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Bill Redpath: ‘Don’t Waste Your Vote: Vote Democratic!’

LP blog:

by William Redpath

(originally published in the December 2009 issue of LP News)

I can’t know what each of you thought when you read the headline above, but probably the most charitable thought was “Poor Bill Redpath. He almost made it to the end of his second term as Chair before he cracked up.”

Please be assured that I don’t really mean it. But, until I get a law passed making it illegal to skip past the Chairman’s column when reading LP News, kindly forgive my grabbing your attention by stooping to headlines that would make the editors of the late Weekly World News proud.

But, there is a point to it.

We’ve all heard it many times. “I can’t (sign your petition/vote for you/all of the above), because you’ll take votes from Republicans and then The Really Bad People will win.”

In 2008, when I was the Libertarian candidate for US Senate in Virginia, we had to circulate separate petitions for the Libertarian presidential ticket and me. Many people gladly signed my petition (getting my charm tank topped off beforehand helped, I guess), but when it came to signing for the LP presidential ticket, “Nooooooooo! Barr will screw things up for John McCain!”

Let’s see how that philosophy has worked out for those people.

I just read the recently published Recarving Rushmore, written by Ivan Eland of the small-l libertarian Independent Institute, in which he ranks forty presidents (too early in Obama’s presidency/Cleveland served twice/Garfield and William Henry Harrison both served less than a year) on a “PP&L (Peace, Prosperity & Liberty) scale.”

What appeared to chafe Dr. Eland was the tendency of historians to judge presidents as “great,” or not so, based on the times in which they served, not the actual decisions made by them when they were President. Dr. Eland’s goal is to judge presidents on the extent to which their actual policy decisions contributed to Peace, Prosperity & Liberty for the United States.

As a libertarian, Dr. Eland does not play favorites. Thomas Jefferson is rated a woeful 26th by Eland, who calls TJ “A Hypocrite on Limited Government.” I have not asked Dr. Eland if he thinks we should save our rotten tomaters for whomever next sings that “Thomas Jefferson” song at an LP convention (non-old-timers may not remember this).

Surprisingly, in Dr. Eland’s judgment, the best president in American history was John Tyler (vetoed the revival of the national bank/ended the worst Indian war in US history/responded with restraint to Dorr’s Rebellion in Rhode Island/ditto with a border dispute between Maine and New Brunswick/opposed big government in fact and not just rhetoric), while the second best was Grover Cleveland, a fat guy who liked slim government. The worst president (#40) in his view was Woodrow Wilson (got the US into World War I/post-war policies set the table for World War II/plenty more, but ain’t that enough?).

But, what really struck me, as I reviewed Dr. Eland’s presidential rankings, was how low recent Republican presidents were on his PP&L scale. I know some people will dispute this, but Eland ranks Ronald Reagan as #34 (landing him in Eland’s “Bad President” category), and he has sensible reasons. Eland claims that the Iran/Contra scandal was worse than Watergate, Reagan did not reduce big government, started “surreptitiously” raising taxes soon after his 1981 tax cuts were enacted, and helped keep Social Security limping along in 1983 (with tax increases, of course) when he could have worked to privatize it. Dr. Eland also thinks Reagan’s role in ending the Cold War was overblown, and that the Soviet Union failed largely on its own. Other low recent Republican president rankings (W. at #36, H. W. at #33 and Nixon at #30) are no surprise.

What is somewhat surprising is that Dr. Eland ranks Jimmy Carter as “The Best Modern President” at #8 (restrained foreign policy/evenhanded Middle East policy/deregulated industries/appointed Paul Volcker to the Fed, who then slayed inflation). Eland even ranked Bill Clinton as the 11th best president on his PP&L scale, so he thinks that over the last forty years, Democratic presidents have actually been more libertarian than Republican presidents.

According to Dr. Eland, to find a Republican president who ranks higher in his PP&L rankings than Jimmy Carter, one must go all the way back to Warren Harding. And, to write that pains me; the Marion Harding Presidents (what else would their nickname be?) were rivals with my Findlay Trojans in the Buckeye Conference when I was in high school.

What I took away from Dr. Eland’s enlightening book was that the frequently heard advice to libertarians and supporters of small government to not “waste their vote,” and to hold their nose and vote Republican, makes about as much sense as the headline at the beginning of this column. The people who have done that over the last several decades need to look around and observe what that admonition has wrought.

