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February 8, 2008

Why This Libertarian Republican Is Voting For Barack Obama

by Doug Mataconis

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

Note: The following does not represent, and should not be taken to represent, the official position of The Liberty Papers, or the opinion of any of the other contributors. It’s my opinion and my opinion alone.

Virginia’s Presidential Primary is coming up on February 12th and, for some time now, I’ve been trying to figure out who I was going to vote for, or even if I was going to vote at all.

On the Republican side, before the election ended yesterday, my choices were bleak indeed. I’ve already reiterated before the reasons I can’t support John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee and there’s no need to repeat them here. Up until December or January, I probably would have cast my vote for Ron Paul even though I didn’t agree with him on two important issues — immigration and foreign policy — but, with the newsletter story being the straw that broke the camel’s back, I quickly became disillusioned with both the campaign and the candidate and now I don’t think that his campaign will have any lasting impact on the Republican Party. If there were still a race, I probably still would have voted for Paul just to cast a protest vote, but that seems utterly pointless now.

But, you see, I live in Virginia and we have completely open primaries. When Virginians go to the polls on Tuesday, they simply need to ask for the Democratic or Republican ballot, and they can vote for whom they please. While I personally think that party primaries should be closed affairs, the open primary presents me with a very interesting opportunity this year.

The Republican race is over, but the Democratic primary isn’t and it’s possibly the most important race that this nation has seen.

Issues aside, I have come to the conclusion that the worst thing that has happened to this country has been the fact that we’ve been living in a Bush-Clinton-Bush dynasty for the past 20 years. The first Bush Administration wasn’t all that bad, and George H.W. Bush was, faults aside, a relatively decent person. But you wouldn’t have known that from the rhetoric thrown at him from both the left and the right. Then, when Bill & Hillary Clinton came to power in 1993 — and, make no mistake, these two have always been a team — the political atmosphere in this country changed, and it changed for the worse.

It wasn’t all the Clintons either, almost from the day the Clinton Administration came into office there was this element of the right whose opposition to the President was nothing short of venomous. There were allegations that Bill Clinton was involved in drug-running (remember Mena anyone ?), that Vince Foster had been murdered, that Bill had an illegitimate black child, even that the Clinton Administration administered the Oklahoma City bombing. It was the era of the militas, and black helicopter conspiracy theories, and the Y2K nonsense.

And it was the era when the Contract for America died on the altar of the Lewinsky scandal and ill-considered impeachment hearings.

Then, George W. Bush came into office. I just knew things weren’t going to calm down when he won in a closely-fought disputed election that was, ultimately, decided by the Supreme Court (correctly I would submit), and they didn’t. The Loony Left picked up right where the Loony Right had left off.

And then 9/11 happened. For awhile, it seemed like something had happened that would, much like World War II, unite the country. For a time, it did, but only for a time. The conspiracy theories started almost as soon as the smoke stopped floating into the sky and the 9/11 Truthers are still with us. The political venom in the air since 2001 is, if anything, worse than what we saw during the Clinton Administration and, once again, both sides are to blame. Michael Moore is an idiot, and so is Ann Coulter.

We’re yelling at each other and accomplishing nothing.

What’s needed, I am convinced, is a break with the past and a new direction. In some sense, although I hate to admit it, John McCain represents that for the GOP but Barack Obama represents it even more and, more importantly, is running against the one person who, if she wins, would guarantee a return to same crap we’ve been dealing with since 1993 on both sides of the political aisle.

A few weeks ago Mark at Publius endures explained why he could support Barack Obama, and I agree with him:

I could not disagree more with Obama on many of his policies. Yet I find myself drawn to supporting him – passionately, even – because his goals are liberal in the classical sense. I repeat – I do not think his means are libertarian in any way, and are arguably not even classically liberal means. But the goals, so far as I can see, ARE classically liberal. His are not goals centered entirely around maximizing his own political power, and thus he is a candidate worthy of my deep respect. These ultimate ends are the same ends as exist for us perjoratively-named cosmo-libertarians (as well as for other derivations of classical liberalism).

For all these reasons, on February 12th, I will be voting for a Democratic Presidential candidate for the first time in my life, and I will be voting for Barack Obama.

Does this mean I would vote for Obama in November if he’s the nominee ? No, and, frankly I probably wouldn’t. I also won’t vote for John McCain. But the Democrats deserve to have their best candidate as their nominee, and they deserve to have the Clinton machine destroyed, and if I can help in that process I am happy to.

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16 Comments

  1. Excellent post, with which I obviously agree.

    I think your comments about the first President Bush are spot-on. The way in which he was treated both by the left and right created a different kind of partisanship than existed in the Reagan years, and probably long before that.

