This November 2nd, either George W. Bush or John Kerry will emerge as the victor of the election, thus securing the job of president of the United States for the next four years. Both candidates are terrible, and it’s impossible to know which will be worse.
If Bush wins, he will probably see it as a mandate for his imperial ambitions in the Middle East, and, appropriately, he will likely send more Americans to kill and die in Iraq, and, perhaps, Iran and elsewhere. The Republicans will have no reason to stop their mad domestic spending spree or their burgeoning police state. American liberty will decline and the country will move ever closer to economic collapse.
If Kerry wins, he will likely regard his victory as a mandate for his imperial ambitions. Perhaps he will send Americans to kill and die in Sudan, and only get around to Iran later in his term. He will have no reason to reduce, decelerate, or even shrink the rate of acceleration in social spending. He will curb civil liberties, attempt to institute healthcare socialism, and impose penalties on companies that wish to engage in free trade oversees. American liberty will decline and the country will move ever closer to economic collapse.
So what is the best possible outcome, from a libertarian perspective? What is my realistic dream for November 2nd?
I urge everyone not to vote for either of them, but I admit I want to see Bush go down. If he wins, he will only continue doing what he has done. Almost as a matter of principle, I want to see incumbents lose. Few American presidents were less damaging to freedom in a second term. What’s more, Bush has a Republican congress to work with, which has so far allowed the government to grow at its fastest rate in a third of a century. Gridlock might slow it down, if only a little.
So I want Bush to lose, which, to be realistic, means I want Kerry to win, given the choice between the two. But I don’t want Kerry to have a strong mandate for all his insane healthcare and education spending ideas.
What I would love to see happen is for the election to come down to a virtual tie, just as it did in 2000. I want to see weeks and weeks of heated lawsuits and inflammatory op-eds denouncing one side or the other, as the country waits for a recount in, let’s say, Florida.
I want to see everyone across the land realize, once again, how stupid this whole process is. And I want Kerry to win the electoral vote by the slimmest possible margin, and yet lose the popular vote.
The Democrats won’t be quite as triumphant with such a technical victory, knowing the "will of the people" opposed them. The Republicans won’t be able to cry foul without admitting their hypocrisy. Kerry will have as much trouble getting a mandate as Bush did, before 9/11, when he gloriously spent much of his time on vacation at his Texas Ranch, where he couldn’t issue too many orders or otherwise hurt anybody too much. A president constantly on vacation is, generally, a healthy thing for freedom.
I want to see angry reports in The Wall Street Journal complaining that the only thing that kept Bush out of the White House was the fact that too many conservatives and libertarians were so fed up that they voted for the Libertarian and Constitution candidates. I want to read bitter commentaries in the New York Times about how Kerry could have won the popular vote, if it weren’t for all those Greenies and Naderites. I want both sides to lament about record lows in voter participation, which, to the libertarian, is reason for celebration. One day, perhaps the voter turnout will be so low that Americans will realize how much of a scam the whole system is. I want November 2nd to bring us closer to that day.
I want to see an America divided, the way it was after Bush won the election. I want to see cynical bumper stickers on the cars of Republicans talking about how Kerry is "not my president." I want to see Democrats praising the Electoral College. I want the less partisan Americans to see right through the hypocrisy on both sides.
I want the Republicans to gain in Congress and the Senate, but by the smallest margins possible in each of their districts and states, and, as in the case of the new president, with some of the smallest voter turnouts in US history as their only consent to rule. I want a Republican Congress afraid of President Kerry, and a President Kerry afraid of Congress.
The conservatives throughout America will once again denounce big government, wage grassroots campaigns for impeachment, and reaffirm their most admirable values in the 1990s, back when it was patriotic to hate the president and call him a lying killer, as opposed to now, when they equate patriotism with loyalty to the president and denounce any dissent as sedition. The liberals throughout America will notice their new president doing many of the same things that Bush did, and whereas usually they’d defend such sins, this time they might not, because it will now be impossible to unambiguously endorse their president’s legislative agenda without implicitly applauding the actions of their enemies in the Legislature.
Being against the war will no longer be mistaken for an irrational hatred for Bush. The more principled Americans from all sides of the spectrum, disgusted with politics, will see more than ever that the issue isn’t Republican vs. Democrat; it’s Power vs. Liberty. The neoconservatives will receive a slap in the face from a Kerry victory, and big government will be headed by someone who is at least honest that he believes in big government. It will be more difficult for disingenuous Republican rhetoric to confuse Americans into believing in the fabricated compatibility between free markets and war.
Government will continue to grow, probably, but perhaps no faster than the economy. Americans might come to realize that, in spite of all the political hostility and division, the market is still functioning wondrously. The political heat all the way up to the election will slowly fade into memory, and our country will once again remember that partisan politics is just a bunch of hot air: the only vote that really counts is in the marketplace.
What would really be terrific is to see Kerry cynically veto almost everything the Republicans try to pass, and the Republicans refusing to pass almost everything he sends to committee. Ideally — and less realistically — the government will shut down again, as it supposedly did in the mid 1990s, only for real this time.
The election is still close enough that it could go either way. My hope is that it stays close up to the very end. The best realistic outcome we can hope for is a government greatly divided and an America greatly united by a disdain and irreverence toward the cutthroat corruption in American politics. Give me an enhanced repeat of November 2000, and I’ll be as happy as I could ever hope to be, considering all plausible outcomes.
Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research assistant at the Independent Institute. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.