The Right Choice?
This election offers particularly dismal prospects for conservatives: the Senate’s most liberal member versus a Republican who combines the worst policies of George W. Bush with an erratic temper and a thinly veiled contempt for the Right. No third-party candidate has been able to break past the margins to mount an insurgent campaign.
Given these impoverished alternatives, no easy consensus emerges. So rather than contrive to deliver an official endorsement, we asked friends from a variety of disciplines and perspectives to discuss how they are voting, whether they see their vote as advancing a particular issue or fitting into a larger strategy, and what conflicts their choice might entail. Some may surprise, others confound, perhaps a few will persuade.
John Patrick Diggins
Robert A. Pape
Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.
Gerald J. Russello
As an immigrant (although a U.S. citizen), I find it touching how Americans deliberate so earnestly over which candidate for president is worthy of their world-historic vote. Civics 101 teachers everywhere must be proud. But the plain fact is that, in most states, an individual vote doesn’t matter a hoot. In most states, it’s never in doubt that one or the other major-party candidate will win. And even when it is in doubt, elections are almost never decided by a single vote.
So the rational thing to do, in the immortal words of George Wallace (who was good at it) is: send them a message. Politics now is notoriously dominated by the marketing mindset, which is why we have content-free and purely reactive celebrity campaigns. But marketers will recognize a market segment when they see one. And by single-issue voting for minor-party candidates, you identify a market segment, which is why the GOP is swayed by the relatively small Right to Life market bloc: everybody knows that, if dissed, these people will bolt.
In August, the Census Bureau finally acknowledged what has been obvious for some time: because of the massive nontraditional immigration triggered by the 1965 Immigration Act, and the simultaneous collapse of law enforcement against illegal immigration, American whites will become a minority by 2042. The U.S. government is literally, to paraphrase Brecht’s quip about how the East German Communists should respond to the 1953 riots, dissolving the people and electing a new one. This is a demographic transformation without precedent. It should at least be discussed. But incredibly, both major party candidates have tacitly agreed to bury the issue.
So I would vote for Chuck Baldwin, the candidate of the Constitution Party, who wants no amnesty, no more illegal immigration, and a reduction in legal immigration. In states where Baldwin is not on the ballot, I’d think about voting for the Libertarian Party’s Bob Barr, who had an excellent immigration record as a Republican congressman and who has not totally capitulated to the culturally illiterate left-libertarianism that now dominates the movement after the tragic demise of Murray Rothbard and paleolibertarianism. (Ralph Nader is poor on immigration. All of these candidates oppose the war.) I would write in Baldwin, except that most states make that almost as difficult as getting on the ballot and don’t always count write-in votes anyway.
Oh, and Obama and Whatshisname? I’m indifferent. I don’t think President Obama will dare push an amnesty through because the Republicans would oppose it, whereas enough stupid Republicans will fall in line behind a McCain amnesty to give the Democrats bipartisan cover. But at least a McCain presidency would make it clear even to Republican loyalists what Pat Buchanan concluded in 2000: there is no solution for America but a new party.
Peter Brimelow is the editor of VDARE.COM, where his 1995 book, Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster, is available as a free pdf download.
Barring an act of God, or an ugly racist reaction among the white middle classes, Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States. In full premonition of which, I am voting for the McCain ticket.
Why this exercise in futility?
Loyalty, I suppose. In September 2007, I sent John McCain a check, with a note saying that though I disagreed with him on many issues, I admired his integrity. At that time, I thought Hillary Clinton was going to be the Democratic choice, and I preferred Senator McCain to the nakedness of Mrs. Clinton’s ambition.
I am plenty mad at the Republican Party and would enjoy watching the entire double-talking leadership and its unctuous apparatus throughout the states fried in oil. I still disagree with maverick McCain plenty on the issues, and every time he says “my friends,” I wince almost as wretchedly as when George W. Bush ends his sentences with that awful moue of his upper lip, producing a smirk which in turn suggests a revolting fullness of self-satisfaction.