    Unfortunately, I suspect that the reason we got our current President is that a lot of people just felt bad about how poorly Bush I was treated. Moderates always kind of liked the first Bush to begin with and thought his son would govern in a similar fashion; meanwhile conservatives felt somewhat guilty about the way in which they savaged the first Bush, giving a big boost to creating a President Clinton. IIRC, Limbaugh even actively campaigned against re-electing Bush I, but then wholeheartedly supported GWB from very early on in the process. I’ve always thought this was partly due to some residual guilt on his part for helping to destroy the first Bush.

    Comment by Mark — February 8, 2008 @ 7:00 am
  2. “This libertarian” will vote for Obama” is an oxymoron.

    I already did the “vote for Bush” thing after Clinton. Look where that got us.

    My vote will remain with Ron Paul because, for the first time in my entire middle-aged life, I have someone to vote for that I agree with the majority of his positions and the very base of sound philosophy they come from. Had all of us the guts to stand up for what we do believe in, we may win. Until then, we’ll continue to get crap or crap, and I refuse to vote for more crap.

    Comment by A. L. — February 8, 2008 @ 7:41 am
  3. Doug,

    I can understand and respect that opinion, and as a person Obama certainly seems to be someone who’s more of a uniter and compromiser than what’s gone before. Unfortunately, as we learned after voting for Bush in 2000, appearances are not always reality.

    Obama, if he wins, will very likely be backed by a Democratic Congress…one that I think will be much more Democratic after 2008. He’s on the record as supporting more government intervention in medical care, which should scare the hell out of anyone who cares about the quality of medical care they receive. He’s advocating government intervention into the auto industry to force the introduction of biofuels, he’s for restricted immigration, and he supports increasing the power of the DHS. And he has the votes to get this all passed.

    It’s always attractive to vote for an unknown quantity because it adds an element of hope…that’s largely why, as the old saying goes, the backup QB is the most popular player on bad football teams. But in Obama’s case I believe it to be a false hope. This man is a statist, and he plans to follow statist policies. The only thing that differentiates him from any of the other statists in the race is his rhetoric, which is indicative of nothing except that he is a good salesman for a bad product. I don’t see how any conscientious libertarian can discard the facts of Obama’s platform as he himself has presented them in the hopes that somehow he will turn out to be different than his platform says he’ll be.

    http://www.barackobama.com/issues/

    Comment by UCrawford — February 8, 2008 @ 7:44 am
  4. Now I was pretty young when the first Bush was president so I am not nearly as familiar with his term as I am with Clinton and GW so I could be completely wrong about him, but at the end of the day the first Bush was a liar and a tax raiser. Didn’t he also have shady dealings in the CIA and as Reagan’s VP? I fail to see how he can be considered “decent.”

    Comment by Ben — February 8, 2008 @ 7:45 am
  5. U.C.,

    I’m under no illusions when it comes to Obama but, since I am already convinced that we’ll have a Democratic President in 2009, I guess I’d rather have it be a President I can have at least a modicum of respect for.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 8, 2008 @ 7:51 am
  6. Frankly the majority of folks will go along with this thinking…

    As tempting as it is to vote Obama to blow Hillary out we are still left with McCain and Obama; Obama I think wins that one. Either way it’s more taxes and more war, neither is affordable.

    No matter which way it’s sliced McCain, Hillary or Obama, it is still the same 500 calorie sandwich.

    I am voting Ron Paul- period.

    Comment by Amyz — February 8, 2008 @ 8:01 am
  7. Doug,

    I see Obama as less of a threat than Hillary, and so I completely understand where you’re coming from. I also believe Obama, from the little I know of him, is a genuinely decent guy who is in politics because he wants to do good things. Frankly, I’d probably prefer Obama to Giuliani, and thankfully it won’t come down to that!

    But I think you’re wrapping your political calculation and pragmatism in high-minded ideals. Obama, while he seems pretty good for a Democrat, is still not a libertarian. He still takes opposite sides of nearly every issue as you or I would. If you look at UC’s link to Obama’s issues page, he’s an advocate of bigger government, more intrusive goverment regulation, and higher taxes.

    If you want to vote for Obama as a small way to fight against Hillary, I completely understand and I agree with you that in your case, it might be the best vote you can cast. Obama is light-years better than Hillary, but that’s not setting the bar high. But you’re trying to rationalize it by saying Obama’s different enough that you could actually “support” Obama (echoing Mark, at the very least), and I can’t see that happening.

    When the time comes, if there is a President Obama, I suspect you and I will be side by side fighting against him on the issues, and when that happens you may be glad it’s not Hillary, but you’ll still be fighting.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — February 8, 2008 @ 8:09 am
  8. not surprised by this in the least.

    Comment by oilnwater — February 8, 2008 @ 8:10 am
  9. Brad,

    Yes, it’s purely tactical, but it’s tactical because I think that electing Hillary would be the worst possible thing that could happen in 2008. McCain would be bad, but she’d be worse.

    Obama is different to the extent he’s forcing the Democratic Party to deal with a problem that’s been in it’s midst for more than a decade now.

