'But Whom Will You Root For?'

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lunch conversation, as usual, had wandered finally to the upcoming
presidential race.

right," said my exasperated friend Ron, a conservative Republican,
"I guess I'm resigned to the fact that you won't vote at all
in November. But you're a politics junkie! Surely you'll be rooting
for someone!"

it dawned on me that, yes, despite 32 years of persistent nonvoting,
I've usually rooted for one of the major presidential candidates,
always seeing one potential master as slightly less odious than
the other. Likewise, for purely strategic reasons in the struggle
for liberty, there's typically been a reason to cast, if not a vote,
then a hip-hip-hooray for one lying nitwit over another.

September 1992, when Bush the Elder was defending his throne against
Clinton the Pretender, the great Murray Rothbard discussed this
issue of rooting vs. voting in the sorely missed Rothbard-Rockwell
Report. He wrote:

should we cheer for on Election Day? Whom should we hope
wins the election? Voting is a matter of personal conscience,
and can be for one of many minor candidates or for no one at
all; rooting on who should win is a different problem,
because regardless of who you or I vote for, or whether we vote
at all, one of the two major candidates is sure to win
in November. Whom should we hope wins, or are all the considerations
so equally weighted that we should be indifferent? Regardless
of our hopes, no minor candidate will win, and the office of
President, alas, will not be declared vacant. …

1992, I am indifferent to whom one votes for, but I'm definitely
rooting for Bush over Clinton."

was strictly a question of strategy, Murray said. "Under whose
reign," he wrote, "will we have a better chance to build
up the paleo-movement…?" The proper strategy in that election,
he believed, was to vote for Bush – or not – but in particular to
root for Bush to pull out a victory so that, first, the socialistic
hordes would be held back a while longer and, second, an organized
paleo-right could be positioned to ride to power in 1996 on the
back of a crumbling Bush Administration.

Rothbard defended the act of voting. But he also appreciated the
problem many libertarians have philosophically with electing politicians
to abolish politics. He understood the discomfort many of us have
with slogging to the polls and casting votes for lesser evils. Most
important, though, Murray recognized that whether or not we vote,
we can't help but want to root for somebody, even in something
as morally bankrupt as a political election. It's in our nature.

1972, I rooted for McGovern over Nixon, because Nixon was…heck,
he was a criminal.

1976, I rooted for Carter over Ford, to punish Ford for pardoning

1980, I rooted for Reagan over Carter, because Carter had to be
punished on general principle.

1984, I rooted for Mondale over Reagan, because I loathed the neoconservative
hawks surrounding Reagan.

1988, I rooted for Bush over Dukakis, because Dukakis was, well,

1992, I rooted for Bush over Clinton, because Hillary was, well,

1996, I rooted for Dole over Clinton, because, gee, four more years
seemed just too awful.

2000, I rooted for Bush Lite over Gore, because Gore was Clinton
without the, uh, charm.

usual, I will cast no ballot on November 2. But what is unusual
this election year is that, for the first time since coming of voting
age, I will root for no one. As my friend Butler Shaffer pointed
out here a few weeks ago, the choice is between one Yale graduate,
pro-war, pro-Patriot Act, pro-expansive state member of "Skull-and-Bones"
and another Yale graduate, pro-war, pro-Patriot Act, pro-expansive
state member of "Skull-and-Bones." As Butler remarked,
"It's like getting to choose between emphysema and lung cancer!"

paraphrase Rothbard, all the considerations this election year are
so equally weighted that I am absolutely indifferent to November's

anything sadder than a man who will not vote – and cannot even

15, 2004

Conger [send him mail] is a
marketing consultant and writer living on California's central coast.
He has been a non-political, anti-party activist in the libertarian
movement since 1970. His blog of unfinished essays and spontaneous
eruptions can be found at wconger.blogspot.com.

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