Longtime conservative activist and direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie -- whose first job in politics was under the tutelage of Marvin Liebman, the father of conservative grass-roots organizing through direct mail communications -- has issued a challenge for a series of Lincoln-Douglas-style debates between presidential candidates Rudolph Giuliani and Ron Paul.
In his press release on the topic, Viguerie says:
Are you fed up with politics-as-usual, including poll-driven sound bites crafted behind closed doors by for-hire political marketing professionals?Viguerie points his readers to another web site, www.aRealDebate.com, where they can sign a petition calling on both candidates to participate in a series of one-on-one debates on foreign policy.
These do not add up to any understanding of the issues at stake. The American people deserve better. We are not buying a bar of soap. We want real debates on issues of importance.
Let's start NOW by challenging Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul to a one-on-one debate on American foreign policy and the Iraq war. These are crucial issues that deserve in-depth discussion.
It is obvious from the Republican presidential debates held so far that these two candidates have strong feelings but divergent opinions about these vital issues. Both of them are knowledgeable and articulate on the subject.
They have the capability to recreate the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates on the foremost issue of our day. Let's do it!
While cynics might say that this is merely a means by which Viguerie's company collects names and addresses for future fundraising efforts, the fact that he identifies the philosophical divide between Giuliani and Paul as a definitive key to the future of the conservative movement is telling.
Ronald Reagan once told Reason magazine that libertarianism is at the core of conservatism:
If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.Will it remain so into the 21st century? Or are "conservatives" going to reject their Goldwater-Reagan roots and define themselves as something other than libertarian at their core?
A debate (or debates) between Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani may go a long way toward finding the answer to this question.