A major gripe about the good senator is that he has not set forth a coherent agenda. What does he plan to do about anything? What vision does he have for our country? He is running on his decency, and though we Americans admire moral virtue, in the dragpit of Washington politics, decency can be an impediment.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, for all his muddy shifting with the political winds, has made his vision clear, and it is doctrinaire Democratic left-wing socialism and therefore too depressing for words. I hew to the belief that he is also a decent man and probably politically more savvy than John McCain. He may learn. He may be knocked off his horse on the way to Damascus. But I can’t vote for the prospect of Obama’s education. So I vote McCain. Unlike the Beltway snobs (an insular pathology that now defines the East Coast from Bangor, Maine to Key West), I place my trust in Sarah Palin. Dadgummit, by golly, she speaks the American language of the plains and the frontier. I trust it, and her.
Reid Buckley is founder of the Buckley School of Public Speaking and author, most recently, of An American Family: The Buckleys.
John Patrick Diggins
The banking crisis is affecting the country in ways that no one predicted, except for the government regulators who were forced from their jobs for warning about the consequences of deregulation. America has gambled with Wall Street and lost, yet neither presidential candidate sees fit to discuss the causes of the catastrophe. Political campaigns are not a time for reflection. Just as Americans express frustration with the war in Iraq when they should be angry with themselves for supporting it on the flimsiest of evidence, so it is with the economy. Neither McCain nor Obama has the slightest idea of what to do, and neither dares to acknowledge that substantial taxes may be necessary to pay for such massive spending. This election is, like so many others, a study in systematic evasion.
In foreign affairs, the choice between McCain and Obama is the choice between the frying pan and the fire. One aspirant to the presidency is happy to see America stay in Iraq for even a hundred years. The other would pull American troops out of Iraq in order to leap into Afghanistan, a land of pot growers, bandits, Taliban zealots, jihadist training camps, and ferocious Pashtun fighters that neither the British empire nor the Soviet Union could subdue.
Whoever wins the White House may carry on the cynical tradition of the Republican Party. In the ’50s, candidate Eisenhower promised he knew what to do about the Korean War. Americans expected a military solution, only to discover that the general aimed to withdraw. In the ’70s, Nixon and Kissinger charged the Democrats with losing Vietnam and assured us that they had turned the war around by leaving South Vietnam stable and militarily strong—only for the whole country to fall to communism weeks after America departed. In the ’80s, Reagan withdrew from Lebanon with the same rationale: even though 241 Marines had been slaughtered in their barracks, the task force succeeded in doing the “job it was sent to do in Beirut.”
Republicans have no trouble losing a war and calling it a victory, and some of them are voting for McCain for that reason. Obama, in contrast, is stuck with a war he opposed, and politics may force him to stay the course. Still, I prefer the professor to the warrior. McCain claims he is thinking only about the good of the country, then chooses as his running mate a gun-happy huntress who supported the Alaskan independence movement, which advocates secession from the United States. No wonder she is idolized by those who disdain the very federal government that built the Alaskan Highway. As Orwell observed, those receiving benefits always hate the benefactor.
John Patrick Diggins is a professor of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and the author of Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History.
This will be the first year since I was old enough to vote that I will not cast a ballot in a presidential election. I quote a character from Richard Linklater’s “Slacker” in my defense: “Withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy.”
I can’t vote for Barack Obama. He is a pro-abortion zealot and wrong on all the issues that matter most to social conservatives. Mind you, one should not be under any illusion that things will markedly improve under another Republican administration. But there is no question that on issues related to the sanctity of life and traditional marriage, an Obama administration, with a Democratic Congress at its back, would be far worse.
The best case that can be made for John McCain is that he would serve as something of a brake on runaway liberalism. But the country would be at significantly greater risk of war with the intemperate and bellicose McCain in the White House. That was clear months ago, but his conduct during the fall campaign—especially contrasted with Obama’s steadiness—has made me even more uneasy. His selection of Sarah Palin, while initially heartening to populist-minded social conservatives, has proved disastrous. Though plainly a politician of real talent, the parochial Palin is stunningly ill-suited for high office, and that’s a terrible mark against McCain’s judgment.
As both a conservative and a Republican, I confess that we deserve to lose this year. We have governed badly and have earned the wrath of voters, who will learn in due course how inadequate the nostrums of liberal Democrats are to the crisis of our times. If I cannot in good faith cast a vote against the Bush years by voting for Obama, I can at least do so by withholding my vote from McCain.
While it is foolish to look forward to a decisive electoral defeat for one’s side, I can’t say that the coming rout will be a bad thing. The Right desperately needs to repent, rethink, and rebuild—and only the pain of a shattering loss will force conservatives to confront reality. Not only must there be a renewal of our political vision and message—and this time, dissenters from within the Right must be heard—but there must also be a realization at the grassroots that we have long given too much importance to politics and not enough to building cultural institutions at the local level.
