Barack Obama is going to win the presidency. While the end of the current era of Republican mismanagement may be good news in many respects, this is no cause for complacency for anyone concerned about American liberty and America's place in the world. Senator Obama, despite his eloquent call for reform, has demonstrated that he, like other politicians, is ever ready to trim his sails to gain a few votes. A vote for Bob Barr and the Libertarian Party would be the best way to tell President-elect Obama that the American people are serious about real change in Washington.
Sen. Obama's rhetoric is uplifting and positive, but the Senator who showed genuine foresight and courage in opposing the Iraq war spent most of the primary season edging away from his initial tough stand. Will he order the troops to exit Iraq? Will he bring them all home, or simply shift them from Iraq to another foreign country?
Similarly, it would be hard for Sen. Obama not to be an improvement over the Bush administration on civil liberties. However, here, too, Sen. Obama has demonstrated his willingness to trim under pressure.
President George W. Bush violated the law when he ignored both the Constitution and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congress should have held him and his appointees accountable for their law-breaking. Moreover, telephone companies that aided and abetted executive branch law-breaking should have been left liable in the courts.
Yet, Sen. Obama folded, backing a "compromise" that gave the administration most everything that it wanted. No individualized warrants or evidence of law-breaking is required to authorize government spying on U.S. citizens' phone calls and emails. No administration officials paid the slightest cost for engaging in illegal conduct. No private firm suffered the slightest inconvenience for helping the government violate their customers' constitutional rights. This was the moment for Sen. Obama to prove that he possessed a true dedication to civil liberties, and he failed.
Of course, we all hope that, as president, he will feel freer to stand up for American liberties. But there also will be voices advising him to use the executive powers so freely expanded by his predecessor. Will he be strong enough to resist this Siren's Song? No one knows, but one thing is known: If freed from the limiting forces of public awareness and involvement, President Obama would follow a long line of presidents who talk of enhanced individual liberty, but practice a policy of increased government power.
In other words, the best way to encourage Sen. Obama, if he is elected president, to follow the straight and narrow is to actively and clearly demonstrate that we, the American people, are concerned both about our civil liberties and his commitment to protect them. The way to do that is to vote for Bob Barr and the Libertarian Party.
Only one party has consistently stood up for the Constitution and against expansive executive power: the Libertarian Party. Only one party has consistently demanded a quick and full withdrawal from Iraq: the Libertarian Party. Only one party has demanded that all administration officials, legislators, and bureaucrats be held accountable for violating the law or the Constitution: the Libertarian Party.
Sen. Obama's impending big victory will tempt liberals to relax and celebrate. Yet the time of greatest danger will be the transition, when Sen. Obama will be deciding on who to appoint and what direction to take. The best way to safeguard our liberties is to let him know that his election victory comes with an important "but" -- in the form of a strong showing by Bob Barr and the Libertarian Party, who have placed the protection of American liberties and America's reputation in the world at the core of their campaign.