Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Romney vs. Obama vs. Gary Johnson vs....Rand Paul

Yesterday’s entry was theory.  Now for some filthy practical politics – gotta do this at least once before the November election (and then I think I’ll go cast a vote in the NY GOP primary for my friend Debbie’s sister Wendy Long, who’s running for Senate – good luck as well to libertarian-leaning Republican congressional candidate Dan Halloran and libertarian-leaning Democrat congressional candidate Dan O’Connor, both facing their primaries today).

I’ve heard rumors about Marco Rubio secretly having a daughter out of wedlock, but I have no idea if that explains those articles saying this favorite of conservatives isn’t being vetted as a running mate for Romney (my apologies if it’s false – but remember you heard it here first if it turns out to be true).  Might the cause of the reported non-vetting also be the fact that Rubio was a Mormon as a child, and the Romney people figure the public would freak out if the ticket were perceived as containing “two Mormons”?  This is all wild speculation on my part, and I admit it.

I also admit that I, unlike some libertarians, would love to see Sen. Rand Paul (son of Ron) as Romney’s running mate.  That doesn’t mean that I – or for that matter Rand Paul – would then fully endorse Romney and wave little flags and say he was great.  But it would be a strategically useful way of boosting Rand Paul’s public profile and perhaps in the process the public credibility of libertarianism (even though Rand Paul claims not to be a “libertarian,” technically – and some ardent libertarians would be happy to agree with him on that, in part because of his endorsement of Romney, but I think they’re being hasty; it’s complicated).

By contrast, some of my young and idealistic anarcho-capitalist associates think that the imminent collapse of the economy is so unavoidable that it’s best not to have Rand associated with it.  And Brian Doherty, of whom I’m a big fan (and who was my guest at last month’s Dionysium – sorry the video doesn’t seem to have worked out), thinks it may be best if Romney gets elected and performs so badly that a primary challenge within his own party is possible in 2016, with Rand leading the anti-neoconservative faction.  I disagree with both views, for roughly the same reason: There is little evidence that when things go badly in politics, the public suddenly learns and leaps to the opposite way of doing things.

If a collapse is imminent, better to have at (or near) the helm someone who will at least minimize the damage.  If that turns out to be Romney without a libertarian v.p., I’m not confident he’ll behave much differently than Obama would, but no matter how badly he does, a successful primary challenge from within an incumbent president’s own party is extremely unlikely (Teddy Roosevelt won every state primary when he challenged incumbent Taft and was still denied the GOP nomination, exactly 100 years ago last week – not that I weep for TR, since even Democrat Grover Cleveland sounded more free-market and, as you can tell from this audio file pointed out by Clay Waters, more badass than TR).


So, barring a surprise victory – or, far more plausibly, a spoiler-sized share of the vote – by Libertarian Gary Johnson (who I’ll vote for) in
November, getting Rand on the GOP ticket is probably our best (electoral) bet for boosting the profile of libertarianism this year. 

I don’t mean to dismiss the Gary Johnson factor, either.  My current prediction is that unless Romney picks Rand as his running mate and thus keeps the libertarians in his camp, Johnson actually will be a spoiler and put Obama back in office, a small price to pay given (A) the long-term importance of making the public more aware of the libertarian option and (B) the comparatively trivial difference between Obama and Romney (not that I deny that Romney sometimes says the right, free-market-sounding things – as did his father George Romney toward the end of his life, intriguingly – and I will not deny that Obama is so awful as to deserve parodies like this fine Kindle collection of comedy, The Obama Review, by my friend-since-kindergarten Paul Taylor).

It’s easy enough for me to vote for Johnson in November without angst, though, as my state, New York, will undoubtedly go for Obama anyway, and I may as well boost the Libertarians’ vote total.  I wouldn’t blame people in battleground states for feeling a bit more torn between a Libertarian and a Republican vote this year.  McCain in 2008 was far easier to dismiss, though I am less forgiving of the disturbingly large number of libertarians who voted for Obama (along with many millennial conservatives, in keeping with their generation’s mania for Obama, which is now diminished but still strong; twentysomethings prefer Obama to Romney by about two to one, surely a sentiment that will to some degree echo in their political preferences even years hence). 