The present and future economic traumas brought upon the nation by elites in both parties will minimize the role politics will play in the lives of ordinary Americans. The binge spending that Democrats and Republicans alike engaged in over the past 30 years, and the concomitant failure to be good stewards of the country’s long-term economic future, will enervate the government in the decades to come, though the growth of Leviathan in the short term is assured. Local, intermediate institutions—Burke’s little platoons—will become more important to the survival of communities. There is a rich treasury of traditionalist conservative wisdom ready to be liberated from the hegemony of the conservative establishment that failed.
Rod Dreher is an editor at the Dallas Morning News and the author of Crunchy Cons.
I’m voting for Barack Obama this November for a very simple reason. It is hard to imagine a more disastrous presidency than that of George W. Bush. It was bad enough that he launched an unnecessary war and undermined the standing of the United States throughout the world in his first term. But in the waning days of his administration, he is presiding over a collapse of the American financial system and broader economy that will have consequences for years to come. As a general rule, democracies don’t work well if voters do not hold political parties accountable for failure. While John McCain is trying desperately to pretend that he never had anything to do with the Republican Party, I think it would a travesty to reward the Republicans for failure on such a grand scale.
McCain’s appeal was always that he could think for himself, but as the campaign has progressed, he has seemed simply erratic and hotheaded. His choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate was highly irresponsible; we have suffered under the current president who entered office without much knowledge of the world and was easily captured by the wrong advisers. McCain’s lurching from Reaganite free- marketer to populist tribune makes one wonder whether he has any underlying principles at all.
America has been living in a dream world for the past few years, losing its basic values of thrift and prudence and living far beyond its means, even as it has lectured the rest of the world to follow its model. At a time when the U.S. government has just nationalized a good part of the banking sector, we need to rethink a lot of the Reaganite verities of the past generation regarding taxes and regulation. Important as they were back in the 1980s and ’90s, they just won’t cut it for the period we are now entering. Obama is much better positioned to reinvent the American model and will certainly present a very different and more positive face of America to the rest of the world.
Francis Fukuyama is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
A better writer said of a charmless woman that rousing any affection for her would be like “smoking an unlit cigar, walking a dead dog, swimming in an empty pool, or listening to the radio when it is off.” The same goes for the Republican nominee. When John McCain appears on screen, all vacant grin and Eeyore cadence, I reach for the mute button. I hate his wars. I don’t trust his maverick pose. When he says “my friends,” he doesn’t mean me. But I am voting for him.
Call it damage control. Come January, the Senate will be firmly in Democratic hands, perhaps with a filibuster-proof majority. And if current projections hold, some 30 House seats could shift left. Republicans face a long exile from the Hill—not that their presence has made much difference. They colluded with an ostensibly conservative president to launch a war we cannot win and swell federal spending by 40 percent.
Still, installing the Senate’s most leftist member in the White House, with a Congress eager to do his bidding, is to invite radical mischief. After a four-year tour through the outer limits of the liberal imagination, the Republic might not recognize herself.
That’s not to say that President McCain would inaugurate an age of welcome gridlock. Indeed, he would count it a point of pride to work with the Democratic Congress to enact his worst policies—and he has many. But there is a sliver of hope that they will occasionally clash. He is, after all, a man ever in search of targets for his rage.
The great risk is that he would find them not in Harry Reid’s office but in Tehran. That is the worst-case scenario, but there is at least some chance that it will not come to pass. With Obama, the worst-case scenario—boundless expansion of federal prerogatives—is promised at every whistle stop. A compliant Congress would guarantee that the airy speeches become ugly reality.
So put me down as an advocate of partisanship and shutdowns, of do-nothing Congresses and presidents with time to practice their putting. Let ideologues mire themselves in fruitless debate, cancel each other’s mad ambitions, and tie themselves in such splendid knots that no one’s utopia gains an estate.
Without doubt, my decision to vote for Barack Obama for president began when I watched his televised speech to the Democratic Convention in 2004. Today on the cold page of the computer printout, it loses something. Outside of the electrifying moment of his delivery, the speech contains less than I remembered. But what is there explains the reverberations in so many parts of my inherited mental and moral universe.