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  1. paulie paulie January 5, 2010

    Reagan reduced the top marginal income tax rate from 70% to 28%.

    He only redistributed taxes downward and into the future. Since spending went up, it was paid for with taxes.

  2. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi December 24, 2009

    tb 29, in the game of rhetoric, associating yourself with a political figure doesn’t generally mean one endorses each and every thing that person did or said. If you told me that you are a “Rockwell L,” I wouldn’t necessary think that meant you also believe the Rodney King beating was justified, for ex.

  3. Brian Holtz Brian Holtz December 24, 2009

    Reagan reduced the top marginal income tax rate from 70% to 28%. What higher figure does Mr. Blanton think Reagan should have stopped at?

  4. Tom Blanton Tom Blanton December 23, 2009

    Wayne Root says he is a Reagan libertarian. I guess that means he favors eliminating tax deductions for the middle class, big tax cuts for the rich, large deficits, escalating the drug war, covert military ops in other nations, and increasing FICA taxes.

  5. paulie paulie December 23, 2009

    Although, I think that the order of importance should be peace, liberty and prosperity.

  6. paulie paulie December 23, 2009

    Robert, from the article you are commenting on:

    What appeared to chafe Dr. Eland was the tendency of historians to judge presidents as “great,” or not so, based on the times in which they served, not the actual decisions made by them when they were President. Dr. Eland’s goal is to judge presidents on the extent to which their actual policy decisions contributed to Peace, Prosperity & Liberty for the United States.

  7. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi December 23, 2009

    While I also enjoy playing this President ranking game, I don’t think we can measure the most important swing factors: uncontrollable circumstances and make-up of Congress.

    The Clinton years were relatively good due to the peace dividend and divided government, for ex. Were it up to Clinton, we’d have gotten (more) socialized medicine by 1994 or so. We didn’t, yet he proposed it. Most of these rankings don’t capture such things.

  8. paulie paulie December 23, 2009

    all Iran-Contra did was make the country it targeted far weaker, kill civilians, and ultimately failed.

    It targeted quite a few different countries, including the US, and succeeded tremendously for its intended purposes (other than being eventually discovered).

  9. paulie paulie December 23, 2009

    Carter wasn’t a “great president,” but I still think he was better than he got credit for.

    Much better than he gets credit for.

  10. paulie paulie December 23, 2009

    I would argue that this is further proof that liberals are closer in ideology to us than conservatives are.


    See also the Freedom Democrats scorecard of the US House:

    Today, less than eighty days before Election Day, I am pleased to release the 2006 Freedom Democrats House Scorecard. This scorecard builds on the findings of our 2005 Scorecard, but makes significant changes in order to more accurately judge the House of Representatives. Before discussing the results, I would like to present the findings as displayed on the quintessential Nolan Chart.

    The two red dots in the libertarian quadrant are Ron Paul of Texas and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Democrat Melissa Bean of Illinois is just along the edge of the libertarian quadrant. Other notable members are Republicans Walter Jones of North Carolina and John Duncan of Tennessee, occupying the corner where Centrists, Libertarians, and Conservatives meet, and Democrat Jim Cooper of Tennessee, who is just south of the line between Centrists and Libertarians. The green dot is Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The dark blue square is the average for the Democratic Party and the dark red square is the average for the Republican Party.
    A detailed discussion of the social and economic aspects of the scorecards, including votes, can be found elsewhere on the site. The focus here will be on the scorecard overall. In brief, key changes were made to the economic scorecard to find better votes on spending restraint. This explains the significant drop in economic scores for the Democratic Party.
    The graphic helps to illustrate that the Republican Party has largely become an authoritarian party, despite the fact that the two libertarian members still affiliate with the GOP. Only a small wing of the party remains true to conservative principles of fiscal restraint and economic freedom. In contrast, the Democratic Party is largely a liberal party with a more populist wing that includes many members who are not consistent in supporting civil liberties and social rights.
    Polling information from the Pew reveals that this parallels the situation among voters. Democratic activists tend to be united on economic issues but divided by social issues. The reverse is true of Republicans; the Pew notes the recent rise of so-called “big government conservatives.” With both parties attempting to appeal to “populists” or “authoritarians,” it is significant that the Republican Party was able to win both “populists” and “libertarians” by the same 60-40 margin in the 2004 election. It is the belief of Freedom Democrats that the Democratic Party would have greater success if it focused its attentions to libertarian voters.

    This scorecard is both good news and bad news for libertarian Democrats. The good news is that the Democratic Party as a whole is “more” libertarian than the Republican Party. There is a significant gap between the two parties on issues of personal liberty. The new scorecard shows both parties failing on economic issues, but with the Republicans slightly ahead. This is the bad news for libertarian Democrats, that much needs to be done to encourage greater fiscal responsibility within the party. The focus of libertarians within the Democratic Party should be on promoting fiscally responsible candidates.
    The two high scoring Democrats may show the way. Melissa Bean of Illinois is still in her first term; she defeated long time incumbent Phil Crane in 2004. Although more to the right on social issues than ideal, she has shown herself to be a staunch fiscal conservative (according to the old, traditional definition of the phrase). She has received a rare endorsement from the Chamber of Commerce, an organization that typically supports Republicans, in her reelection bid.
    Jim Cooper of Tennessee is also a deficit hawk and an opponent of wasteful spending. He has received media attention recently for pushing to publish the “Financial Report of the United States.” This report, which more accurately tracks the budget and future financial obligations like Social Security than traditional budget methods, will hopefully help inform voters about the reality of our country’s coming fiscal crisis.
    A file showing the social, economic, and average scores for each member of the House can be found here. A detailed discussion of the votes can be found on the pages for the social scorecard and the economic scorecard.

  11. paulie paulie December 23, 2009

    Of three broad policy areas (in order of importance: peace, civil liberties and economic issues), Reagan was very good compared to most mainstream major party politicians ON PAPER ONLY on economic issues, although not good at all in practice (budgets grew drastically, left lots of debt, raised taxes on poor and blue collar folks, allowed a massive S&L ripoff).

    Om peace and civil liberties, he never even pretended to be libertarian – quite the opposite.

    Eland is also correct about Reagan getting credit he does not deserve on the cold war.

    The Iran-Contra-Cocaine triangle trade (classic triangle trade, at that) was a far bigger scandal than most people will ever realize. Unfortunately, I’m under, shall we say, very binding agreement not to discuss what I personally know directly about that, but I think I can say that much, since it’s been all over the newspapers, books, etc.

  12. paulie paulie December 23, 2009

    Reagan: Great speaker, terrible president.

    I generally agree with Eland’s rankings, and am very glad that Redpath is using LP News and to help set the record straight.

    I would rank the presidents, especially the recent ones, about where he does.

    I agree with him about Jefferson, as well.

  13. Brian Holtz Brian Holtz December 23, 2009

    REAGAN: The very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is. Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are traveling the same path.

    The first and most important thing is that government exists to protect us from each other. Government exists, of course, for the defense of the nation, and for the defense of the rights of the individual. Maybe we don’t all agree on some of the other accepted functions of government, such as fire departments and police departments–again the protection of the people.

    REASON: Are you suggesting that fire departments would be a necessary and proper function of government?

    REAGAN: Yes. I know that there was a time back in history in which fire departments were private and you insured your house and then had an emblem on the front of your house which identified which company was responsible for protecting it against fire. I believe today, because of the manner in which we live, that, you can make a pretty good case for our public fire departments–because there are very few ways that you can handle fire in one particular structure today without it representing a threat to others.

    REASON: How would you distinguish “socialized” fire departments and “socialized” fire insurance companies? Or would you be in favor of socialized fire insurance also?

    REAGAN: No. Nor am I in favor of socialized medicine. But, there’s bound to be a grey area, an area in there in which you ask is this government protecting us from ourselves or is this government protecting us from each other. I don’t believe in a government that protects us from ourselves. I have illustrated this many times by saying that I would recognize the right of government to say that someone who rode a motorcycle had to protect the public from himself by making certain provisions about his equipment and the motorcycle–the same as we do with an automobile. I disagree completely when government says that because of the number of head injuries from accidents with motorcycles that he should be forced to wear a helmet. I happen to think he’s stupid if he rides a motorcycle without a helmet, but that’s one of our sacred rights–to be stupid.

    REASON: Would you allow anything to go by way of hard core pornography as long as there are willing and consensual buyers?

