As we look ahead to the 2012 presidential elections, many in the Republican Party who are liberty-friendly (for lack of a better term) have considered themselves part of the “anybody but Obama” camp, intending to vote for Romney because at least he’s sorta conservative and espouses free-market ideas.
Whether you believe that or not, I ask anyone in this category to consider the primary importance of the Liberty Movement now taking place at the state and local level in creating real change in policy in the coming years. A Romney victory in November might in fact be much worse for liberty than an Obama victory.
First, it is important to remember that disappointment with Obama has fueled the student libertarian movement, as young voters turn away from the president because of his atrocious war and civil liberties record.
SOPA, PIPA, NDAA, Guantanamo’s continued operation and the drone wars have led frustrated students to flock to Ron Paul, many of whom had previously been Obama supporters. “I'm realizing Ron Paul is the only candidate I could accept; none of the others represent me,” said one young Iowa Democrat to the Huffington Post during the Iowa caucus.
Having youthful disaffection continue for another four years could really solidify a significant portion of millennials, 45% of whom self-identify as “independent” according to Pew research, as libertarians, classical liberals, or some other stripe that rejects the two-party duopoly. The more people take the red pill, the more of a force we will be electorally.
Obama’s presidency has made it somewhat safe for Republican legislators to feel they can question the status quo, including on monetary and foreign policy. Like it or not, libertarians have found it easier to build coalitions with conservatives than progressives, and those coalitions are getting stronger, with the traditional right increasingly moving toward liberty, rather than the opposite.
Four years of Romney will almost certainly lead to serious infighting in the GOP between the different factions over the soul of the party, which could damage coalitions and erode libertarian candidates’ chances of success within the party at a time when we are literally taking over the party in many states. A common opponent in the White House is more likely to smooth our transition into a position of major influence in the party and affect policy for decades to come.
If the EU falls in the next four years (a very likely possibility) and there is a contagion effect that causes economic problems to worsen in the US, whichever party holds the White House will have to deal with it—we may be better off with a pro-regulation Democrat than someone talking about the beauty of free markets, even if we know those markets aren’t truly free.
Libertarians unfortunately exist outside of much of the public’s experience on the idea of truly free markets, and education is a slow process. Messaging to the people about the real benefits of liberty will be easier for us if we can more easily show the failures of statist philosophies, a strategy that has been very effective since 2008.
If we get Romney, we may be stuck with him until 2020. In that time frame he can do untold damage to the Republic, as well as the Republican Party. With a statist Republican in the White House setting the tone for the Party, it will be more difficult for liberty-minded Republicans like Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Mike Lee and others to get the rank-and-file GOP behind constitutional principles. Better to let Obama reign until 2016 and enable him to dig himself in deeper trouble with useless spending, horrendous cronyism and other status-quo problems for four years than allow a Republican to do it for eight.
To those of us who are a part of it, The Ron Paul Movement’s growth and flourishing is of critical importance here. We will have to strike a crucial balance between momentum/enthusiasm and the time needed to take over local party leadership, a movement that will be fueled by both its own success stories and frustration with the ever-increasing power of the state. It will not be an easy fight and it will remain important to consider the lessons the Paul campaign has itself learned: strategy is important.