Monday, November 5, 2012

Don't vote (for just anyone), it only encourages them.

This post should only be read if you have nothing better to do. It is not intended to convince anyone of better ways. It is only intended to organize my thoughts and record them for posterity. If anything is learned or better understood in the reading of my clumsy words, that's a bonus. 
Before you get too worried that I'm wasting away my right and responsibility to vote, yes, I'm voting. But I'm not voting for the Republican or Democratic Party nominee. And not because they are Republican or Democrat. Unlike many partisan slap-happy citizens, the label alone doesn't automatically mean "evil" to me. It's individual rhetoric and actions that win me over or repel me.

That said, Obama, having been president for four years already has the disadvantage by default. He's had more opportunity in the spotlight to say things and do things that turn me off, and that's not quite fair to him vs. Romney. But then I remember his over-confident promises and realize he made his disadvantage even worse by signing up for one term proposition back in the first month of his presidency.

I mean, really. If you're going to walk into office making large promises about your presidency, at least leave it open ended so you have the flexibility to say you need a second term to fully execute them. No, this president said, (paraphrased) "if I don't do this, and this, within four years, it's one term for me." (Both links are to non-partisan mainstream journalistic sources for you to hear and see his words for yourself. No Rush, no Hannity, no Tea Party, Obama-hating spin.)

This isn't a matter of his adversaries catching him in nuances of his word choice. Even his most loyal supporters should be upset that he would be foolish (read: overconfident and/or naive)  enough to say make such absolute promises. And he didn't even come close to realizing them. Not even close.

Harry S. Truman, another Democrat who made tough decisions to drop bombs, differed in one significant way. He had a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that read "The buck stops here!"

I lose respect and trust for President Obama when he digs for excuses and passes along the blame for things he himself said his administration would do. Even if it wasn't reasonable for him to make those promises, he should at least own up to his former over-confidence. Instead, he digs a deeper pit.

These broken promises don't even take into account other justifiable reasons why even a hopeful democrat would not vote for him again. Violations of morality and concerning foreign policy such as these.

Not voting for Romney is a little less fair of me, since I'm obviously making judgements on what I'm afraid he would do, instead of anything he actually hasn't even had a chance to do as president. But there are a lot of people who haven't had a chance to be president yet and that doesn't mean I'm going to vote to give them a chance. My main issue with Romney is one of association, and in that sense, it might not seem fair, but it's fair enough for me, because my main concern is for the future, and if the GOP goes along thinking registered Republican are okay with what they are doing, they've got another thing coming. In that sense, Romney shouldn't take it personally, but the GOP as a whole should take it very personally. My current feelings are that casting a vote, my own personal stamp of approval, for the Republican National Party - its advertising, its congressional candidates, its loudest, most popular partisan cheerleaders, its embarrassing primary season and its treatment of the Ron Paul delegates at the Convention - would be disingenuous of me.

I am not one to reward bad behavior. I am often much harder on my own people than I am of those of other flocks. Just ask my Republican friends on facebook.

I'm also not a big fan of the face that Romney felt he had to put on to appeal to the base and win the nomination. I am more of a fan of the Romney that got some stuff done in liberal Massachusetts, and made a bunch of money being fiscally strategic and conservatively selective at Bain, and helping shape up and lead the 2002 Winter Olympics. I might vote for that moderate and savvy Mitt, but he wouldn't have been the GOP candidate if he stayed that guy. He barely squeaked by as is. It's not his fault that his party has become such a mess, considering he himself is actually not very representational of the mess (i.e. Romney is not Akin or Palin). But it is his fault he decided to become the guy who could get the nomination. 

So in a nutshell, I'm more frustrated with the evolving GOP than I am with their presidential nominee that's made a choice to work hard to appeal to the GOP. But I'm not comforted by Romney's foreign policy sound bites either.

I changed my voter registration to Independent about a year ago, then changed it to Republican when I learned that registered Independents can't vote in the Colorado Republican Primary caucus. As one who believes that Republcianism at its finest can actually be something admirable and inclusive and functional, I wanted to do my small part to help put rational voices at the head of the party. To no avail, yet.

