Former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh is running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. It seems like an awfully ambitious move for an obscure one-term congressman. But if a mayor of a small town in Indiana can rise to the level of a semi-serious candidate, maybe no step is too far. You just need to get enough free publicity.
I recently produced a spoof video declaring my candidacy for President as a means of mocking the Democrat left-wing proposals — and several people thought I was serious. Every presidential campaign has mock candidates, overly ambitious candidates and what we in the trade simply refer to as “kook candidates.”
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Some of these hopeless candidates run for other reasons. There once was a Republican candidate named Harold Stassen, who ran for President time-after-time with no hope of ever achieving even the nomination. While he looked silly to many Americans, it was a resume enhancer for his law firm that represented clients in foreign nations. You might say he was colluding with American institutions to win over foreign governments.
So, what motivates Joe Walsh? I shall hazard my guess.
I have known Walsh for more than 20 years – as a political activist, as a congressman and as a radio commentator. There have been two consistent traits in the Walsh character. He has been a staunch principled conservative who rode the Tea Party movement into office — and an outrageously egotistical showman.
When on stage, Walsh rarely spoke quietly or clung to the podium. Rather he yelled and jumped around the stage like a ball in the Pachinko game – often jumping on chairs and tables. Walsh’s opinions were expressed with extreme and absolute certainty.
If one wondered which of those two traits – conservative or showman – was the most dominant, Walsh’s run for President has given us the answer.
Principled conservatism is a belief that issues trump personalities – even flawed personalities. That is the central dichotomy that we have seen among many Trump voters. Folks like Walsh – and such as other one-time conservative icons as Bill Kristol and George Will – have decided that the Trump personality is more important than fundamental conservative policies.
They are willing to toss aside virtually every conservative principle of limited government, low taxes and maximum personal freedom for some concocted and hyperbolic argument that Trump is a very threat to the existence of the Republic. That is nothing more than political flap-jawing.
There is much that can be criticized in Trump’s presidential style, but on his worst day, the Republic remains strong. In fact, conservatives might see the radical progressivism of the current Democratic Party as a far more threat to the Republic given to us by the Founders.
At the moment of his presidential candidacy, Walsh was sinking further into oblivion. No longer a member of Congress and with his limited radio exposure diminishing and finally canceled, Walsh had very few options to maintain the spotlight. He was becoming just another conservative voice in the wilderness.
I feel sure that Walsh well understood that his ticket to cable news was through the left-wing media. As a convert – or apostate, depending on your view – he would be drawn up by the Trump-hating media. And as with everything Walsh does, he would not be nuanced like former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford in his bid for the GOP nomination. Walsh is a mad-dog political type. He would go for the jugular. And so he has – and it has gotten him the public attention he seems to crave above all other things – things we call fundamental principles.
It is no small irony that Walsh manifests many of Trump’s more unattractive traits. In that, Walsh’s hyperbolic criticism of Trump goes well beyond justification. His opposition to Trump seems more the product of projection– putting his traits on others – than legitimate differences over issues or an honest concern for the Republic.
So, there ‘tis.