Don’t Throw Away Your Vote
by J. Andrew Zalucky
The Bipartisanship of Bad Faith
It has been said, so many times, by so many people that it sickens me to repeat it: America’s two major parties have merged into a singular political machine. Over the last two administrations, it has become clear that the Republicans and the Democrats have become conjoined twins, suffering from convulsions of fear caused by an attachment to the status-quo. Through the power of lobbyists, regulatory favoritism, and subsidization of certain industries to the detriment of others, our elected officials are bought and sold. To make matters worse, the public has let itself become convinced that each party offers a “radically different vision” for America’s future.
To anyone paying close attention, this should be patently absurd. Even the supposed “radical” factions of either party have colluded in the expansion of the economic power of the state and the military-industrial complex, at the expense of our civil liberties and fiscal solvency. One need only look to the “tea party” conservatives who claim they care about the debt, but when surveyed, oppose changes to Social Security and Medicare. As if that wasn’t bad enough, look to the members of the house “progressive” caucus voting in favor of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, sections 1021 and 1022 of which open the door for the indefinite detention, without trial, of American citizens. (The bill enjoyed massive bi-partisan support, check out the House vote, and then the Senate vote.)
One of my older coworkers made a very astute point to me that politicians, the media, and the political consensus have failed to catch up with the modern age. One way of course relates to technology and the way the internet age has eroded the power of the major networks that once had the monopoly on public opinion. Another is the fact less people are willing to face: the situation on the world stage is NOT a temporary set-back or interruption of our normally scheduled programming. This world IS the new normal.
The mythical Eden of the post-war era (1945 to the mid-1970’s) holds an esteemed place in the American consciousness. So powerful is this fabrication that it has become the idealistic basis for modern political criticism. This Americana-dream must be nice for those still in the trance but we no longer live in a world where our main competitors have been obliterated by war, where our industrial base was left undiminished by globalization, and where the public is no longer so easily divided between the old orthodoxies of New-Deal Liberalism and Old-Right Conservatism.
To face this reality is to free one’s mind requires us all to look both parties in the face and say: I will not comply.
Upon reflection of his years as President, Barack Obama has admitted that it’s easier to change Washington from the outside rather than from within. Mitt Romney, rather glibly, turned this into a sound-bite and declared his party’s intent to help Mr. Obama out the door. What Mr. Romney fails to realize is that, his own corrupt, reactionary party has reached its end as well.
In case you’re wondering: I’m voting for Gary Johnson, Libertarian Candidate for President.
Barack Obama- No Liberal
Few things fail to sicken me more, yet surprise me less, than my Liberal and Progressive friends’ outright refusal to acknowledge Barack Obama’s failure as President. As Conor Friedersdorf writes in the Atlantic:
I don’t see how anyone who confronts Obama’s record with clear eyes can enthusiastically support him. I do understand how they might conclude that he is the lesser of two evils, and back him reluctantly, but I’d have thought more people on the left would regard a sustained assault on civil liberties and the ongoing, needless killing of innocent kids as deal-breakers.
Yes, I voted for him in 2008. Yes, there are some things about his administration that are very positive. While his health-care law fails to lower costs and the individual mandate rightly raises many questions, there are things to like. When I consider people close to me who suffer from cancer or neurological diseases, I’m glad they will soon have better access to care. On the economy, I agreed with him that some fiscal stimulus was necessary to boost demand and help us to climb out of the liquidity trap. However, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law is so horribly complicated and in many ways will only make matters worse, as the Economist notes:
Inevitably, banks themselves are adding to the costs with a vast lobbying effort. SIFMA, a financial industry trade association, says it has 5,490 people dealing with various subcommittees, almost all devoted to Dodd-Frankery. And there are quieter attempts to blunt the act’s provisions or redirect them to the advantage of one set of financial institutions or another.
