Third Party Love & Hate

A couple of posts at Breitbart’s “Big Government” site have resulted in thousands of comments  and intense debate between libertarians and conservatives, and between libertarians themselves over the merits of supporting a third-party/independent alternative to Mitt Romney. Having been involved in third-party politics myself at one point in my life, I am sympathetic to the cause. But given the stakes this November, I’ve decided to hold my nose and vote for Romney, as I’ve already posted here at TAC.

I must say, however, in response Kurt Schlichter (the author of the aforelinked pieces) that I regard this as a highly personal choice, and not one that I am willing to guilt others into making. On many of the issues that matter to me and other Ron Paul supporters, Romney is absolutely abysmal and nearly indistinguishable from Obama, whether we are talking about civil liberties, constitutional protection of the lives of American citizens (even the bad ones), foreign policy, monetary policy, and a host of related issues. Those who prioritize such issues cannot be expected to give Romney their vote. There was also the disgraceful treatment of Ron Paul and his delegates by the GOP at the RNC this year. Schlichter would have us basically forget all about it.

With that said, however, when Ron Paul stopped actively campaigning for the GOP nomination, his candidacy in effect came to an end. There certainly is something bizarre about a pledge to vote for a man who by the looks of things would like to settle into a well-deserved, hard-earned retirement from public life. I always suspected that Paul didn’t really want to be president. Some see this as a positive trait, and it can be in certain contexts, but men also need leaders. If that makes me sound fascistic, so be it. Human nature is what it is.

So people who accept the reality that Paul is unable or unwilling to capture the nomination and the Presidency are then faced with other options. I’ve explained my choice, but many others are considering Gary Johnson, and Schlichter is addressing them as well (as well as Virgil Goode, the Constitution Party candidate’s supporters). Aside from the fact that Johnson is pro-choice and therefore unsupportable for Catholics, I don’t begrudge anyone the right to support either of these men as an alternative to Romney.

The role of third parties has never really been to win and wield political power in the United States. Their role has been to apply pressure to one of the major parties, to force it to move in directions that will prevent it from losing votes to the more principled alternative. Communists and socialists (and lately Greens) have done this to the Democratic Party over the years, and libertarians and groups such as the Constitution Party have done it to the GOP as well. I can’t say I’ve measured their effectiveness empirically, but theoretically I think these parties play an important role in the American political process. If a major party loses an election because some third-party siphoned votes from it, it gets what it deserves, having strayed too far from its original principles, or at least from the express wishes of major swathes of its constituency or the cadres of political activists who are responsible for bearing and popularizing its message.

Schilchter’s threats of libertarianism’s impending doom if libertarians refuse to support Romney are also hollow. He asks, “remember the Greens?”, invoking the Green Party’s alleged responsibility for costing the Al Gore the 2000 election and their current irrelevance. Even if the Green Party is dead (I’m not so sure it is), there are still plenty of socialist, communist and other far-left groups operating in the United States who offer ideological and, sometimes, electoral alternatives to the Democrats. The same will be true of the right, forever and ever, as long as the Republic exists. Besides, few small-l libertarians have anything to do with the capital-L Libertarian Party. That party could disappear and it wouldn’t have an impact on libertarianism’s potential as political force.

I suppose in the end I’m a bit torn. I understand the need for ideological purity and the bitterness felt over the unjustifiable abuse dished out to Ron Paul supporters by the GOP at the convention. I also believe that major parties should be pressured and feel the heat from time to time, that they do not deserve to operate with absolute impunity, sans accountability or consequences in the form of lost votes from their natural constituencies.

On the other hand, I do not want to see four more years of Obama. And not enough Paul/Johnson/Goode supporters appear willing to acknowledge the substantive differences – if not between Romney and Obama as candidates – between party platforms and likely courses of action when it comes to legislation, appointments, executive orders and other things. There is no doubt that Obama is at least marginally worse than Romney. There is also no doubt that Romney needs all the votes he can get. If a crushing Obama victory was universally expected, it wouldn’t matter whether someone voted for Romney or one of the alternatives. But this one looks like a close one, and so it really does matter this time, at least if you live in a battleground state.

