Having withdrawn as a potential candidate for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination (or any other nomination, for that matter), the next logical step is to tell the world -- as much of it as I can reach -- who I think is the best remaining would-be nominee.
And I will. Directly.
But first, it's important to get a few things straight about America's history and the old saw about "wasting" your vote.
For better or worse, the 227-year-old United States of America is inextricably associated in the minds of individuals everywhere with the notion, which was radical 227 years ago, of individual freedom. The dismal fact, that this association is no longer valid, and hasn't been since Abraham Lincoln, has done little to change people's minds.
Since the time of Lincoln, individuals and groups who realized the truth about America's lost freedoms have tried to do something about it, invariably falling short, either because they failed to eradicate every remaining trace of non-freedom from their philosophies, or because they thought they could be clever, cut corners, and make deals with the enemies of freedom. Genuinely conservative Republicans and the National Rifle Association come to mind.
Even the Democratic Party was originally organized, by no less an author of liberty than Thomas Jefferson, because of a need he saw to combat the statism of Alexander Hamilton and his Federalist buddies.
For a long while, the two major parties were truly antagonistic. Republicans claimed to be for freedom because they opposed slavery -- on paper. What they really wanted was control of the money supply, control of the banks, a crippling tariff to make imports and exports prohibitively expensive, and the power to tax us half to death so they could bestow huge public works contracts on their corporate supporters and campaign contributors. That's what the War between the States -- the War of Northern Aggression -- was really about.
Democrats claimed to be for freedom because they opposed all of that. (The technical name for 19th century Republican policy is "fascism".) They had rather a tough time of it, because Lincoln had managed to associate them -- not inappropriately -- with the other side in what can also be called the War for Southern Independence.
To a great degree the party of Jefferson languished until it was taken over by "Progressives" -- read socialists -- early in the 20th century, and various Marxist types around the time of the Depression (the most conspicuous result of a partnership between Big Mercantilism and Progressivism) and the Franklin Roosevelt Administration.
After Roosevelt and his collectivist advisors failed to end the Depression, after Republicans managed to purge the Constitutionalists in their party by letting them be smeared as "Isolationists", real differences between the two parties began to vanish. World War II was thoroughly bipartisan. Eisenhower's value to the owners and operators of America wasn't so much that he ended the Korean War Harry Truman had started (he didn't, really), but that he managed to do so without much criticism of the Democrats.
From then, there wasn't "a nickel's worth of difference" between Republicans and Democrats. Each worked a different side of the street, but played Ping-Pong with the other, using the American people's wishes, hopes, dreams, and aspirations as the ball. People would get tired or frightened of Democrats in power and elect Republicans. Then they'd get disappointed or discouraged with Republicans and vote for Democrats. Back and forth, back and forth. At each turn, Americans found themselves with less real wealth and many fewer freedoms than they'd had at the previous turn.
We just saw it happen again in what my Discordian friends call "Califnordia". Gray Davis of Socialist Party A couldn't repair the damage his colleagues on both sides of the aisle have done to that poor state over the past half century. Arnold Schwarzenegger of Socialist Party B will find himself helpless, too. The fact is that nothing can clean up the mess both parties have made there, short of the Big One finally reducing the entire state to rubble.
Taxes, hidden and otherwise will rise, government programs will multiply and expand. Stripped of pretensions, that's the whole reason government exists. Every government that ever existed, that exists now, or that will ever exist, is a kleptocracy. California -- Californians -- will mysteriously be no better off. Now is the moment when you'd have advised Jews to get out of Germany.
The really depressing news is that the USA as a whole isn't that much better off, and doesn't have a future a picowatt brighter. After decades -- lifetimes -- of World War and Cold War ended, we were supposed to get a "peace dividend". They didn't need to steal half of what we always worked so hard to earn, anymore. They didn't need to send our sons and daughters to faraway places to kill and be killed, maim and be maimed. But politicians detest solved problems, peace is a threat, and they still covet our money, sons, and daughters. So things got worse, instead, and will likely go on that way.
Instead of a peace dividend, we got the Brady Bill, the Semiauto and Adequate Magazine Bill, and just so smirking leftists won't feel left out, we got Homeland Security and the USA Patriot Act. Guantanamo -- the name once stood as a bastion of freedom -- now means the same thing, essentially, as Buchenwald, Auschwitz, and Belsen. Anyone who wishes it were different -- and voted for Republicans or Democrats -- wasted his vote.
It can't be put more clearly.
So what can be done? The picture isn't quite as bleak as I may have made it appear. It's an inspiring truth that no dictatorship -- make no mistake: that's what we're saddled with now -- can stand up to changes in the assumptions and expectations of the society it rules.
For more than thirty years, libertarians have been systematically denied a real voice in the mass media, and a genuine, grownup role in the electoral process. The rational thing, then, is to go to work altering the assumptions and expectations of the society we live in.
There are a number of ways to do that, and libertarians already have a good start. This is still a country that believes in freedom -- though thanks to public schools and the mass media, it doesn't always understand what freedom is -- and values hard work and individualism. It still loves to worship people it perceives as heroes, which is one way it manages to get sucked into one war after another, and explains how Californians ended up electing Arnold.
Although people don't usually read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (and often can't distinguish between them), they continue to venerate the essence they've been told they contain. They also generally understand that a free economy is a healthy economy and, increasingly, that an armed society is a polite society.
And, although the realization continues to arrive at a terrible price, the American people are beginning to see that there's little to the substance of government in general but hypocrisy, lies, robbery, and murder, and it's usually committed to benefit silver spoonheads like Bush, Cheney, and the rest of their petropals. Maybe the next lesson should be that Democrats are silver spoonheads, too.
The main message libertarians have to communicate to voters is that it's time to stop wasting their votes. It's time to stop playing Ping-Pong with Republicans and Democrats. It's time to stop being robbed, and seeing our children brainwashed, kidnapped, and murdered.
The only way they can do that (assuming that they don't want to join the majority of Americans and simply stop voting) is to put their votes "in escrow" until Republicans and Democrats straighten up and fly right, by refusing to vote for either of the two, and voting for some third party -- any third party -- instead.
My choice, of course, despite the many and grievous faults I've chronicled over the years, is the Libertarian Party. And the choice to put my vote in escrow (the truth, of course, is that Republicans and Democrats will never straighten up and fly right) will be sweeter if I can vote for a candidate I really respect and admire.
That candidate, for the LP presidential nomination, is my friend Michael Badnarik. From the moment I met him this summer in New Mexico, I liked him very much. His philosophical background in the movement is genuine and deep. His application of principle is excellent. His dedication to individual liberty is sincere and implacable.
What's really nice about Mike is that he's also very personable (as another guy, you understand, I can't say that he's handsome) and extremely articulate. He's a Texican and a gun owner, both of which count for a lot with me. I don't agree with him 100 percent (more like 99), but I don't agree with anyone 100 percent, even close friends on my Internet mailing lists. I understand that his core philosophy (like mine) is Objectivism, but (like me) he makes the Constitution his principal field of political endeavor.
He teaches courses on it.
What Mike doesn't have (where have we heard this before?) is a lot of money and the endorsement of the Watergate crowd. They have their own guy. I met him the same day, in the same place I met Mike. If you want the goodest guy to get the nomination, it'll require hard work.
What you'll get is a candidate as close to Alexander Hope -- or shucks, even me -- as you can possibly get. Maybe that won't win back our freedom overnight, but -- to mix universes -- it'll be like aiming a photon torpedo straight at the heart of the Deathstar.
And that'll be a beginning.
Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page". Autographed copies may be had from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.