    I didn’t say he was libertarian in any sense of the word, and I can’t see myself supporting him in November or afterwards. But I’ve got a vote to cast, and, of all the options available, voting for him seems the most useful and the least distasteful thing I could do.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 8, 2008 @ 8:13 am
  10. I fully agree that voting against the Clinton machine might set precedent for the democratic party to somehow find it’s footing and maybe become somewhat of a different party again, and that Obama would be a better case scenario than Clinton.

    I still will not vote for him though; after the way the democratic party has treated of their best (albeit socialist, but a principled man nonetheless) Kucinich, they can rot in this orchestrated ‘democratic majority after the destruction of the republican party’ racket.

    I just see this post as further example of people still not letting go of “the lesser of two evils”. Obama would most likely support a continually fallacious monetary policy, possibly the NAU as well if his admin were to present it in a “good” light (“we’re the good guys, you voted us into office, you can trust us.” etc. etc.); although, regardless of the president in power, the NAU may become necessary due to the current economic and monetary policies which need to be changed anyways. He (Obama) would probably further muddle in the immigration debate without getting much done or just make it worse.

    The only supposedly “good” thing about Obama is you will “supposedly” be able to some of this going on by his advocation of government transparency, however, he has not indicated thus far how limited that would be. As I’ve read before, aside from Obama being an huge Statist, the man is a question mark.

    If, historically speaking, voting Obama would eventually lead to a more acceptable candidate making inroads at the next election, it might be excusable; I would definitely appreciate Obama over another increasingly fascist dictator, under different scenarios.

    But that requires a crystal ball; something I believe Obama’s “hope” will never be able to conjure up.

    Comment by Nitroadict — February 8, 2008 @ 9:06 am
  11. Doug,

    Yes, it’s purely tactical, but it’s tactical because I think that electing Hillary would be the worst possible thing that could happen in 2008

    If you’re referring to the same Hillary who was such a miserable negotiator that she managed to turn a supportive Congress against her on the one issue Bill Clinton tasked her with (health care) during his tenure, frankly I don’t think she’d be anywhere near as damaging as you fear because I’ve seen no indication that her personality has changed. You start playing this game where you try to vote for least-worst candidate on a someone who opposes you on almost all of the important issues, all you’re doing is helping to put a candidate who can sell his bad policies into office.

    If the Democrats are stupid enough to elect Hillary, let them…she turned the country against the Democrats once and I have no doubts she can do it again. She can’t lead and she can’t get things accomplished…and that’s what we want from the new president if we can’t get someone who votes our way on the issues elected.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 8, 2008 @ 9:14 am
  12. UCrawford- I have no doubt that she’ll manage to piss off most of the country. But then again, so did George Bush, and we re-elected him anyways. I also don’t think she’s as incompetent as you think. While she managed to screw up the health care issue in 1993, her actions in that regard are beyond disturbing, especially after the expansion of Executive Power that has occurred the last 7 years.

    To me, it comes down to process and respect for process. I have no doubt that Hillary will take advantage of the Bush-era expansions of executive power (which themselves built on the Clinton-era expansions of executive privilege) to make sure that she gets her way. Obama gives every indication that he will respect process and roll back executive powers, making him far less scary.

    Comment by Mark — February 8, 2008 @ 10:11 am
  13. In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king.

    I would suggest a reading of 2 books. “The anglo american establishment” and Tragedy and Hope” By Carrol Quigley. Then research which candidates are members of the CFR. Then let cast your vote. You will deserve what you get.

    Comment by Vandie Williamson — February 8, 2008 @ 11:42 am
  14. Vandie,

    Do you suggest I wear a tinfoil hat and stop drinking fluoridated water as well ?

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 8, 2008 @ 11:43 am
  15. One of my biggest concerns is that if we get an Obama Presidency he may even get Libertarians thinking passing Universal Gov’t health insurance is a good idea. He is a fantastic speaker and he goes to you emotions. Hillary could never do that. Libertarians hate her. Republicans hate her. Many others dislike like her quite a bit. She may get some things passed but she will do it in a way that pisses off a lot of people. Obama may get the same things passed but he will likely do it in a way that you feel good about it even if you are opposed to it. With Clinton she will be a lightning rod for opposition. In two to four years there will be a huge concerted effort to dethrone her and the democrats in congress by default. I don’t know if that would happen with Obama.

    While I find Obama infintely more likeable and everything else being equal I would vote for him over clinton, in this case I think Clinton winning would be better for us in the long run and possibly even in the short run.

    Comment by TerryP — February 9, 2008 @ 9:47 pm
  16. [...] I’ve been reminded more than once in the comment threads here, I did vote for Barack Obama in Virginia’s primary earlier this month. So, do I regret that vote ? Considering that I cast it with few illusions about what kind of [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » What Would An Obama Presidency Look Like ? — February 22, 2008 @ 12:04 pm

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