I'm a moderate libertarian. Hardcare libertarians will tell you there's no such thing. I like bike paths, maintained hiking trails, and well-paved roads. I like National Parks (though I'd be okay with handing them all over to the states in a pinch). I'm a product of public schools (but private University). I don't mind paying taxes for improved shared quality of life, as long as waste is minimized. But I've come to learn that the Constitution makes it very clear that most all of those tax-funded quality of life perks are actually locally organized anyway. Or if they aren't currently, they could and should be. Very few things ought to be controlled by the federal government. The founding fathers realized that the federal government should be very limited in its power and plenty of rational people today still think so. These are not all people that own guns and vote straight ticket Republican. These are people like me. And people in your family. And your neighbors and friends. And maybe you. Rational philosophies held by normal, educated, thinking people with whom I bet you wouldn't be ashamed to associate.

May I make a very strong suggestion? Read the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights and other amendments. Read them every single year. Really. This is not an exhortation that you should take lightly and think in the back of your mind "yeah, yeah, I know, the Constitution." Literally read it. Take a Sunday afternoon, sit down with a nice cup of your favorite beverage and read it earnestly. Take notes. While you're at it, read the Declaration of Independence. 

Within the walls of my home (or church) I likely look like a social conservative. When I'm in a voting booth, or at work, or anywhere else, I'm a moderate libertarian that doesn't feel the slightest temptation to legislate my personal beliefs on the coast-to-coast public. This is not two-faced. This is one thinking person who believes that we should not be coerced by laws to do the right thing, and my right thing may not be your right thing, but usually it is. I believe most people are really good. I believe we need to be kind to each other and look out for one another. I believe we should be accepting of each other, so long as we don't infringe upon each other's rights. 

And because I believe that our big problems require tough solutions, and I don't see either the GOP or Democratic nominees laying down plans for real change (though they want you to think there's a big difference between them), I'm not giving either of them a stamp of approval (aka a vote), as I feel that would be disingenuous of me.

There are many this election with the "lesser of two evils" rationale. This rationale takes no longer term strategy into account of showing the two party system that there are are other parties. Or at least showing them that both of the two main parties should adopt more classic, American libertarian policies. Libertarian policies actually meld really well with Republican and Democratic core philosophies already, so it's not a radical request. Republicans should be drooling over Libertarian fiscal policy and smaller federal government. Democrats should be drooling over Libertarian civil liberties policy. Unfortunately neither main party voluntarily follows these philosophies as they should, because doing so would require them to give up one major perk: Power: The audacious assumption that their personal preferences should become national law.

George Washington didn't want power. He just wanted to faithfully fulfill his elected duty, do no unnecessary harm, and then retire quietly. To his disappointment, two parties were developing by the end of his first term. Wearied of politics, feeling old, he retired at the end of his second. In his Farewell Address, he urged his countrymen to forswear excessive party spirit and geographical distinctions. In foreign affairs, he warned against long-term alliances. I want George Washington back.

Abraham Lincoln was a Republican that campaigned for national unity and civil liberties. I want Abraham Lincoln back. 

The way Romney talks about foreign policy and Constitutional Amendments that many feel would infringe upon the civil liberties of others, he's no Washington or Lincoln. 

The way Obama seems smug in his election and eager to pass the buck, he's no Washington or Truman.

I'm voting for Gary Johnson, who will not win, of course. But me and maybe 6 million other people will be voting for him because we know we should vote, but that doesn't mean the options the two major parties are providing are in line with our principles. And we hope that both parties will get the message that they should do a much better job of applying libertarian principles to their existing platforms. At least that's my message. 

Call it a protest vote if you want. Call it a wasted vote if you want. But it certainly isn't as wasted as a vote for a candidate that scares me or disappoints me. Voting against your conscience is a truly wasted vote, wouldn't you say?