I don’t view voting as a sacred ritual that binds one’s soul to the party or the candidate one votes for. I understand the feelings of those who don’t want to vote at all, or who only want to vote third party as a matter of principle, but at the same time, there’s no reason to view your vote as anything other than an exercise in pure political pragmatism. Since that is how I view my vote, correctly I think, I have no problem in giving it to the not-Obama. And it is worth considering that, at the very least, Romney doesn’t believe that your unwillingness to pay for something that someone else can’t pay for with their own money constitutes some kind of aggression or act of oppression against them, as Obama does. This insane philosophy really must be defeated in November.

 

 

18 Responses to Third Party Love & Hate

  • “. . . but men need [sic] also need leaders. If that makes me sound fascistic, so be it.”

    Not at all. Leaders take many forms. The biggest difference between what the Obammunist/Peoples’ Democratic Party and Libertarians would call “a leader” is that the O/PDC believes Leaders should be iconic, centralized power-structure figures, a` la Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Mussolini, Chavez, Castro, Kim, Kim, Kim. . .

    Libertarians, both “large-L” and “small-l,” believe leaders are those who lead their families, communities and nation best by serving them, in the example of the ultimate Servant Leader, Jesus Christ. Those who provide the skill, foresight and initiative to risk and grow business, to plan and execute charitable causes and to provide models of involvement and direction not from a lofty Ivory Tower but from the trenches where they serve are who we call “leaders” because they lead by example and not by dictate.

    Nothing fascistic about that.

  • To me, it comes down to winning battles, or winning the war. Winning the war is changing our culture of death to one of life. The coming election is just one battle in that war. Despite what some insist, I don’t believe the election of Romney will stop our sprint to Gomorrah. If we sell our vote to the Republican party to win this battle, we will have gained indefensible ground. Romney, despite his prolife platitudes, is pro-abortion at heart. His only difference with Obama on foreign policy would probably be Israel. Economically, he will at best only slow the ticking of our debt bomb. “Independent” voters will see the lack of change in 2016 and give us another lost battle.

  • I get where you’re coming from, but it is hard to win a war without winning any battles. I don’t really disagree with you that Romney is not going to do much (probably slow our sprint to a light jog, perhaps). But, as Bonchamps correctly points out, Romney is at least marginally better/less bad than the O.

  • WK,

    Thanks for highlighting my egregious late-night typo, lol. I think libertarians/constitutionalists/paleocons (the “alt-right”, as it were) need a leader who isn’t afraid to lead and who doesn’t approach politics as if it were a smelly diaper. We need a leader who is willing to, to continue the metaphor, get his hands dirty. Not too dirty, not “hop into bed with Wall Street” dirty, but at least more aggressive and organized than what we have seen from Ron Paul or before him Pat Buchanan.

    Tony H,

    I agree with you, more or less, though I believe Romney has no choice but to govern in a pro-life manner. I’m not convinced Romney will even slow the debt bomb, but I am convinced he won’t lift a finger to stop the implosion of the dollar. I believe he will continue the vast majority of Obama’s policies, which are themselves continuations of Bush’s policies. One thing I think he won’t do, though, is press Obama’s war against the Church and religious freedom in general. And that is important to me, and significant enough to warrant my vote.

  • We need a leader who is willing to, to continue the metaphor, get his hands dirty. Not too dirty, not “hop into bed with Wall Street” dirty, but at least more aggressive and organized than what we have seen from Ron Paul or before him Pat Buchanan.

    Dirty, not enjoying filth. Difference between dirt under the nails and someone who just never washes his hands.

  • I think libertarians/constitutionalists/paleocons (the “alt-right”, as it were) need a leader who isn’t afraid to lead and who doesn’t approach politics as if it were a smelly diaper.

    It might help if libertarians could ever acknowledge there were social problems other than ‘government failure’, constitutionalists could figure out that positive law should reflect conceptions of justice and notions of prudence and does not form the essence of them, and the rest of them to stop pushing projects of dubious utility and validity (Austrian economics, ‘race-realism’, and the various and sundry personal complaints, conceits, and emotional disorders of palaeo spokesmen).