    REAGAN: I didn’t want the picture industry doing it. I just think it’s bad business. But I’m opposed to outside censorship.

  14. Brian Holtz Brian Holtz December 23, 2009

    Here’s Reagan speaking in 1961 on socialized health care. Chillingly prophetic.

  15. Thomas L. Knapp // It is not just you, but you have improved so much [logic, organizationally, communications in generan] that I have come to except more from you!,

    “Carter wasn’t a “great president,” but I still think he was better than he got credit for……”

    Whoa, whoa, whoa, one of the few long standing truly NGO was the US Olympic Committee. Until 1980 the USA was one of only less than a dozen nation to attend ALL OLYMPIC GAMES.

    Only with unconstitutional industrial strength badgering and interference of the misguided Federal Government was this streak broken. Even the UK attended the Moscow 1980 Summer Games.

    [Like the lethal government abused veterans programs,, this gross interference by the tax supported thugs seems like a big time Libertarian issue. ——- and the Freedom Lobby’s ‘silence is deafening’ ……….]

  16. Don Lake .......... More Libs Don Lake .......... More Libs December 23, 2009

    Thomas L. Knapp // Dec 23, 2009 at 8:18 am


    All rankings are subjective, and Carter wasn’t a “great president,” but I still think he was better than he got credit for.

  17. Danny S Danny S December 23, 2009

    Dondero, all Iran-Contra did was make the country it targeted far weaker, kill civilians, and ultimately failed. It also blatantly abused the power of the CIA.

  18. Robert Milnes Robert Milnes December 23, 2009

    Home for the Holidays? There are 4 special elections coming up. It is very important and urgent that we try to win ALL 4. This effort is done by trying The Progressive Libertarian Alliance Strategy Experiment. Educate the preogressive and libertarian voters to BOTH vote for the Green OR the Libertarian on the ballot. Also GOTV-the progressive and libertarian vote-in special elections where there probably will be less democrat & republican vote. Also on election day have activists at EVERY polling place with signs and literature explaining PLAS and encouraging voters to vote PLAS. This tactic actually involves voters who actually show up at the polls so should be much more effective. Now I understand “Home for the Holidays”. But that should be Christmas and since it is on Friday, this weekend. So, after this weekend, I would like to see all activists go to Augusta, Georgia for Jan 5 Libertarian and Orange county District 72, CA for Jan 12 Green. No excuses for winter weather in these 2. And contributors can contribute anytime. Immediately would be best. Then comes the Jan 19 MA Libertarian for U.S. Senate. Then Feb. 2 in Mo.Libertarian. Contributors & activists, let’s get going!

  19. Scott Lieberman Scott Lieberman December 23, 2009

    No libertarian would rate Reagan as a “great President”, but if you believe that Reason magazine is libertarian, then you will benefit from reading this more nuanced view of Reagan’s Presidency.

    I don’t have the time to make up my own chart, but my guess is that if John Tyler is number 1, Reagan should be around number 18.

  20. December 23, 2009

    After the Ron Paul debacle, where Americans were finally given a real choice (and chose otherwise), I changed my approach. Now I encourage all libertarians to infiltrate both major parties. Look at legislative elections(especially primaries) and see which candidate is the most libertarian choice. Then work your tail off as a campaign volunteer for them. And since neither party has a monopoly on virtue or evil, work both sides of the aisle. The eventual result will be a more libertarian government. When given a choice between perfection and progress, I choose progress. It’s the only path that leads towards a “more perfect union.”

  21. Aroundtheblockafewtimes Aroundtheblockafewtimes December 23, 2009

    John Tyler and his offspring were all avid supporters of the Confederacy and all it entailed. His son, Robert, had to flee Philadelphia after being hung in effigy by an anti-Rebel mob.

    The “Jefferson song, ” written by Craig ______,
    was always a little creepy with its line about “agreeing with every word you ever wrote.”

  22. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp December 23, 2009


    All rankings are subjective, and Carter wasn’t a “great president,” but I still think he was better than he got credit for.

    The biggest fault I’d lay at his feet was refusing to hand the Shah over for trial, thus bringing on the hostage situation that highlighted/exacerbated his reputation as “weak on foreign policy.”