The economy is picking up. It's going to continue to get better at a snail's pace over the next several years regardless of who is elected on Tuesday. The two main parties don't want you to believe that, but I recon it's a very safe bet. Safer even than a Bain Capital investment and certainly safer than a Solyndra investment.

So, I am voting. But not for the establishment. Not this time. It only encourages them.


Liz said...

Eric - I am proud of you for being a man of conscience. And a good thinker and writer. That said, your Dad and I voted our conscience in the presidential election in 1992 and lived to regret it. We became pragmatists and decided to not repeat that mistake.

The bottom line is, you live in a swing state and your vote can make a difference. When you have that distinct opportunity you really do need to vote for the best man that CAN win. I know you want to spank both parties for their misbehavior, but at this hour, the only thing you will accomplish is making Gary Johnson feel a teeny weeny bit better.

eric said...

Mom, Thanks for the wise words. You may have a very good point. I do think it's important to learn from the mistakes of others rather than always insisting on making my own. You taught that to me. And I am pragmatic by nature, I think. Or probably nurture, also thanks to you. Good stuff to think about. Let's hug it out.

Then again, this very same pragmatism that is precisely why I'm disturbed and scared about the current trend and trajectory of the GOP. I view the infusion of the most basic and moderate libertarianism policy as very pragmatic for anyone that feels the Constitution is worth fighting for. I don't consider that a partisan view. Ostensibly idealistic. But not too much to ask, I think.

Also, since you brought it up, in the 1992 election Ross Perot received 0% of the electoral vote. Similar to Barack Obama's self-inflicted conundrum, one of the main reasons Bush #41 lost that election was his Grover Norquistesque "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge that drew raucous applause at the time (he had his reward), but on which he didn't (couldn't? shouldn't have?) followed through. Maybe that's one of the reasons you voted independent, not sure.

The 1992 election also ended 12 years of Republican control of the White House, so I'm not too surprised that the tide was turning. That's just to say, it's not like Ross Perot spoiled an otherwise shoe-in victory for Bush #41.

(On a related note, it's not difficult to argue that Clinton's budget surplus was actually the result of gridlock in the Republican Congress. Thus suggesting that it's the INaction of federal government, not the action thereof that helps cap excessive spending. If Bush had won reelection, would there be gridlock? There probably wouldn't have been polarizing sexual scandals and distracting impeachment proceedings, but there might have been overspending in its place. I don't know enough about the potential legislation of that term to cite sources. Just a ballpark theory. Let it be stricken from the record if it's unbased.)

Let's look at other ways 1992 was significantly different than 2012. In 1992, the National debt was just over $4 trillion and 65% of GDP. Now it's a whopping $16 trillion and for the first time in history, it's more than 100% of the GDP.

1992 was also before the Patriot Act (Republican initiated) and the extra judicial killings of American citizens (A Democrat first).

1992 was before the prevalent use of UAV military drones, which today have seemed to make the decision to bomb foreign sovereign countries far too easy and detached for a Commander in Chief.

If I thought Romney was the answer to our biggest problems (see the above three paragraphs), I would eat crow and vote for him, even if I didn't agree with everything he said. I don't require perfection. Like I said above: Ostensibly idealistic. But not too much to ask, I think.

On that note, I can stomach four more years of domestically moderate Obama and look forward to 2014 midterms and 2016 with hope (no pun intended). If I couldn't, this post wouldn't exist and I'd be voting for Romney if for no other reason than to do my part to prevent Obama's second term. I know the "dangers" of voting Libertarian this time around and I've taken deep breathes and made as much peace with that as I can. I've tried to lay out my rationale, but I fear I've done a poor job.

I hope this helps you understand that nobody I know, and I mean nobody, is voting for Gary Johnson so he can "feel a teeny weeny bit better." I blame my lousy articulation if that's what you understand my goal to be.

(Big hug)

eric said...