  • I realize that a second Obama term is the worst thing that could happen.

  • Well, up until now, it’s been a tiny movement. It hasn’t been producing great leaders for the same reason that China gets more Olympic medals than Liechtenstein.

    The biggest thing to hit the libertarian cause hasn’t been a political party, but a movement. The tea partiers have given the libertarians a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The relative health of the Tea Party movement is going to be pretty easy to measure come Election Day; if it is still healthy, the libertarians would be smart to cement their bonds with it.

  • This is a good piece. Rhetorically caning those who are going to, or are likely to, vote 3d party does nothing on behalf of a major party candidate.

    I think libertarians/constitutionalists/paleocons (the “alt-right”, as it were) need a leader who isn’t afraid to lead and who doesn’t approach politics as if it were a smelly diaper.

    What Art said, and let me elaborate slightly:

    Libertarians need to acknowledge that individual liberty grew in America as part of an ecosystem with an indispensible buttress: a socially conservative/religious ethic which mandated delayed gratification, duties to others apart from the self, and an understanding of “rendering unto Caesar” that put Caesar firmly in his place. Reading contributors to “Reason” and viewing Libertarian candidacies in general, there isn’t the beginnings of a glimmer of a clue on this point. Somehow, Caesar marches on despite their atomistic arguments and defenses of license. Oddly enough.

    “Constitutionalism” does have a worrisome tendency to engage in debates that Talmud scholars or students of the Scholastics would find too impractical, abstract and technical. Reciting the Constitutional provision is the beginning of wisdom. But only the beginning.

    Paleos need to stop gnashing their teeth over Appomattox and busing.

  • Pinky,

    I hate to say it, but the “Tea Party” movement was co-opted a long time ago and is virtually indistinguishable from the mainstream GOP. When a committed foreign policy hawk like Allen West is the model “Tea Party” candidate, there will only be ruptures between that movement and the libertarian movement. There are many areas I think conservatives and libertarians can overlap, but on the question of liberty vs. safety, there is an unbridgeable chasm. I have a bit to say about this.

    We (the paleo side of ) will not sacrifice liberty for “safety”, and we do not view “Islamo-fascism”/threats to Israel as anywhere near what ought to be America’s priorities. We are a new generation that did not grow up during the post-war period, does not view America as a global actor as if it had a halo, wings, and the rosy red cheeks of the cherubim, firing little Cupid-arrows of freedom at mean old dictatorships, and do not wish to commit trillions more dollars to overseas adventurism.

    Like I said in a previous post, our message to the rest of the world is the same as one of the last Roman emperors to the far-flung imperial posts in places like Britain: look to your own defenses. American decline is real and inevitable, and it can be graceful with a chance for recovery and maintenance of great-power status like the United Kingdom, or it can be catastrophic like the Roman or Soviet collapse. But the view, common in the “Tea Party” I think, that America has a divine right to permanent superpower status is in our view a pathetic delusion. And this is what primarily divides, in my opinion, the “Tea Party” from the libertarian/constitutional/paleocon movement, the true “Alternative Right.” It is not, contrary to what some believe, “social issues.” Which brings me to…

    Dale Price,

    “Libertarians need to acknowledge…”

    Yes, and I think many of them do acknowledge those things. I think that was the significance of the Ron Paul campaign. Ron Paul is adamantly pro-life. Even if some social conservatives don’t agree with his emphasis on state’s rights, there is no doubt that he not only morally opposes abortion (with libertarian arguments, no less), but believes that the role of the state (at some level) is to protect innocent human life. He has also emphasized the role that churches played in providing medical care long before there was government involvement in these areas. A Ron Paul “alternative right” coalition has many seats at the table for principled pro-lifers and social conservatives in general, provided, I think, that we retain a local/state level emphasis instead of insisting that only the federal government can restore the social fabric.

    What libertarians REALLY need to understand is what Charles Murray brilliantly analyzed earlier this year – the role of the family in establishing economic and social security. The disintegration of the family only increases the justification for statist intervention. The stronger the family, the weaker the rationale for government involvement in our lives. So it is in the vital best interest of the libertarian to support conservative social values at least on SOME level.

