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31 December 2003

Looking Back, Looking Forward 

Dear readers, 2003 is almost over and, despite its many horrors and outrages, I think we must conclude with Tori Amos that it has been a pretty good year. As more recognized columnists have already recounted the events of the passing year – I refer you to Helen Thomas and Dave Barry in particular – I will focus my attentions on the other time-honored tradition of the punditocracy: predictions.

There is always the potential for humiliation when you place your predictions for the future into the public record, but as the only alternatives are silence or a Nostradamus-like obscurity, I have little choice but to take this risk. My only consolation is that I have other clear-eyed observers on my side, and Congress has certainly taught us all how to hastily fashion lame excuses about faulty information.

Now, on to the crystal ball.

Prediction #1: Howard Dean will win the Democratic Nomination. After a strong showing in Iowa, a coronation in New Hampshire, and better than expected performances in Southern primaries, Terry McAuliffe will order his troops to accept the inevitable before St. Patrick’s Day.

Prediction #2: Bob Graham will be Dean’s running mate. Long before the Florida love fest, this discussion happened… since this is a fortunetelling and not a doctoral thesis, I see no need to further justify my position.

Prediction #3: Support for the Libertarian Party will be dramatically higher nationwide. Please allow me to clarify. I do not believe that the Libertarian Party is winning the war of ideas on the political battlefield, I do not believe that their presidential nominee will generate much excitement among the electorate, and I certainly do not believe (based on their deficit of both money and leadership) that the LP will achieve any great historic firsts, like the election of a Senator or Governor. I do believe, however, that Libertarians will see a large boost from protest votes, as true small government conservatives find it impossible to vote for either Bush or Dean but (for state and local reasons) choose not to stay home. I also predict that the LP will laud this as a glorious victory.

Thus end my divinations. I am sure that anyone who has read this far is looking for the big prediction: namely, will Bush win a second term, or will Dean defeat him? This is a far murkier cup of tea, and I can barely see the leaves to read them. I am willing to stick my neck out this far: anyone predicting a landslide is dead wrong – our nation is still divided, and our next president will come to power by a slender electoral majority.

And, with your help, DEAN CAN WIN.

26 December 2003

Boxing Day Musings 

The consumer holiday behind us, exhausted Americans now begin preparations for the impending Bacchanal and few, if any, turn their weary eyes to politics. This is as it should be, but it is wise to be wary, considering this administration’s tendencies to make announcements when no one is watching. A couple headlines, lest we forget:

Howard Dean was mercilessly attacked by the other Democratic “challengers” for saying that America was not safer after the capture of Saddam Hussein. Just days later, our security alert was raised from Bert to Ernie. Don’t let anyone left, right, or otherwise spin this one… catching Saddam was and is irrelevant to “the war on terror”.

Ralph Nader is not running for President, at least not as a Green. This, coupled with ever-growing conservative discontent, lends yet more credibility to my election analysis. (If I’m so smart, why ain’t I rich?)

The caucuses and primaries are almost upon us. If you are not registered to vote at your current address, now is the time to register. If you live in a closed primary state and intend to become a temporary Democrat, now is the time to switch.

Enjoy the festivities, my friends, but remember the price of freedom.

22 December 2003

Liberty: The January Issue 

You’d think by now I’d have been able to put the issue to rest, yet no matter which political circle in which I travel, the same argument surfaces: is libertarianism incompatible with support of a Democratic candidate? Anyone reading this knows my opinion, but I’m just some wingnut who thinks people actually give a damn what I think. For a more credentialed opinion, look no further than the January 2004 issue of Liberty Magazine. Amidst the book and film reviews, and my hastily-written assault on my archnemesis Tim Slagle, are two excellent articles that deal with this very subject.

The first, Learning from the California Election by long-time critic R. W. Bradford, masterfully illustrates the sorry state of the Libertarian Party today. In the wide open and relatively level playing field that was the California Governor’s race, Libertarians garnered less than one tenth of one percent of the vote. In fact, more people cast their ballots for child actor Gary Coleman than for all three LP candidates combined. Bradford’s conclusion from this, as one might guess, is that “Americans are very happy with the two-party system, and contesting partisan elections as an independent or minor party candidate simply cannot succeed”… which leads us to the second article.