I think he handled the Arab-Spring as any modern American president should. In this case, “leading from behind” made a fair amount of sense. Unlike many others who lean to the Left, I was in favor of some level of intervention in Libya, in the form of assistance to France and Britain rather than outright engagement on the ground. I think it was important for the West to not see another horror like Rwanda or Srebrenica. More hawkish types would have liked us out-in-front, but as Libya was not really a strategic matter for us, fulfillment of our obligations to NATO and the United Nations Security Council were more than enough. Otherwise on foreign policy, Obama’s been either incredibly lucky (as in Iraq, whose parliament basically asked us to leave, effectively leaving him off-the-hook and allowing him to take credit for something he was legally obliged to do anyway), or totally outrageous in terms of his “kill-list”, his destructive use of drone strikes which have killed many innocent civilians, and his folly at escalating the war in Afghanistan from a counter-terrorism effort to an expensive counter-insurgency strategy.
Many in the media have expressed their surprise that Mr. Obama has been such a “hawkish” President, one who seems so quick to jump to the use of force to “secure American interests.” But I think it goes deeper than that. It goes to something which haunts all modern Liberal presidents, the fear of looking weak on national security and the urge to overcompensate. One could go all the way back to 1964, when Lyndon Johnson chose to escalate the conflict in Vietnam, lest he look soft on Communism. When one looks at his gigantic landslide in the 1964 election, and the horrible consequences of the Vietnam War (which we still live with today), one can clearly see that this extra dose of alpha-male nonsense was totally unnecessary.
Obama also lacks what his Liberal predecessors had in legislative skill, or what historians often refer to as “the Johnson treatment”. Unlike Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton (or Ronald Reagan for that matter), Obama doesn’t even seem to like governing, and yet thinks we vote him 4 more years of it. This may sound trivial, but for a job so important, I think you have to really want it to deserve it. It’s one thing to work at a Grocery store and hate it, but the White House is a different matter entirely.
More important than ANY of this however, is his absolutely ABYSMAL record on civil liberties. On new years’ eve 2011, President Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act into law, an act which contains provisions allowing American citizens to be indefinitely detained without trial. This constitutes what Jonathan Turley called an “historic assault on American liberty”:
The Obama administration and Democratic members are in full spin mode – using language designed to obscure the authority given to the military. The exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032) is the screening language for the next section, 1031, which offers no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial.
Obama could have refused to sign the bill and the Congress would have rushed to fund the troops. Instead, as confirmed by Senator Levin, the White House conducted a misinformation campaign to secure this power while portraying the president as some type of reluctant absolute ruler, or, as Obama maintains, a reluctant president with dictatorial powers.
Because of this, and this alone: Barack Obama does NOT deserve to be re-elected President.
His decision to sign the law is affront to his oath of office where he pledged to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” It is a slap in the face of our Bill of Rights and any clear-minded sense of justice, and a betrayal of everything Liberalism stands for. In their abject failure to call Obama out on this, Progressives do what they always do, they change the subject and blame Bush: “but what about that evil, mean George W. Bush, he put the patriot act in place!” Well guess what? Obama has ratified the patriot act and continues to use the illegal program of warrantless wiretapping of innocent Americans. But for people who get their politics from the editorial pages of Rolling Stone magazine, such fits of self-delusion are to be expected.
There is another thing worth noting here too- when the President says that he would not use the power he has signed over to himself to indefinitely detain American citizens, I believe him– but that’s not the point! The very fact that he has created this space for whoever follows him is the real issue here. Couple this with his abuse of the Executive Order and expansion of the Military Industrial complex, and you are left with what he was from the beginning, an empty and incompetent celebrity politician.
Mitt Romney- a False Choice
Despite vehement claims to the contrary, the Republicans are no better than the Democrats, and nothing illustrates this better than their nominee, Mitt Romney.
Don’t get me wrong, the criticisms leveled at Mitt by much of the contemporary Left tend to be hollow in substance and rather sophomoric in tone. “He’s rich!” So what? “He worked in private equity!” So what? “He outsourced American jobs?” Um…welcome to Globalization? His background in private equity and experience with finance capital are actually more of an asset than even his own party gives him credit for. Yes, he’s difficult to relate to, but who the hell cares? We’re talking about our nation’s chief executive for Christ’s sake, not our child’s pre-school teacher! His data-driven management style works in many settings, and the government could certainly use more of this.
However, in the White House, he will be little more than an agent of the status-quo. This is due to his absolute need to be liked by his own party, which shone very clearly in the circus-like spectacle of the Republican primaries. In other words, my problem with Romney has less to do with the man or his record, but more to do with his party, and he unwillingness to challenge it. Though there are things about the man that are very troubling as well, such as his unbelievably wasteful and stupid anti-porn crusade, his equally silly support for a huge border fence, and most importantly his support for the Patriot Act AND the NDAA.