All this talk reminds me of a Hugh Nibley essay from a book Dad gave me just before he died. The essay is called "Beyond Politics" and it helps me sleep at night during fervent elections knowing that the real important battles are fought in our own homes and souls. The real preparation is for Zion, much more so than the 2016 election. Otherwise, the best you can do in the meantime is vote for the principles that best uphold the Constitution of the United States. Even if it means a man that's good outside of politics possibly loses an election he signed up for.


Andrea Forsyth said...

thanks for making me really think about why i voted the way i did. sorry if this doesn't make any sense. it was interrupted a few times so i could remedy various social injustices in the world of a certain three year-old...

i'm not going to pretend that i am really well versed in history or politics, but oh, i do love a good discussion on them. i read the nibley essay. took me all afternoon, and thank heavens we were having leftovers for dinner anyway, but it was a good read. i often joke with J that maybe if we are supposed to be doing all we can to prepare the world for the second coming, maybe we should just go vote for all the most corrupt people we can find so we can hurry up and get this over with. (don't worry - it's a joke.) i suppose it is now for us to find the balance between contributing to our current society, all the while setting the stage for the scene that will soon unfold.

i agree - both parties are out of control. i never liked parties...not even in college. and while we try not to take offense at your comment about people who own guns and vote straight ticket republican (that happened to be us this time around...we really did agree with the R candidates more than D, in this particular election, and jonathan is looking forward to getting another gun) i totally get what you are saying. i loved how nibley referred to it as "gadianton loyalty." it's scary, because i know there are plenty of people who would die before voting anything other than a straight ticket.

i've been doing a lot of thinking lately about "deal-breakers" - what makes or breaks a candidate for someone. i love listening to people explain why they voted for (whoever they voted for), because it shows so much about what is most important to them. for you, you want to be true to yourself, to your beliefs, and your ideals. you'll stay on your ship, even if it's sinking, because gosh darn it, it's the right thing to do. and that's why we love you:)

for us, our "deal-breakers" were 1) budget and 2) big government. (wouldn't you know it, they go hand in hand.) i know i live in TX, so my vote isn't weighed quite the same as yours. but whatevs - i spent my afternoon reading/writing this whether my vote is important or not!

we voted for romney, *despite* his GOP associations, because from what we can tell, he is the most likely to *actually* be able to do something about the budget. yes, i know mitt romney the candidate is different from mitt romney of the olympics, etc. but if we are looking at people's records, i'm going to go with romney over obama, every time, when it comes to spending. J and i worked really hard to be debt free, and dang it, we want to stay that way. (yes, yes, i know, we don't have a house, and if we had a house we would for sure have debt. but that likely won't happen for 20 years. it is what it is.) our *new* car is 11 years old. j's car was made in '86. we don't eat out much. our big expenses usually revolve around trips to san antonio so we can go to the temple and target. and we are fine with that. but when we see out of control gov't spending, it's like a slap in the face. it's all fine and dandy for us to live within our means, but the US gov't? no, no. they rationalize that they just have such good intentions, it's ok to spend and spend and spend. then maybe spend a little more. and here we are, crazy in debt. i really believe that how you handle money is a really good indicator of integrity and honesty and all those good things we wish we could see in our leaders.

so when a man comes along whose specialty happens to be fixing financial disasters - even if i don't agree with him on everything - even if he is associated with the GOP - well, he has my vote. from what i understand, a big part of cutting spending involves giving more power back to the states. let's just say i'm down with that.

Andrea Forsyth said...

(turns out i'm super wordy. who knew? *ahem*)

