Speculating who might become America’s-next-top-conservative-idol has become common sport. No doubt, the GOP establishment would love to anoint a Mitt Romney, Scott Brown, or Tim Pawlenty. Many rank-and-file Republicans have begun to gravitate toward men like Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Jim DeMint. One national poll has the Tea Party split between former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Ron’s son Rand, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, and GOP outsider Sharron Angle, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Nevada, are also now being portrayed as national leaders of the rumbling that continues to brew on the grassroots Right.
It should be noted that before the 2008 election, most Americans had never heard of Palin, Angle, or either Paul, and before Obama became president, few had heard of Ryan, DeMint, Brown, and a host of other Republicans whose profiles have been elevated in recent months. This goes to show you that pundits can make all the predictions they want–but figuring out who tomorrow’s political celebrities will be is no exact science, if possible at all. Most “expert” predictions for the 2008 GOP presidential primaries, pitted former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani against movie star-turned-Senator, Fred Thompson, with the rest of the Republican pack eating their dust, with the exception of Romney. Today, the Giuliani and Thompson campaigns are insignificant and distant memories, and who were the biggest political celebrities to emerge from the 2008 elections on the Republican side? Sarah Palin and Ron Paul.
Clint Didier is also a candidate most Americans, to date, have never heard of. The Tea Party-anointed candidate in his home state of Washington, Didier has received the endorsement of both Palin and Paul in his bid for U.S. Senate, but his politics are far more in sync with the latter. While many on the libertarian or traditionalist Right, or critics of the Tea Party on the Left, wonder if Palin-loving conservatives are truly prepared to break free from the pro-war, any war rhetoric that animated the Right during the Bush years–rhetoric Palin still mouths herself–Didier makes his foreign policy clear: “I subscribe to Jefferson’s view, and favor a non-interventionist philosophy. We need to stop trying to police the world and telling other nations how to manage their affairs. It is depleting our wealth and draining our national spirit. America is a republic; therefore let’s stop trying to spread ‘democracy.”
Whether the Palin wing of the Tea Party can widen their critique of government spending to foreign policy–an absolute necessity if they are serious–remains to be seen. Whether Tea Party candidate Didier’s critique of government largesse extends beyond foreign policy is already clear to see–as the multigenerational small farmer has included ditching federal farm subsidies as part of his platform, along with slashing the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, phasing out Social Security, and opposing just about every unconstitutional department, function, or folly the federal government now chooses to involve itself in. Says Didier of ending federal farm subsidies–money that has benefited both him and his neighbors–“It’s the kind of a move that we all better be willing to make for this country… We’ve got to all realize this is unsustainable. We’ve got to quit taking this money.”
While Didier might appeal to Barry Goldwater-style, fiscal conservatives, how about the larger masses, particularly on the Right, many of whom seemed more impressed by Romney’s smile and haircut, or Palin’s caribou hunting, than by any discernible policy positions? Didier has this all-important “style” factor down too–as the 51-year-old family farmer was also a former member of the Washington Redskins, even scoring the final touchdown at Super Bowl XXII. Didier’s campaign slogan is “A Game Plan for Washington,” and the well-spoken and personable candidate uses locker room strategy imagery and rhetoric frequently.
So how is this mixture of farm-boy philosophy, Redskins nostalgia, and hard-line Ron Paul Republicanism playing out for Washington primary voters? While his campaign started out slow, recent polls put Didier in a dead heat with his fellow Republican contenders. This is quite a feat considering his strict constitutional conservatism, newcomer status, and the fact that his daughter schedules all his interviews-operating out of the family farm.
And Didier is but one of many unconventional and potential conservative leaders, now running for state office or Congress, nationwide, many of whom were inspired by Ron Paul, the Tea Party or both, and who-more importantly-are bringing together it’s disparate parts, under a solidly conservative banner. Such substantive candidates will continue to be ignored by the mainstream media and GOP establishment until these outlets are forced to acknowledge them–much like Rand Paul, who was a virtual non-entity even on conservative talk radio until his landslide primary victory.
It’s safe to say that most reading this column had never heard of Clint Didier before, and that’s precisely the point-that the current political environment on the grassroots Right is even more interesting and exciting than many sympathetic to it realize. Conservatives should hope things stay interesting.