The first round of The American Conservative’s presidential symposium can be found here. A few contributors were unable to send in items by Wednesday, and some additional friends of the magazine asked to be able to participate. Below are items by two prominent editors of traditionalist conservative webzines — Winston Elliott and John Vella — and one from Clark Stooksbury, former assistant editor of Liberty. Also included are TAC blog items published earlier by Samuel Goldman and Daniel Larison.

As with the earlier symposium contributions, none of the perspectives below represents an official endorsement by the magazine or its parent organization — these are solely the opinions of the individual authors.

Winston Elliott

I am a conservative. I desire to restore a republic rooted in faith, family, and local community. I respect the dignity of the human person and oppose political ideologies that promote an abstract liberty. I do not believe our primary enemy is government. Man’s primary enemy is found in original sin and its effects. Contrary to the argument that government is evil, I recognize that government is a tool. It is the persons wielding the tool who may do evil.

In my view the vote for president on November 6th is a choice between the two major party candidates. Sadly, neither of them represents my conservative principles. I will choose the candidate I believe will do the least damage to the Republic and (miracles do happen) will work to reduce the size and scope of the federal leviathan. The voting booth is where we make practical choices. To think it is the place to declare our principles is folly.

We don’t have to like either candidate. We aren’t picking a roommate. As in much of life we are not presented with an ideal choice but choose we must or others will do it for us.
The sad truth is that many Americans believe that we should have a nanny state that will take care of us. Is this the fault of the politicians? No, it is the failure of the citizens of the Republic. The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves.

I will vote for Governor Romney. I disagree with him on many issues and I am particularly concerned that he will be prone to involve us in new nation-building follies. Still, I think he will be significantly better than President Obama. And yet, not as good as Senator Rand Paul or Ted Cruz (the next senator from Texas) would be. But they are not on the presidential ballot. It is Romney vs. Obama. The lesser of two evils still involves some evil. Welcome to the human dilemma.

Winston Elliott is co-editor of The Imaginative Conservative.

Samuel W. Goldman

I was prevented by hurricane preparations from participating in TAC‘s election symposium. For the record, however, I’d like to add my thoughts to the excellent contributions by staff and friends of the magazine.The first consideration, as Peter Brimelow points out, is that our votes don’t matter much in many states. New York, where I live, will inevitably go for Obama.

On the one hand, this is liberating: I can vote however I like without feeling responsible for the outcome. On the other hand, it’s a bit dispiriting. In a democracy, one likes to feel that one’s voice counts. It’s not that I hope to be the deciding vote, which both statistics and common sense find to be very unlikely. But it would be nice to believe that the outcome in my jurisdiction isn’t predetermined.

Nevertheless, we have the Electoral College, and New York is now and perhaps forever solidly Democratic. So what to do?

I could cast a symbolic vote for Mitt Romney. But I find his lack of principle, glib salesmanship, and indulgence of the neoconservative imagination impossible to approve. His economic plan is non-existent. And his utterances on foreign policy range from oblivious to frightening. Strongly pro-life voters might have a reason to overlook these defects. I do not.

Or, I could join Noah Millman, Justin Raimondo, and Leon Hadar, among others, in voting for Obama. This was, in fact, my original plan. But I just can’t do it.

Many of my objections to Obama revolve around his responses to problems that he did not create: the Bush precedents on executive power; the mounting fiscal crisis; the capture of the economy by the finance industry; and the intellectual bankruptcy of his party. But the President is a rather colorless political operator rather than the visionary many of his supporters expected. He has demonstrated no ability, and perhaps not even the ambition, to escape these poisonous legacies.

If I lived in a swing state, my fear Romney will seek another war would outweigh these objections and lead me to vote reluctantly for Obama. I live in a blue state, however, and I’m free to be irresponsible. So I will vote for Gary Johnson, who is personally unimpressive but promotes a number of positions that I care about, including reducing our military commitments, restoring our civil liberties, and ending the disastrous drug war.

I suppose that it will be a protest vote, then. But isn’t it worth protesting the fact that we’re presented with two bad options in election after election?

Samuel W. Goldman blogs for TAC’s State of the Union.

Daniel Larison

I didn’t send in a contribution to the symposium earlier this week, but I’ll try to make up for that omission here. The truth is that I forgot to register to vote here in Texas before the deadline passed, and as a result I won’t be voting in this year’s election at all. It wasn’t entirely a deliberate decision not to vote, but I obviously didn’t consider it much of a priority once I moved here. This is the first time that I haven’t voted in a state or federal election since I have been able to vote, which seemed strange at first, but it did help me appreciate just how much of an empty ritual it often is.

If I had registered, I would most likely have supported Johnson for president for the obvious reasons that his views on foreign policy and civil liberties, while not exactly my own, are so much better than anything offered by the other candidates that it isn’t even close. He is far and away the most credible candidate with respect to fiscal responsibility. Growing up in New Mexico, I was there for most of Johnson’s tenure as governor, and while he promoted some bad ideas (e.g., casino gaming, privatizing prisons) he mostly did well by the state. Especially when there is no chance that New Mexico will have any impact on the outcome, I hope that New Mexicans give him a respectable amount of support. As far as most of the other elections are concerned, I have been a resident in Texas so briefly that it seems preposterous that I should have any say in choosing state and local officials, and the Senate and House races are bound to be so lopsided in favor of the Republican candidates that it makes no difference whether I vote in these elections or not.

Daniel Larison is a TAC senior editor. His blog is www.theamericanconservative.com/larison.

Clark Stooksbury

I already voted in Tennessee. After two decades of protest voting for various third-party alternatives from Ron Paul to Ralph Nader, I pulled the lever for Barack Obama this time. I did so with some reservations, but with no doubt about whom I prefer to see in office.
I’m concerned primarily with temperament and competence. Mitt Romney and the GOP have shown themselves to be so contemptuous of reality that they can’t be trusted with the levers of power.

I would like to see any number of serious political changes in this country, including but not limited to a non-(or less) interventionist foreign policy, a reduction in the dominance of corporations and the very wealthy, and an effort to deal with climate change and other serious environmental challenges. Seeing no prospect of meaningful reform on the horizon, I am willing to settle for a flawed president and party who actually care about governing.

Clark Stooksbury blogs at http://clarkstooksbury.blogspot.com/

John M. Vella

I voted for the first time during my high school senior year in 1984. It was my good fortune to have on the ballot that year Phil Crane — reputed to be one of the most conservative members of Congress — and, of course, President Ronald Reagan at the top of the ticket. Since then, I have never missed a chance to cast a ballot in a national election.

My participation in the political process has one objective: to advance conservative principles. Many conservatives and libertarians are disheartened by their choices. There have been times when my only option was to vote for the lesser of two evils. It has become a long-standing complaint among conservatives that our ideal candidates for higher office rarely get on the national ballot. And it is true that the Republican Party contains influential members who do not share our beliefs. But opportunities remain to defy careerist party leaders and their wealthy country-club enablers. Consider the fact that we recently removed from office deadwood like Senator Dick Lugar and elected authentic conservatives like Senator Rand Paul. Here in Pennsylvania, the establishment Republican Party candidate for U.S. Senate was defeated in the primary precisely because he was not conservative enough.

Romney certainly wasn’t my first choice during the primary. But if we want conservative legislation enacted into law, we need a president who will sign it. Ultimately, conservatives can’t reduce federal power until they transform the culture. But in the meantime, we should not abdicate our responsibility to work at the grass roots to change our representation in Washington. The only alternative is absolute political impotence.

John M. Vella is editor of Crisis Magazine.