Many Republicans — and more than a few Democrats — are concerned
about what a Gore-Lieberman administration might mean for the nation.
While posing as fiscally responsible New Democrats, Gore and Lieberman
still plan to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on preserving Medicare
and Social Security as well as funding a host of new social programs.
George W. Bush, in contrast, says he wants to return a larger portion of
the budget surplus to the taxpayers.
Bush certainly spins some of the right rhetoric in the ears of those
who want tax cuts and smaller government. He talks about constraining
government’s role in the economy and in people’s decisions about
important matters such as health care and education. Bush says he wants
a government that will allow people to empower themselves while Gore, he
says, calls for a government that would make peoples’ decisions for
For advocates of smaller government, however, the only problem with
Bush’s rhetoric is that, well, it’s just rhetoric. Third-party
candidates, specifically Libertarian Harry Browne, argue that Bush
doesn’t mean what he says. Republicans, after all, have been in control
of the Congress during the current administration and yet government has
continued to grow under Clinton-Gore. Instead of standing firm against
more government programs and intrusion into people’s personal and
economic affairs, Republicans have voted along with Democrats on
legislation such as the Know Your Customer Law. That bill would have
forced banks to disclose private customer financial information to the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and allow it wide power in
controlling all personal financial transactions. The Republicans were
nowhere to be found when the Libertarian Party and independent news
WorldNetDaily fought to defeat the bill.
The question being asked by Libertarians and Republicans alike is whether a Bush-Cheney administration can really constrain the growth of the federal government, or if it would simply be the slightly lesser of two evils when compared to a Gore-Lieberman administration. After all, Bush’s tax cut plan would still only return one fourth of the surplus to the taxpayers. For the Libertarian Browne, one-fourth is not enough. He wants to return the entire surplus to the people. As Browne puts it, this year’s election presents a choice between someone who wants more government (Bush) and someone who wants a lot more government (Gore).
Further, say advocates of smaller government, whichever of the two major parties wins in November, the U.S. government will remain at least as large as it presently is. Therefore, their line of thinking goes, independent-minded Republicans and Democrats should vote for a third-party alternative like Browne. Their logic is compelling. Most current polls give Gore a slight to significant edge in most of the big electoral states, including New York, Florida, and California. If Gore is going to beat Bush anyway, then Libertarian-leaning Republicans and independents would not be helping him win by casting their vote for Harry Browne.
On the other hand, if Bush is victorious in November, he could well inherit the same kind of economic downturn his father did in 1988. If we are headed into a recession, the Democrats — and quite possibly the Greens — will use the economy as their trump card in 2004 to defeat the Republicans not only in the race for the White House but for seats in Congress as well. It would thus be much harder for advocates of smaller government and free markets to make their case with Democrats, Greens, and other pro-big government groups who would claim the Republicans wrecked the economic prosperity we had under Clinton-Gore.
But what chance does Browne realistically have to influence the outcome of the race? Although he is on the ballot in more states (49) than either the Green’s Nader or the Reform party’s Buchanan (44 and 48, respectively), Browne is receiving
scant media attention. In interviews, he is the first to concede that he most likely won’t win in November. But he firmly believes that he can receive a few million votes, nearly as many as the Green’s Nader, and most likely more than the Reform party’s Buchanan.
Given these potential scenarios, true libertarians from all parties, be they Republican, Democrat or Reform, would perhaps be wise to cast their vote for Harry Browne this year. While Browne does not have a realistic chance of winning the election, he has a chance to make political history. If he gets a significant percentage of votes — or manages to win a state or two — it would force both major parties to take notice and adjust their policy agendas. It would also make it more difficult for the media to ignore the Libertarians in 2004.
Stuart A. Swirsky is a doctoral student in Rhetoric and Professional Communication at New Mexico State University
S.A.S. Publications, Copyright 2000, all rights reserved.