Friday, September 23, 2011

Left, Right or Indifferent: Who Should Be Compromising Here?

When the hard Left or Right are not lambasting the libertarian-minded for being crazy or naïve, then they are trying to convince them that an alliance is needed, because one or the other speaks to “many” of their values, and the rest can just be worked out in the wash. Given it is Presidential election season, we see many connotations of this line of reasoning. This Libertarian blogger made an emphatic point that Barack Obama is just the worst possible thing that any Libertarian could possibly imagine, because he has continued or expanded many of George W. Bush’s most odious policies. The answer of course: Vote Republican. To be exact, so there is no misinterpretation: “We can deal with the other stuff later, one thing at a time. We may not agree with Republicans on every single issue, but they are far closer cousins to our ideology of freedom than the Obama/Democrat alternative.” I am more than a little concerned by the notion of “deal with the other stuff later”; when exactly would we be dealing with it, and who are we going to “deal” with? With Ron Paul, and thankfully last night, Gary Johnson, being an actual part of the discussion, there is quite a bit of courting going on for the Libertarian, but why exactly should we be dealing or compromising so as to make sure we get the “proper” candidate to take on Obama?

The notion that Libertarians move in a closer orbit with Conservatives, in the most general terms, is supportable, though not a truism. It is also true that no matter how many intersecting issues Libertarians share with today’s Liberals, what usually happens is that free-market ideology usually throws a monkey wrench into the works of alliances. It is also true that the Obama administration in general has not followed through on many things that it promised that moved Independents into his camp. But is defeating Obama the only consideration? Some are saying that the GOP establishment is concerned that Rick Perry is too appealing to primary voters, and it is hurting “their” choice of Mitt Romney, whom they see as being able to beat Obama. This should speak volumes to the problem of compromise. Why is it that we have to compromise to support one of these two? What are we going to be asked to compromise on exactly? Anything the “establishment” GOP wants should be rebuked out of hand. The establishment is, and has been, the problem for decades. Government of, for and by John Boehner and Mitch McConnell frightens the hell out of me. It is these clowns and their polices that paved the way for the train wreck we are living in today. Medicare Part D, do I get more of that? Do we get to invade some other piss-ant country? If Libertarians support Mitt and the establishment, does everyone get to go through the airport naked with a government approved bar code tattoo on their forehead? As to supporting Perry, what do we get if we compromise there? Didn’t we try this once already? If we line up with the Social Conservatives can we guarantee to stuff all the gays back in the closet, outlaw abortion even in case of Martian gang-rape and carve the Ten Commandments on Mt. Rushmore? Wouldn’t that be super? This is the problem with compromise. It is necessary to govern, for in this free country of ours there are very different ideas about policy, and no one group, thankfully, can ascend to impose whatever ideas they want.

In the primaries it is important to fire up the base, and you then need to moderate your positions for the general election, or so goes the conventional wisdom. This is when compromise comes into play: “Yeah, I said all these other things during the primaries, but now I am willing to speak to you and bring you under my ‘Big Tent’ so we can defeat the other guy.” Given that punditry and conventional political wisdom has not, and will not, be solving any of our present problems, maybe we should be demanding a little more compromise from the other guys. Why don’t the Neo-Cons and the Social Conservatives admit that all of their policy planks will never be (nor should ever be) completely implemented and that they need to be putting some things on the table? If we are going to be talking about compromise and the questions to be asked and answered of our candidates why not make them the tough ones that need to be answered:

National Defense: Given the budget hole we are in, what exactly are you going to do about the Defense Budget? Do we need to be spending 5% of our GDP or could we still take on all comers if we only spent 3%? Who exactly are we spending all this money to intimidate? Do we need troops all over the world? It should be blatantly obvious to any observer that Russian equipment and tactics cannot hold a candle to their western counterparts, so if NATO cannot defend itself against a non-existent Russian threat without thousands of American troops on the ground as a deterrent, what purpose does it serve?

Entitlements: Grandma votes, you can’t ignore that fact, and the only thing I can give Perry credit for is holding to his guns on Social Security reform. The establishment GOP does not like talking about these things because they see poor election metrics, but the problem is real, and it is out there. Pandering for votes is not going to solve that, and neither are vague answers. You need to actually address the real problems with these programs and how they are going to be solved.

The National Security State: Every candidate should have been asked “Have we traded too much freedom in the name of security, and if you believe so what will you do to rectify that?” Anyone who answers “No” to that question should be ignored by Libertarians and the electorate in general. Freedom and liberty are easy concepts to cherish and defend in good times. It is the in the hard, troublesome, dangerous times that a country’s mettle is tested, and we have for the most part failed. Homeland Security and the accompanying expansion of government power has come at a great cost, most of which we are not even aware of, and it was easy, because we were scared, and “those” people were so very different from “us.” We spend a tremendous amount of money and human resources on a myriad of things, with little or no reflection on utility, efficacy or necessity. Going forward we need to be more and more vigilant and more demanding of accountability. We need to remember there was a reason Intelligence agencies and the Justice Department were banned from doing many of the pre-PATRIOT Act practices we take for granted now; they proved themselves untrustworthy, and there is little reason to believe they have changed that much.

Government: All the Republican candidates are “small government” guys now, and it is easy to pick something like the Dept. of Education or the EPA and point to their failings and say “get rid of them”. While they do have a multiplier effect on productivity and outcome well beyond their line items, they are for the most part small potatoes in budget terms. The follow-up to that debate question should have been “After saving that almost insignificant 3% or less of the budget, what next? Exactly what will you be cutting, when and how much?” Republicans have been the party of small government until it suits them, then they are just as big spendthrifts and busy-bodies as Democrats. If Ron Paul has to be specific about what he is going to do, why not everyone else?

When we are done asking these and a hundred other questions, then maybe we can look at compromise in a different light. Maybe the Establishment GOP, Neo-Cons and Social Conservatives can look at the landscape and say, “Those Libertarians and their ideas line up with us in regards to X, Y and Z, so maybe we should compromise on a few of these things and support Paul/Johnson/some unnamed future candidate so we have the best chance to beat Obama and deal with the other stuff later.” There is a chance that a synthesis of ideas and cause could come from a real dialogue about all of the issues facing this country. Maybe the compromise could be a two-way street in which Libertarians did not feel like they lost too much of their soul in order to elect what seemed to be the lesser of two evils. Of course if I believed any of that, I would actually be a crazy, naïve person instead of just playing one on the Internet. The compromise/alliance they seek is one of convenience, one they will play at to court Libertarians and other Independents as a means to an end - power. That is the motivation, plain and simple. While Obama and his polices are antithetical to many Libertarians, there is nothing to say Republicans won’t be just as bad as they have always proven themselves in the past. If support is needed, then there should be some up-front concessions on their part. Giving in on certain ideas, without receiving anything in return is not compromise or an alliance, its simply giving in. Ideological consistency might not win any elections, but it is easier to sleep at night, and who knows, maybe the American people will get fed up enough to stop the Two-Party swinging pendulum and demand something more. Let’s hope that is less of a crazy idea in the long run.


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