In the spirit of the upcoming debates, I think I will indulge in something I rarely do, and honestly, I usually discourage others from doing it. However, given the fact that we’re looking at a close race in November, I consider it extremely important to keep the race from turning into a fiasco for conservatives in general.
Stephen Green, the Vodkapundit, ostensibly started this round of trying to make a case for Libertarians to vote for Romney. And that was followed with a reply from Doug Mataconis at United Liberty, claiming there is no reason for Libertarians to vote for Romney. Both made excellent points, but neither really made a case for Libertarians to vote “for” Romney.
Mataconis pointed out something that has regularly made my blood boil every time anyone mentions it – Romney was Governor of Massachusetts when they passed a healthcare law that was ostensibly a precursor to the Affordable Care Act. Please do note exactly how I worded that statement, because it is important. At the time that this legislation was passed, Massachusetts had a Democrat majority in their legislative branch. Romney was the minority voice. The legislation enjoyed widespread support of the citizens – not surprising, since they were the ones that put the liberal majority in control in the first place. So, that made it highly likely that even if Romney had vetoed the legislation, it would have still ended up the law of the land. What was Romney’s great sin, then? If we have gotten to the point where following ideology of a given political party requires behaving in a delusional manner, denying the reality of the situation on the ground, then we are really far worse off than anyone is suggesting.
And Green already did point out that this was one very good case against Libertarians voting for Romney, in spite of the fact that he was theoretically trying to point out the opposite. Of course, there was also the mention on both sides that we are faced yet again with a presidential race where voters are left with making a choice between the lesser of two evils. This also is nothing new, as I’ve regularly pointed out that I have never voted “for” a President – have rarely voted “for” any candidate for any office, in point of fact. But, there is a slight chance that may actually change for me this year.
Everyone has been focusing on Romney’s past in politics and in business from a negative perspective – conservatives complaining about him playing nice with liberals in Massachusetts, and liberals complaining about his success in the business world. We’re currently dealing with a sluggish economy, with at least a few experts warning of a double-dip recession. Why is the debate over whether or not Romney is a good candidate for Libertarians to support centered on the liberal v. conservative argument in the first place?
Libertarians need a reason to vote for Romney. Libertarians are for free markets – ostensibly, pro-business, presuming we’re not talking about promoting crony-capitalism. Unless I missed something, no one is running about saying that Romney is a stupid man, so it is probably safe to assume that he is not planning to draw from his experience in the Governor’s mansion when it comes to dealing with the economy. Unless he is a colossal idiot, he’s going to rely heavily on his business experience, and on what he learned when he dragged the Olympic Committee out of debt in Salt Lake City. But, given that the liberals love to demonize him for being a success in business, of course he’s not going to hit the campaign trail with that as the centerpiece of his stump speech. Given his past experience with the Dems in Massachusetts, he already knows that’s political suicide. And that brings up another point Libertarians seem to love to bring up – Romney’s ability to play like Reagan, when it comes to compromising. I think a reality check is needed here. No matter how much anyone would like to wish it otherwise, the bottom line is that whoever ends up in the White House at this point will need to be damn good at the art of compromise. Obama is not. Romney is.
It’s been said countless times – we didn’t get in this mess overnight, and we’re not going to get out it that quickly either. Also, we are not going to see any large portion of the Libertarian platform adopted by our government until the Libertarian party gains far more representation on the Hill, and in state houses across the country. That is not to say that Libertarian values do not enjoy wide support from the people. That is merely pointing out the fact that people have not started voting en masse according to those values, if for no other reason, because there are not a lot of candidates out there running on them. Until there are far more people putting themselves on the ballots nationwide on the Libertarian party ticket, we will not see those values move into our government, period. So, the only thing left for Libertarians is to support candidates from the two major parties with at least a few of the values they hold dear. I’m being generous here, since Democrats that are for Libertarian principles, outside of social issues, probably do not exist.
The Libertarian case for voting for Romney is that he is obviously pro-business. He is the candidate that will at least do something useful when it comes to promoting free markets. On a far more practical level, he has been there and done that when it comes to pulling organizations (corporate and non-profit) out of being deep in debt. Since any president is only as good as his best advisers, Romney has a far better crop to pick from when it comes to foreign policy, and domestic affairs. And finally, if I had a dime for every time I have seen self-proclaimed Libertarians sing the praises of Paul Ryan and his plans for the economy and healthcare… well, you get the idea. And that in itself should be a huge incentive for Libertarians to support Romney. If he is willing to put someone you at least like and respect a little in as Vice President, it is insane to think that he would slam the door in the face of others with similar philosophies. Again, the shift to Libertarian values, and building the Libertarian party will not happen overnight. It will happen on the back of the GOP, with Libertarians slowly moving into positions of power in GOP administrations.
The bottom line is that there will never be a perfect candidate for the presidency (or any other office.) It takes a special kind of crazy to place one’s name on the ballot, so by definition, every candidate is flawed at least in that way. As for the Libertarians? The reality is that the party is not positioned to place someone in the White House, yet. Barry Goldwater pointed out long ago that the GOP would be finished if it was taken over by the religious right. He was right. It will happen. Sooner or later, fiscal conservatives will break away from social conservatism in the GOP – they will realize it is no less expensive to promote social conservative ideals than it is to promote socialist programs. And where will they go? Of course, the most likely destination is the Libertarian party. We’re already seeing the rifts over this, with the literal blossoming of “Libertarian leaning conservatives” on the scene. But, if the Libertarian party goes down in history for stealing this election from Romney, that inevitable movement will be pushed back by several years, at least. Is it better to stand purely on principles that have no real hope of being implemented in government for decades, or is it better to take at least a couple baby steps in the right direction? It is an important choice – arguably may be an historical one. But, make no mistake, if Romney loses, the Libertarian movement could easily be set back by years, if not decades. If the idea that “Gary Johnson supporters caused a Romney loss” would stick, that could be devastating to the Libertarian movement. It’s not fair, but it’s the reality of the situation. If you doubt it, by all means, go ask Ralph Nader. Personally, I don’t want to see the Libertarian party relegated to political irrelevancy. Do you?