Obama’s telling of his—and our—American story rang true to our struggles, ideals, and times, from his opening expression of “deep gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention” to his closing prayer that out of trouble and cynicism “our country will reclaim its promise.” For living in these times has entailed a growing acquaintance with what Bob Dylan termed “the morals of despair.” From the “culture of greed,” as Kevin Phillips put it, and the obscene rich/poor gap to unilateralism and a deadly and costly war, family and community disintegration, immoral business and political practices, and economic collapse, sources of self-respect and respect in the world are hard to find. Obama echoes the call of some of our keenest social critics for a remoralization of politics and society. Wendell Berry, for one, has emphasized the need for an attitude of “stewardship” as an alternative to exploitation, manipulation, aggression, and selfishness. This message, not traceable to current notions of Republican and Democrat, recalls our commitments to the humbling, soul-leveling inspiration that is democracy, the dignity of hard work, individual and communal responsibility, and unity beyond race and other false boundaries.
Whether Obama follows through on this clarion call if elected is the question. An all-Democratic federal government cannot help but raise worries about best intentions lost in the wake of a latter-day welfare state or a new lease on life for the entitlement mentality. In an ideal world, I might have more confidence in a McBama ticket, with Obama’s antiwar stance, pro-middle-class policies, and deep sense of humanity and McCain’s long record of independent-mindedness, fiscal conservatism, and promotion of individual initiative and responsibility. Obama reminds us that far from threatening it, dissent is a crucial component of love of country; McCain practices this principle with courage. The candidates’ reflections on their own life stories bear an uncanny resemblance that appears to transcend political purposes. Both seem truly humbled by the struggles they faced and indebted to this country for whatever grace they have enjoyed. As such, either would be a great advance beyond the current mindless, heartless, and soulless administration that has caused nearly fatal damage to our democratic aspirations.
Yet neither one is what we really need. A leader in a democracy is no better and no worse than the people he serves, since it is the people and not the leaders that govern: despite the nonsense of our celebrity culture and the ever present corrupting potential of political popularity, a leader is just one of the people. For any significant change to occur, all must help through their everyday behavior, just as these two men have, at their best, embodied our ideals through their words and actions. Taking inspiration, each of us must make our humble contribution to our collective destiny and prove the I, me, mine mentality of recent times does not reflect what we wish to be. This seems the basis of the vision and spirit of defiant hope Obama is invoking. If he does win the election it will be up to us to remind him, our other political leaders, and ourselves of just what he stands for—or what we thought he stood for when we elected him—just as he is reminding so many Americans of what we stand for. And what we do not.
Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn teaches history at Syracuse University. She is the author of Race Experts: How Racial Etiquette, Diversity Training, and New Age Therapy Hijacked the Civil Rights Revolution.
I plan to vote for Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate. Although the former Georgia congressman has had his differences with Ron Paul—who was the Libertarian nominee 20 years ago—Barr and the LP still represent the closest thing in this election to Paul’s positions.
The current financial crisis requires a clear explanation if there is to be a solution now and for the future. Congressman Paul has articulated its causes: the Federal Reserve’s soft money policies flooded the banks with credit, and they sought ever weaker debtors. The solution is the gold standard, which will limit the power of the Federal Reserve to cheapen the value of money.
Throughout the primary season and afterwards, Ron Paul spoke truth to power on behalf of the American people regarding the emerging financial crisis. Many citizens, especially the young, have listened to his analysis. This response to Paul’s monetary analysis coincides with the results of a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, which found 59 percent of those polled agreed with Ronald Reagan’s statement that government is the problem.
Neither of the presidential candidates of the major parties is in agreement with the majority of the American people. The two candidates have been the products of poor systems of nomination in 2008.
Lately, I wondered if there would be a change. In late September, I was at Reagan National Airport traveling to a Hillsdale College conference when John McCain said he was suspending his campaign due to the crisis. Was it possible that he would support the Republican majority in the House of Representatives by opposing the Bush administration’s bailout plan? Instead of placing himself at the head of these Republicans, he conceded to the administration.
In the presidential contest, the Libertarian Party is the clear choice for opponents of the Paulson plan and the government policies that precipitated the crash.
Leonard Liggio is executive vice president of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and distinguished senior scholar at the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University.
