Sunday, November 2, 2008

Don't Vote for Obama


Before Obama gets elected on Tuesday (proceeding with his plans to bankrupt the coal industry, increase government spending, and all the rest), I want to acknowledge, one last time before everything ends, that, yes, I had my hopes, as did plenty of free-marketeers, that conservatives would come to their senses over the past couple decades and shrink government, and my hopes may have been misplaced.

But lest Obama-leaning libertarians — usually ones younger and more fond of pot than I — talk about that phase in the history of political alliances as if it was just as ridiculous as a left-libertarian alliance, I will remind them that there really are plenty of free-marketeers on the right. They don’t generally hold office, unfortunately, but you know damn well (a) that they fill the thinktanks and magazines, (b) that the slender but highly valuable tradition of “fusionism” (traditionalism plus markets) was real, and (c) that the hope — this is key — was that fusionism would continue to grow and would take over the movement or at least nudge it far enough along to produce some practical policy outcomes.

The goal was not merely to reformulate libertarianism in conservative language or make it look, when you squint, as though there were some mere metaphorical similarity between the two movements, the way one might decide to declare “spirituality” a “form of commerce” and then describe the Bible in an extended trade-metaphor, possibly as a means of selling Biblical concepts to Wall Streeters.

The goal, a real and very practical one, was to steer the GOP toward tax cuts, budget cuts, and deregulation. And at times it looked like it might work. And if you’re a left-leaning libertarian, I am willing to bet you did not having anything remotely resembling a better plan and you still don’t. If the GOP gambit failed, that is no more reason to think there must be hope (somewhere that I can’t discern) on the left or in the Democratic Party than to think that since the last group of Vikings raped you, the next band of them must surely be nice guys.


I now make the pragmatic assessment, given the rapidly-growing number of media and political memes of all kinds in our ever more complex society, that simply trying to get the libertarian message out there in the most clear, unencumbered (yet moderate) form possible is the best hope of making more people someday adopt its policy recommendations. If — precisely as the left-leaning libertarians are always saying — libertarianism suffered for its appearance of carrying water for the right, surely it would be insane to attempt, as our next strategy, to appear to carry water for the left, composed almost entirely as it is of de facto socialists, taxers, and regulators. If one’s craven, shameful goal is to “fit in” on that end of the spectrum, one might as well say, “I have decided my new strategy will be hiding for several decades, and so I am going to pretend to be, oh, say, a Presbyterian or a tree.”

If libertarians vote for Democrats, all that happens is that the Democrats’ openly, proudly, avowedly market-restraining agenda wins, and we lose, and there is no amount of philosophizing that can turn it into some kind of mirror-mirror infiltrational victory. You might as well spend the rest of your life distributing Klan literature while claiming that since in your secret innermost thoughts you hate the Klan, you have achieved a clever political coup. No, you have simply become a Klansman.

If libertarians vote for Obama, we will know what it apparently takes to get libertarian votes (and Democrats will be greatly relieved): rail against unregulated markets, denounce greed, promote higher taxes on the wealthy, and vow to socialize medicine. Way to go, “free-market” voters, way to go. In that case, libertarianism-as-useful-movement, R.I.P. I have always tried to be a pragmatist and coalitional thinker, but I can live with being a movement of one, too — a solo Remnant, if you will — so go do the Democrat-flattering thing without me. I’ll sit out the next thirty years if I have to before aiding in that self-destructive cause.


You think the GOP strategy went badly? Obamatarians, we’ll see how much your new friends shrink government. This ought to be amusing (and heartbreaking). Voting Obama to punish the GOP for being insufficiently libertarian makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and I don’t care how many Andrew Sullivans, etc., think otherwise. They have lost their ideological little minds.

You should punish failure — but not by rewarding another failure (after fourteen years of Republicans, is everything done wrong by the Democrats over the preceding eighty years forgiven??). Furthermore, you send a message (if that’s your goal) by voting for what you actually want, not by voting for something that’s simply an arbitrarily-different alternative to that thing that you decided you didn’t want.

Do you wish the Alien movies were warmer and more pleasant? Well, you could express that wish in several ways (really, I’m quite flexible and open-minded about tactics), but if warm and pleasant is your goal, you don’t properly “punish” the Alien movies by renting Saw. It’s that simple, people.

Likewise, oversimplifying only slightly, I’ve voted GOP in half the presidential elections of my adult life in part to tell the Dems they should be more capitalistic, anti-tax, anti-regulatory, etc. When the GOP is not a useful vehicle for that message, as is often the case, I send a (clearer) message to the GOP itself by voting Libertarian (as I have in the other half of presidential elections). When you vote a certain way, you inevitably tell the losers (whether you intend to or not): “Be more like this group I voted for.” Voting for Obama tells the GOP “Become even more like the Democratic Party than you are already,” not “Be more libertarian, that’s the key to votes.”

