host of issues we can and must reach out to folks on the left, too.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties have been complicit in hijacking our rights, ripping us off economically, and eroding the rule of law. To revive freedom, we must transcend these corrupted institutions.

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