Given the choice between John McCain and Barack Obama, the Democrat clearly represents the lesser evil, if not by much. The closest parallel to this election might be the contest 40 years ago between Richard Nixon and Hubert H. Humphrey—both of them pro-war, government-expanding, anti-civil-liberties Keynesians. Obama, with his not-to-be-believed promises of getting out of Iraq, is a peace candidate in the same way Nixon, with his secret plan to end the Vietnam War, was. McCain certainly has much in common with Humphrey: he too would continue the policies of Lyndon Johnson, which are also the policies of George W. Bush.
Fortunately, we do not have to sail straight into Scylla or Charybdis. Yet the Libertarian and Constitution parties, which should have been able to capitalize on discontent with the GOP this year, if ever, have again shown themselves to be irrelevant or counterproductive. The Libertarians nominated a professional politician and ran a slick campaign—or at least a campaign run by a slickster, Russ Verney—but in the process alienated actual libertarians. (Not only did Barr feud with Ron Paul, Verney sent out a campaign e-mail lauding Bush’s “incredible leadership” after 9/11. Who needs Libertarians like that?) The Constitution Party chose the opposite path, repulsing a takeover attempt by Alan Keyes and remaining true to principle—at the cost of the party’s California ballot line. The lesson is plain: a minor party’s commitment to principle is inversely proportional to its political effectiveness.
Voting symbolically is one thing—that’s what almost all of us do anyway since statistically our votes are not likely to sway the outcome. But organizing symbolically, committing hundreds of thousands of dollars and man-hours to third parties, is a waste of capital and talent that could be put to better use in Republican or Democratic primaries. The difference between Ron Paul’s 1988 Libertarian campaign and his 2008 Republican bid illustrates the point. Forget the minors; take over the majors.
With that in mind, I’m writing in Ron Paul for president and Barry Goldwater Jr. for vice president. Why agonize over whether Barr or Baldwin is the better constitutionalist, when you can cast your ballot for the very best? A vote for Paul is an endorsement of all he has accomplished (and might yet achieve) and a rejection of the often honorable but never effective course of the third parties.
Remember the neoconservatives? Three years ago they were a hot topic, as people all over the world tried to understand why the United States had invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. Then interest waned. First Paul Wolfowitz, then Doug Feith, then Don Rumsfeld left the administration. George W. Bush, who asked his dad “What’s a neocon?” in the summer of 2004, took their counsel less. Core neocon concepts—a blend of forceful rhetoric about expanding democracy, contempt for most existing democratic countries, and enthusiasm for starting wars—began to seem unhinged from reality. They had dreamed up the Iraq War to transform the Middle East, argued it was pointless for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, agitated for attacks on Iran. Without repudiating them directly, Robert Gates and Condi Rice eased them from the stage.
John McCain wants to bring them back, in triumph, on horseback. Unlike Bush, McCain is a neocon true believer; Wilsonian bellicosity has visceral appeal for him. A McCain victory would mean, in short order, an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Joshua Muravchik, a candid and well-connected neoconservative whom I’ve known for 25 years, affirmed this unequivocally at a Nixon Center debate last month. Iran is now the principal neoconservative obsession—as it is for Israel’s hawks, who ludicrously paint Tehran as Nazi Berlin. McCain jokes about bombing Iran, but the consequences would not be amusing. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs, has warned that an Israeli strike would put American forces in Iraq at grave risk. If America bombs, the consequences would be worse. As Secretary of Defense Gates warned a group of senators recently, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.”
That’s not all. Top McCain advisers like Robert Kagan seek to reignite a Cold War with Russia: Kagan recently told a Washington audience he wouldn’t want to live in a world in which Russia had a preponderance of influence over Georgia. Elliott Abrams, son-in-law of Norman “World War IV” Podhoretz, is reportedly in line to head McCain’s National Security Council. As a Bush appointee, he’s worked at stymieing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Expect a McCain administration to back the Netanyahu policy of turning the West Bank into isolated bantustans instead of a Palestinian state.
For these reasons, I’m voting for Obama. While he doesn’t inspire me, he does impress. His two-year campaign has been disciplined and intelligent. He has surrounded himself with the mainstream liberal types who staffed the Clinton administration. Like countless social democratic leaders before him, he probably was more left-wing when he was younger. Circumstance and ambition have pushed him to the center. If elected, he will inherit an office burdened with massive financial and foreign-policy problems. Unlike John McCain, he won’t try to bomb his way out of the mess.
I am not voting for president in 2008.
This was not an easy decision, but all the candidates are flawed, at least if you believe in limited government, civil liberties, free markets, and a foreign policy far less bellicose than what we have today.
Take John McCain. He said during the New Hampshire primary that keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years would be fine. He supported retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that violated federal law by opening their networks to the National Security Agency. He voted for the Communications Decency Act, for restrictions on law-abiding citizens selling firearms at gun shows, and for the Real ID Act. And then there’s the McCain-Feingold law’s restrictions on political speech.
You’d hope that a Republican would at least be solid on taxes. McCain is not. On Internet taxes alone, in two of three votes I tabulated for a 2006 tech scorecard, McCain voted in the pro-tax direction. The broader scorecard from Americans for Tax Reform shows that McCain voted against the 2001 Bush tax cuts, against a permanent repeal of the death tax, and against the subsequent 2003 acceleration of the tax cuts. Those were arguably the three most important tax-related votes in the last decade.
Barack Obama has called for a complete withdrawal of American troops by a date certain and says in his platform that the date “would be the summer of 2010—more than 7 years after the war began.” But Obama appears to support other tenets of modern American foreign policy, including keeping troops in scores of foreign countries at American taxpayers’ expense and intervening on behalf of repressive regimes despised by their own peoples. Then there’s his position on taxes and regulation.
The Libertarians could have been fun this year. But they picked Bob Barr, who has spent his entire adult life agitating against small-L libertarian traditions and has acted bizarrely during portions of the campaign.
Plus, I now live in California, making my vote approximately as important as when I used to live in the Democratic stronghold of Washington, D.C. So on Nov. 4, I’ll be joining a majority of my fellow nonvoting Americans and actually doing something productive that day.
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent and senior writer for CNET and writes a weekly column titled “Other People’s Money” for CBS News.
Robert A. Pape
I strongly support Barack Obama for president. In the past, I have supported both Republicans and Democrats, choosing the candidate with the leadership qualities and foreign-policy principles most likely to advance the national security of the United States. Of course, we have no crystal balls, but leaders with sound judgment on core policies and courage to look beyond political winds of the moment greatly improve the odds of long-term success. Obama scores uncommonly high on the “judgment-courage” index, qualities that will be needed as our next president seeks to repair the damage from the triple train wreck of our overstretched military, underperforming economy, and floundering international reputation that is now undermining our national security.
My respect for Obama rests on three main points. First, he has consistently demonstrated clear-eyed judgment on the most important national-security issue of our time—Iraq. In October 2002, when 70 percent of the public and most Democratic politicians supported the war, Obama delivered one of the first high-profile speeches against the invasion. I had just joined 32 scholars of national-security affairs in the New York Times sounding the same warnings. But Obama did more, putting his future political career on the line for the best interests of our country.
Second, Obama has developed an important new “Over-the-Horizon” strategy for achieving America’s core national-security goals in the Persian Gulf without provoking terrorists or overstretching our Army. From my work on suicide terrorism, it is clear that America’s military presence in Muslim countries—especially heavy combat forces—is a powerful factor in the rise of anti-American suicide terrorism around the world. The Persian Gulf, however, is too important for the U.S. to cut and run. We need a new strategic approach to the region, one that moves American combat forces “off-shore,” relying primarily on air and naval forces stationed on ships or bases on the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula. Obama’s policy is heading precisely in the right direction and is crucial to our future security.
Third, Obama is committed to approaching global threats with global solutions, encouraging multilateralism and dialogue where possible. With America’s abysmal reputation in the world, this is truly a needed change. International opinion polls show that majorities or strong pluralities in most countries oppose Iranian nuclear weapons. This is not simply an American or Israeli obsession. But we need a new diplomatic approach to develop sound American policies that take advantage of this underlying international consensus, working with others in a meaningful way, precisely the new direction that Obama is calling for.
Robert A. Pape is professor of political science at the University of Chicago and the author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.
The critical problem we face today is the same one all mankind has faced: the state, those monopolists who claim the right to break the laws that they make and enforce. How to restrain them is the critical problem of all sound political thinking. Making matters worse, this gang now has a monopoly on the money and the ability to print it, and they are abusing that power at our expense.
How does voting change the situation? Neither of the candidates for president wants to do anything about the problem. On the contrary, they want to make it worse. This is for a reason. The state owns the “democratic process” as surely as it owns the Departments of Labor and Defense and uses it in ways that benefit the state and no one else.
