The Coming of the Ron Paul Democrat


David Weigel / Reason Online | June 27, 2008

A very tiny group of journalists representing Taki’s Magazine, The American Conservative, and, uh reason, had a lengthy lunch today with Bob Conley, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in South Carolina, running against Lindsey Graham. Conley’s an engineer who hasn’t held office, ran ("crawled," he corrected us) for another office in Indiana with little success, and was utterly ignored by the Democratic establishment until he won his primary. Once he did, they had to deal with a candidate who’d held leadership positions in the Reform Party and the GOP, and who’d voted for Ron Paul in this year’s primary.

Conley, who’d raised $12,000 by the end of May, is not a stealth conservative. He’s not stealth at all about it. "I’m running a populist campaign," he said. "The old Democrat is the new Democrat." That is, the old-style, protectionist, family values, sound money* Democrat—Conley spoke kindly of William Jennings Bryan–is the future of the Democratic Party.

In Conley’s mind, conservatives have no place in the GOP anymore: They’ve been bamboozled by politicians who do nothing on their issues once they’re safe in office. "Bush could have passed a marriage amendment," Conley said. "If he wanted something, he got it, and he got it as soon as he wanted it. The so-called PATRIOT Act? Introduced on a Tuesday, passed through the chambers on Thursday, and headed to his office. We were in the back of the bus, then they took the seat out of the bus and put us on a two-by-four, and then they removed the 2×4. I mean, you’ve got to cut the chain sometime."

On the war on drugs, Conley discoursed for a full minute on the history of marijuana criminalization and said, to understand his views, to "take a look at Clarence Thomas’s dissent in Raich."

On FISA: "No way does anyone deserve immunity for what they did. The country I grew up in had a fourth amendment, plain and simple."

On his political pedigree: "Pitchfork Pat [Buchanan] plus Dr. No equals Flat-top Bob."

*I changed this from "gold standard" to better reflect where Conley is on the issue.

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