Libertarian Purity and the Presidential Race

In March of last year, I wrote a post on “Libertarian purity”.  It was one of the most read posts of 2011, and probably the most read post I’ve personally ever written.  As we look onto the 2012 primary season and eventual general election, I figured it might be a good time to revisit that post and how it could apply to this election.

First, we have a unique year this year.  An actual libertarian - by most people’s definition anyways - has a legitimate shot and making some headway.  Ron Paul’s slow but steady rise in the polls has been something that fills me with a level of joy that is hard to describe.  “But Tom,” you might say, “didn’t you come out in support of Gary Johnson?”  I would answer yes.  I like Johnson more than Paul, but frankly a President Ron Paul wouldn’t exactly be anything close to bad in my book.

Further, Gary Johnson is challenging for the Libertarian Party nomination, so there’s still a good chance that I’ll get to vote for him in the general election.

It’s entirely possible that we’ll have two libertarians on the ticket, but it’s also possible that we won’t have but one.  So what do we do about that?

In that post from last year, I said that it was vital that we start winning elections, rather than just debating politics from the outside.  So let’s take a look at some of the options and how it relates to that post.

First, let’s say that Paul gets the GOP nomination, Johnson gets the LP slot, and they’re taking on Obama.  It would be easy for libertarians to argue that they should vote for the LP candidate for whatever reasons…ballot access is a pretty common one.  However, this nation is on the proverbial highway to hell, and we have to do something about it.  In this case, despite how much I actually like Gary Johnson, I would probably vote for Paul.  Not because I am compromising my principles, but because Paul also represents many of those principles and I am banding together with people who I normally wouldn’t vote with in an effort accomplish great things for this nation.

Now, let’s say that Paul is not the nominee.  Admittedly, that’s pretty likely over the long haul.  Let’s say it’s Romney.  Looking at my previous example, it would be easy for some to assume that I would vote for Romney.  They would be oh-so-wrong.

Mitt Romney, you see, stands for many things that I find abhorrent.  RomneyCare is just one example.  Frankly, the guy is as libertarian as George W. Bush…and that is to say, he ain’t.  I can’t in good conscious vote for Romney.  Oh sure, he can win elections, but at what cost? The fact is, to vote for Romney would require me to go against my priniciples in almost every way.  The same is true of much of the rest of the GOP field as well.

You see, while I argue that libertarian purity is taken to extremes, that’s not to say that we should compromise libertarianism as a whole by simply rolling over and taking whatever candidates happen to be put up by the GOP.  However, we need to also be prepared to accept that some candidates who may not be perfect, may also not be all that bad.  A great example of someone doing just that was what Doug Mataconis points out regarding John Huntsman. Huntsman, who has been derided by most in the GOP as to liberal, actually has done some libertarian things in his time in office.  He could be argued to be the “moderate libertarian” I spoke about before.  Yes, he was far from perfect.  Doug touched on all of that in his post.  However, Huntsman could easily have appealed to liberatarian voters…except for Ron Paul and Gary Johnson were in the field.

Now, I’m not telling anyone who to vote for.  I’m simply explaining my philosophy towards candidate selection from a libertarian standpoint.  Personally, I feel it’s more important to get liberatarians - even those who are less than ideal - into office rather than watch Bush have yet another term of office, just under another name.


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