  • Austrian economics a ‘project?’ Is gravity a ‘notion?’

  • Bon, I’m not sure that you can conflate libertarians and paleos. At least, not in a border state. For many of the people who would self-identify as either group, the whole lump of national issues (language, immigration, trade) are really important, but they hold exactly opposite views.

    Also, you may be too quick to write off the Tea Party, or more accurately the set of emotions which lie behind the many organizations that arose under that broad title.

  • Pinky,

    I don’t mean to conflate libertarians and paleocons. But if Murray Rothbard could support Pat Buchanan, I think there is some hope for a coalition. Ron Paul has pointed out, as well, that unrestricted immigration is a fiscal nightmare as long as the welfare state exists. A libertarian who supports unrestricted immigration in the current political climate is simply irrational and working against his own presumable goal of eliminating the welfare state.

    Of course, there will always be the dispute between economic nationalists and free traders, between a vocal and virulent anti-capitalist minority on the right and the Austrians, and so on.

    But I really think that there is more agreement than disagreement. Both want the state out of their lives. Both are opposed to foreign military adventurism. Both are opposed to the bailouts, to Fed’s unlimited money-printing scheme, to the toxic revolving door between corporate America and the regulatory bureaucracy. Because of Ron Paul, social conservatism can get a fair hearing from a growing number of libertarians. The importance of the family is not just moral or theological but also economic and social.

    I think what Ron Paul has started can grow into something more. I think he provides the first key link between the libertarians, the constitutionalists, and the paleocons. What is needed is clear thinking on the issues that divide these groups. Some of the differences are legitimate, and others are based upon sheer ignorance, on knee-jerk assumptions, and a horrid lack of imagination. I think these problems can be fixed.

  • Austrian economics a ‘project?’ Is gravity a ‘notion?’.

    1. Yes
    2. No

  • Sure, there’s a subset of pro-family libertarians, and they all attend church on Sunday.

    The problem is, I just might be familiar with all of them.

    And none of them are at the controls of the Johnson campaign, Reason, Cato, etc. Sure, Cato has had some nods to pro-family thinking, but mostly in the context of welfare reform.

    I grant that Paul was pro-life, and admirably so, but that was considered a non-disqualifying eccentricity by the non-religious Paul supporters I’ve interacted with. And he–and Rand–aren’t systematic thinkers or advocates for the family in the context of libertarianism. Despite being admirable family men, they are first and foremost economic and legal/constitutional libertarians. Libertarianism has a long ways to go in developing a workable understanding of subsidiarity, with the indispensible family at the center.

  • Libertarians need to acknowledge that individual liberty grew in America as part of an ecosystem with an indispensible buttress: a socially conservative/religious ethic which mandated delayed gratification, duties to others apart from the self, and an understanding of “rendering unto Caesar” that put Caesar firmly in his place. Reading contributors to “Reason” and viewing Libertarian candidacies in general, there isn’t the beginnings of a glimmer of a clue on this point. Somehow, Caesar marches on despite their atomistic arguments and defenses of license. Oddly enough.

    Yep.

    And that “Reason” sort of libertarian screwed up when they supported GOProud trying to for the TEA party– did not win any friends with that “TEA partiers don’t care about social issues” BS, or similar attempts to lay claim on the entire movement. (Anybody else tired of the sort of Libertarian who tries to tell everyone that they’re “really” a Libertarian? Or claim random historical figures?)

  • (Anybody else tired of the sort of Libertarian who tries to tell everyone that they’re “really” a Libertarian? Or claim random historical figures?)

    Never encountered such. Have encountered folk who chuffer endlessley about who is a ‘real’ conservative or are in the habit of dismissing anyone not on the payroll or subscriber list of the von Mises Institute, Chronicles, or The American Conservative as a dolt.

  • Lucky you, Art.

    And there is a massive difference between going “you are not a conservative” and saying “See? See? You really agree with ME!” (Possibly one of the most annoying college liberal debate tactics. I’d gladly harm the guy who taught it to my cousin.)

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .