Once every four years we get to witness one of the silliest traditions of all time: the predictable “Don’t blame me, I voted for Candidate X” bumper stickers and, nowadays, internet memes. Of course, this is not a recent development. Some of my earliest observations of politics came from bumper stickers signifying that a particular car’s owner could not be held liable for the impending destruction of the country at the hands of the barbarian Clintons because said owner had voted for George H. W. Bush.
The current version of this phenomenon has taken an interesting twist. Since both the Democrat and Republican candidates for president in 2012 represented roughly the same general slate of government interventions, domestic and foreign, it’s been hard for many people to get motivated to adorn their cars with professions of deep regret over a lost Romney presidency. The two candidates, after all, had their biggest dustups over Big Bird and binders full of women.
However, one candidate has been the recipient of such pining, and he wasn’t even on the November ballot. Devotees to the campaign of Texas congressman Ron Paul have begun circulating images like this one:
Now, to a certain degree I can understand the sentiment. As an organization devoted to the Constitution, we at the Tenth Amendment Center fully recognize that Congressman Paul would have been a significantly better president, constitutionally speaking, than either of the two big-party candidates. Admittedly, the standard that those two set is so ridiculously low that a trained monkey with a Magic 8-Ball would be an improvement.
However, advancing the cause of liberty and constitutionally limited government doesn’t begin and end with voting for Ron Paul (and I’m pretty sure that Ron Paul would be the first person to agree with this). If all you’re doing to advance these causes is trying to elect the “right guy” as president, then you are likely to be disappointed. And, truth be told, you are to blame too.
Voting for a president, or really any federal politician, can certainly be one step you take to advance liberty and the rule of the Constitution. It is, however, far from the most meaningful. No, the really meaningful steps you can take are closer to home. If voting is your thing, then identify and support local and state politicians that understand the correct balance of power between the state and federal governments. If you’re more predisposed to activism, organize your fellow citizens in an appeal to your current state and local representatives to refuse compliance with unconstitutional federal laws. If you’re a gifted communicator, spread the message that federalism is the only political structure which consistently protects the rights of the people.
For those of us who believe in decentralization, there’s so much to do that there’s not much time to think about who wasn’t elected president. But, if it makes anyone feel better, we can point out that one guy is not the solution to our political mess. The fact of the matter is that a resurrected Thomas Jefferson couldn’t waltz into the Oval Office and clean up Washington DC’s mess.
Jefferson famously wrote in the Kentucky Resolutions, “…let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” Jefferson knew that for liberty to advance, the citizens, through their state governments, would have to hold the federal government in check. This would be the states’ right and responsibility no matter who the president was. This is Ron Paul’s position as well.
True advocates of liberty don’t sulk because their candidate wasn’t elected. They don’t idly gloat in the comfortable knowledge that their guy would have been a better choice. They certainly don’t look three years down the road to see which defender of liberty will come riding to their rescue astride a white horse. Voting, especially at the federal level, is doing the bare minimum. For those who wish to live free from the oppression of an overreaching federal government, there’s real work to be done.
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