If You Vote

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Several of my Facebook friends have given a "like" to Mitt Romney, including a few former Ron Paul supporters whom I got to know during our historic "takeover" of the Minnesota GOP conventions earlier this year. To conservatives who don't think much of Romney (which, according to polls, seems to be a lot of them), I'd like to say "please reconsider." And to ex-Ron Paul people who are supporting him out of "anybody but Obama" desperation, I'd like to say, "You should know better!"

The conventional wisdom on voting is that you should always vote because it is your "patriotic duty," and that your vote should be for one of the two major political parties, otherwise you're "throwing your vote away." I disagree. I think people should vote their values, which might mean voting for an "unelectable" third party candidate, or perhaps not voting at all.

I had a political science teacher in college who taught this, and it has stayed with me. He said that if people don't know the issues, they are better off not voting than risking a vote for the wrong candidate. I agree wholeheartedly, and I'll even take it a step further: when the choice is between two piles of excrement, one only slightly less foul smelling than the other, we do not have to pick one of them out of some misguided sense of patriotic obligation. If the best the major parties have to offer fall short of the principles you believe in, then it is your patriotic duty to not vote for either one of them.

I know that ousting Obama might seem like the most urgent goal, and that conservatives of all colors, shapes, and sizes ought now unite in this common purpose. But let's think this through, because there are a number of reasons why it might be a bad strategy.

First of all, a vote for Romney does not ensure his victory. Incomprehensible as it may be, Obama is popular enough, and persuasive enough, and politically cunning enough to get re-elected. The cardboard cutout Republican Mr. Mitt is unlikely to inspire the swing voters in the swing states, which is what he needs to do to win. He has neither the charisma nor the policies to do so. People just don't relate to him, and no amount of GOP marketing is going to fix that in any significant way. In fact, Romney just may be the GOP's John Kerry, who ran that pointless campaign against Dubya in 2004, despite immense DFL effort to get the vote out.

But more to the point are the ideological issues involved. If we care about these ideological issues, if we have strong beliefs about what's best for this country and how best to achieve it, then we must ask ourselves this: does the "anybody but Obama" stance support and further our cause–the cause of liberty? How far will it take us toward the goals of restoring personal freedom and having sane fiscal policies, respectful foreign policies, and limited, non-corrupt representation of the people, by the people, and for the people?

All the evidence points to "not very far." You need only look at the records of the last several presidents to see this. Under every administration since (at least) Woodrow Wilson, economic and personal freedoms have suffered. Government has ballooned to an almost unfathomable size, with no slowdown in sight. Taxes have increased and tax codes have grown more complex and convoluted. Unnecessary wars have been waged, needlessly burdening taxpayers and ending far too many lives at far too young an age. The Federal Reserve gains ever more control over the economy, printing money, setting interest rates, and creating artificial "bubbles" that ultimately end in disaster and each time inch us that much closer to economic apocalypse. The Fed and the Treasury operate hand-in-hand with Wall Street and corporate interests that benefit the powers-that-be at the expense of the middle-class taxpayer. And liberty continues to be trounced on, so much so that outrageous assaults on freedom like the Patriot Act are barely recognized anymore as the fascist, freedom-squelching policies that they are.

And the tragic truth is that both mainstream political parties support these big government policies. Despite all the posturing, mud-slinging, accusations, and general bipartisan nastiness we see in elections, both mainstream candidates are just different sides of the same, corporate-backed, PAC-financed coin. Sure, Romney will institute some different policies; he may lower a tax or two; and he may even abolish such atrocities as Obamacare. But this is vastly different than him having an actual ideology of personal freedom and limited government, which he absolutely does not. Government will not shrink under his watch. Liberty will not be restored. He may end Obama's wars, but he is likely to start others–and by his own admission, without Congressional consent. He mayu2014mayu2014restore some freedoms taken by Obama, but he will strip others.

Without a foundational ideology of liberty to guide him, it can be no other way.

In order for there to be real change in the federal government, we would have to drastically re-evaluate taxation and, ideally, abolish the IRS and the Federal Reserve. We would have to stop thinking that it is the government's job to regulate the economy. We would have to stop thinking that it is the job of the United States to police the world, and withdraw our bullies–oops, I mean troops–from countries that don't want them there. We would have to stop accepting that the leviathan devil's stranglehold on our personal lives and choices is "business as usual" and "for our own good." In short, for there to be a real change in the federal government, there would have to be a sea change of attitude in how people view the role of government.

Maybe these changes wouldn't have to come all at once. But for them to come at all, we have to have leaders who believe in such change, leaders governed by ideological principles about limited government and non-intervention and an unfettered economy. Barack Obama is certainly not one of those leaders, but neither is Mitt Romney. In fact, they both support different visions of a leviathan government, and are thus ideologically opposed to basic principles of liberty. For this reason, I cannot, and will not, in good conscience vote for either one of them.

Where does that leave me and people like me who care about our country's future? What do we do? Well, here's a great Hans-Hermann Hoppe quote I found in the article How Can You Think Voting Matters? by Will Aston:

In On the Impossibility of Limited Government…, Hoppe says:

…It is necessary to recognize that the ultimate power of every government — whether of kings or caretakers — rests solely on opinion and not on physical force. The agents of government are never more than a small proportion of the total population under their control. This implies that no government can possibly enforce its will upon the entire population unless it finds widespread support and voluntary cooperation within the nongovernmental public. It implies likewise that every government can be brought down by a mere change in public opinion, i.e., by the withdrawal of the public’s consent and cooperation. (italics added)

So you see, voting is an act of support. It is how we consent to and cooperate with our government. When we vote for someone, we are agreeing to give him certain powers over our lives. If that politician does not share our values, then we become complicit in our own undoing. We become agents of the very state whose policies are antithetical to the cause of liberty. In other words, when we vote for someone who is not an ideological peer, we are supporting and furthering the cause of our own enslavement.

Don't vote for the lesser of two evils. Don't fall for partisan rhetoric claiming that Romney and Obama have different ideals because, where it really counts, they do not. Instead, vote for someone who stands for what you believe in. Write in a vote for Ron Paul. Or give your vote to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who, ideologically speaking, is the only Presidential candidate who deserves our support. Or express your dissent by not voting at all. Anything is better than voting for Obama or Romney. And the same can be said for most of the other mainstream GOP/DFL choices, as well.

And above all, don't worry about "throwing away" your vote. Contrary to popular belief, voting is not a pragmatic activity. Rather, it is a supremely ideological one. It is the best opportunity most of us ever get to voice our beliefs, our values, and our life philosophy. Following your conscience is never wrong, ever. If enough people understand this, real change can and will happen eventually. But it has to start with you and me, and it has to start now.

Melanie Johnson [send her mail] a freelance writer who lives in Minneapolis, MN.

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