Wednesday, 8 November 2006

US mid-term elections: A house divided?

With US now at the polls in the mid-tem elections, I'm reposting FWIW my own voting guide posted here a fortnight or so ago.

* * * * *
One of the beauties of the American system of government is the check on power created by enabling the executive and both houses of the legislature to be controlled by different parties. Which lovers of small government, for example, cannot recall with a smile the shut-down of government that happened under the fortuitous combination of a Democratic Clinton Administration and a Republican House?

This is just a prelude really to saying that all things being equal I prefer to see power divided, rather than having all elected arms of government in the hands of the same party, and so just on that basis alone would not be unhappy to see the Democrats take control of either the Senate or the House of Representatives. On top of that, and given the disgraceful statism in recent years of the conservative side of the aisle (examined in some detail in this series here), it's hard to see that the Democrats could do a worse job.

Objectivists are divided on the question of whom to vote for in the forthcoming mid-term elections. Given the theocratic thrust of so much of recent Republicanism, philosopher Leonard Peikoff argues that not to vote Democrat for both Houses is immoral:
How you cast your vote in the coming election is important, even if the two parties are both rotten. In essence, the Democrats stand for socialism, or at least some ambling steps in its direction; the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power.

Socialism—a fad of the last few centuries—has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades... Religion, by contrast—the destroyer of man since time immemorial—is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.

Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because “both are bad.”

[...] What does determine the survival of this country is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy. And in this area the only real threat to the country now, the only political evil comparable to or even greater than the threat once posed by Soviet Communism, is religion and the Party which is its home and sponsor.

The most urgent political task now is to topple the Republicans from power, if possible in the House and the Senate. This entails voting consistently Democratic, even if the opponent is a “good” Republican.
Peikoff's view on the religiosity of America's right is given added credence by this international survey showing believers in supernatural nonsense country by country. The US scores poorly (right): That's them, second from bottom.

"The results of surveying 32 European countries, the US and Japan reveals "that only Turkey is less willing than the US to accept evolution as fact." You might view it as a 'sanity ranking.' Said the study's author of the US's position:
American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalists, which is why Turkey and we are so close.
Worrying news.

However, Objectivist writer Robert Tracinski disagrees with Peikoff's thesis. Unsatisfied as he is (and I am) with the Republican Congress and with the apparent rise of the supernaturally challenged, he still suggest the best result is a "humiliating defeat" for the Democrats. "The best thing we can do in this election is to crush the left," he says, "because the Democratic Party adds nothing of value to the American political debate." All the important debates are now happening on the right, he argues, and so "the more the left fades from the scene, the more the national political debate will be a debate within the right."

It sounds a little Pollyanna-ish to me. He does however allow:
In the American system, of course, we don't vote for parties but for individual candidates. So if your local congressional candidate has championed a particularly evil political agenda, is under indictment, or is named "Katherine Harris," then by all means vote for the other guy.
Good advice in any election.

UPDATE 1: Even as I was writing this Mike Mazza was writing an almost identical post with even the same linked articles over at SOLO, where a healthy debate has ensued: Election '06 - SOLO.

UPDATE 2: Debate at SOLO has now been continued on this thread: Why I'm Voting for the Democrats

UPDATE 3: Fox News reports that "libertarians — people who cringe at intrusive government, high taxes, nation-building and politicians telling them how to behave — could turn out to be the key swing voters in Tuesday's contentious midterm election."

LINKS: Peikoff on the coming election - Leonard Peikoff, Capitalism Magazine
The Democratic Party adds nothing to the national debate - Robert Tracinski, Real Clear Politics
CONSERVATISM - A NEW OBITUARY: Part 5: The Neocons in practice - Not PC
Cartoons by Cox and Forkum

Politics-US, Objectivism


  1. Great explanation. It has enabled me to get my head around this. Other writers can be just too darn technical.

  2. Richard McGrath8 Nov 2006, 11:44:00

    Looks as though small-l libertarians in the U.S. might be important players in the mid-term elections:,2933,227820,00.html

  3. Thanks Richard. I'll add that to the front page.

    And thank too, RR. Always nice to be appreciated. :-)


    Link to NY Times coverage of US election results.

    You'll have to Refresh the page every so often to check on progress.

  5. I've seen several reports nothing that libertarians didn't vote GOP, so it might be they have become some measureable force, at least they were on the radar.


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