Fellow Floridian Greg Newburn kindly mentions my compatriots at Libertarians for Dean in the beginning of Time to Get Real, the very existence of which exemplifies his thesis: “libertarianism through the major parties is the only effective way to introduce the core of libertarianism, that extensions of state activity should be viewed skeptically, to the masses”. In many ways, this is exactly what Howard Dean is doing; if we were to measure the man by his views on the Iraq war, civil liberties, and federalism, it would be no stretch of the imagination to say that Howard Dean is a libertarian candidate. Instead of a marginalized defeat, his principled idealism and vocal opposition to bipartisan “business as usual” may very well put him in the White House, proving that libertarian ideas – if not the Libertarian Party – are alive and well in these United States.

So what is to be done? If upon careful consideration of the arguments presented by Newburn and Bradford, you find the Libertarian Party guilty of gross incompetence, then your only choice is to attempt to change the system from within. Two organizations – the Republican Liberty Caucus and the Democratic Freedom Caucus – are waiting for you with open arms. I myself am not prepared to make that step, however pragmatic it may be.

I am not content with only two choices. After all, I picked Dean out of nine.

19 December 2003

The Long March to Victory 

The other night over at Chat For America, I had the opportunity to debate a “diehard” Democrat on Howard Dean’s foreign policy. His basic position was little more than a retread of the old “we’ve got to get tough on crime” argument proposed by every policy wonk working for every campaign ever… in short, the American people are stupid and easily frightened, so unless Dean comes out in favor of “kicking terrorist ass”, he will lose to Bush in a landslide.

I beg to differ. Let me tell you why.

I believe that all of the Democratic candidates have long suffered message dilution… it’s difficult to discern subtle nuances of political philosophy when you have nine people saying similar things in thirty second bursts. The mainstream media, ever enamored with the horse race, regurgitates press releases instead of doing investigative reporting, which is why we now have the popular image of Gov. Howard Dean, bastard son of George McGovern and Newt Gingrich, unelectable Yankee waving a Confederate flag. When the current cacophony of criticism becomes a chorus of support for the nominee (and McAuliffe insists that those who do not sing at least remain silent), then the American people will begin to listen. And I believe Dean’s message will resonate.

I believe that in a two-person race Democrats will rally around their candidate, regardless of past differences. When there are no other alternatives, they will search for excuses to support him – Al Gore has given them one, and Bush certainly provides several more. Those on Dean’s left will find nowhere else to go; many ex-Nader voters I’ve spoken to would vote Democratic if Zell Miller were the nominee. Establishment partisans will predominately cast their ballots for “Anybody but Bush” as well… quite a few of them also made this decision three years ago.

I believe that we live in a 50-50 nation. Not only is America half red and half blue, we are also a country where half of our citizens choose not to vote. This, I think, is the key to the next election. I do not believe that most people who voted against George W. Bush last time around will suddenly support him, even if Osama bin Laden were captured on the Fourth of July. Let us assume that the number of Democrats who could never vote for Dean is roughly proportional to the amount of disgruntled right-wingers who feel betrayed by Bush’s policies and stay home on Election Day. In this absence of turnout, we pit the children of Limbaugh against a broad coalition of Democrats and Independents, Libertarians and Greens, first time voters and angry Republicans. And we win.

But what of the South and the Heartland? What about appealing to the middle? After 9/11 and the capture of Saddam, how can we possibly beat Bush? As I have said before, all the Democratic candidate needs to win in 2004 are the states that Gore won, plus ten more electoral votes. With principled conservatives abstaining (or voting Libertarian in protest), and little opposition on the left, does anyone honestly believe that New England or the Left Coast will go Republican? So all Dean must do is pick up one or two more states, and he need not change his message to do so… the Bush administration may have already given him Nevada and West Virginia, and that’s exactly 270. But, dear friends, I believe that the final count will be much higher than that.

Bob Graham and I intend to deliver Florida.

16 December 2003

Black, White, and Browne 

Can you be a patriotic conservative and still be against the war in Iraq? Two very different people – Tom Tomorrow and Harry Browne – seem to think so, and I wholeheartedly agree. My candidate in 2000 also has some valuable insight to offer regarding the Patriot Act, which much to Mr. Browne’s chagrin is one of my primary reasons for supporting Howard Dean for President. Libertarians, Greens, Independents, and (most importantly) Democratic Primary Voters take note: the Bush administration put this noose around your neck with the help of D.C. Democrats, and there is only one candidate with a chance in hell of winning who can be trusted to cut the rope.

While you’re here, one addendum to my previous post: I believe that Ted Koppel should be shot with a water gun… but I will not disclose my preferred fluid with which to fill said Super Soaker.

Catching Up… 

Dear readers, I know I have been neglecting you of late, but six day work weeks and divided loyalties have kept my blogging fingers occupied. Let’s now quickly review the events of the past fortnight.

