Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A little reality check on the choices in the Massachusetts Senate race

I'm as big a believer in throwing a monkeywrench into people's plans as anybody. Stripping the Senate Democrats of their filibuster-proof majority and reintroducing a wee bit of gridlock gives me a certain frisson of joy. But I don't get all the love for Scott Brown by critics of metastasizing government when there's a seemingly excellent candidate in the Massachusetts Senate race in the form of small-l libertarian Joe Kennedy, running as an independent.

Martha Coakley, the Democrat, is as disgusting a candidate as I can imagine. Not only is she for an ever-more expansive state that would intrude itself further into our lives, most particularly, into our medical decisions, but her record as a prosecutor has demonstrated a hideous disregard for civil liberties and even simple justice -- abandoning the usual advantage that Democrats, if only theoretically, maintain over Republicans.

But Scott Brown, aside from his clear appeal to straight women and gay men (and a reminder to the rest of us to do our sit-ups), seems to function largely as a representative of the dominant wing of the Republican Party that brought us eight years of suckage. On the issues, he's an authoritarian social conservative who supported Romneycare and is terrible on civil liberties -- even mediocre on gun rights, one liberty conservatives usually support.

A side-by-side comparison of the three candidates' positions shows Kennedy as the only one with consistent smaller-government, expanded-freedom credentials. Yet at least one faction of the Tea Party movement -- that supposedly independent, shrink-the-state grassroots network, urged Joe Kennedy to drop out in Brown's favor. (Kennedy declined.)

Yes, I understand that popular wisdom has it that only two candidates -- the Republican and the Democrat -- are serious contenders. But that's self-fulfilling prophecy. In other countries, when the dominant political parties prove to be repulsive to large swathes of the population, people start new parties or elevate small ones. I'm not just talking about nations with proportional representation, either. Canada and the United Kingdom, while parliamentary systems, use winner-take-all voting like the U.S. for picking legislators. Twenty years ago, the Canadian Prime Minister was Brian Mulroney, of the Progressive Conservative Party. That party doesn't exist anymore, having been challenged by the rather more ideologically rigorous Reform Party, and then absorbed by a new Conservative Party spawned by Reform.

In the United Kingdom, the twentieth century saw the replacement of the Liberal Party as one of the two major parties by the Labour Party. Having merged with the up-start Social Democrats, the Liberal Democrats continue as a significant player in British politics. More recently, the UK Independence Party has risen as a serious contender, out-polling Labour in the last election for the European Parliament.

In the United States, however, we treat the two major political parties as if they're features of the natural landscape, like the Grand Canyon, rather than human-made institutions than can be replaced when they cease to ... well ... not make us puke.

As long as we insist that we have to abandon something preferable in favor of officially approved Lousy Choice A or Lousy Choice B, we'll keep getting more of what we've suffered over the past decade.



Blogger liberranter said...

I think it's past time that we libertarians seriously re-examined the foundations our belief that the hoi polloi really want candidates in public office who would work to re-build liberty and limited government. Most of the masses are so conditioned to accept the existing system --and have come to depend so heavily on the largesse dripping from the federal and state teats-- that the idea of either liberty or limited government, to the extent that any of them know what either one means, is too terrifying a prospect to face. Better to trade the uncertainty of freedom for the chimera of safety and security. That's much easier than facing the real world when the lies and fables upon which one's entire civic belief system is built are demolished.

January 19, 2010 12:26 PM  

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