One year ago the political prospects for left conservatives looked great. The vast majority of the country had turned against our disastrous occupation of Iraq. Americans from all over the political spectrum were enraged at the jackbooted federal police raids on private consumers of medical marijuana and the Supreme Court's corporate welfare seal of approval via the Kelo decision. Discontent with illegal wiretapping and warrant less searches were on the rise and working class Americans were openly contemptuous of "free trade agreements," and other sovereignty busting, international institutions. Best of all those folks concerned about all of these issues had a real candidate, in a real party, with a real chance of building a movement around the principles of limited government, decentralized power, and individual liberty.
As I have said before the success of Ron Paul's campaign had less to do with any money bomb or internet trends than it had to do with with the fact that the Texas Congressmen represented REAL opposition. While the elite media and congressional pushovers rolled over and played dead for the neolibs and neocons, the average American was boiling over with rage at the cabal of power mongers and wealth addicts at the helm of the dying Republic. Dr. No gave a voice to this, the anti-political movement of all anti-political movements, and he took it as far as the duopoly would allow him to go.
Had Ron Paul chosen to run on a third party ticket, deciding who to vote for this year would be easy. There simply is no one like "Dr. No," for an anti-imperial, decentralist, voter.
But Dr. Paul did not run third party, and a man as unique as Ron Paul has no heir apparent. So what is a left conservative to do?
Some have argued for writing in Dr. Paul's name. I admit that I find this tempting. But the reality is that these votes will not be counted, nor will their impact be reported on by the media (assuming they have an impact at all). Furthermore the good doctor has gone out of his way to say he is not running at this point and I will respect his wishes.
Others have argued that we shouldn't vote as that non-act is the ultimate expression of discontent with our rigged system. Again I am somewhat sympathetic. But I will be at the polls pulling the lever for the very worthy Bob Conley in his U.S. Senate race against Lindsey Graham, and refusing to vote for President from inside the booth strikes me as contrarianism of the worst sort.
Of course I can not vote for either major party candidate. The Republicans have nominated a warmongering, military statist, with severe emotional problems. The Democrats have done no better, choosing a man without conviction, principle or even a passing sense of patriotism. That Obama is slightly preferable to McCain by virtue of his "moderation" is no reason to cast a vote for him. I cannot rubber stamp war for Darfur or government "growth for the sake of growth."
This leaves me with the "minors," of which four are serious candidates and only two are worth considering.
Cynthia McKinney and Bob Barr can be tossed on the woodpile almost immediately.
I am proud to say "I told you so" regarding Bob Barr. His coronation at the Libertarian National Convention was nothing short of a nightmare for champions of individual liberty or even for those looking for a serious alternative candidacy. Barr's campaign has been so poorly managed and so juvenile in its antics, that I must assume the intent all along was to sink the LP as a vehicle for disgruntled Paulites looking for a well organized Party to oppose McBama. That many of Barr's most outlandish statements took place shortly after the Palin VP choice was announced shouldn't be surprising. After all, Barr enthusiast and coup d'tet leader Richard Viguerie was mass emailing love letters to the GOP moments after the announcement. It is fair to assume the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, poisoned or not.
I actually rather like Cynthia McKinney, but I could never vote for her. Her quasi-black nationalism is definitely more attractive than the minstrel show version of Adlai Stevenson running on the Democratic ticket this year, but it's not the real thing either. Were she a Garveyite she would likely have my vote. Instead she thinks government is the solution to every problem and worries more about unprovable conspiracy theories than she does about getting her campaign visibility.
This leaves me with two choices. The man I voted for in 2000, Ralph Nader, and the man Ron Paul endorsed, Chuck Baldwin.
I will not make an argument against either man, though they surely do exist. There are no perfect candidates and flaws can be found with both to be sure. I am especially wary of certain fragments of the coalitions these men have built, but politics makes strange bedfellows and you must make allies where you can find them.
On the major issues it is a wash. Simply put I agree with both men more often than not, and where there are differences they are negligible.
At the end of the day this decision comes down to electoral realities and strategic possibilities. The anti-imperial, pro-civil liberties, pro-constitution base is not on the right. It is on the left. Chuck Baldwin is on fewer than 40 ballots. Ralph Nader is on 46. The cards that have been dealt may not be fair, but they are what they are.
In 2004 Patrick Buchanan senselessly "came home" to the Republican Party because George Bush was "right" on taxes and judges. I stayed home in 2004, but in 2008 I am coming home too, because Ralph Nader is right on war and empire and is the most likely magnet for the opposition to be seen and heard a week from today.
Eight years ago I cast my first ever ballot in an a Presidential election for Ralph Nader. I did it without regret or remorse. Eight years later I will do so once again.