I follow cheerfully; and, did I not,
Wicked and wretched, I must follow still
Whoever yields properly to Fate, is deemed
Wise among men, and knows the laws of heaven.
Wise advice as quoted in the Enchiridion of Epictetus. With that in mind, let those of us to the right of center contemplate the coming abyss with calm composure. Some things are in our control and others not, Epictetus tells us. This election is in the latter category. In the absence of a truly shocking and unexpected surprise, senator Obama is the next president of the United States.
We would like to have prevented this. He’s about as far to the left as it’s possible to be viable US politics, and in fact for the first time in a long time the US will have the farthest left head of government in the G7 nations. Those of us who think the government is the problem rather than the solution are going to have numerous new problems to deal with, exacerbated by what will certainly be a solid Democratic majority in the house and senate. Possibly even a filibuster-proof one. We will certainly see Supreme Court retirements, and their replacements will rule according to their own ideas of what constitutes fairness rather than what the Constitution actually says. C’est la vie.
We cannot prevent any of this. We have brought it on ourselves. From 1994 to about 1998 the Republican Party tried its best to uphold the principles of conservatism, but after that it degenerated into corruption, waste, ballooning government spending, and war. Given a Republican president and a Republican congress, the federal budget grew from $1.9 trillion to $3.1 trillion. Ten thousand dollars from every man, woman, and child. This was unacceptable, and the American people have not accepted it. In 19 days the Republican party will be crushed beyond recognition. We should have seen it coming – if government really is the problem, we shouldn’t have expected power-hungry politicians to be much less susceptible to government’s allure just because of an R by their names. Term limits are probably the only thing that would help, but good luck getting a politician to vote for that. Unfortunately for those who share my ideals, the political fortunes of the small-government movement are currently tied to the Republican party and thus the best-case scenario is a bloody rout as opposed to a unmitigated massacre.
The question posed a day or two ago on ScienceBlogs was “I’m a Scientist and I’m Voting For…” I won’t tell you how to vote, I’ll just give some thoughts. Of course if you’re on the left these thoughts won’t apply to you, and I suggest voting for Obama because he’s pretty much a dream candidate.
For people like me though, voting for Obama is out of the question. Obama is a far-left statist, taxing everything that works and subsidizing everything that doesn’t. There’s no way anyone who seriously appreciates freedom – including those “scary” freedoms like economic freedom and the right to bear arms – can vote for that.
Voting for McCain isn’t much better. The trope that he’s George Bush 2.0 is not without merit. Though he’d probably be marginally better on civil rights, deficit control, and economic freedom than GWB, that’s not saying much. Besides, I don’t think the election is seriously contested at this point. If you’d like, I don’t think it would be a bad idea to vote for McCain especially if you live in a closely contested state. You never know. But even if by some miracle he wins it won’t be anything to celebrate. Scylla is little improvement over Charybdis.
Not voting in protest is an option much beloved of the edges of the spectrum from the libertarians to the greens, but it’s rather counterproductive. Even if you think the system is intrinsically unjust, it will stay that way unless you try to change it. The ballot box is one of the best ways even if you resent the concept of supporting the legitimacy of a too-powerful state.
Voting third party is another option. Obviously there’s no chance of one of the third parties getting elected, but a strong showing can send a real message. People like Perot and Paul may not have won but they did gain real support and cause many people to seriously consider their ideas. As such, I’m probably going to be voting for Bob Barr. Yes, I think some of his ideas are certifiably nuts. But most of his ideas I do agree with, and there’s no chance that he’ll actually get elected and be able to implement the crazy ones. A strong showing for him can’t hurt especially since I’m not in a contested state.
What about local elections? Obviously you should consider each politician and ballot question based on the issues, but I have another suggestion for the borderline cases. When in doubt, vote against the incumbent. When in doubt, vote “no” on propositions and ballot initiatives.
It’s going to be a long four years no matter how you slice it. But I suppose there’s a bright side. If I’m right and the Obama administration turns into an epic meltdown of biblical proportions, it paves the way for a renaissance of limited government. And if I’m wrong and everything works out wonderfully, well, everything worked out wonderfully. Either way, I’m prepared to buckle down and support Obama when he’s right and fight him tooth and nail when he’s wrong. Some fights we’ll win and many others we’ll lose. Four years hence, can we be stronger for what looks to be a crushing defeat of our ideals?
Yes, we can.
[Comment constructively or not at all. There's scores of other ScienceBlogs, hundreds of thousands of political blogs, and numerous free blogs you can own yourselves where you can vituperate about how evil I am. Free speech is sacred, but it doesn't include use of my pulpit.]