Cries of glee and exultation from much of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romneys center-right base met the former Massachusetts governor's selection of Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. as his running mate.
From the libertarian point of view, the praise is largely misplaced. But, so far as the nonlibertarian options at Romneys disposal were concerned, the candidate could have selected much worse, and as a strategic matter, those concerned with the viable future of the libertarian movement should bite the bullet and support the Romney-Ryan duo come November.
Admittedly, aside from their fairly consistent opposition to abortion and government-engineered redefining of marriage, and their commitment to religious liberty theres not much else to differentiate the GOPs presidential ticket from that of the Democrats. Both tickets promise continuation, and even expansion, of the regulatory welfare and warfare state: the Republicans simply want to adopt it more incrementally than Democrats do.
Pace the fear-mongering and hysterics of leftist punditry, theres nothing remotely libertarian (let alone Ayn Randian) about any of the political positionstaken by candidate Ryan. Just about every big-government program adopted and implemented by the Bush administration received his full-throated endorsement: TARP, the bank bailouts, Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, corporate welfare for the agriculture industry, corporatist free trade agreements, etc.
Ryans war-and-peace record fares no better. Besides supporting President Bushs futile nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan, hes also supported President Obamas placing of Americas armed forces on the side of Islamist totalitarians in the Libyan civil war, a conflict the United States had no conceivable business involving itself in. To his credit, Ryan criticized the presidents unconstitutional committal of the United States to war without any congressional approval, but Romney has made clearhe doesnt believe he requires any such authorization.
Ryans civil rights record is no better: Among other offenses, he voted for the National Defense Authorization Act, which presently permits the president to indefinitely detain any American citizen on the mere accusation of his being a terrorist.
Given these facts, why should libertarians support the Republican ticket?
For the simple reason that the GOP isnt so much a political party as it is a Halloween-coalition of disparate ideological and political interests, among whom are libertarians. Indeed, the Republican Party is presently the only major fellowship in the country that offers libertarians a place at the political table, and one that is growing as those devoted to foreign and domestic nonaggression become more electorally savvy and win races on the local, state, and national level.
Anyone who thinks the Libertarian Party is viable for anything other than a symbolic show of protest is fooling themselves, and there is simply no Democratic counterpart to Congressmen Ron Paul, Roscoe Bartlett, Tom McClintock, Justin Amash, Jeff Flake, Scott Garret, Jimmy Duncan, Steve Chabot, Jim Jordan, Adrian M. Smith, Chip Cravaack, Trent Franks, Walter B. Jones, Jack Kingston, Jeff Miller, Bill Posey, or Denny Rehberg; or Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Jim DeMint, Pat Toomey, and Jerry Moran. And ground continues to be gained by committed libertarians and quasi-libertarians in both primary races and local party apparati all within the Republican Party.
Like it or not, the Republicans provide the best political context within which libertarians can make significant and growing political headway. And there can be no serious dispute that even mainline Republican opposition to judicial activism, federal subsidies for controversial medical procedures, oppressive mandates that force private charities to violate their members consciences, and statist experiments in marriage redefinition make for a far more liberty-friendly environ than the outright mega-socialism of mainline Democrats.
Finally, a vote for Romney-Ryan does not prevent criticism of Republican socialism-lite. Indeed, libertarians gain much more political credibility by assuming the role of loyal opposition instead of third-party defectors. GOP establishmentarians are much more likely to listen to, and work with, perceived friends than avowed enemies.
So carry on, libertarian gadflies, with your holding Republicans (and others) feet to the political fire; continue to elect freedom- and peace-loving candidates to state, local, and federal office; continue to gain headway in local and state party committees; continue your highly successful educational efforts in person and over the Internet; support and attend Ron Paul Fest 2012 and the official Paul pre-Convention rally. Heck, keep throwing Gov. Gary Johnson the occasional moral bone. But come Election Day, lend your reluctant support to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. And brace yourselves to continue fighting the good fight.
Just remember that outside the Republican Party, there is no political salvation for libertarianism.
Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews or at (850) 727-0859.