If you are of a libertarian or government-shrinking bent, you cannot in good conscience vote for Obama and (augh!) Biden, not unless we are using radically different definitions of the word “libertarian” — take another look at their agenda, if you will.

You can stay home and not vote. You can vote for Barr. But you can’t vote for Obama and Biden. Doesn’t square, no way no how.


Jacob T. Levy said...

“I’ve voted GOP in half the presidential elections of my adult life in part to tell the Dems they should be more capitalistic, anti-tax, anti-regulatory, etc.”

Why is that a less-crazy thing to do than voting Democratic in order to tell the Republicans that they should be less pro-torture, less captured by anti-science antigay anti-abortion religious right new-earth creationists, less pro-executive power, less pro-war, etc? You think that the pro-Obama votes will send a message contrary to what we intend, but we have no less control over the message they send than you had over the messages sent by your various Republican votes.

Gerard said...


Gerard said...

BTW, there are libertarian candidates running in this coming Tuesday’s election. How many people will vote for them is yet to be determined.

Lawson for Congress

Rep. Price, if memory serves, was one of the loathsome figures who replaced a GOP freshman from the class of ‘94. He also took a conspicuously timorous stance during the pogrom launched against Finnerty, Evans, and Seligmann, according to K.C. Johnson’s excellent book on the Duke lacrosse scandal.

Perry said...

I won’t tell libertarians that they should vote for Obama.

However, I will tell the Republicans that the party is over. Perhaps not all the libertarians have wised up, but a lot of them have learned that the candy and flowers are a smokescreen — there is no real love, you’ve just been f**king us when you were bored, assuming we were so desperate we had nowhere to go. “Those libertarians will vote for us. Who else can they vote for? We just have to tell them that we love them here and there, we don’t actually have to do anything for them.”

Well, screw that.

Either the so-called “actual free marketers” in the Republican party Todd speaks of are lying, or they are so powerless, even when the Republicans are fully ascendant, that they will never achieve anything. In either case, it is clear that the Republican alliance with the libertarians is near its end.

I want to see McCain lose, and if that means Obama has to win, well, that’s the price we pay. I have no love for Obama and will bitch about him 24×7 if he gets into office, but McCain and the whole repulsive crew can go do something anatomically infeasible with themselves — the party is over.

jenny said...

can anyone point me to a study that looks at the actual size (budget and employees, perhaps) of the federal government over time as compared to the actual size of the country (GDP and population, perhaps)? i’m curious as to how much it has grown over the years.

Todd Seavey said...

While I do not have studies handy, government at all levels over the past century has gone from consuming about 8% of national income to 40%, I believe.

Only an across-the-board anti-government philosophy can put much of a dent in that, and there were stirrings of such a philosophy within Republican circles in the twentieth century, difficult as it proved to tease out from affiliated statist tendencies, while the Democrats have proudly pushed for state expansion for about a century now.

We could hope to appeal to Republicans’ good sides, while Democrats, by libertarian standards, essentially have none. And to imply that the fate of 300 million should hinge on one’s concern for about three tortured al Qaeda leaders from whom about a quarter of what we know about that organization was extracted or fewer than 300 terrorist prisoners at Guantanamo (whose treatment is largely consistent with the past treatment of unlawful foreign combatants) shows a bizarre inability to see the forest for the trees.

Furthermore, the simple existence of Tony Blair and Labour suggests that the War on Terror, even if one objects to it, ought not to be thought of as a uniquely right-wing phenomenon — it is largely a function of which party happens to be in power, and the Democrats have shown no rush to relinquish powers possessed by Bush — nor, most likely, will President Obama.

Meanwhile, the economy and society will likely be more rapidly carved into government-run fiefdoms under Democrats than under Republicans — or if not, it is only because Republicans have strayed from their principles while Democrats’ remain almost wholly statist. This “debate” is so absurd that I will not engage in it any longer.

Faced with the prospect of one-party rule by socialists, the real libertarians should know who to treat as the enemy come Nov. 5 — and phony libertarians will have powerful new friends.

Gerard said...

That’s a point worth emphasizing, IMO.

While there may have been strongly demarcated lines between how Federalists/Whigs and their Democratic opponents viewed executive power, there’s virtually no distinction in how a Democrat vs. a Republican would look at the purview of the presidency once he or she is in office. You just have to compare the SG’s briefs before the Supreme Court during the Clinton and Bush administrations to realize this.

