Wednesday, October 3, 2012

For Conservatives Who Can't Stand Mitt

As Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign fails to generate heat, or win converts to Republican principles, many American conservatives wonder whether they have a home in today’s political landscape. The Republicans have become dominated by doctrinaire drum-beaters who apparently abhor discussion, or even viewing issues from multiple angles. Polls indicate undecided voters find the calcified Republican party at least distasteful.

A month from election day, Romney enjoys support from partisans and a handful of voters who explicitly oppose President Obama. But Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, like Sarah Palin before him, is blatantly bracing for his own future without the ticket. Conservatives unwilling to follow party orthopraxy feel alienated from the current debate. Who could blame them if they chose to skip our small-D democratic processes this year?

The answer is that the American two-party system has no legal foundation. George Washington, in his farewell address, openly called Americans to resist parties, which he called “factions,” as divisive and opposed to America’s best principles. He knew that two of his closest deputies, Jefferson and Hamilton, had organized parties to advance their own candidates, and their small squabbles had threatened to derail Washington’s own cabinet.

Two parties have dominated our politics since 1854, forcing Americans into one of two boxes. If you believe in social justice and poverty protection, you must also support gay marriage and UN multilateralism. If you believe in firm law enforcement and national security, you must also support unlimited gun ownership and abortion control. But few voters really accord that completely with an either-or vote.

Libertarian Party Presidential
candidate Gary Johnson
Noam Chomsky notes that, in the 2000 Presidential election, one candidate shared more of the general electorate’s stated principles. While Bush and Gore ran largely interchangeable campaigns, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader’s positions should have touched voters, left and right. He favored strict trade controls and labor laws, sparing military engagement, and warm relations with our NATO allies. Naturally, the media laughed Nader off as a mere Loony Lefty.

Fortunately, American conservatives have alternatives in this year’s election. You do not have to go Red or Blue to have a say; a truly free society has choices beyond what some quasi-official organization gives us. If conservatives want to vote, but can’t support one of history’s most lackluster campaigns, they might want to consider some of America’s alternate options:

The Libertarian Party began in the early 1970s as a loose conglomeration of nudists, pot smokers, and Star Trek fanatics. The Republicans have adopted many of its economic principles, but not its emphasis on civil liberties. The Libertarians believe the same freedoms afforded to corporations should apply to individuals. As such, they favor relaxing speed limits, abolishing tariffs, and decriminalizing soft drugs like marijuana.

Though the Libertarians are America’s largest third party, they are something of a political outlier. They have adopted Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, slightly watered down, as the party’s economic platform, and as such are the only party actively courting atheists and agnostics. In past elections, they were less interested in winning than in disseminating their message, but under Bob Barr in 2008, that reversed, and they are now considered contenders.

The Libertarians are running former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson for President in 2012.

Constitution Party Presidential
candidate Virgil Goode
The Constitution Party, formerly the US Taxpayers’ Party, takes a mixed view on important issues. They favor states’ rights in law enforcement, and value the Federal system of conjoined local governments. But their views on issues like border enforcement and national security take a hard line on the national level. Former concerns about homosexuality and teaching evolution in schools have given way to more practical concerns like illegal immigration.

This party is explicitly Christian, and many disillusioned Christian Right leaders have migrated here from the Republicans. While the party has a policy of strict non-intervention in personal affairs, they have strong connections with the Christian Identity movement. The Constitution Party’s unusually strict platform on abortion and euthanasia was copied almost verbatim into this year’s Republican platform.

The Constitution Party is running former Virginia congressman Virgil Goode for President in 2012. This party is incorporated under different names in some states; check the web or your local registrar of elections for more details.

Other third parties, including the Independent American Party, the Modern Whig Party, and Ross Perot’s Reform Party reflect important principles of American conservatism. Allowing one party to hold as noble a tradition as conservatism hostage to its leadership is distinctly un-American. Hopefully, American conservatives will investigate their options in the month between now and Election Day.

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