The Current Crop of Contenders

As a historian, I believe I’m somewhat prepared for less than perfection. I mean, in studying history, one realizes that the really principled people are fewer than they should be, and that we have to settle, more often than not, for less than the ideal. That applies to policies and people.

As I ponder the lineup of contenders for the Republican nomination this year, I’m reminded of that historical lesson. The two top prospects that I had counted on running opted out, leaving a field of potential nominees that are more flawed than usual, in my view. Now that doesn’t mean all are flawed in character, but there’s something in each one that makes him/her far less suited to the presidential role than others I would have chosen.

The one man who keeps bobbing to the surface is Mitt Romney. Conservatives are highly suspect of him, and rightly so. The apologist for Romneycare can hardly be expected to take it to Obama for his dramatic overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system. Any arguments Romney uses against Obama on that front won’t carry much conviction. In fact, it’s in the area of conviction that he’s questioned the most. Is he really pro-life? Is he squishy on homosexual marriage, based on his experience in Massachusetts? Those are important to me, and quite frankly, I don’t trust him. This is why he has a hard time staying on top of the polls. There are simply too many issues about his “core”:

Meanwhile, the conservatives can’t find one candidate around which to rally. Santorum is appealing to some, and he just got the endorsement of a key family issues organization as well as one of the leaders of social conservatives in Iowa. Will that make a difference? How does he overcome the image of a loser after his overwhelming defeat to retain his Senate seat? Bachmann is forceful, but seems too opportunistic. She will attack with relish anyone who is rising above her, even those she used to praise. A little self-serving, perhaps? Perry may have good perspectives and fine ideas, but will he ever be able to communicate them effectively? Paul is a doctrinaire libertarian, not a conservative. On foreign policy, he is little different than the most radical leftist who blames America for everything. Gingrich is a big question mark. He might be a great president, or he might be a disaster. I sense there will be no middle ground with him if he gets the office.

Where does this leave us?

As I said at the beginning, I don’t expect perfection, and sometimes politicians develop into real leaders unexpectedly. This may happen with someone in the current crop of contenders. But are we sure it’s too late for someone else to jump in and shake things up? I would welcome it.