Socialists Against The Patriot Act

Gerard said...

FWIW, this is going to be what you see when you go into that clunky, anachronistic voting machine on Tuesday, Todd:

New York State Ballot

I’ll give a silver dollar to the first person who can identify the only candidate among those who’s not a statist.

Libertarians For Barack Obama said...

When intelligent Libertarians examine Barack Obama, they see his high intelligence and intellect as an asset, conducive to rational [libertarian-style] thinking.

Combined with his background as a civil rights lawyer and a constitutional law professor who is favorable to voluntary, free community organization, and who as a Senator, took a daring stand against the Iraq War — it becomes easy to see that Barack Obama is more “libertarian” than not.

McCain is highly “pro-war” which would mean at least another four “Bush Years” of endless billion dollar [war] occupations, plus more BIG GOVERNMENT SPENDING, “taxes-from-the-middle-class-to-finance-wealthy-tax-cuts” and “socialized” corporate profits/bailouts with little, if any “trickle down” effect of job growth which, by the way, has NOT happened in spite of Bush’s tax cuts provided to big corporations and the Warren Buffet wealthy.

Just as bad, is voting for Bob Barr, who would be a dangerous “wasted vote” this year.

After all he’s NOT going to win.

“Wasted Votes” and [conservative] Libertarians who voted for G. W. Bush, helped Bush win two terms — and those “Neo-Con Libs” helped enable an incompetant religious conservative G. W. Bush take us from a “Democratic Budget Surplus/Thriving Economy” to a “Republican Record Deficit/Expensive War/Economic Meltdown.

Obama is the best [major] candidate to work on four top libertarian reforms:

1) Iraq withdrawal

2) restoring the separation of church and state

3) easing off victimless crimes such as drug use

4) curtailing the Patriot Act.

5) a ban on torture

6) gay rights

7) privacy

8) free speech

9) pro-choice

10) against a ban on flag burning

Libertarians living in the real world know that only Obama or McCain can actually win. And in that real world, Bob Barr is an ex-CIA Republican and on that basis he is questionable as being truly “Libertarian”.

Because Bob Barr spend most of his political career as a rather right-wing conservative Republican, many long-time Libertarians don’t see him as a “true” Libertarian but some sort of right-wing conservative Republican infiltrator.

With a history of hostile right-wing conservative Republicans infiltrating the Libertarian Party over the years, they have pushed out long-time, true Libertarians and founders.

This hostile LP take-over by conservative Republicans is not easily forgotten — and well, as a backlash — I can see a lot of Libertarians wanting to get Republicans out of power.

And the best way to do this is by voting for Obama and a straight Democratic ticket.

Todd Seavey said...

When we’ve reached the point where someone is, in essence, claiming the Democrats are more libertarian than the Libertarians, I’m confident we’ve passed the point where there’s anything I can say that can’t be shoehorned into the theory that we should vote for Democrats. So there I’ll let the matter rest, and we can talk at Lolita Bar Wednesday night at 8 about what comes next. Freedom, apparently. Who knew?

Perry said...

Freedom isn’t coming any year soon. I will not claim that it would have been different if some libertarians hadn’t thrown their support behind the Republican party, but I will claim that the effort has accomplished little or nothing of long term worth. Some may feel that trying to teach the Democrats economics might work better. I’ve decided it is simpler to descend the rest of the way into cynicism.

At your debate on Bob Barr, which Bob Barr attended, I had some hope for him, but it rapidly evaporated.

Having stared at the candidates on the ballot for every position and the one ballot measure, I’ve made up my mind. I’m not voting. This is not a dereliction of civic duty — this is a principled stand not to pretend I have been presented with meaningful choices.

Mike said...

It’s not about the Republicans. It’s about what direction you want the country to go.

If you’re going to vote for Obama to “send a message” to the Republicans, you’ve chanted the Obama mantra one too many times. Because a vote for Obama, legitimizes Big Government. Voting for Obama also sends a message to the Republican’s to be even more pro-Big Government.

You can stay at home, but then you end up without a voice. If you vote for McCain, you’ll send an anti-Obama/anti-big government message. While not a perfect solution, it’s a better “message.” Voting for Barr is the only direct way to send the message of liberty and limited government.

If you want to send a message, look at it from their perspective (the party elites). After they start crunching the numbers … if they see both Republicans voting for Obama and even Libertarians going his way … what message will they get?

They must move much more towards bigger and bigger government is the message they’ll receive.

And that, my friends … is our worst nightmare.

Jake said...

OMG Liberal bullshiters can suck my dick!

Vote for McCain-Palin 08!