If I Ran for President
I'd tell the people what they want to hear.
by James Leroy Wilson
August 19, 2004
[First, some housekeeping.
Nobody wants to take political quizzes at the Partial Observer, so we are not going to offer them. But the “Bush or Kerry?” is open to you. The premise is, I spend a lot of this space advocating third-party voting, so am happy to invite anyone who wants to write brief statements in support of Bush or Kerry to do so without comment or criticism from me. The Editor’s vision for the Partial Observer has always included active reader participation, and here at the Swamp, which is located at the far right, I’m trying to do my part. Come to the Swamp, and we’ll give you a platform to extol the virtues of Kerry or Bush.
Now, back to the regularly-scheduled column.]
In 2008, I’ll be old enough to be President. Hurray! I can’t wait!
Just kidding. I won’t be President, and I won’t even run, for a host of reasons. But it is good to think about it - for anyone to think about it from time to time. Even anarchists and non-voters. What you believe you would do and not do as President goes a long way toward explaining your point of view, your ideology.
I think the fair and honest thing for any President, once in office, is to make his Presidential campaign issues his top priorities. And as a candidate, the fair and honest thing to do in the campaign is to:
1. Keep the message short and simple, emphasizing three or four (at most) things he would like to and can accomplish as President.
2. Promise to work for - but not promise to deliver - policies that rely on Congressional legislation. A Presidential candidate who promises, say, socialized medicine or job-training programs, is irresponsible because the President can not provide these things. He’d have to rely on a willing Congress. The President can promise to try to work with Congress to advance some goals. If the candidate wants to outlaw all abor - uh, um, I mean, guns, and you agree with this position, that’s still not much of a reason to vote for the man. He shouldn’t make promises that only Congress can deliver.
3. Frame your priorities on what is politically do-able, not what is ideal or utopian. In most ways, I’m a conventionally radical libertarian, and ideally, I would:
- Abolish the Federal Reserve System
- Abolish the Income Tax
- Abolish the War on Drugs
- Abolish the Federal Department of Education.
Do these four things, and the entire economic and moral/religious support for the modern Welfare/Warfare/Corporatist State collapses. Everything else I’d want to achieve would pretty much fall into place.
But that’s only the ideal. That’s the utopian dream. But is not do-able. It is not politically feasible. No sound-bite or campaign speech can possibly convert the average person to libertarianism. Politics is essentially a war, and the people’s votes prevail. The most effective means of waging that war is not to try to change the people’s minds on fundamental and complicated issues and ideas - far from it. The more efficient means is to tell the people exactly what they want to hear.
I am in no way implying dishonesty or dirty tactics. But from a libertarian perspective - and the same should be true of hard-right and hard-left parties as well, and also of the two power parties - it seems to me quite obvious that the politically wise thing to do is to emphasize the parts of the Party platform most agreeable to the opinions and concerns to a large number of the people.
It’s the difference between the long-term libertarian battle for a transformation in ideas and culture - which requires changing minds, and the short-term political struggle for liberty. The long-term battle will, eventually, bring about fundamental political change, but the authors and think tanks who do this can afford to be purists who are “above” politics. Short-term politicking has no time for philosophical conversions to libertarianism. The thing to do is to bring over people to our side, not because they agree with us on everything, but because they agree with us on the most important issues of the times. If a political party, large or small, can’t even do that, what is its purpose?
I can’t guess what the USA would be like four years from now, any more than anyone four years ago could have reasonably guessed what the USA would be like today. But the thought experiment doesn’t require us to be old enough to be President. The question would be, if you could run for President today, what would your main campaign issues be, and if elected, what would you do?
So here’s what I would emphasize in my campaign, and prioritize in my Presidency, if I could run and did run today, in 2004. There would be four major themes, with a few sub-themes for each:
1. BRING THE TROOPS HOME
a) Withdraw from Europe and Korea; we should not have troops defending countries fully capable of defending themselves.
d) Get out of Iraq and Afghanistan
c) Cut off all foreign aid.
2. ENFORCE THE BILL OF RIGHTS
a) Veto any bill passed by Congress that I believe violates the Bill of Rights;
b) Refuse to enforce any federal gun law, drug law, or “anti-terrorist” law that would violate the Bill of Rights, especially laws that would take away anyone’s life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.
c) Pardon anyone whose incarceration was brought about because the government violated the Bill of Rights.
d) Issue executive orders setting guidelines on the methods by which federal agents may conduct their activities and investigations without violating the Bill of Rights.
3. BALANCE THE BUDGET
a) veto any tax increases.
b) veto any spending increases.
c) work with Congress on areas in which to slash spending. I would declare, as a candidate, my desire for 20% cuts in spending across the board - but wouldn’t promise it.
4. DECLARE WAR ON CORPORATE WELFARE
a) Guiding principle of taxes: the only purpose of taxes is to finance the government, not to help some people or business at the expense of others. Therefore, end protective tariffs.
b) Guiding principle of spending: the purpose of government is to protect our rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and property, not to give money away to some businesses or industries. Therefore, end government subsidies.
c) Guiding principle on regulation: Standards on health, safety, wages, hiring, and taxation should be proportionately no more onerous on the small businesses and independent entrepreneurs, than they are on large corporations. Give the small business owner a break! Therefore: de-regulate the economy to provide greater freedom and opportunity for the little guys.
d) As President, I will use all of my powers to prevent the federal government from stealing property and land from the small and unconnected, in order to benefit the large and well-connected.
These would be my priorities, because they are in perfect agreement with my convictions, and I think they have the best chance of succeeding, to some degree, in today’s political climate. I know that the mainstream, group-think media are inclined to “sexier” issues like abortion, homosexuality, censorship, and race. And that other candidates would have - and ought to have - other priorities and main issues. And that should be the point. That’s why we have multiple candidates and multiple parties.
And that’s why all alternative candidates to the two-parties-in-one, Democrat/Republican, Bush or Kerry War Party, have an obligation to put their best face forward. Tell the American people what they want to hear, such as, that the War on Iraq was a mistake that Bush denies, and that Kerry wants to escalate. Tell the truth about the PATRIOT ACT and the War on the Bill of Rights which Bush initiated and Kerry would continue. And whatever else you think is important, bring that to the table as well.
What I laid out here are some campaign positions that are agreeable to lots and lots of people. This is what partisan, electoral politics means. Tell the people what they want to hear. Don’t “educate.” Don’t “persuade.” That is for the intellectuals and think-tanks. But politics is about telling the people what they want to hear. It doesn’t mean that an ideological party should sacrifice its principles and honesty in order to gain power - that would be dirty politics, the equivalent of bombing civilians in war. It means, rather, prioritizing the most feasible, do-able aspects of the party platform, and then present a message to the people that they want to hear. No one’s religion or philosophy needs to change. Just one’s votes.
And the more votes in 2004 against Bush or Kerry - with their bi-partisan, undeclared wars on foreign civilians, and wars against the Bill of Rights at home - the better. Let us all ponder what we would say if we ran for President, or do if we became President. And then vote for the candidate most agreeable to us.
About the Author:
James Leroy Wilson's Why the Constitution Isn't the Bible can be found at Lew Rockwell's website.
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