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An Unusual Radio Station and Politics as Usual

I am quite a fan of a New Jersey radio station called WFMU. It started out as a college station, but when the college went out of business it became independent and subscriber-supported. It now has a marvelously eclectic selection of programs: some music, some talk, and some a combination of the two. The music covers pretty much everything you ever heard of, and much that you would be unlikely to hear anywhere else. You could say it transcends the usual music categories. Check it out on the Internet. You are almost sure to find something you like on it.

A couple of days ago, you could even have heard me. One of the shows was taking calls about the Republican presidential candidates’ debate on CNN this week. Now here’s the thing. I would be surprised if more than a couple percent of WFMU fans are Republicans. Which makes me feel right at home there. I am used to being the token Republican in most of the circles I travel in. It may happen because I am very strong on civil liberties (as I think all Republicans should be, to be consistent with their philosophy of liberty and small government). So I tend to get involved with social justice types, even though I sometimes disagree with a lot of them on how to achieve justice.

Anyway, I decided to call in to express a Republican’s take on the debate.

The program host and I had an interesting conversation, neither of of us trying to hit the other one over the head with our political views. And I think I may have given some of his listeners a glimpse of the fact that not all Republicans are doctrinaire ultra-conservatives.

Naturally, we discussed my impressions of the various candidates and how they came across in the debate. I personally was rather impressed by Governor Christie, though living in New Jersey myself, I freely admit to being somewhat biased. He has done much to rescue a state that was on the brink of financial disaster. My main question has been how his somewhat cantankerous “Jersey attitude” would play in the rest of the country. We pride ourselves in a certain sort of directness that a lot of people may find less than polite. To me, Christie managed to be forceful without being rude, a balancing act that may be new to him.

The other candidate I watched carefully was Rand Paul. I had known his father Ron Paul way back when we were both in the Libertarian Party. Years later when Rand started gaining attention in connection with the Tea Party, my initial impression was that he was not the true libertarian his father was. He struck me as more of an extreme conservative. But I may have misjudged him. In the debate, he came across as more temperate and reasonable than I had expected. I liked his opposition to the federal ban on marijuana, and he sounded less eager to go to war in the Middle East than some of his fellow candidates.

And then there is Carly Fiorina, who made a favorable impression on a lot of people, myself included. My take on her is that she is running for Vice-President, and I think she has a shot at that nomination. The Republicans have a natural interest in the idea of a woman for VP, in hopes of closing the “gender gap” that has plagued them in the past. John McCain tried it with Sarah Palin, who turned into a liability rather than an asset. But Fiorina could be a different story. She is smart, articulate, and informed, and so far does not seem to come across as an extremist.

Now for the most interesting part of this race. Going into the debate, the leaders were two people who will not win. Trump and Carson are just the latest versions of the non-politician who gets an early groundswell of support because of his success in another field and because he seems like a breath of fresh air who has not been tainted by the dirty business of politics. But people who have no political experience do not get nominated for President by a major political party. (That is true for Fiorina too, but I think she knows it, which is part of why I think she is after the second spot on the ticket.) So what is really going on at this time is a game of jostling for position to see who will be in pole position when the pace cars fall off to the side and the track is left to the real candidates. At least that’s how it looks to one moderate Republican who wishes there were more of us.

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