Friday, November 9, 2012

Mining for a heart of gold: my 3d party vote

[This post is cross posted at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen, all with a nifty photo of James Weaver, third party candidate for the Greenback Party in 1880 and for the Populist Party in 1892:  click here to read it and the comments there.]

As I've noted, I voted for Gary Johnson.  In large part, I drew the inspiration for my vote from Jason Kuznicki's point that we might look at our vote as an expression of how we affiliate ourselves, as a sort of self-declaration of principles (again, my apologies if I am in some ways misconstruing his argument, but that was my takeaway).  One feature of such self-declaration, however, is the false sense of purity one might take away from it.  This feature is dangerous and probably unavoidable.  And although self-declaration seems the way to go, any disposition toward honesty requires the self-declarers to acknowledge this danger upfront.

One reason to vote for Johnson is that in theory, he would scale back or check the power of the military, and (even more theoretically and more doubtfully had he by some fluke actually won) he would scale back the power of the executive.  Affiliating with this idea is pretty easy, but dangerously so.  Yes, on paper I am disgusted with Obama's martial rhetoric and his robust prosecution of war and targeted killing, all the while wondering whether targeted killing, to the extent it's truly targeted, might be an improvement over bombing an entire neighborhood in the hopes that the "bad guy" will be killed amid all the innocent victims.  But in my day to day life, I don't really think about it other than as something that is really unfortunate and that I wish weren't happening.

I also have to entertain the suggestion that I, to quote Colonel Jessup, "can't handle the truth."  To point out--rightly, I might add--that America's military adventures often don't make us safer or that any true invasion of American soil would likely be met by effective armed resistance by the citizenry, such as was done during a policy disagreement over taxes in the late 1700s, does not negate the fact that if someone tried to storm the walls that protect me, the military would likely be first in the line of defense and that I would appreciate its doing so.  (Heck, if my life be in danger, I probably would not hesitate, if I could, to call 911, and be grateful to the very police department that has recently been proven to tolerate torture in the past.)

Similarly, although in an issue less momentous than war, I chose my side and chose it early when it came to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  I wanted and want the act to survive, and that outcome is much more likely with a President Obama than it would have been under a President Romney, or, I will add, under a President Johnson whose first name isn't Lyndon.  I rooted for Obama this time around in a way that I really didn't in 2008 because of the PPACA. In 2008, I wanted him to win but was distrustful of what I interpreted as, as I've mentioned before, the idolatry of a mere human and a might makes right mentality.

To be clear, I see something to be concerned about in some of Johnson's positions.  One example is his position that "TSA should take a risk-based approach to airport security. Only high-risk individuals should be subjected to invasive pat-downs and full-body scans."  He might be right on the merits, but considering who in practice might be targeted as "high-risk individuals," that policy statement, taken by itself, might easily appeal to a constituency more inclined to find scapegoats than security threats.  Although this is perhaps a subject for another day, his immigration policy strikes me as having the (unintended) potential for draconian results.

Yet I got the happy (for me) result of an Obama victory with the self-satisfaction that comes from endorsing a candidate whose message mostly coincides with the type of approach I would like to see when it comes to defining and resolving America's problems.  Like everyone else, I live in an imperfect world condemned to imperfection.

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