A Lifelong Republican’s Path to the Libertarian Party
A Lifelong Republican’s Path to the Libertarian Party: Why this is the year I vote third party for the first time in a presidential election and also end my registration with the GOP.
This Tuesday I shall be casting a vote for Gary Johnson on my ballot. I live in what has been labeled a crucial swing state this year, and so some might say my vote for a third party has more weight than it would under different circumstances or in another state.
I have considered voting Libertarian in the past, but I always ultimately decided that would be “throwing my vote away” and I would be wiser to vote strategically for the proverbial lesser of two evils. It is a persuasive argument but one I have finally decided to reject. For the first time since I was old enough to vote, the Republican candidate for President will not have my vote in 2012.
I grew up in the 1980s. My earliest memories of a president are of Ronald Reagan, and Bush the Elder was Commander-in-Chief during formative years. From a young age I was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. In the mold of Alex P. Keaton I wore a tie to middle-school, and ardently defended Dan Quayle’s misspelling of potatoe. The election of 2000 was the first I was old enough to cast a vote in. I proudly registered as a Republican and have been one ever since (though that is about to change).
During the 2000 Republican primaries I supported John McCain. When George W. Bush won the party’s nomination I dutifully fell into line and cast my vote accordingly. When the freshly inaugurated president rolled out his new cabinet, it was obvious to me that a Gulf War redux was in the offing. By the end of President Bush’s first term I was very disenchanted with my party. I suppose my latent Libertarian hackles were raised one too many times by the apparent emergence of a police state, the passage of the PATRIOT Act (and its changes to FISA and the Right to Financial Privacy Act) and the climate of fear being exploited by my leaders. As Rahm Emanuel would say, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Unfortunately Republicans subscribe to that same philosophy as well. I saw how easily people would surrender their freedoms and liberty in the name of security, and how unscrupulous even my own party could be in seizing such an advantage. The polish had certainly begun to come off the Republican Party for me by the election of 2004, but I wouldn’t be ready to jump ship just yet.
In 2004 I had none of the enthusiasm for the GOP ticket that I did in 2000. I knew little about the Libertarian party; it was the answer to a trivia question about Ron Silver or Dean Cameron, but not a serious contender for my vote I am sorry to say. So I watched the Democratic primaries with wary open-mindedness. I remember the General Wesley Clark with his heavy makeup and Madonna endorsement, and Howard Dean’s infamous screech. I was sincerely considering casting my vote for John Kerry when he won his party’s nomination, but all that open-mindedness clenched when John Edwards was selected for the VP slot. Even before his more recent scandals, Edwards embodied all that was wrong with politics in my eyes – the antithesis of a good statesman. He spouted Democratic talking points like a doll with a pull-string, speaking only words and phrases which had been poll-tested for the highest rhetorical value. His true motives and beliefs were masked behind a gossamer façade, and the only thing I knew for certain John Edwards cared about was more power for John Edwards. The idea of such a man one heartbeat away from the Presidency appalled and frightened me, and so my ballot in 2004 was less a vote for George W. Bush than it was a vote against John Edwards. Even though I do not share a similar fear of Sarah Palin, I can understand and empathize with those who used their votes strategically against a would-be Vice President.
The years following the election of 2004 were something of an Age of Enlightenment for me. I had always been a news junkie and interested in history, but I began to learn and study much more intensely. The more I read and learned about the origins of our nation, the men we know as our founding fathers, the humanist and revolutionary movements of the 18th century, the writings of political philosophers like Locke, Hobbes, Voltaire and Rousseau (not to mention contemporaries like Judge Napolitano), the tribulations and experiments of societies throughout human history, and the true meanings of liberty, freedom and Natural Law, the more apparent it became to me that I was more of a Libertarian than I was a Republican. I believed in limited government and personal freedom, yet always felt a little uneasy with the rigid intolerance of the “religious right”, the legislating of morality, and the hawkish warmongering of the Neocons in the Republican party. Still, I bought into the argument that a vote for a third party was a vote wasted, or worse, the same as a vote for the liberal. By 2008, I identified myself as “a registered Republican, but more a Libertarian,” and I would have one vote left to cast for a GOP candidate.
