Editor’s Note: The views of this piece should not be construed as the views of the other contributors of The Liberty Papers or of the blog itself. TLP as a blog does not endorse any candidates or political parties. –Kevin
I don’t intend to make this a lengthy piece of sophistry. We are coming up on a crucial midterm election (well – as crucial as a battle can be between a group of incompetent buffoons who can’t settle on an ideology and a group of intentionally evil people who wish to end the American experiment and have hijacked a party which, at one time, was an important voice for the disadvantaged). You are going to hear people make a bunch of different arguments as to what strategy you should use when you vote. In fact, many of those arguments are about to be deployed in an upcoming point/counterpoint series this very blog will run on the question of how a libertarian should vote to advance the core values of the movement) – here are some of the classics that you hear every election cycle these days:
1) Vote for the person whose platform most closely matches your beliefs!
After watching politicians advance platforms that are often plagiarized from party leadership or put together by a campaign think tank and not the figurehead actually running for office, and then once elected, running from their platforms as fast as their legs will carry them, I’ve decided that voting on a platform is nonsense. Candidates will say anything to get elected – it’s human nature. And if you are prone to believing what they say on the stump, you’ll be a slave to sloganeering forever.
2) Vote for the “least bad” option!
Here’s a classic that is commonly used by libertarians and frustrated conservatives who’ve seen the GOP flee from the Constitution when it was expedient to do so. The argument goes: if you’re a liberal but dislike the direction of the democrat party, or a conservative but angry at the GOP or the Libertarian party for perceived sleights, you should vote for the candidate who will hurt you less. Liberals should vote democrat even if they dislike the blue position on abortion, say, and conservatives should vote GOP even if they think the Patriot Act was one of the worst bits of hackery that their party has ever mustered and wish to punish them for it, because the alternative is way, way worse. I call bollocks on this one too. Not that it’s completely untrue, but such behavior also perpetuates those same bad habits in your party of choice in the future. Libertarians and Constitutionalists have been told for the last 20 years that, even if you dislike the GOP on major issues or think they’re badly run, you have to keep voting GOP or the other guys will win…but when we keep voting GOP, they take it as a sign that what they’re doing works and they keep doing it – look who keeps running for the White House!
3) Vote for the people who are least connected to the Beltway!
There’s a strain of populism in play in both parties these days that’s driven by the very correct observation by middle class Americans that DC has ZERO interest in solving our problems or representing our wishes – that Capital Hill is dominated by a system of crony capitalism, crony government, and horse trading that has nothing to do with anything but maintaining privileges and influence for a select few. But rarely are purely-populist movements motivated by data and efficacy – they tend to be very emotional things; more governed by anger and retribution than by merit. Enter Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. The thing is…in their zeal to select candidates that are not insiders, both parties have been picking horrendously unqualified candidates. I would strongly advise against voting simply to punish incumbents and reward people with no history in politics. The results don’t tend to be very good for anyone.
4) Vote for the guy who is least corrupt!
Not gonna say much about this, but it is common in electioneering to hear all about scandals and rumors of scandals. My (admittedly still limited) experience tells me that 90% of the smoke is not fire, and that corruption charges are usually based on wishful thinking, more than hard evidence. If there is good evidence, fine, factor that into your thinking, but you may also want to keep in mind that corruption isn’t always worse than incompetence, and that it frequently attaches itself to whoever is in charge, no matter how good their intentions were when they started.
5) If you don’t know much about the stakes, vote anyway!
Please don’t. I’m not saying I don’t want voter participation to be high, but if all you’re going on is The Daily Show or snippets in Yahoo! News or the political party next to a candidate’s name, stay home please. Or only vote for the things about which you have some knowledge (you can leave election slots blank on most ballots!).
6) Vote this way or DOOM!
And of course…if I’m to believe every campaign email I get, if I choose differently than the way they want me to choose, all hell will break loose instantly. Elections do have consequences, but I think we’re doomed already. Vote with your head, not your fear.
My recommendation? It’s hard to find a good man who would want to be a politician. It’s even harder to find a good man who is a good candidate and a skilled campaigner who wants the job. If you enter every election insisting that the candidate be the perfect fit, you’re going to hate every cycle. I recommend that you look for a few “good enough” men – men who are motivated by data, by history and by what works. Vote utilitarian – choose the candidate whose ideas have the best chance of actually being implemented and working; or at the very least, choose the people who you think will be most likely to quickly pick up a clue bat and hit themselves with it once they’re in office and have access to all of the information. Barack Obama was never that guy. Mitt Romney might not have been a true Constitutional conservative, but he was definitely a utilitarian, driven by a desire to solve problems. Better to select a man you dislike but respect for his acumen than a man you like but know is incompetent. The same scale can help you distill the current Senate and Gubernatorial races in some cases. I’ll throw out a few endorsements now, to clarify my meaning.
COL SEN / GOV: Both Beauprez and Gardner strike me as people who are less ideologically driven and more driven by common sense and evidence. You might disagree and I’m open to hearing counter-arguments, but both seem like “good enough” men as far as I’m concerned.
WI GOV: I’ve heard some bad things about Scott Walker from Wisconsin locals who are involved in conservative politics, but, corruption or no corruption, I believe Walker gets results and is focused on those results.
OK SEN: Alright – this race isn’t competitive, but I’ve actually exchanged multiple communications with Sen. Inhofe (I’m the guy that writes his congressmen and senators regularly if there’s something that needs to be said…I would encourage all of you to do this at least some of the time), and he never answers with a form letter unless it’s a basic request or issue statement you sent him. The man is seen as the Antichrist by the environmental left, but, whatever his faults might be, I believe him to be genuinely connected to his constituents.
NH SEN: My wife and I had a rather gnarly argument once over his last bid for the senate in Massachusetts. She’s a classical democrat from Boston (who is waking up a bit to the nastier, progressive side of the party that is taking over these days), and in the battle between Full-of Bull and Scott Brown – a man who can hardly be called a far-right conservative and would more accurately be termed a pragmatist – she voted for Chief PantsOnFire. Yeah – I took that personally, because my wife is full of common sense on just about everything, and you can’t possibly choose the radical with a history of deception and the total lack of relevant experience over a solid, pragmatic moderate based on rational thinking. The same applies now that he’s running against Jeanne Shaheen, who, while less offensive than Elizabeth Warren, is most certainly not coming across as motivated by an honest assessment of the facts on many key issues. Watch some of Shaheen’s debate performances and think about the things she says.
So that’s how I tend to process elections, and it’s how I would urge more of the readers here to respond as well.
My 0.02 – would love to hear yours!