Romney won’t be president, and other good news

It’s no secret that I greatly dislike both Obama and Romney, so my expectations were pretty low going into yesterday’s election. Thus it came as some surprise to me that I went to bed late last night feeling happier about the results than I have for any election in my lifetime, and that has nothing to do with who will or won’t be in the White House.

Yesterday morning I tweeted, “Hoped-for silver linings today: Marijuana legalization, marriage equality, no GMO labeling, good turnout for Gary Johnson.” Pretty much everything I could have reasonably hoped for came true.

Marijuana legalization — Two out of three states where marijuana legalization was on the ballot approved the measure. My own Oregon let me down, but Washington and Colorado succeeded. Voters also legalized medical marijuana in Massachusetts and decriminalized it in Detroit. By putting two states in direct conflict with the federal government, this is potentially a watershed year in the movement toward a more humane drug policy.

Marriage equality — Same-sex marriage was on the ballot in four states yesterday. In Maine, Maryland, and Washington, it was approved by popular majorities. In Minnesota, a majority rejected a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Demographic shifts and growing social acceptance make it seem inevitable that more, perhaps all, states will eventually follow their lead.

GMO labeling — This is one issue on which I’m opposed to many of my peers in the food and drink industry, but I think that California’s proposal to require labeling of genetically modified foods was deeply flawed. The case that they are harmful to consume is very weak, labeling and liability would be costly, and the proposal itself was riddled with exemptions. If consumers and activists want to avoid GMOs I would rather see them push for more organic food or other explicitly GMO-free options than force mandatory labeling onto the entire food system. Cheers to California voters for getting this one right.

Eminent domain bonus — I wasn’t following Virginia’s referendum to further protect private property from Kelo-style takings for private development, but I’m heartened to learn that it was overwhelmingly approved.

Gary Johnson — His campaign never crystallized as I hoped it might, but Johnson nonetheless earned 1% of the vote and as of this writing a raw total of 1,139,562 votes, the most of any Libertarian Party candidate in history. More importantly, I think Johnson may have done more than any recent candidate to reach out to the left and make libertarianism cool. (Sorry, Bob Barr.)

Romney lost — Romney was just terrible. The flip-side is that Obama won, which is also terrible but marginally less so. Most importantly, yesterday was a straight-up beatdown for social conservatism and the last twelve years of Republican politics. This opens the door, at least, to a better GOP.

After all of this, watching Obama’s soaring acceptance speech at a bar in downtown Portland was simply anti-climactic. As my friend Conor Friedersdorf tweeted, “This speech would be more enjoyable if I didn’t already know what follows Barack Obama speeches like this. An imperial presidency.” Or as my friend sitting next to me summed it up, “I don’t even care about this shit. This is just bullshit.”

The electoral outcome of this presidential race was going to be dismal no matter what. On the economy, on foreign policy, on the Drug War, neither side offered the kind of changes we need. The inspiring story from yesterday is that in so many instances where voters had the option to expand freedom directly, they voted to do so. Given the opportunity to let gays marry the people they love, to let sick people access medical marijuana, to let ordinary citizens smoke a joint once in a while without fearing prison, they voted to live and let live. This bodes well for the future. We progress in spite of our politicians.


2 thoughts on “Romney won’t be president, and other good news”

  1. I’m not sure your analysis of Romney v Obama is right. The evidence points to Romney not focusing much on social policy and focusing almost entirely on the economy. Most of the deep analysis of Romney was as a pragmatic manager, a non-ideological problem solver. I’m not saying that’s how the broader media portrayed him. I think they mostly bought into — or at least magnified — the left’s Romney-as-robber-baron talking points. But even people like Ezra Klein were much more thoughtful and probably on-target.

    Obama played small ball, much as he did with the stimulus, making promises to as many interest groups with their hands out as possible. Romney recommended a more sensible path based on flattening the marginal rates and eliminating corporate/big business giveaways and deductions that just create a false economy.

    Most social policy happens in the states, where it belongs. And with Romney not too focused on it, little would have changed. The only exception would be immigration, although Romney might have a better chance of pulling along Republicans on a comprehensive reform package.

    But on economic policy, the approach probably would have changed drastically, especially with efforts at carbon taxes coming up, expansion of Obamacare, etc.

    And, lastly, the media has given Obama a free pass on foreign policy. Little to no criticism on drone strikes, immigration, failures in Benghazi or with Fast & Furious, federal prosecution of drugs in states where they’re legal, privacy violations, expanded executive power, etc. As of 2008, it’s racist to criticize the president. With Romney as president, perhaps it would have been patriotic again.

  2. It’s always hard to argue counterfactuals like this, and I acknowledge that it’s a close call. It also depends on which issues you prioritize. I like Romney marginally more on economics. On foreign policy, torture (he strongly implies he’d bring back waterboarding), and the civil liberties I think he’d be very much worse, even with more media scrutiny. Depending on how they’re structured, I’d actually be OK with a carbon tax (ideally revenue neutral with something like payroll tax cuts).

    I don’t have much hope for improvements in the next four years, but the press will now hopefully be a little more assertive criticizing Obama now that he’s in his last term. And some time in the wilderness may do the GOP some good and bring them back stronger for 2016.

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