i know i'm not saying anything groundbreaking here. in fact, in reading your treatise, i agreed with most of what you said. i just came to a different conclusion. the thought of 4 more years with obama does scare me more than 4 years with romney. (a couple more concerns about obama: i don't know what to think about the benghazi ordeal, but it's been pretty unsettling since i can almost guarantee that jonathan will be deploying in the next four years...probably multiple times. and i'm basing my concerns off of reading actual press releases from the white house, etc., not from fox news. aaaand, as a bonus, abortion is a big issue to me. it quite literally makes me sick to think about. that's a hard one for people of different faiths, and i understand that. but i'm sticking to my guns on that one, no matter who it offends. life is sacred. don't be a floozy. the end.) i don't know what will happen. romney could be awful. i know. and as nibley says, this election not really the contest we need to be overly worried about. but no one can tell me that i voted for "just anyone" or that i have any gadianton loyalties to any party. not so, my friend. in another election, i might very well vote for a 3rd party candidate. in fact, if i had it to do over again, i would have gone for a 3rd party candidate in the last election. i haven't liked obama, but i'm not so sure mccain would have been any better. but in this case, with the issues that are important to me, i feel like romney is the best we've got, and that there is enough of a difference between romney and obama that it could have a big impact on the future. becaues of that, i don't think this is an election to use your vote to make a statement.

with that said, i totally respect your choice, and love that we are free to be able to vote for whoever we feel would be best. and i think you are a person who repects anyone's opinion, so long as they've thought it out. now. you didn't say much about why you chose gary johnson, in particular? i'd love to know.

eric said...

Andrea, I love your comments. Let me say right off the bat, one of the main reasons I regret not yet visiting you guys in "The Rio" is because I want to go shooting. I'd get my own gun if I knew I had time and a convenient place to use it recreationally. I don't currently so it's very low on the priorities list. I love you guys and kinda envy your guns. Plus, Jonathan's an impressively articulate and trustworthy military officer. If anyone is allowed to own multiple guns without raising an eyebrow, it's him / you guys.

Otherwise, I appreciate your thoughts. We're aligned 100%, if Romney wins, I too hope he'll actually do something substantial about the spending problem. If he does though it's gonna sting from coast to coast and it will cost him the reelection. Bitter pills many Americans will not want to take. I'll be proud of him if he is able to do it though, with Congress and all.

The only point of differentiation is that I believe that despite what Romney and Obama's campaign managers want you to think, they actually only differ ever so slightly. (Of course their campaigns rely on the appearance that they vary drastically.) At least according to the brass tacks of putting a dent in the problem. That's why I'm voting for the guy who's super serious about big, fat, uncomfortable but necessary changes to minimize the federal government. (Hint: despite what his campaign wants you to believe, that's not Romney, even if he's a little better than Obama on the economy and the size of government. $16 trillion is such a big number, it's very difficult to even wrap our heads around.)

Interestingly enough, I'm voting for the guy who will lose because I agree with you. Especially about the scary prospect of our military oversees. I gained a lot of respect for Ron Paul in the primaries. Most of the important issues he took made more sense to me than the obvious pandering I was hearing form the more mainstream candidates. Ron Paul was in the military, and he was/is strongly supported by the military. He received far more donations from active military than any other candidate. Every time I read or heard about that, I thought of Jonathan (not that I stereotyped him as a Paul supporter, I just waxed fondly thoughtful). Ron Paul has had a career outside of government (which is why he's pro-life even though he's libertarian), and Ron Paul had real solutions to the big government problem. He didn't have to be a successful business man at Bain Capital to have real serious solutions.

eric said...

So to answer your question: The fact that Ron Paul is more concerned about big government than anyone else I've ever come across and he is NOT endorsing Romney is the main connection that leads me logically to cast my vote for the guy who is on the ballot and most closely aligns with his positions. That's Johnson. Yes, I know Johnson is not the family man social conservative that Paul is. But that's kind of the point of libertarianism. It's applicable and works the same magic in the economy and foreign policy whether one is religious or not.

I don't think you're throwing your vote away or voting for "just anyone." I was only referring to me and as I caveated at the beginning of my post, don't have any illusion of being able to convince anyone the day before the final polls close. That's actually why I saved this post for last night. Regardless of who we're voting for, we're all hoping for the same best outcome.


eric said...

Sorry, meant to source:

Andrea Forsyth said...

i like your thinking. and no worries - i never thought you were saying i was throwing my vote away. and i don't think you are throwing away yours either. i think you are right - most people really are just trying to accomplish the same thing...ish. we just have so many different ways of doing it.