During the Republican primaries of 2008 I was heavily engaged in the process and steeped in political news. I was impressed by Rudy Giuliani’s natural leadership during the primary debates. I was more impressed by Ron Paul and his well-articulated case for a government that truly adhered to the guidelines and spirit of the Constitution. I had also admired John McCain for his ability to compromise and – more importantly – his ability and willingness to make an independent decision. Regular citizens have the luxury of judging each issue separately and deciding how they feel about it. Members of the major political parties have their positions on each issue decided for them by the party leadership, and breaking ranks to vote one’s conscience is Congress can have serious consequences such as loss of party support in future elections. I had supported John McCain in 2000, and the stigma of a maverick was a quality to appreciate in my eyes (the same can certainly be said of Ron Paul). I cast my vote in 2008 for John McCain, believing that he was the far lesser of two evils and that a vote for Bob Barr would be a vote wasted.
It is now 2012. I supported Ron Paul wholeheartedly in the primary season. I maintained my Republican registration so that I could support Ron Paul in my state caucus. I feel that our country is at a point where half-measures and platitudes are not going to be enough to reverse course. The fiscal crisis we face is dire enough, to say nothing of our ever-eroding freedoms in the name of safety. Whether freedom and liberty have never been more under threat than they are now, or whether I am only now able to finally see and understand the magnitude of the threat which has been growing steadily for years, one thing is certain: I can no longer give my vote in good conscience to a party that scorns my values and takes me for granted. Over this last year as the election has drawn ever closer, I have debated whether it is better to attempt to reform the Republican party from outside or within. I have heard Rick Santorum say he wishes to purge the party of people like me, and Bill Kristol say the party would be better off without me. I have seen Ron Paul maltreated and dismissed by the GOP establishment.
I see the Republicans and Democrats now as little more than two wings of the same Big Government party. All of the very worst things about the recent Bush Administration and its increases in federal power and erosions of privacy and freedom have been continued by President Obama (and many have been strengthened). On so many of the issues that truly matter to me, Romney and Obama are in total agreement. I am truly sick and disgusted by this puppet theater which presents us with two choices that are alleged to be fundamentally and diametrically opposed. In reality, the only difference is that the Republicans wish to balloon the deficit only slightly less rapidly than the Democrats, and to impose a slightly different flavor of Big Brother and mandated morality on the nation (and the world). The mainstream media purports to be impartial messengers of fact, but that sort of journalism is an endangered species now to say the least. When the Commission on Presidential Debates allows the two major parties to strongarm a change in the rules that raises the bar for third party participation, it is violating its mandate. When those in the media conduct their own polls which include only two options and deny a third party candidate a chance to qualify, and then represent to the country that there are only two options to choose between, they are making the news rather than reporting it.
This year, I am not going to use my vote to attempt to block someone else’s vote. I am not going to give my vote to a proverbial lesser evil because I am told it has the best chance of defeating a greater evil. The Republican party is not entitled to my vote, though I believe they have already taken for granted that they will receive the votes of many others like me who supported Ron Paul. On Tuesday, I shall be voting for the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, because he is the only candidate who even remotely shares my values. Thanks to our confounding electoral college system, this notion that my vote really matters might all be a delusion. If, on the other hand, my vote can make a difference and I am joined by others who will vote their conscience with me, perhaps the Republican party will feel the sting of this loss and be forced to reconsider the rightful place and voice of their Libertarian wing in the future. The Republican party will certainly have to win me back into the ranks. The vote and member they lose this year is a gain for the Libertarian party.
Regardless of this election’s outcome, the fight for freedom has gained a new crusader. I am jumping into the fray with both feet, and this is only the first of many posts to come covering my thoughts on a variety of issues: gun control, abortion, Jihadism, liberal and conservative ideology, American history and much more.