I voted for Libertarian Bob Barr in 2008, though plenty of libertarians now hate him, too, for endorsing Newt Gingrich.  Trust no one.  I’d be curious to hear how many libertarians who voted for Obama in 2008 – on the theory that the Republicans had to be punished almost regardless of who replaced them – are consistent enough to vote for Romney (who certainly sounds more market-friendly on his good days than either Obama or McCain did in 2008), on the theory that Obama must now be rebuked.  He’s surely earned a rebuke by now, if that’s how you pick your vote.


If Romney were really smart, in the event of Obamacare being all or partially overturned, he would anticipate Obama going angry, full-retard anti-Supreme Court, anti-Republican headed into November – but Romney would present himself and his own heretofore mixed record on this issue (given his semi-govenmental Massachusetts program) – not as the arch-conservative alternative to Obamacare but as the all-things-to-all-people, moderate, one state at a time, proper federalist approach, promising to take this sane path on all issues, letting fifty flowers bloom instead of stagnant DC-knows-all solutions, etc. 

Thus he’d get to sound like he was “restoring” healthcare like a liberal, bringing a libertarianish dose of fiscal sobriety, and being a states’ rights Tea Party guy all at the same time.  I’m not saying he would be, I’m just saying it’d be a good spectrum-spanning rhetorical strategy.

In short, he could spin this three ways at the same time and look good – or bungle it by looking like the callous upper crust guy from whom only Obama can (re-)rescue the now-defenseless sick people.  We’ll see.

On the broader issue of the financial crisis: one of many lies we’re being told is that it’s a fully global phenomenon.  It’s not, though the U.S. media tends to make comparisons only between us and ailing Europe instead of relatively flourishing (and free-market) places like Australia.  Democrats imply that only social democracies are faring better, while Republicans don’t tend to talk about other countries at all. 

Neither side, then, is quite willing to say that prosperity is still possible in parts of this world, but we in the U.S. now live in a fiscally insolvent, socialistic welfare state.  Neither party is fully willing to admit what we have become – though Romney deserves some credit for talking about his fears on that front.  Both sides, though, are invested in the fantasy that America is the arch-capitalist nation – and that, by one route or another, it is always progressing toward a better future.

There is recovery work to be done, and it can only be done by the handful of people who understand liberty and free markets.  In short, we’re going to have to tune out the statists and somehow do this alone if most Republicans continue to pretend that turning Obama out of office is sufficient change to solve the massive problem.


Already victorious in his Maine primary to become the GOP’s candidate there for Senate, by the way, is my (libertarian) friend Tricia’s father Charlie Summers, which is encouraging.  And he seems like a normal, sane guy, which helps.  There are times, though, when I am nostalgic for the days of weirder politicians.

Obama is admittedly a little weird, but for congressional or presidential eccentricity of any intense or interesting kind, with the exception of Newt and a few others, it seems like you need to reach back at least a few decades.  Here are the first and third paragraphs of the Wikipedia entry of the late Sen. Alan Cranston (D-CA):

Cranston was a correspondent for the International News Service for two years preceding World War II.  When an abridged English-language translation of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf was released, sanitized to exclude some of Hitler’s anti-Semitism and militancy, Cranston published a different translation (with annotations) which he believed more accurately reflected the contents of the book.  In 1939, Hitler’s publisher sued him for copyright violation in Connecticut; a judge ruled in Hitler's favor and publication of the book was halted...

Cranston, a supporter of world government, attended the 1945 conference that led to the Dublin Declaration, and became president of the World Federalist Association in 1948.  He successfully pushed for his state’s legislature to pass the 1949 World Federalist California Resolution, calling on Congress to amend the Constitution to allow U.S. participation in a federal world government.

Now that’s interesting.

1 comment:

jake said...

Well, I'm not particularly a libertarian, but I absolutely voted for Obama to punish the Republicans for the excesses of the Bush years.
As for Obama, what's weird about him? Other than having attended a wacky church and eating arugula I thought he seemed kind of normal.