While they talk a big game of free markets, Republican actions tend to make this little more than second-hand lip service. It must be remembered that Sarbanes-Oxley was signed into law by a Republican, with overwhelming Republican support. Republicans of course will respond with their standard defense “oh, well he wasn’t a real Conservative.” Since the Reagan years, Republicans have habitually moved the goal-posts of what a “real Conservative” is, to the point where the term is almost meaningless. Progressives, most of them horribly ignorant about economics, fail to realize that Republicans and Democrats have constructed a system that indeed flows income upward, but not through the tax code as many of them claim, but actually through government-shielded monopolies and bail-outs, the federal reserve, our out-dated patent system, and the current regulatory system which favors huge firms with lobbying power at the expense of smaller, developing businesses. Even on its own, reforming our drug-patent system would save an enormous amount of cash compared to the paltry amount saved by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire:
And let’s not forget about the party’s nativist view on immigration policy. Fear-laden populism on immigration has led to an impossibly complicated and cumbersome system that encourages the worst kinds of illegal immigration while discouraging skilled, intelligent, thoughtful people from becoming Americans. With the bonus that immigrants provide to economic growth, the Government should make it easier for them to study here and gain work permits. But rather than face this problem, the Republicans seem to want an even more ludicrous and isolationist system (much like the Tories across the Atlantic, see article), one which will allow countries like Canada, Australia, and Singapore to continue to beat us in the contest for foreign talent.
One thing Mitt Romney loves to do is bluster on about how he’ll keep military spending above 4% of GDP. This number, like his insistence that he’ll cut 7 trillion dollars of spending over the next ten years, is nothing more than a populist sop. Again, this does little more than throw more power the way of the military-industrial complex, and in the context of deficit reduction is simply irresponsible. One of the few solid rebuttals President Obama has had in the debates is when he chided Romney for complaining about the US having fewer ships than in 1917, in complete ignorance of the fact that Battleships and Cruisers (cool as they are of course) are unneeded in the modern world. To be fair to Mr. Romney, I don’t see him as an irrational actor when it comes to the use of force, but those at his side who help dictate policy sure are. To make matters worse is the blind, uncritical support for Israel he shares with his party. As for the hazards of starting a trade war with China, that could take up 3500 words just on its own. Sheldon Richman put it bluntly in Reason magazine when he described how Romney “approves of Obama’s imperialist policy and drone warfare. He apparently can’t wait until he, like Obama, gets to personally choose targets from a presidential kill list.” It doesn’t help when Fox News pundits criticize Obama for letting dictators fall to their own people in the Arab Spring when only a few years earlier they praised Bush for wanting to promote Federalist Democracy abroad.
And although most of the Conservatives I know are not social conservatives (I’m from the Northeast), the Christian-Right is a force to be reckoned with. It’s important not to overstate this, as the DNC tends to do to (part of their habit of scaring voters rather than convincing them). However, I think it’s important to realize the influence that this voting bloc has on the party- The voting bloc that opposes abortion even in cases of rape, or who actually believes the Earth has only existed for 9,000 years, and who seriously advocates the teaching of creationist garbage in public schools. Even in Connecticut, one can drive up route 8 and see anti-Darwinist banners on the roadside, an unending source of embarrassment for anyone who cares about science as much as I do.
Even if you’re not a firm Secularist like me, any serious conservative who cares about the constitution should heed Barry Goldwater’s ominous warning:
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.
Immigration, social issues, and rampant hypocrisy on economic matters are only a few of the problems plaguing the Republican Party. In their main story on the election, the editors of The Economist provide a summation on the current state of the GOP:
Indeed, the extremism of his party is Mr Romney’s greatest handicap. The Democrats have their implacable fringe too: look at the teachers’ unions. But the Republicans have become a party of Torquemadas, forcing representatives to sign pledges never to raise taxes, to dump the chairman of the Federal Reserve and to embrace an ever more Southern-fried approach to social policy. Under President Romney, new conservative Supreme Court justices would try to overturn Roe v Wade, returning abortion policy to the states. The rights of immigrants (who have hardly had a good deal under Mr Obama) and gays (who have) would also come under threat. This newspaper yearns for the more tolerant conservatism of Ronald Reagan, where “small government” meant keeping the state out of people’s bedrooms as well as out of their businesses. Mr Romney shows no sign of wanting to revive it.