  23. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi December 23, 2009

    These rankings are WAAAAAAAAAAAY subjective. To me, starting draft registration and interest rate caps by fiat would have been weighted a LOT heavier, and Carter would be a LOT lower.

  24. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp December 23, 2009

    Glad this piece made it onto the blog. When I read it in print, I immediately wrote to the chair and Wes Benedict asking them if it would, as it’s one of the best LP News pieces I’ve read in years.

    I’m going to have to read Eland’s book and read up on Tyler. I’ve long considered Cleveland the best of the bunch, and am happy to see that Carter is finally being rehabilitated to an extent (perhaps too great an extent, but he really was somewhat better than generally given credit for).

  25. Jake Witmer Jake Witmer December 23, 2009

    BTW: send money to Joe Kennedy, a solid anti-war Independent candidate running for Ted Kennedy’s old seat in the US Senate. Joe supports Ron Paul’s Free Competition in Currency Act (HR 4248), online here:

    The special election is on January 19, 2010, so there isn’t much time. You can contribute securely online at the URL above.

    You can also do Joe a favor and link to his website with the banner text available at this link:

  26. Jake Witmer Jake Witmer December 23, 2009

    Oh, and by the way, Bill Redpath is right. This was a very well-written article that will not doubt cause independent thinkers to reconsider the “wasted vote argument”.

  27. Jake Witmer Jake Witmer December 23, 2009

    Eric Dondero is quite possibly the least well-read and least consistent “libertarian” I have ever encountered. While the libertarian movement grows more sophisticated and well-educated, Dondero spends his time regurgitating the small amount of information contained in his tiny mind, without any desire to grow as a person.

    He should be universally ridiculed for his betrayal of Ron Paul
    , his support of the Federal Reserve, his casual disregard for private gun ownership, and his frequent support of authoritarian sacrifice of individual liberty in the name of the “war on (some) terror”. Remember, this is the guy who, at the height of Ron Paul’s popularity (moneybomb era, 2007) was suggesting that “libertarians should support Rudy Giuliani for president”.

    Dondero is a blithering idiot, and an avowed supporter of statism when it serves his purposes (as an example, when confronted with Giuliani’s anti-gun policies, and anti-free speech policies, Dondero stated that those individual rights violations “didn’t matter”, because Giuliani was “tough on islamo-fascism”). Even when Dondero’s idiotic blog has something interesting on it, I avoid clicking on it, lest he somehow benefit from my actions.

    Dondero should be isolated, contained, and never engaged, other than to be flamed, as I have done here. He should be as unwelcome in the libertarian movement, and highly suspected as being a paid agent provacateur (mainstream, anti-libertarian Republican).

    Erid Dondero brings nothing to the table, but a pack of lies mixed with just enough truth to mislead the gullible. I expect that since enough people know him for what he is, he will soon change his name again. Perhaps back to Rittberg, perhaps to some new and unknown alias. He is a slippery piece of scum. Avoid.

  28. Richard Secord Richard Secord December 23, 2009

    Yup, Eric, Iran-Contra was a neat idea.

  29. Eric Dondero Eric Dondero December 23, 2009

    Funny, neither Watergate nor Iran – Contra were bad compared to Obama’s Rezko affair, or Clinton’s Vince Foster murder or Waco.

    Actually Iran – Contra by Reagan administration officials was quite a brillant plan. The liberals hated it, cause it worked. It may have saved all Central America from going Communist. That’s all.

    Sounds like the guy is a flaming Democrat partisan.

  30. As a Libertarian striped non Lib, boy what a muddlied waste of time and lack logic. And this is the best [think unindicted co-conspirators Steven Gordon of Alabama and Bob Barr nationally] you can do ???????

    There are days that you all make the CP types and the deform/ reform movement look good! Sorry to say ……….

  31. Adrian Adrian December 22, 2009

    I would argue that this is further proof that liberals are closer in ideology to us than conservatives are.

    If we were to suppose freedom is weighted (and it is), with social liberty taking precedence over economic liberty, then conservatives get very poor markings indeed.

    It would seem that many of our “liberal presidents” held true to their word in at least one regard by advocating small increases in social liberty, both domestic and internationally.

  32. Morgan Brykein Morgan Brykein December 22, 2009

    I read about a similar ranking system in The Cult of the Presidency by Gene Healy. Very interesting article.

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