On the other hand, we do have the freedom not to vote. No one has yet drafted us into the voting booth. I suggest that we exercise this right not to participate. It is one of the few rights we have left. Nonparticipation sends a message that we no longer believe in the racket they have cooked up for us, and we want no part of it.
You might say that this is ineffective. But what effect does voting have? It gives them what they need most: a mandate. Nonparticipation helps deny that to them. It makes them, just on the margin, a bit more fearful that they are ruling us without our consent. This is all to the good. The government should fear the people. Not voting is a good beginning toward instilling that fear.
This year especially there is no lesser of two evils. There is socialism or fascism. The true American spirit should guide every voter to have no part of either.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and editor of LewRockwell.com.
Gerald J. Russello
I will not be voting for any federal candidate and will probably be writing in third parties for local elections, if I even step into the voting booth.
There is a strong heritage among some New Yorkers—both aristocratic WASP Republicans and ethnic progressive liberals—that voting is a civic duty that cannot be avoided, even if you prefer none of the candidates. Try as I might, I cannot make any sense of this position. If you believe that none of the candidates presents an attractive option, why vote at all?
In this election, we face choosing between a “maverick” with a penchant for militarism who has been part of the Washington power structure for over two decades, and an inexperienced figure who wants to save us from ourselves, or, as my friend Gene Healy puts it, “the Messiah vs. the prophet of doom.” The only thing they agree on is that Washington is where the power is. Add to that a supine Congress busy giving away its war-making power to the executive, what’s left of the economy to the Treasury secretary, and the decision over any controversial issue to the courts. It is hard to see why voting for one rather than the other would make any discernible difference.
To say that this system has nothing to do with the original constitutional order is a laughable understatement. The candidates trade talking points, but their common assumptions about the centralization of power, the omnipotent power of the president, and the use of American power abroad remain unchallenged. The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre once wrote, “when offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to chose neither.” That advice is well worth taking.
Gerald J. Russello is the author of The Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk and editor of The University Bookman.
Both major party candidates have campaigned against partisan bickering. And yet we are paying a high price for Washington’s bipartisan consensus. Perhaps the least controversial set of programs in all of Washington—the manifold government efforts under both the Clinton and Bush administrations to relax mortgage credit standards to increase minority and low-income home ownership—has turned out among the most disastrous.
America has been driven into the ditch by Washington’s grand strategy—Invade the World, Invite the World, and In Hock to the World or, as Daniel Larison put it, “Imperialism, Immigration, and Insolvency”.
Obama is probably somewhat better than McCain on imperialism. It would be hard to be worse. They’re comparably terrible on immigration. And Obama is likely worse on insolvency. He wrote in his 442-page autobiography, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, about his lifelong efforts to become a leader in his “people’s struggle,” which he assumes, to put it crassly but clearly, is to extract money for his race. Thus Obama has been in bed for decades with ACORN, the radical Left outfit that makes its living shaking down the mortgage industry. Obama sued Citibank during his antidiscrimination lawyer career to get them to lower their standards for handing out mortgages to blacks.
Thus, I intend to do in 2008 what I did during the Bush-Kerry whoop-tee-doo: write in the name of a public figure who is actually trying to solve a major, long-term problem, my friend Ward Connerly. Just as Social Security can’t afford too many retirees per worker, America won’t be able to afford its affirmative-action system when the racial ratio of minority beneficiaries per white benefactor reaches excessive levels. As America becomes majority minority (by 2042, by latest Census projection), the cost of affirmative action will become crippling. By helping get government racial preferences banned by voter initiative in California, Washington, and Michigan, Ward has made the future a little less grim.
When Bob Barr began his campaign for the presidency this past spring, he did so with far more fanfare than usually accompanies the quixotic bids of third-party candidates not named Ralph Nader. And with good reason: Barr is no crank or clumsy ideologue but rather an intelligent and successful politician whose breaks with the Bush administration and Republican establishment had gotten a considerable amount of attention. Barr had the potential, it was thought, to peel away significant numbers of anti-interventionists, civil libertarians, committed federalists, and small-government conservatives and libertarians from the repugnant John McCain and the weak-kneed Barack Obama, forcing them to do more than pander to the mythical center.