Gary Johnson 2012- Be Libertarian one Time
While political campaign ads have become a reeking cesspool of condescending populist bullshit, as with everything, there are exceptions to the rule:
Of course it took more than an ad to choose Gary Johnson, but what I want to illustrate is a level of candor and integrity lost on the major parties. Gary Johnson brings a fantastic record as governor of New Mexico and a commitment to Libertarian principles. He runs on a platform that includes ending the ludicrous and failed war on drugs, stopping the undeclared wars, and ensures the restoration of our civil liberties. He does indeed have some radical proposals, such as shuttering the IRS and reducing the tax code to a single consumption tax, made more progressive by a pre-bate check sent to every citizen (a variation on the Guaranteed Minimum Income idea). To those who feel concerned about these and other ideas, I’d say the time has come for a radical restructuring of the American government. Even if he did win this cycle, he would have to work to implement these policies in a gradual and rationally-paced fashion.
“But how can you expect to influence American policy by supporting a party not in government?”
It’s worth remembering that throughout American history, 3rd parties have had a profound effect on the agenda of the major ones. In 1992, Ross Perot scared both parties into taking on his agenda on deficit and debt reduction. Earlier in the 20th Century, both the Progressive and Socialist parties had a lasting impact on domestic policy, especially after the Depression. And of course, the GOP would do well to remember that their own party began as a radical anti-slavery 3rd party alongside the Democrats and the defunct Whig party.
This time, the Libertarian party stands to gain federal funding in elections, as well as ballot-access in all 50 states, if the party manages to win just 5% of the popular vote. These benefits are very real and could mean a lot in future elections. To any voter who wishes to see change in the political system or at the very least a shock to the major parties, the choice should be clear as day.
3rd parties matter when people VOTE for them.
To my conservative family and friends, if you believe in the free market and want a President who doesn’t just pay lip service to it- then Gary Johnson is your man. If you care about the Constitution and really want to adhere to the principles our founding fathers, who you so often claim to speak on behalf of, then you are duty bound to drop the shackles of the GOP and reach for the freedom proposed by the Libertarian Party.
To my friends on the Left: Liberals, Progressives, and to those on the fringes. If you believe, as Alan Wolfe said in his excellent book, The Future of Liberalism, that
In seeking to bypass the dependencies associated with both markets and private charity, the welfare state aims to give individuals the autonomy they need to make their own choices about the kind of life they wish to lead.
then you should remember that Wolfe goes on to note when these systems degrade and allow bureaucrats to “possess discretion in the distribution of the funds they control.” It should be clear to you that this is exactly what has happened to our Welfare state. In very much the same vein, my friend Eric Stetson wrote a piece in the Daily Kos called Ron Paul, Progressives, and the Rise of “Situational Libertarianism” where he says:
Progressivism or liberalism is based on the idea that government is good…However, the evidence increasingly is persuading many people that although in theory government may be a tool for good, in practice, in America today, it is largely not.
He follows this up with a thought that perhaps libertarianism is the necessary philosophy of our time, and it may take tearing the entire system down to remake it into a more effective one.
Gary Johnson is the only candidate ready to do this, in all areas, especially Medicare, Social Security and National Defense.
Despite my hopes that people across the political spectrum will rally to such an intelligent and principled candidate, I despair to think what many reactions to this article will be. Conservatives and GOP apparatchiks will invariably balk at me for not voting for a “real” American, with plenty of saber-rattling and bluster to go along the way. And in the same stupid, boring fashion, wet-blanket progressives will do what they always do and act as if saying how “offended” they are constitutes an argument (hint: it doesn’t).
George Orwell once said in Propaganda and Demotic Speech: “one can think of ways of ensuring that propaganda, spoken or written, shall reach the audience it is aimed at.” Go ahead and believe your own propaganda. Go ahead and vote for more war, cronyism, and incompetence. But leave me out of it.
“But Drew, you’re throwing away your vote!”
Actually, if you plan to vote for Obama or Romney in 2012, you’re throwing away your vote.