The two big stories are, of course, Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean and the capture of Saddam Hussein. The professional punditry has all but beaten both topics to death, so let me simply say that I welcome the narrowing of the race to Dean vs. Lieberman, and have little doubt that Dr. Dean will brutally crush George W. in the post-primary debates. Sadly, many voters picked their candidates in 2002… but I still think “not Bush”, in the form of Brother Howard, can win.

Further, I move that Ted Koppel should be shot (if only for forcing me to agree with Dennis Kucinich).

Now back to the horse race: I am fully aware that the characterization of recent events by the mainstream media has seemingly taken a little of the wind out of the Dean campaign’s sails. What the talking heads have been discussing, however, is the general election, not the primaries, and there should be little doubt that the “Teflon Doc” will be the Democratic nominee unless the Clintons cook up a “December surprise” of their own. So what does that (hopeful) inevitability mean for libertarian and independent voters? That we must choose between the lesser of two evils again? Not necessarily.

The election of 2004 will not be a referendum on libertarian ideals vs. Republicrat statism, but neither will it be a choice between more of the same and an angry peacenik Socialist. Howard Dean may be wrong on some aspects of the role of the federal government, and he may be moving far too slowly in the right direction on other issues, but there are real, substantive differences between him and George W. Bush, and on those grounds I urge all libertarians (big and small L) to support him.

Do you prefer unilateral imperialism or multilateral intervention? Cooperative peacekeeping or preemptive war? In this election, there will be no third choice.

Would you rather that the thieving hand of the state redistribute your wealth to multinational corporations and front groups for the religious right, or would you rather see your money provide education and health care for working families? In this election, there will be no third choice.

Which is the preferable price to pay in financing the war on terrorism: tax dollars squandered on so-called foreign aid, or the blood of America’s sons and daughters? Which the better economic strategy: moderate protectionism and a balanced budget, or reckless deficit spending and a trickle-down Ponzi scheme? What adjustment to the marginal tax rate could possibly justify four more years of John Ashcroft?

In this election, I see no third choice. Perhaps you disagree. I understand precisely where you’re coming from, which is why I have not changed my party to vote in an irrelevant primary, and I why I likely could not support any other Democrat in the general election. For all his faults, Howard Dean stands for common sense, civil liberties, an end to corporate corruption, and – God willing – peace. If you don’t see things that way, then vote Libertarian (please), or write in your own name, or just stay home.

Just promise me you won’t vote for four more years of this.

01 December 2003

Dr. Dean Pushes My Buttons 

It’s been a Dean-filled day for me, dear readers, and I must report that our candidate is getting better all the time. After two hours of subtle indoctrination on public radio and MSNBC, I am more convinced than ever that this man can and should be the next President of the United States, and I feel strongly that enough “traditional non-Democrats” will agree come November.

That said, Dr. Dean irritated the hell out of me today. More than once. It all started on the Diane Rehm show when he stated support for steel tariffs (about 25 minutes in, for those playing the home game). One of the few intelligent things our current President will ever do is to repeal these tariffs which anger our trade partners and hurt the American economy. I can’t fault the Governor for pandering to union voters in swing states – indeed, I believe this was also Bush’s motivation for the tariffs – but the campaign would do well to remember that much of Dean’s support comes from opponents of Democratic Party protectionism. Don’t get all Gephardt on us, Doc.

Then came Hardball… quite possibly Dean’s best televised appearance yet. He seemed confident but not cocky, relaxed but serious, prepared but not stale, and he handled most of the character assassination questions with ease. On matters of intellect and judgment, I simply can not imagine that any independent would seriously consider choosing Bush over Dean. None the less, I must offer the Governor some advice: don’t promote mandatory union membership if you want to maintain support among moderates and libertarians (although I see your point), please recognize that free trade is foreign aid (exploitation of workers and the environment not withstanding), and, for the love of God and Ronald Reagan, stop calling Russia the Soviet Union!

Despite my quibbling, I stand by my previous statement: Dean’s words and deeds today have strengthened my faith in him. It is conceivable that his policies will improve the lives of workers at home and abroad without burdening consumers or propping up inefficient industries. Perhaps his framework for renegotiated foreign trade will be better for the nation than a pure laissez-faire approach. Maybe his cyclical view of business regulation is more correct than my layman’s understanding of Austrian economics.

I say we elect him and find out.

Standard disclaimer: these are my opinions, and no one's paying me to share them.
If you'd like to share yours, feel free to drop me a line or find me at Chat For America.

The Law Is For All