With a GOP presidential field lacking a clear frontrunner, I’m going to suggest a radical and what might be considered a far-fetched idea: The Republican Party Establishment is currently being rocked by an unforeseen independent-minded force.
Two men at the moment are at the forefront of stirring this independent intra-party uprising: namely, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and businessman Herman Cain. In addition to challenging media-generated projections of who’s ahead of who, equally (if not more) significant is the disruption caused by Paul and Cain in key states where Independent voters are significant enough for either of the two major political parties to consider.
Take the California Republican Party’s Fall convention that I covered this month. Flanked by hundreds of mobilized followers, Congressman Paul took the convention by storm, trouncing Texas Governor Rick Perry by over 15 points in the state’s straw poll. While there admittedly wasn’t much devoted to helping Perry win this particular straw poll, his supporters still had a sizable presence. Despite the perception that the governor is the Golden Boy, Paul’s following and independent message seemingly dismantled this notion. With Perry not showing up to detail his plan for reaching out to California’s Independents and disillusioned Democrats, it was clearly Paul who stole the show from the media-labeled frontrunner who was once hailed as a game changer in the 2012 campaign. In addition, the man whom the media and Republican Establishment had treated like an immortal Greek god ended up struggling before the television cameras in a recent series of presidential debates.
Perry’s second blow more recently came in a state where Independent voters play a decisive role in deciding the next president–As Florida goes, so goes the nation. Unlike California, Governor Perry knew this concept well. Because of it, he devoted the time and resources that he believed were necessary to win the Florida straw poll held this past weekend. Unexpectedly, Perry was superseded by Herman Cain by a whopping 37%-15%.
The former executive of Godfather’s Pizza has never held political office. Yet, Mr. Cain’s straw poll victory over Perry made a thunderous statement in beating a Texas politician who has been part of the grandiose political system for years. While they might not be tag-teaming as running mates on a potential ticket, Paul and Cain are both embodiments of the rise of the ‘Anti-Politician’ in two respective ways.
Despite Congressman Paul working within the monotonous political system for over 30 years, his message has been consistent enough to warrant a fierce Independent streak and to ruffle the feathers of the two-party veterans. Cain, on the other hand, embodies the Anti-Politician in the sense that he hasn’t enjoyed a political career. Instead, he built his reputation on managing a business empire and consequently immersing himself into the economic principles governing the business world. With many looking for a candidate who can deal with the current economy, his message might be able to reach discouraged citizens across the entire political spectrum.
The apparent rise of an anti-politician sentiment within the Republican Party shows that at least a portion of the party’s base is looking for a breath of fresh air. It demonstrates that there’s an element of the electorate on the right that won’t fall for the usual media game of emphasizing certain candidates over others (such as Perry or Romney). Neither are these particular Republican voters willing to walk lockstep with party leaders’ marching orders.
Whatever one’s political affiliation, this a state of mind that all voters should be willing to adopt.