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In a previous post, I described why Ron Paul Republicans won’t be voting for Mitt Romney. The rebuttals received, whether on this blog, Facebook, via email, or in person, shared a common argument I’d like to explore. The argument goes as follows:
With a President Mitt Romney, libertarians at least have somebody in office who is somewhat agreeable to their positions, unlike Obama who is completely hostile to them. So why not support the candidate who is closer to your views, so that you can hopefully continue to pull him in your direction?
Those who read the Breitbart op-ed I referenced in my article will recognize this as the central argument made by its author. He writes:
Romney and Ryan need to reach out to libertarians over their common ground. Fortunately, there is lots of common ground.
No, the Republican Party is not a libertarian party, but it is the only party with any libertarian element. It’s the only place you have any chance of being heard. And with guys like Rand Paul and the libertarian-friendly Tea Party elements, you can be in the GOP.
The Ron Paul wing of the GOP, along with unaffiliated libertarians and independents, are being asked to vote for the lesser of two evils simply because he is less evil, and thus a smidgen closer to our position. This guilt trip-induced plea is predicated on the assumption that a Romney presidency would be better for the cause of liberty in both the short and long terms than four more years of an Obama presidency.
This plea has been the unanimous outcry of Romney supporters desperate for additional votes to see him succeed. “Support and vote for Mitt Romney,” writes the op-ed’s author, “or help Obama complete his transformation of America into a nation that violates every principle you claim you embrace.” Or, as one Facebook commenter said, “How does voting for someone who can’t possibly win actually help the cause of liberty?”
There is an assumption in these comments that a Romney presidency would be better for the cause of liberty than an Obama presidency. I’m going to argue the opposite. In other words, I’m going to now suggest why an Obama re-election may be the better option, in the presidential race, for the overall long-term success of the cause of liberty.
To understand my position, consider the eight years under President George W. Bush. For four of those eight years, the Republican Party had control of both the executive and legislative branches of government. Was this period of time a beacon of limited government and liberty-friendly legislation?
Hardly. In fact, quite the opposite. A Republican president gave us such expensive, big government boondoggles as No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, PATRIOT Act, TARP, bailouts, stimuli, massive military intervention, NSA wiretapping and other egregious civil liberties violations, and on and on and on and on. Simply having a president with an ‘R’ after his name does not mean he will help the cause of liberty in any way, shape, or form.
“But wait!” the detractors are preparing to say. “While that all may be true, imagine how much worse the next four years will be under Obama than they would be under Romney.”
Okay, perhaps that’s true. In fact, I’ll venture to say that it’s almost 100% true that an Obama presidency would be worse for Americans than a Romney one. Why, then, would Obama in office be a better thing for the cause of liberty?
The answer to this question lies in the answer to a different question. Where were all the jealous guardians of freedom during the Bush years? Where was the enraged right—the Constitution-loving conservatives who opposed Bush’s policies as much as they do Obama’s now, which are largely an extension of everything Bush did during his presidency?
The answer? They were almost entirely silent, content to go on with their daily lives confident that because a Republican was in control, they need not pay much attention. Still worse, many praised Bush for his efforts, calling him a man of God, a prayerful individual, the “Commander in Chief” looking out in all cases, and at all times, for America’s best interest!
If Romney is elected, I predict that much of the tea-party faction in American politics will once again grow silent. These same individuals who praised Bush, and who now have boiling blood when talking about what Obama is doing, are praising Romney as a man who can “fix” Washington and upon whom the future success of America now solely depends. So, imagine the next eight years of more big government Republicanism with a silent conservative base largely ignoring the continual constitutional atrocities inflicted by one of their own.
When you factor in financial and geopolitical issues, the scenario grows even more grim. Despite (or, rather, because of) whatever Romney might do, the market will continue to sag, the debt (and interest) will continue to soar, and some sort of default or collapse will occur. One can easily envision the degree to which the political “left,” along with the media, will use this to whip up the progressive Democrat base and show how capitalism allegedly failed, how state ownership of core sectors of the market is needed to ensure nothing like this ever happens again, etc. Atlas Shrugged becomes real life, as the entitlement-dependent masses are convinced that more government control is needed, and that the next Democrat candidate is the way to achieve it. This is a negative for the cause of liberty during Romney’s presidency, and a negative in the ensuing progressive centralization of power within the federal government in the years following.
Consider the alternative, though. Let’s say that Obama is re-elected for four years. The conservative base remains enraged with blood boiling, recognizing that in order to combat the popular progressivism they’ll need to field a far better candidate in 2016 to ensure that nobody like Obama ever has another chance to impose the evil that he has during his two terms. Along the way, new media educational initiatives have found fertile ground in this active, angry, aware group of citizens, who over the four years realize the inconsistency of conservatism and embrace libertarianism. They stand better prepared, ready, and willing to ensure that the next nominee for the Republican party is one worthy of support, both by general Republican voters and the libertarian/independent wings as well. They swoop into 2016 with a strong candidate, strong principles, and a platform worthy of support. They have plenty of material to use as contrast to show why their vision is far, far better than what the previous eight years has brought, and they achieve electoral success.
So in the mean time, an active conservative citizenry has willingly sought after ideas and principles which bring it closer (and more consistently) to liberty. Educationally, the cause of liberty has succeeded, unlike under a Romney presidency where conservative voters shrug off any worry and go on their merry way. And politically, liberty-loving candidates stand a better chance in the long term if they don’t continue the two-party ruse by electing Romney (who may achieve a second term), and then potentially have the political pendulum swing back into the Democrat camp for a while. The adversity during a second Obama term can strengthen the intellectual and political muscles of this voting bloc, which under a Republican presidency would likely atrophy into near uselessness.
Whether the cause of liberty will actually be better under an Obama or Romney presidency is ultimately unknown. We simply don’t know what the future holds. Despite this uncertainty, the present reality is one in which Romney Republicans are asking us independent/libertarian folk to sell our princples for a mess of political pottage. But why would we settle for a bowl of luke-warm mush when holding out just a little longer, and refusing to sell out on our convictions, might mean that a three course meal soon awaits us?