The lion and the unicorn were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn all around the town.
Some gave them white bread, and some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake and drummed them out of town.
I apologize to my British readers for using this very British nursery rhyme, and the political realities which it initially symbolized, in the discussion of a couple of decidedly American politicians. But as I read this, I couldn't help but think of the rhyme, and why it seems oddly fitting for a discussion about Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, and the current situation involving the 2008 Republican presidential candidates.
Let's face it, conservatives. This has to be one of the most lackluster field of Republican presidential hopefuls we've ever had. From the earliest days of the campaign it has been hard to muster much enthusiasm or support for the men running, and as the campaign has worn on that task has become almost Herculean. This is especially true when you consider the two frontrunners: Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Whatever emotions Giuliani inspires in me, enthusiasm isn't one of them; as for Romney, his mixed record over the years on gay marriage, particularly as the governor of Massachusetts during the aftermath of the Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision, doesn't inspire me with any confidence in his ability to handle the battle over gay marriage that looms on the horizon.
The two men leading the pack don't seem like leaders; they seem rather like sheep. Bleating away at each other, butting horns over relatively small discrepancies in each other's positions, running in fear from any hard questions while never missing an opportunity to repeat their scripted lines from the safety of their campaign files--they don't really cause a stir of any emotion other than a sense of ennui and a vaguely unpleasant taste in the mouth, do they?
At a buffet of relatively uninspiring foods, a simple unassuming dish of fresh fruit can catch the eye with a burst of color and a vivid liveliness that almost causes you to overlook the brown spots on the banana, or the under-ripeness of the peach. At a shoe store that has sold out of your size in three-quarters of the shoes you've looked for, a shoe from the remaining quarter may tempt you to buy, even though it's not what you had hoped to find; it's just all that's there.
Against the backdrop of Giuliani and Romney, Thompson and McCain, Huckabee seems almost like a lion, confident, humorous, artfully good-natured, taking no more notice of the constant barb-trading of the two frontrunners than the king of the jungle would take of a squabble between chimpanzees. His personal commitment to change is evident in the fact of his victory over the battle of the bulge; his thoughtful consideration of issues or positions that the other candidates have rejected as "Democratic" when they're actually the sorts of issues that could just as easily be Christian sets him apart from the flock. Whether he would garner any notice at all among candidates less predictable and dull as most of the ones against whom he is contending is debatable, of course; whether he'd actually be a candidate worth supporting is a question that many of us have yet to resolve to our own satisfactions. In point of fact, Huckabee may be more akin to a house cat that thinks it's a lion than an actual lion; but at least he's not a sheep.
And if Huckabee is the lion of the nursery rhyme, there's no question that Paul is the unicorn: mythical, unbelievable, hard to grasp, capturing the imagination more than the mind, but oddly appealing none the less. When I realize, for instance, that this former O.B. doctor has led the fight to let Americans continue to use vitamins and other health supplements without fearing burdensome government restrictions and has supported legislation guaranteeing the right of Americans to use alternative medicine, I want to stand up and cheer; and when I further read these words of the candidate: " As an OB/GYN doctor, I’ve delivered over 4,000 babies. That experience has made me an unshakable foe of abortion..." I have to wonder why the National Right to Life Committee decided to give their endorsement to Fred Thompson, instead. The obvious answer is because no one thinks that Ron Paul can win, but it's hard to remember that, just as it's hard to remember when you do encounter a unicorn that they aren't, in fact, real.
It's all too likely that one of the sheep will end up with the nomination, and feel triumphant about it in that quintessentially Republican sheepish kind of way. But lions and unicorns sometimes influence things just by their presence, and if a sheep should roar about something, or start believing on occasion that perhaps some problem in Washington can actually be solved, Huckabee and Paul will have done better for the Republican party than any of the sheep.