Jack Shafer Voting For NutcaseDid you wonder who your favorite Slate contributor is voting for? Good news: now you know! Michael Kinsley instituted the quadrennial endorsement list in 2000—go back and read how wrong all the Bush people were!—and it's been a beloved feature ever since, the two more times they've done it, because everyone cares how a Slate copy-editor is voting (spoiler alert: for Obama). There is one McCain vote, a half-hearted endorsement from the conservative editor and Slate lady-blog contributor Rachael Larimore. But there are fewer third-party votes and abstentions than in either of the two previous iterations of the feature, even in divided anyone-but-Bush 2004. Because, duh, people like Obama more than Kerry. But one man, press critic Jack Shafer, remains relentlessly devoted to his utterly wrong-headed principles. Shafer, once again, is voting for the Libertarians! Shafer in 2000:
Jack Shafer, Deputy Editor: Browne. Many of my friends find themselves bound in game theory knots over whether or not to cast their ballots for Ralph Nader. Nader can't possibly win the election, they are told, and therefore their "wasted vote" will have as much of an effect as a mass demo in front of the White House. Plus, it may end up electing Bush and help destroy abortion rights, the environment, and liberoprogressivism. To the would-be Nader voters, I offer this advice: Be like me and go ahead and vote your mind, even if the cause is lost. I've wasted every one of my presidential ballots on Libertarian candidates since I first became eligible to vote in 1972. In 1972, I wrote in John Hospers. (He got 3,907 votes.) In 1976, I picked Roger McBride. In 1980, Ed Clark. In 1984, David Bergland. In 1988, Ron Paul. In 1992, Andre Marou. In 1996, Harry Browne. Losers—I don't have to add—all. With Browne running again this year, I'm geared up to waste my vote an eighth time. Why do I persist? For one thing, I agree with the Libertarian Party platform: much smaller government, much lower taxes, an end to income redistribution, repeal of the drug laws, fewer gun laws, a dismantled welfare state, an end to corporate subsidies, First Amendment absolutism, a scaled-back warfare state. (You get the idea.) For another, by voting for the Libertarian, I leave the voting precinct feeling clean. How many Gore and Bush voters will be able to say the same on Nov. 7? Lastly, even if voting the way I think and the way I write hasn't resulted in the election of a Libertarian president, I indulge myself in the delusion that my perseverance has had some impact on our politics. Don't give me personal credit for stopping the draft; deregulating the airlines, trucking, communications, and financial markets; legalizing gold ownership; advancing free trade; or expanding the penumbra of the First Amendment. But don't deny me my delusions, either. I know the effort hasn't been a waste. So, Harry Browne in 2000! And in 2004 and 2008 and 2012, if that's what it takes.
Shafer in 2004!
Jack Shafer, Editor at Large: Michael Badnarik Every since I became eligible to vote in 1972, I've cast my ballot for the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate. In 1972, the candidate was philosophy professor John Hospers, who I wrote in because he wasn't on the Michigan ballot. A parade of numbskulls and geniuses have run for president on the Libertarian ticket since then: an oil company lawyer, the heir to Laura Ingalls Wilder's estate, a party gadfly, a member of Congress, a member of the Alaska House of Representatives, and a professional gold bug (twice). This year the nomination went to Michael Badnarik, another party activist, who won on the third ballot. I've already cast my absentee ballot in his favor.
And Shafer this year, facing perhaps the most ridiculous joke of a "Libertarian candidate" ever:
Jack Shafer, Editor at Large: Bob Barr I've cast a ballot for the Libertarian Party candidate for president in every election since I cast my first, which would be my write-in ballot for John Hospers in 1972. A long line of chowderheads have headed the Libertarian ticket since Hospers (don't ask about the veep candidates), but I've continued to punch Libertarian on my ballot because no other candidate or political party comes close to reflecting my political views of limited government, free markets, civil liberties, and noninterventionist foreign policy. This year the party put up as its candidate a former Republican House member from Georgia, Bob Barr. As Libertarian candidates go, he's a chowderhead's chowderhead. Raffi Khatchadourian's profile of Barr in this week's New Yorker depicts him—accurately, I think—as no more Libertarian than your standard Newt Gingrich clone. Barr, Khatchadourian reports, is against the legalization of such illicit drugs as crack and heroin. Khatchadourian continues:
[Barr] wrote the Defense of Marriage Act, voted for a constitutional amendment outlawing flag desecration, and even tried to legislate against Wiccan soldiers who wanted to practice their faith while in the service. A churchgoing Methodist, Barr rarely invoked religion when discussing policy with his aides, but he told constituents that "God's hand" was guiding his votes.
Some libertarian. There's more bad Barr news. A Cato Institute blog item, reviewing Barr's House votes from 1995 to 2003, tags him an enemy of free trade. In 2003, Reason magazine called Barr "one of the most conservative members of Congress." In his defense, Barr told Newsweek that was then and this is now. He's grown! Since being voted out of Congress, he's laundered his hard-right résumé with a consultancy at the American Civil Liberties Union. He has stated his regrets for having voting for the Patriot Act. Who is the real Bob Barr? When he was an unrepentant hard-right Republican, he did have notes of libertarianism to him. But in his libertarian rebranding, he can't quite mask his old, musky self. He's a fraud. This much I know about Barr's opponents: Barack Obama proved in his acceptance speech at the Denver convention that he's a classic Democrat, a proponent of big government and economic intervention—just like George W. Bush, and we know what sort of misery eight years of those policies have brought. I love the way Obama sings but I hate the lyrics. I'd like to say I have an equivalent sense of what John McCain stands for, but how can I, seeing as he has no clear idea of what he believes beyond what he shed in his last brain spasm? My friends in Arizona have always laughed about how easily the East Coast press fell for his straight-talk bullshit. You'll see, you'll see, they said. And they were right. Which brings me back to Barr and the absentee ballot I cast for him this morning (Oct. 23). He gets my vote not because he'd be a good president. He wouldn't. He gets my vote not because he has a chance of becoming a president. He doesn't. And I didn't vote for him because he represents my views. He doesn't. I voted for Barr because he happens to stand adjacent to a set of values I cherish and that I've gotten into the habit of resubscribing to every four years—peace, prosperity, and liberty. You got a problem with that?
So combative! So provocative! Libertarianism is a pretty "fuck-you" philosophy, but still. Jack, you are our favorite press critic, even though we are not friends. And it seems like both the "serious Libertarians" and the "fun-loving Libertarians" have given up on the Libertarian party this year. We suspect you're just doing this now to be difficult, Jack. Just to bug Jacob Weisberg maybe? Voting for Bob Barr is just not something to admit, in public.