The November election is looking to be another dreary choice between the lesser of two evils. Do you want the big spending interventionist or the big spending interventionist? One probably would spend a bit more money while the other one probably would start a few more wars.
American democracy at its best!
A few years back -- I've forgotten the particular profligate war-mongers involved -- the Cato Institute's president, Ed Crane, posited that the foundation's policy staffers were forced into the voting booth at gunpoint. Which of the evils would we choose? Several of us responded: pull the trigger!
So it appears likely to be in November. We already know that President Barack Obama goes to bed dreaming of new spending schemes and has yet to meet a civil liberty that he is unwilling to violate. The permanently premature winner of the Nobel Peace Prize also routinely threatens to loose the dogs of war around the world and, albeit with perhaps a tinge of reluctance, follows through by escalating existing conflicts, bombing other nations, and assassinating foreign citizens.
His presumptive Republican Party opponent, Mitt Romney, is a late, convenient, and not altogether convincing convert to limited government and fiscal responsibility. The former governor's foreign policy sounds more bellicose than that of George W. Bush, who not only started unnecessary and counterproductive foreign wars, but sacrificed domestic liberties even when doing so did not advance Americans' security.
This is a choice? When I step into the voting booth, just pull the trigger, please!
But it doesn't have to be this way. In 2008 Congressmen Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich offered genuine choices, not echoes, in the Republican and Democratic primaries, respectively. This time only Rep. Paul ran. But he has presented a vision of a republic rather than an empire to enthusiastic audiences crossing partisan lines.
Unfortunately, he lost out to a dubious mix of crack-pots, wind-bags, narcissists, authoritarians, ignoramuses, and opportunists. Naturally, most of them wanted to spend more money -- they just argued about how much on what -- and all wanted a foreign policy focused on killing foreigners. Washington has rich friends to protect, failed societies to remake, inconsiderate allies to manipulate, bad guys to overawe, and an entire world to reengineer.
The principal exception to this dismal parade was former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. He took many of the same positions as Rep. Paul, but was excluded from most of the debates despite originally registering the same one percent in the polls as former Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Sen. Rick Santorum, who were invited to participate.
Johnson finally gave up the GOP race and decided to seek the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. The LP convention opened on Wednesday May 2, with the vote scheduled for Saturday May 5. He would be a good choice, but even as the LP nominee he still would have difficulty winning gaining media attention in the fall.
Another option is a Paul-Johnson ticket.
No doubt, representatives of Republicrat duopoly will cast 2012 as a decisive election, one of the most important if not the most important in a generation. They will rally their respective "bases" by demonizing the other side, even as the two candidates hug the center line while proposing more domestic spending and new foreign interventions. Partisans will prophecy disaster if the opposing candidate wins, even though we all know that the result will be the same irrespective of who ends up taking the oath of office next January: higher spending, fewer liberties, and more wars.
The American people desperately need an alternative to the Republicrat Parties. For four decades the Libertarian Party has made an effort with only limited success. Candidates serious (former Rep. Bob Barr in 2008) and pure (a variety of unknowns over the years) have been unable to break the one percent barrier. Even Rep. Paul tried in 1988 with no more success.
Former Gov. Johnson alone isn't likely to do much better. He remains barely known outside of New Mexico. The LP lacks an effective national organization. The political class will avoid mentioning his name. The media will largely follow suit. As partisans insist that any defection will help the devil on the other side, he will be lucky to break the one percent barrier.
However, Rep. Paul is the potential Transformer. Like the movie, he shows up in everyday garb, an avuncular grandfather who looks like he should be collecting Social Security while enjoying retirement near a golf course in Florida. But then he turns into a vigorous otherworldly machine committed to combating statism in all its variants, from bloated entitlements to executive surveillance to promiscuous war-making. And on his second successive Republican presidential run he has broken into the national consciousness by challenging the GOP status quo and winning double digit support in many states.
Most important, he has picked up the most name recognition ever for a presidential outlier espousing explicitly libertarian ideas. Transferring that name recognition to the Libertarian Party would immediately turn it into a serious force in November. Admittedly not with a realistic chance for victory. There just aren't enough libertarian-minded Americans to give him a majority or plurality in November as the LP nominee. However, he could aspire to match Ross Perot's 19 percent in 1992. And he might win double-digit poll ratings from the start, making it harder, and perhaps even hard, for debate organizers to exclude him.
