Who to Support in the Election
No, this article is not my big presidential endorsement statement. After all, it's hardly a mystery where I stand: I oppose Barack Obama and support Paul Ryan—er, that is, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. My full argument against Obama and for Romney-Ryan is coming soon, but in the meantime, I want to offer some advice on the best tactical and strategic uses for your political support. It's a narrower issue, but at this stage of the game, five weeks out from Election Day, it's more useful.
On the national level, I want to emphasize that what we need right now is not just your vague support for the Romney ticket, but direct, active, concrete support. That means money for campaign donations, but just as important it means volunteering your time and effort, at phone banks, canvassing, whatever the campaign needs. In this day and age, it doesn't matter if you don't live in a "battleground" state, since some of the work can be done at a distance. I remember in 2010 that Scott Brown was running virtual phone banks, so you could volunteer to call Massachusetts voters from your own home hundreds of miles away.
In my newsletter for RealClearPolitics, I've been following the way the election is seemingly moving against Romney, with polls showing him running behind and with press stories about his campaign's real or imagined missteps. All of this is overstated and magnified by the partisan press, but there is something real behind it. And while it may be demoralizing to see the Romney campaign seeming to struggle, this is precisely when it needs your support. If Romney were five to ten points ahead in the polls—which is where he should be, given the incumbent's record—we could calmly sit back and anticipate Obama's exit from office and the repeal of Obamacare. Since it's not going to happen that easily, we have to get to work to make it happen.
It is not that the candidate is all that inspiring, though I think the platform he is running on has some substantial virtues, which I'll get into later. It's just simply that there is no other choice. In my RCP newsletter, I recently quoted a great observation by Ben Domenech on why the Tea Party is standing firm behind Romney even as the Republican establishment quails. As he put it, beating Obama is "a necessary first step before continuing any of their internal battles on policy grounds." If you believe in the cause of limited government, having Obama out office is the necessary condition for everything else you want to do, from repealing Obamacare to reining in the runaway growth of entitlements. We may not be sure how much of our agenda will get passed under Romney and Ryan, but we know what we'll get under Obama: nothing.
So we have to do whatever we can. The seas are rough, so we should all take some advice from Joe Plaice and hold fast.
The election won't just be fought on the big national level, though, and there are two congressional-level races I can recommend as having wide strategic significance.
The first is Scott Brown's Senate re-election race in Massachusetts.
This race is partly important as part of the battle for control of the Senate. Removing Barack Obama from office is a necessary condition for any attempt to rein in the growth of government, but it isn't the only necessary condition. We also need at least 50 Republicans in the Senate. With Todd Akin refusing to abandon his Senate campaign in Missouri—after launching it with what is and ought to be a politically fatal pronouncement—gaining control of the Senate is looking like it will be difficult, and Scott Brown is running one of the tightest races, trying to hang on to his seat in left-leaning Massachusetts.
Brown is not on our side on everything, but remember what got him elected in 2010: he promised to be the 40th vote to block Obamacare. Now we need him to be re-elected to be the 50th vote to repeal Obamacare.
Sure, Brown is a squishy, moderate, liberal Republican, but we're not measuring him against an ideal small-government candidate. He just has to be better than Ted Kennedy, whose place he took in the Senate. More to the point, he has to be better than his current opponent, Elizabeth Warren. And that is the real reason to support Scott Brown: to prevent the political career of a pernicious enemy of liberty.
Warren is anti-capitalist crusader, the self-proclaimed inspiration for the Occupy Wall Street movement, and an ideologically outspoken anti-individualist. Remember Barack Obama's "you didn't build that" diatribe? He was just following Elizabeth Warren's lead. His inspiration was Warren's own diatribe about how "there's nobody in this country who got rich on his own." And she really meant to denigrate individual achievement, even more passionately than Obama. Listen to the video and the tone of her voice, which is sharp, angry, resentful.
The new Atlas Shrugged movie—part 2 of the novel—is coming out soon. I don't suppose the filmmakers took my advice, but one of the ideas I had for how to make an Atlas movie timely without having it become dated is to make no explicit references to current political issues or personalities. Instead, when it comes to casting the novel's political villains, choose people who are right for the role—but who also vaguely resemble current political figures. That way they will be recognizable for today's viewers but still seem appropriate for new viewers a decade from now. So this got me started thinking about who I would cast, as it were, to have their look-alikes in the role of the villains in Atlas Shrugged. Tim Geithner, I always thought, fits the description of James Taggart to a tee. Paul Krugman would make an excellent substitute for Wesley Mouch, the clueless central planner who always demands "wider powers." So where does Elizabeth Warren come in? I think she's a good real-world counterpart to the character of Eugene Lawson, who makes himself out as a compassionate "humanitarian" motivated by love, but who is actually motivated by a visceral hatred of competence and ability.
