Two Third Parties

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Sorry,
you hard-core anti-voters, but I am voting this November 2. It's
not that I'm voting because I feel that I must. Or because I think
it's my duty. And certainly not because I think the system we live
under has any legitimacy, moral or otherwise.

I
am voting instead to register my protest. I am voting to tell the
government off. And nothing does that quite like two things. The
first is the Libertarian
Party Platform
, which advocates not "good government"
brought about by "honest and ethical politicians," but
which rather advocates almost no government at all. The second is
its nominee, Michael Badnarik. An unknown. Better to place your
vote in an unknown than to get a celebrity candidate who won't do
much better. William F. Buckley, in one of his rare insights, said
he'd rather be governed by the first three hundred people in the
Boston phonebook than by Harvard's faculty. Badnarik fits that mold.
No fame, no money, no experience in government. Such a person ought
to be President.

In
this case, however, we lucked out. Badnarik at least knows what
the Constitution says. He's taught courses on it. But when you're
two Yale Skull and Bonesmen, what the Constitution actually says
is not an obstacle to your ambition. To have actually read the document,
and to have a conscience, probably hurts your future. If either
man cared about the Constitution, the one wouldn't have voted for
the Iraq "resolution," and the other wouldn't have gone
to war against Iraq without an explicit Congressional Declaration
of War.

Now,
this is where the deal gets complicated, where the Libertarian ends
up speaking out of both sides of his mouth. To a libertarian, liberty,
as Lord Acton put it, is the highest political end of man. Not Constitutions
or Declarations, not what some "Founding Fathers" wrote.
Liberty is more important than mythology. If George Washington was
right about foreign entanglements, it is because he was right on
that topic, and not just because he was George Washington. The same
goes for the opinions of Jefferson, Madison, Mason, or anyone else.
It is to the extent that they were right about liberty that we should
heed them, but we shouldn't bow before their words on the basis
of their names and legends.

Libertarians,
then, do not honor the Constitution just because it is the Constitution,
or because they think it is perfect, and certainly not because they
think it has divine inspiration, as Gary
North recently discussed
. But, for better or for worse, it is
our rulebook, our standard for government. And if the powers-that-be
won't play by their own rules, bad judgment and abuse are the only
logical outcomes.

Acknowledging
that utopia is impossible, I'd settle for a return to the limits
of the Constitution, flawed as it is. Even if we had tariffs and
a post office (which is the case today). Even if some or many states
had laws I don't like (which is also the case today). The typical
American would be far freer vis-à-vis the federal government,
and the President would be restrained by Congress's Declaration
of War powers from policing the world. That's a deal I would take
in a heartbeat.

So
why won't I vote for the Constitution Party's Michael Peroutka instead
of the Libertarian Michael Badnarik? Well, I would vote for Peroutka
if he was on the ballot in my state and Badnarik was not. All I
know is that Badnarik's on in my state, and that's good enough for
me. There are three reasons why I prefer Badnarik to Peroutka.

  1. A feeling,
    perhaps unjustified, that the Christians who support the Constitution
    Party hold up the Constitution and the authority of the Founders
    almost as an authority in themselves. That is, that that Party
    has an undue allegiance to uninspired pieces of paper and the
    moral example of deists. This leads to,

  2. An unjustified
    sense of nationalism. The national charter, the Constitution,
    is supposed to make me feel a greater kinship towards, say,
    the people of rural California, or urban New York, states I've
    never visited, as opposed to the people of Saskatchewan, where
    I spent most of my childhood. To be honest, I don't give a rip
    if an American loses his job because his wages were artificially
    too high and people in a third world country can do the job
    at a lower price. If "outsourcing" prevents someone
    in Mexico or India from outright starvation, I'm not going to
    shed crocodile tears for temporary economic problems and job
    losses for Americans just because they're Americans. If we actually
    had a free market, they wouldn't be out of work for long. And
    in any case, why should I have greater compassion for a stranger
    who is a "fellow citizen" through the accident of
    history, than some poor guy who, by the accident of history,
    happens to live in a foreign land? Why should compassion and
    economics be nationalized? I agree with the Constitution Party
    (and the Libertarian Party) that the USA should pull out of
    all trade agreements that impinges on its sovereignty. But I
    also agree with the Libertarians that we should open our borders
    to all trade, and if tariffs were our one revenue stream for
    the federal government (to the extent it would exist) that it
    would be uniform and not protectionist.

  3. Government
    can not prevent cultural decline. Only cultural renewal can
    stop cultural decline. As far as immigrants go, I would never
    let any become a citizen or enjoy any supposed "benefits"
    like Social Security or minimum wage. But immigrants don't care
    about any of that. If you talk to Moslem, Pakistani cab drivers
    in Chicago, you will find out that they just want to make honest
    dollars and provide for their families. They are not a threat
    to America's demographics or culture. And neither are Mexicans,
    or Asians, or Bosnians. These people come to work and make a
    better life for themselves, not to conquer or destroy the culture.

That's
the ultimate challenge to the Constitution Party. Since it is an
explicitly Christian Party, I don't know if it is ready to concede
that no civil power can possibly protect Christendom. The State,
perhaps, may competently punish violent evil-doers, but how much
more can it do? What does the Book of Deuteronomy say about immigrants?
Or trade? As I read it, it seems to take the side of freedom, and
nothing Jesus says would suggest any other interpretation.

Most
importantly, isn't it the role of the Church to preserve our cultural
heritage? In other words, it is often said that this was once a
Christian nation, and now it is not. Who's to blame? Darwin? Freud?
The Supreme Court?

If
the Church once had a dominant place in the culture, and now does
not, there is no one to blame but the Church itself. And spiritual
renewal, leading to cultural renewal, are the only means to reverse
the trend. The culture is in decline, but it is Christians who allowed
that to happen by transferring responsibilities of the Church, and
of the family, to the State.

The
reasons for this are long and complex and I can not do them justice
in this piece. But the long and the short of it is that the Constitution
Party still sees some redemptive work on the part of the State to
restore "America" as an entity, as an ideal. I side with
the Libertarians because I think they understand that the State
has only a negative, punitive role in society and that cultural
renewal lies in the unity and fellowship of the Church, the cooperation
of families, and the industry and volunteerism of individuals.

October
18, 2004

James
Leroy Wilson [send him mail]
lives and works in Chicago and is a columnist for the Partial
Observer
. He also has a new blog, “Independent
Country
.”

James
Leroy Wilson Archives

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