Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Small Victory

It's always nice to revel in the cognitively dissonant buzz that surrounds the post-election rants and ravings. Between the Democrats calling their opposition crybabies and sore losers for wanting recounts and the Republicans ranting about possibly rigged elections, the hypocrisy is almost too rich. I've never in my life been more confident of the utter interchangeability of these two parties. It really is a red-team/blue-team world.

However, I was particularly calm during this election. Or at least I was much more cool and collected than most of my family and friends - who pretend to be politically engaged for the two days leading into the election but then seem to fall into a deep apathetic slumber for the next four years. In any case, I wasn't phased at all. For me, America was going to lose regardless of who was chosen. And there is an odd amount of comfort in the settled nature of that.

On the other hand, I was ecstatic for what I consider to be wonderful, even if seemingly small, victories that libertarians had last night - both directly and indirectly. For starters, over one million people voted for Gary Johnson. And while that seems statistically insignificant, this does not count the myriad of other write-in protest votes that other libertarians pushed forward, or the slew of libertarians who abstained from voting in protest. They could very well have swayed the election, but held firm. Those people deserve some credit here.

On top of that, there were four states which had amendments on the ballot that in one way or another mitigated the possibility of gay marriage. These were summarily struck down by the voters in those states. I couldn't be happier in this regard.

The coupe de grace for me was the full (recreational) legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. This is a first...and it's a bigger deal than I think people are probably being led to believe. It's wonderful in its own right for freedom, but there's a second cause for celebration among civicly minded libertarians.

One of the burgeoning movements of the last decade has been the states'-rights/nullification crowd. Unfortunately, and as expected, they have been heavily marginalized by big-federal-government types on the left; who (somewhat ironically) point to slavery and Jim Crow to de-veil the movement as nothing more than antiquated, bigoted racists. It's been unfortunate that their endeavor has been largely successful as far as the public goes.

But now, although I don't think they realize it yet, those particular leftists are going to be put in a very odd position. If, as the governor of Colorado has stated, these states are pledging to uphold these laws, then we may see an inflated clash between these states and the federal government - a federal government which has escalated DEA raids (even of state-legal marijuana dispensaries) since Obama took office. I predict fireworks.

Now, we can't be sure of what such supporters of Obama and the federal government more generally are going to throw out there as a caveat or defense, but they'll at least have to acknowledge (even if passively or indirectly) the tenuous nature of their argument against federalism. Federal government, they argue, is a bulwark against the tyranny of state-governments...which can certainly be true as far as it goes. But what then is to be said about when the federal government is too tyrannical?

Is the federal government always on the right side of matters? This isn't a rare occurrence in our country. The federal government is often slow to move on good changes, and yet receives all the credit for lashing the remaining states into order when most of the national tide has/had already been turned. Try doing some research regarding the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave laws and tell me again all about how the federal government is the bulwark of freedom. It's not a settled case. Are we better served by the centralization or decentralization of power?

This is the question that is going to be wrestled with - or at least that's my hope. You never really know. But, if I were a betting man, I would imagine this will come to a head at some point if the current administration does not make a course-correction. And I welcome that discussion. All things said, things could have been a lot worse last night. But it's a good start, and there's still a long road ahead.

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