All of that sums up why Warren would be a bad senator. But there is more to it than that. The left is looking to Warren, not just as one vote out of a hundred in the Senate, but as a standard-bearer for their cause after Obama leaves the national stage. A few months ago, I linked to a report about a meeting of so-called "Progressives" who universally cited Warren as a future leader of their movement, "if she can get elected." Note the "if."
At the time I noted the irony that their future depends on a woman in her early 60s, while we've got 42-year-old Paul Ryan, not to mention some even younger rising stars. (More about that in a moment.) But the bigger irony is that they're pinning their hopes on someone who has never won an election. And if she doesn't win this one, it's a bit late for her to reinvent herself and make a comeback. If she loses now, Warren goes back to teaching at Harvard—which is bad enough—but she's out of the political game.
We have an opportunity to end a pernicious political career before it begins, and to deter anyone who wants to follow her lead. So Scott Brown absolutely must win.
You can see what I mean about this being a strategic move, that it's not just about one candidate for one office for one term, but about the larger, long-term political impact. How does a political party get a good "bench" of candidates? Well, they run candidates for lower offices—mayors, state legislators, attorneys general, congressmen—who get elected and re-elected. Having gained experience and made a name for themselves in these lower offices, they move up to higher offices: governors, senators, House committee chairmen, and so on. Ultimately, that is the pool from which the parties draw their presidential and vice-presidential candidates. So if you disrupt this chain of advancement for one of the major political parties, you can restrict their future pool of talent for all higher offices.
That's why 2010 was such an important election. It's not just that it sent a lot of one-term congressmen back home. Beneath the national-level vote, there was a giant landslide in state governments, which aborted the political careers of hundreds of Democrats whose names we will never even hear. After all, what if Barack Obama had never become a state senator in Illinois? What if he had remained a politically connected civil rights lawyer in Chicago, limited to dabbling in the relatively small arena of corrupt big-city politics?
Incidentally, you can see now why I am so dismissive of third-party presidential candidates like Gary Johnson, the guy the Libertarians have put forward this year. The whole idea of a Libertarian presidential campaign is based on the fantasy of bypassing the entire American political system and somehow wishing us into a small-government utopia without doing the actual job of building a viable party structure. (Or, as I have suggested, influencing an existing party, which is why I think libertarians belong as a faction within the Republican Party—as many libertarians are beginning to accept.)
All of this is the main reason for my second strategic recommendation for this election. Support Mia Love in her congressional run in Utah. Love is making a crucial move up on the political ladder, from mayor of a small town in Utah to congressman in a newly created congressional district. Mayor Love, who made a memorable debut at the Republican National Convention, is young, charismatic, attractive, and energetic, and she is running on an individualist message about small government and individual achievement.
She also wreaks havoc on the Democrats' long-standing demographic strategy. In a center-right country, Democrats stay in the political game largely by playing the "race card" and maintaining a death grip on the black and Latino vote. But as I pointed out during the convention in Tampa, the Republican Party has developed a strong cohort of up-and-coming politicians who cross those demographic lines. Eventually, they will reach a critical mass and begin to evenly split the vote of these racial groups. Latinos will split first, and blacks will split last. As a black woman and the daughter of Haitian immigrants, Mia Love is precisely the kind of candidate who can help break down this racial political divide.
Breaking down the racial divide will be profoundly good for the country, because it will allow us to debate the real, ideological issues of capitalism versus socialism, independence versus dependence, and individualism versus collectivism, without the poisonous distraction of race. But it will doom the Democratic Party, because as it is presently constituted, the party can't win elections without counting on the firm support of its racial blocs.
Moreover, Mia Love is clearly a promising young political talent. From the interviews I've seen with her, she still has more to learn to become a really effective advocate, and there is no guarantee how she will turn out ideologically. After all, she's only 30 and just at the beginning of her political career. But that is what is so enticing about her candidacy. She is young and could be a standard-bearer for Republicans for another four decades. So just as we can prevent a political career from beginning, in the case of Elizabeth Warren, we can help launch one onto the national scene with Mia Love. That's a great strategic investment of a few dollars and a little bit of your time.
For the past month or two, we've been sitting back and biting our nails, wondering if the American people are really going to give up on the future, decide that the last four years is the best we can do, and keep a failed president in office. I hope that prospect has concentrated your minds. As always, the best cure for anxiety is action: action on the national level to come to the assistance of the Romney campaign, which needs it; action on the state level to help elect Republicans to the Senate; and action in these two strategic races, to launch one promising political career and to prevent another one from beginning.
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