It’s reasonable to think that Barr’s failure to do this was well-deserved, that his votes for the Patriot Act and the Iraq War resolution made him an unacceptable choice for anyone who took such issues seriously. But in many ways, Barr’s avowal of libertarianism was not entirely disconnected from his congressional career: he had been a strong critic of the Waco siege, had worked with the ACLU to oppose the Clinton administration on a number of issues, and his position on marriage was arguably in keeping with soundly federalist principles. Not only did Barr’s campaign rhetoric provide a striking contrast to the inability of the major-party candidates ever to talk about liberty, but he was also able to present himself as the consistently conservative option, recalling a time not that long ago when a commitment to limited government meant something more than opposing earmarks and implementing temporary tax cuts and “freezes” on discretionary spending.
In a nearby parallel universe, no doubt a similar Republican candidate is trouncing the descendants of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman for being a bunch of spying, warmongering, profligate spenders—but this is the universe we’re stuck in, and there’s not much of a place in the GOP for rhetoric like that.
But such rhetoric is sorely needed, and so even if a vote for Barr is ultimately a vote for the sort of cross-partisan coalition he could have helped to build, it’s a vote worth casting. Next time, perhaps, the candidate who stands for liberty will do better than 1 percent.
John Schwenkler is a graduate student in philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.
During the so-called presidential debates, I failed to hear a single mention of the U.S. Constitution, which should have been the chief subject. What are the proper powers of government, of the federal government, and of the president? These questions don’t even come up anymore. The debaters wrangle heatedly about “the economy”—a phrase that never appears in the text of the Constitution but preoccupies today’s pundits and politicians.
Neither of the major-party presidential candidates, let alone President Bush, could have held an intelligent conversation with Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, or John Jay, the authors of The Federalist, our best known commentary on that Constitution. I happen to think that time has proved abundantly that their opponents, the “anti-Federalists,” were profoundly right in their fears of where adoption of the Constitution—a grievous act of centralization—would lead: to say no more about it, to a gigantic war between the states, to two world wars, and to the endless usurpation of power implicit in all yakking about “the economy.”
Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin can no more undo this sorry history than he can reverse the direction of the globe’s axial rotation. (I believe in miracles, but I don’t expect them in politics.) And he and I might well disagree on the authority of the Constitution itself. But he is a godly, reasonable, wise, and intelligent man—as worthy a candidate as I ever expect to see. He knows what the Tenth Amendment means; he understands the crucial 45th number of The Federalist, which reminds us that the powers delegated to the federal government are “few and defined,” whereas those remaining with the states are “numerous and indefinite.” Furthermore, he knows what the Holy Scriptures mean when they speak of a woman being “with child”; and no amount of pseudoconstitutional gobbledygook about “choice” or “privacy” can shake him on this point. His horror at legal abortion is still fresh.
I’ve been reading Chuck Baldwin’s essays for several years. My first reaction to them was to wish we had rulers who could read him, grasp what he was saying, and take it to heart. I never dreamed I would have the chance to vote for him myself.
Joseph Sobran is a columnist and former senior editor of National Review.
I’m a reluctant McCain supporter. He might do considerable damage to our nation, not least because of his view on immigration, but the damage of a McCain administration is nothing compared to the vast institutionalization of the radical Left that Obama would usher in. McCain’s attractions for me lie almost entirely in his being the only viable alternative to Obama. I do like Palin, and that makes it a little easier to support McCain. She connects the Republican ticket to something deep and genuine in the American experience.
My principle in weighing the candidates is this: I’d like to preserve as much of traditional American culture and values as possible in an era in which these are under terrific assault from the mass media, the schools, higher education, and the nation’s anointed elite. Obama is the near perfect embodiment of this assault: a leftist race agitator who is also a polished Harvard Law School elitist. The perfection extends to his personal qualities. Though he stands politically for policies that reduce people to swinishness and though he has wallowed in political corruption for many years, he comes across as disciplined or even ascetic in his habits. This seems to make his entanglement with radicals like Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers incidental.
In the world of higher education, I am used to meeting Obama-like people who combine facile intellectualism, pride in high-minded utopian principles, and outright thuggery. They dream of ruling America the way they rule the campuses. Obama seems likely to make the dream come true.
McCain? An old man with tangled roots in America’s past. He trusts his intuition way too much and like the elder Bush is often a sucker for liberal bromides that he doesn’t recognize as such. I see him as a very flawed man and a flawed candidate, but he does genuinely love America. That’s something. And it is utterly absent from Obama.
Peter W. Wood is executive director of the National Association of Scholars and author of A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now. The views expressed herein are his own.