Not surprisingly, conservatives are depressed and despondent over the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. But as I wrote yesterday, the Republicans deserved to lose. For the last 7 years, they have plunged our country into darkness, oppression, injustice, and tyranny, seizing on the 9/11 attacks to centralize federal power, suspend the civil liberties of the American people, and embark on one of the most shocking Big Spending sprees in history.
The election-eve argument that conservatives employed to get people to vote for McCain reflected how corrupted they have become with the unrestrained power they have wielded for the past 7 years. Their argument involved no apologies and no repentance for the damage and destruction they have brought to our nation or to the world. It instead boiled down to this: They said people should vote for McCain because he would not be as big a Big Spender as Obama. What better evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the conservative movement than that?
It’s true that as a liberal, Obama is likely to continue President Bush’s out-of-control federal spending habit. But there is no doubt that McCain would have done the same. In fact, the only time that conservatives rail against Big Spending is when they’re not the ones doing the spending. I’ll bet that with Obama’s election, conservatives begin railing against Big Spending almost immediately, with the promise to rein it in if they’re ever returned to power.
In other words, when it comes to domestic welfare-state policies, Americans were going to get badly squeezed whether Obama or McCain was elected.
If McCain had been elected, there is no doubt that we would also have had a continuation of Bush’s warfare-state policies: the war on terrorism, military attacks and wars of aggression on other countries, torture and sex abuse of detainees, the Patriot Act, the enemy-combatant doctrine, signing statements, denial of due process, Guantanamo, military tribunals, indefinite incarceration, kidnapping and rendition, warrantless searches and seizures, the continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and so forth.
While it’s possible that Obama will continue these warfare-state policies as well, that is not as certain as it would have been under McCain. As a liberal, a lawyer, and a former law professor, Obama has taken a vocal stand against some of these “dark side” policies. For example, he has spoken out against arbitrary arrests, in favor of habeas corpus, against the invasion of Iraq, against torture, and in favor of closing the Pentagon’s prison at Guantanamo Bay.
That’s not to say that Obama is a non-interventionist or even a consistent defender of civil liberties. For example, he ended up voting for telecom immunity (after opposing it), he has praised the “success” of “the surge” in Iraq, and he has promised to beef up U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
But with Obama’s election, libertarians will at least have a chance to make some significant headway toward restoring civil liberties and the procedural protections of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to our land, along with moving our country in a more positive direction with respect to foreign policy. That possibility would not have existed under a McCain administration.
There is another area in which we libertarians should redouble our efforts under an Obama administration — the war on drugs. As a liberal, a lawyer, and a law professor, Obama must be aware of the devastating effects of this failed federal policy, especially on people in the black community. While ridding our nation of the drug-war scourge will be difficult, there is at least a chance of achieving that goal in the next four years. That possibility would have been nonexistent under a McCain administration.
If we were able to get rid of the drug war and the war on terrorism, bring all the troops home, and restore civil liberties and the Bill of Rights to our land, it’s true that we would still be saddled with the welfare state, to which both conservatives and liberals remain committed. But once our fellow Americans saw how much better they were without the oppressive and tyrannical warfare-state policies, they would undoubtedly be more receptive to considering libertarian arguments for ridding our nation of the welfare-state scourge and for restoring economic liberty to our land.