Recently, Leonard Peikoff posted some comments urging people to vote for Mitt Romney. I’d recommend that you read it for yourself before continuing with this blog post.
I’m not insensitive to his argument: I agree with many of his observations on Obama and Romney.
For example, I am worried by the concentration of power in the executive branch under Obama. Yet such concentration of power seems to happen just as much under Republicans as Democrats: George W. Bush was hardly a paragon of restraint, and Obama has merely taken up where Bush left off. We have every reason to expect that Romney would do the same, albeit perhaps at a slightly slower rate than Obama. But maybe not… perhaps Romney would only differ from Obama by the areas in which he usurps even more executive power.
Also, I’m not remotely upset about the particular case that Peikoff cites of “Obama’s practice of ruling by executive order” … (e.g., his latest edict on immigration).” In fact, Obama’s policy change is really excellent, and it’s hardly clear that Obama overstepped his authority. In general, our immigration laws are a disgraceful mess of unpardonable rights violations, not to mention a major drag on the economy. They should be liberalized, with or without welfare reform. However, Peikoff has expressed strong support for heavy restrictions on immigration given our current welfare state in his podcast, so that might explain why he cited that example.
Also, I disagree with Peikoff’s approval of Paul Ryan. Ryan is only a fiscal moderate, not a fiscal conservative. Even if he were to become president, the deficit would continue to expand under his watch. Plus, Ryan is far more theocratic than Mitt, as can be seen from his support for “personhood” for zygotes.
Those are minor quibbles. My major disagreement with Peikoff concerns voting strategy. As I’ve argued in this blog post and this podcast segment, fiscal conservatives need to stop trying to “buy time,” as Peikoff advocates. (As Paul said about the second presidential debate: “We’re now seeing just how little time Romney would buy us.”) Instead, we must demand that the GOP earn our vote by refusing to vote for GOP candidates who are not true fiscal conservatives. That means accepting some pain in this election for the sake of major gains in future elections.
America has time for that, in my view: we’re facing slow and steady decline over the course of decades, not a sudden crash into dictatorship. Hence, for reasons explained in this podcast segment, I reject Peikoff’s apocalypticism: Obama will do significant damage in a second term, but likely far, far less than opening the door to totalitarian dictatorship, as Peikoff suggests.
Recall that Peikoff predicted sweeping repression and theocracy if George W. Bush were elected to a second term in 2004. Nothing remotely that bad came to pass. Instead, major damage was done on other fronts, particularly thanks to Bush’s “forward strategy of freedom” in foreign policy and his explicit repudiation of capitalism in his response to the financial crisis.
So Peikoff was wrong in his predictions in 2004, but that’s hardly surprising. Accurate political predictions are nearly impossible, even for professionals immersed in the political news. (That’s not Peikoff, by his own admission.) Such predictions depend too much on unforeseeable events, including the free choices of many, many people. Hence, I just don’t place much stock in anyone’s political predictions over the next four years, except to say that that apocalyptic predictions will very likely be very wrong. (Again, my reasons why can be found in this podcast segment.)
Mostly though, Objectivists need to understand that we might as well vote for the Man on the Moon as Mittens. We are a completely insignificant voting block. Our votes just don’t matter. So for Objectivists to make asses of themselves based on the pretense that a person’s vote reveals his deepest character is pointless and destructive. (Just to be clear: Although I’ll be voting for Gary Johnson, I don’t fault anyone for voting for Mittens based on their own personal judgments, so long as they’re based on fact.)
That doesn’t seem to be happening so much in this election, and I’m pleased about that. Or maybe I’ve just unfriended most of the asses. Either way, here’s to another crappy four years of American politics!