Barack Obama’s policies have been foolhardy when not downright disingenuous. He lied about closing Guantanamo; he lied about ending the raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. He is the king of bailouts and handouts, and his Administration has contempt for the Constitution.
But there no reason to believe that Romney would be any better, and there is good reason to believe that he would be worse.
We have had enough experience with unprincipled, “moderate,” “compassionate conservatives” who will say anything whatsoever to be elected. Romney is at best a reincarnation of George W. Bush—and our experience has proven that we are safest when the President is of a different party than the Congress. President Obama’s crazier ambitions are now at least potentially checked by a Republican Congress; President Bush’s were not, and a Romney Administration working in sync with a Republican Congress would not be. It would almost certainly expand, not contract, the regulatory welfare state—as the Bush Administration did. Such a prediction would be unfair if there were any reason to think Romney a principled believer in limited government. But there is no reason to believe this. His record double-speaks for itself.
But one thing a Romney presidency would certainly mean: it would embrace the worst elements of the religious right with no compensating benefit for believers in limited government. And as bad as the Obama Administration is on economics, I believe, in the long run, it is a less dangerous prospect for liberty. On the contrary, although the Obama Administration’s respect for the rule of law is a humiliating record, it appears at worst only to equal the Bush Administration in this regard, and there is some reason to think it has been better in some small ways. For instance, it has not opposed marriage equality—although the President himself still embarrassingly says he’s opposed to it.
Still, we are told, we should vote for Romney because he would appoint conservative judges. And then word comes that the guru to whom Romney is turning for advice on the judiciary is none other than Robert Bork, an intellectually dishonest anti-moral authoritarian with no respect for individual rights and little for the Constitution; the single worst influence on conservative legal thought in a generation. No believer in constitutional liberty can possibly endorse such a move.
No question, much of the Obama Administration is an embarrassment—the recent talk show tour, for example. But many conservative criticisms of Obama have indicated an Obama Derangement Syndrome that deprives much of the Romney camp of any political legitimacy at all. Most recently, the complaining that Obama is “spiking the football” about the killing of bin Laden. He has every right to cite that in support of his record, and complaining about it is proof of how little the current GOP has to offer American voters.
Finally, President Obama has done one great thing for this country, and four more years of him will do us much better in this regard: he has brought out the masses in opposition to collectivist economic policies and unconstitutional extension of federal power. Some Republicans grumbled about Bush’s violations of the Constitution and his expansion of entitlement programs, but they didn’t do anything to stop it until the very end, when it was too late. That was when the Tea Party backlash against big-government conservatism began. Obama has unified supporters of small government and individual liberty like nobody else, but this movement still needs time to incubate and produce a serious independent leadership or to reform the GOP. That effort would not withstand a Romney presidency. Until the Republican leadership abandons big-government conservatism, it does not deserve to lead. Bad as the Obama Administration is, it is now checked relatively well by the Republican Congress and Republican state legislatures, and until a serious small-government alternative emerges, we are better off with that than with a one-party government, of any party.
Update: Several people have responded by saying that I’m overestimating the influence Bork will have with Romney. Of course, none of us can know that, but that’s not really the point. Romney’s choice of Bork is supposed to be a signal: it’s a signal that he intends to appoint authoritarian, anti-individual rights, “judicial restraint” judges. Well, signal received. This means that judicial appointments is not sufficient consideration to outweigh the other reasons to vote against Romney: specifically, the importance of balancing a Republican Congress against a Democratic president.