Monday, January 23, 2012

Can 8% Start a Movement?

I was flipping through channels Saturday night absorbing some of the coverage from various networks. I happened upon MSNBC right after Ron Paul made his speech and was able to hear something very interesting. Lawrence O’Donnell was pontificating about Ron Paul and his supporters, with his tone truly reflecting his attempt to capture top pompous ass on TV, when he said that the Ron Paul supporter will never be represented by the Republican nominee (2:25 mark). That was the second most interesting thing he had to say, the first being that the Democratic nominee will not represent them either. He went on to condescendingly say that this is the “legalize drugs, end all wars” crowd. According to O’Donnell, Ron Paul has galvanized this group of whack-jobs for no other reason than to start a third party at some vague, undetermined time in the future. Given his expertise, he tells us that if this movement was to break off and run a third party right now, it would garner 8% of the vote. This, of course, is O’Donnell being intellectually lazy and quoting survey numbers of people who would self-identify as Libertarians. But if we start from the premise that neither the Republican or the Democrat will represent these people, why don’t we examine some issues and see if we can add to the percentage.

Since these pundits sort of laughingly referred to legalizing drugs, let’s start there. One of the hits libertarian-minded people take from the established parties and their pundits, is the notion that drugs should be legalized. This stems from the idea that Libertarians are just pot-head Republicans, people who want to get high and be left alone doing it. If we are going to expand our percentage, we need to convince people there is a greater logic behind this position. Given that government spending at both the Federal and State level is a concern, we should start from there. How much does the War on Drugs really cost? Ponder all the direct costs of this effort to keep people from intoxicating themselves: interdiction, direct military aid, intelligence, enforcement manpower and equipment, court costs and staffing, incarceration costs in both facilities and manpower, and dozens of other categories too long to list here. Then think on this, we are borrowing money to do this. We keep hearing from both sides how we have to reexamine our priorities and how, where and why we are spending our tax dollars. Why not start with something as simple as marijuana? Is this really something that needs to be occupying the time of diplomats, military personnel, police officers, judges, corrections officers, and probation officers? Is this something we need to be borrowing money for?  Why not make it one of those ridiculously simplistic metrics people like so much in the 30-second political commercials: Cut a teacher/firefighter or lock up Joe Stoner? How many textbooks could the $10,000 a year it costs to keep someone locked up buy? That can be used at all levels of government. How much money do we not have to borrow just to keep people from doing no more harm than if they were drinking? And those would just be direct costs, nothing taking into account years of productivity, shattered lives and collateral damage that come from this war, which also adds to the cost. If you make it a balance sheet issue instead of a morality, think of the children issue, you can certainly add to the 8%. For anyone who needs further convincing, they can look at one of my favorite graphics about Prohibition, and then ask them, how drugs could possibly be any different?

One of the other dismissive things he said that evening was the “end all wars” quip. Now, I am personally not a peacenik, and many people have issue with Ron Paul because of his foreign policy stances, but if we are going to increase the 8%, we should again place it in terms that everyone can easily examine and judge on the merits. The U.S. is over $1.5 Trillion in debt this year, $16 Trillion overall. Should Americans allow their government to borrow money to protect Germany and Britain from non-existent military threats? Pretty simple isn’t it? Force the other side to defend the notion that we need to borrow money to keep troops in Europe. Start small, concede that there may be some reason to keep troops in South Korea, but ask why they have to be in Okinawa when the Okinawans do not want us there? How exactly will the Republic fall if we spend only say 3.5% of our GDP on defense instead of 5%? These are questions that have to be answered regardless of who wins the election, because the bills are going to come due eventually.
As O’Donnell said, the Democrats won’t deal with these questions either. We can continue to play this game even further when it comes to Medicare, Social Security or any of the other programs Democrats have said they will defend no matter what. In the end, it is not going to matter who wins the Republican nomination (because all of the pundits have decreed Paul can’t win) or even the general election. Just examine it rationally: If Mitt or Newt wins the Presidency, will they reduce the debt and roll back the power and scope of the Federal government? If neither of them is willing to cut defense by even a dime, and they are both on record as pandering to the Medicare/Social Security demographic, then what hope is there? To take either of them at their word right now, we would have to brace for the Federal government doing everything they could to outlaw abortion and possibly execute people for dealing drugs (GO NEWT!). If Obama wins, what could possibly be any different? Both sides of the aisle are trying to find ways in this election year to make sure all of the cuts they have committed to never come to fruition.

So what is the point of supporting either of these parties? If you step away from the 8% idea, and instead of Libertarian, place in Independent, what happens then? Libertarians take the hit as being unfit to govern because of ideological rigidity, but is that really the case? When writing a platform or speaking to the like-minded, every political party seems to be rigid, because you are trying to appeal for support. Does an Obama stump speech to a room full of union supporters and donors resonate at all with an Independent who is concerned about long-term debt? When Newt is pandering to a room a room full of conservative Christians about the proper roll of faith in the government, does that fill the Independent concerned about the dangers of big government with glee? At that point, what is stopping you from stepping away from these two monolith parties, who are undeniably only concerned with gaining and maintaining power for their own ends, and supporting someone else? Sit and actually listen to Newt, Mitt, Barack and the rest, go ahead. Listen to John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, and the rest, please do. Look at all that has been done and said by both sides in the last decade as each one has gone back and forth in gaining and attaining various levels of control over two branches of our government. What do we have to show for it? Intrusive regulations, lost freedoms, concentrated Federal power, an economy in shambles and a near insurmountable mountain of debt. What will we get if Mitt/Newt/Obama wins the election? Do you simply assume things will get better if we give complete control to one of these political parties again, or should we keep it “divided”? Does it seem strange that when it comes to things like reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act, bailing out the banks, kicking the Medicare fix down the road or raising the debt ceiling, all of that partisan acrimony just seems to disappear? You are told not to waste your vote by stepping outside the two-party system, but what is the real difference? One of the features of our system is the winner-take-all Single Member Plurality Districts. Most votes, not the majority of votes, equals the win. Independents are now the plurality in this country, mainly because they are fed up with the merry-go-round not getting anywhere. If they decided that enough was enough, and threw their support behind someone else, that would be the end of the story, or at least make for an interesting brawl. If people changed their focus away from President and back towards the Congress that is in charge of creating all of these laws and debt, then actually stopped sending the same spend-thrift clowns back year after year, the fight would become truly interesting. But you need a place to start. Listen to Obama’s State of the Union, or a Romney/Gingrich/Santorum anything, and then go read Gary Johnson’s platform. Is he honestly the scariest person in the race for you? Then stay on the merry-go-round. Otherwise use the internet to see what other candidates, at every level of government have to say. The media has no faith in your ability to step away from the major parties, so you have to do it yourself. If you can step away from the R or the D, and use the information that modern technology provides you to learn and disseminate information, then you might find it high time to be truly independent, whatever form that takes.

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