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The real ballot choices for president

Posted: October 10, 2012 - 12:00am

Responding to a question at the annual meeting of the state Chamber of Commerce, Sen. Mark Begich refrained from endorsing President Barack Obama in his bid for a second term in the White House. While that might seem unusual in this age of hyper partisanship, the political reality for Begich is he can be noncommittal because Alaska’s three electoral votes will undoubtedly go to Republican Mitt Romney. It’s as if to say an Alaskan vote for Obama doesn’t matter. But our vote always counts – even when it’s not cast for a Democrat or a Republican.

The Chamber’s question was easier for Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young. The Anchorage Daily News reported that they “wholeheartedly endorsed their party’s nominee.” Of course that’s not newsworthy. They’d never back a Democrat. But if they were seriously concerned about the runaway deficit and shrinking the size of government then Romney shouldn’t be their candidate.

According to a Cato Institute analysis of Romney’s budget plan, we can expect to see an almost $2 trillion increase in spending for the Pentagon. That would be above and beyond the cost of the war in Afghanistan that will continue under a Romney presidency. And he’s still promising to slash taxes for most Americans.

But history shows us there is no formula that reduces the deficit while cutting taxes and increasing military spending. Ronald Reagan failed to make it work 30 years ago. His budget deficit was more than double that incurred by President Jimmy Carter. It’s how George W. Bush squandered the Clinton era surpluses. And under both Reagan and Bush the size of government crept upward.

That record alone is sufficient reason why many conservatives shouldn’t be backing Romney. Add in that he believes our armed forces should be “patrolling the commons” and protecting “the development of democracy around the world” and it’s clear the libertarian vote in Alaska should be cast for Gary Johnson.

Liberal minded voters also have an alternative on the state ballot. Green Party candidate Jill Stein proposes to cut the Pentagon budget by 50% and demilitarize U.S. foreign policy by emphasizing human rights and international law. She’ll repeal the Patriot Act. And unlike Obama, she’ll place small businesses and individuals ahead of Wall Street interests.

I am well aware that the odds of Johnson or Stein being elected president are the same as either of our high school football teams winning the Super Bowl. But I don’t consider my vote for Stein to be a waste. First and foremost voting is an expression of freedom. It’s far better to choose a candidate who shares our ideals than to opt for the proverbial “lesser of two evils.” Anyone who can’t pick a third party candidate without worrying that they’re helping the candidate they dislike the most is responding to fear, not freedom.

My point is that neither Obama nor Romney are deserving of anyone’s support just because they’re the chosen nominees of our two primary political parties. They should earn it on the merits of their accomplishments and dedication to their deepest convictions, not empty promises built on cheap slogans.

Like Obama’s 2008 “change we can believe in” theme, Romney’s “restoring America’s prosperity” implies that something in our country must be in serious need of fixing. But the truth is we can’t be a great nation that’s only broken when we’re getting ready to elect a president. And if we’re not great right now it’s because for the past several decades these two parties have been fiscally irresponsible and enabled the unnecessary expansion of federal government powers. In this century they have us fighting a costly and seemingly endless war in Afghanistan. And they have undermined the basic tenets of a participatory democracy by vastly increasing the level of government secrecy.

For America to change courses requires ideas from beyond the failed politics of our two party system. So unlike Sen. Begich who is distancing himself from Obama for the sake of his reelection bid in 2014, we citizens can listen to our conscience, register a protest vote for either Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, and begin the march towards real change.

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