With only 14 Republican primaries to go, he should drop out of the GOP race and announce his intention to seek the LP nomination. Some Paul supporters still hope he will triumph at the convention in August. But Rep. Paul isn't going to capture the GOP nomination in August, even if his supporters continue to pick up extra delegates with good local organizations and smart political tactics.
Nor is Mitt Romney, despite his apparently friendly personal relationship with Rep. Paul, going to make meaningful substantive concessions warranting the latter's political support. A speaking slot at midnight? Maybe. A serious commitment to slash entitlements or foreswore new wars? Fuggedaboutit! And with the 76-year-old Paul planning to retire from Congress, a Romney administration couldn't even offer assistance for Paul's congressional legislation if it was inclined to do so.
The congressman also may hope to use his sway to promote his son's future prospects. However, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) already is making his way by making waves. Sen. Paul will do better if libertarian ideas do better. And that will not come from Rep. Paul showing up at the GOP convention supinely endorsing Romney. It will come from Rep. Paul raising the standard of individual liberty and limited government in all their forms during the November race.
Finally, a few states might bar Rep. Paul from their November ballots under so-called "sore loser" laws since he already has run in the primaries as a Republican. In fact, most do not apply to presidential races and Gary Johnson faces the same problem. But to the extent such statutes create a barrier, it could be chalked up as a cost of "doing business" -- necessary to win the public attention that comes only from participating in intra-major party debates. And this public attention would yield far more recognition and votes nationally in November even if he was denied a ballot line by some states.
Although the case for Rep. Paul heading the LP ticket is strong, so is Gary Johnson's claim to the vice presidential position. In fact, the latter is well-qualified for the presidential nod. A successful businessman, he served two terms as New Mexico governor, from 1995 to 2003. He cut spending growth with prolific use of the veto -- more than the other 49 governors combined. As governor, he backed educational choice and, though a physical fitness fanatic (climbing Mt. Everest in May 2003), promoted marijuana legalization. Since then he opposed the Iraq war and nation-building in Afghanistan. He is a likely future LP star.
Competition is good, but this year joining Rep. Paul in the second spot would buttress the ticket, giving the LP its best tandem ever. Two serious people, two serious political figures. The VP slot, normally a public unknown and political nullity, would be held by someone with as good a claim to the vice presidency and even presidency as the current office holders.
Running with Rep. Paul would allow Gary Johnson to tap into the former's fervent fan base this year. Moreover, it would well-position Johnson for a run for the LP presidential nomination -- or conceivably the GOP nomination, as well -- in four years. Strengthening Johnson as a publicly recognized advocate of libertarian ideas would simultaneously bolster Sen. Rand Paul's present position and future prospects in the Republican Party. Sen. Paul and the libertarian movement are unlikely to succeed if the ideas have only one champion. As they acquire wider attention and acceptance they are more likely to triumph in the political marketplace.
Indeed, the battle for liberty is for the long-term. The Republicrat duopoly is certain to win in November -- at least, as certain as anything in politics. And the usual suspects want to keep voter choices forever constrained.
When facing Republican presidents, the left talks of peace and civil liberties, but most of its activists unite behind a president who gives war and betrays civil liberties so long as he pushes the welfare state ever upward and outward. The right takes a similar approach, with most partisans glorifying in war and repression while forgiving bloated spending. Indeed, columnist Michael Gerson, who served President George W. Bush -- an enthusiastic big spender and warmonger -- seemingly views this as "Reform Conservatism." So much for the supposed battle of principle in Washington.
However, Ron Paul and Gary Johnson can change that. They should run together for the Libertarian Party nominations for president and vice president, respectively. That wouldn't guarantee their selection -- Libertarians, even more than libertarians, are a tempestuously independent lot. However, Paul-Johnson would be the strongest ticket the LP could offer. It would be the best alternative available to the Republicrats. And only it would encourage real long-term political change.
Come November, another big-spending war-monger seems certain to win the presidency. The result will be more American money and lives needlessly wasted. However, the future is not fixed and people can rise to the challenge. Calling on Ron Paul and Gary Johnson: Your moment has arrived. Will you step forward and seize it?