The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

The Libertarian Vote for Biden: It’s All About Trump

My natural habitat has been libertarian circles from shortly after I got out of high school. Even with an evangelical education trying to pervert my natural tendencies I’ve always been libertarian-leaning, even if it took some studying and reading to get there. Not only did that reading help me become a libertarian but allowed me to escape the clutches of authoritarian evangelicalism.

My first personal political campaign was to speak out about conscription and the America’s foreign policy. I was an opponent of censorship spoke out on gay rights as a college kid well before it was acceptable to do so—losing friends in the process. I ran for office as a Libertarian and wrote the 1984 campaign book for the LP vice presidential candidate.

My first presidential vote was George McGovern, something I never regretted, especially as we both became more libertarian with the passing of time. Though I was tempted to vote for Reagan in 1980 I voted for Libertarian Ed Clark. Spending a lot of my adult years in Africa I didn’t vote at all but when I was back in the United States and Gary Johnson was on the LP ticket I happily voted Libertarian in both 2012 and 2016.

Once the Republicans showed me they were so corrupted by the fascist temptation as to nominate Trump I did something in 2016 I never did before — I voted almost a straight Democratic ticket. I am utterly convinced the GOP must die for America to survive. If there was a choice between a Democrat and a Republican I voted for the Democrat. If there were only two Democrats or two Republicans I refused to vote for anyone.

I’ve heard the nonsense arguments from lots of Libertarians (I capitalize for party members but not for adherents to the philosophy — and often the former is not in the latter group I might add) about “the lesser of two evils.” It’s a bad argument much like saying, “Don’t buy that! It’s just the lesser to two prices.” But there’s no such thing as a free lunch or in other libertarian jargon “life is a series of tradeoffs.” That applies to voting as well as everything else.

If the lesser evil is Biden and the greater evil is Trump the difference is more than minor, it’s substantial. And in my view we can’t survive a second term of Trump. As Howard Roark said in The Fountainhead, “We are approaching a world in which I cannot permit myself to live.” Trump is not merely the lesser of two evils, he is the epitome of every anti-American value there is. Compared to him Biden advocates free markets not protectionism. No this doesn’t mean Biden is a great candidate, but he’s not a fascist. He doesn’t rule by decree and spit on the Constitution, not matter how flawed his interpretation of it may be. He doesn’t believe he has a divine right to rule others. Every flaw he has is surpassed multiple times over by the corrupt, Narcissist currently in the White House.

The most important thing this election isn’t the fantasy of putting a libertarian in the White House, it’s getting a rabid fascist out of the White House.

If a third party could defeat the strutting monstrosity I’d support it, but it can’t. They are all irrelevant in this election and the votes on election day will show that. What is relevant is whether or not Trump is defeated. And in libertarian terms, that is greatest gift of liberty we can give America at this time. So, it is no surprise I’ve seen many libertarians openly saying they would vote for Joe Biden in order to stop Trump. Here are some of them, in their own words. Due to the number of responses I can only use excerpts and not even from everyone. I asked each to describe their libertarian bona fides and their reasons for backing Biden.

Victoria Varga

I began reading Ayn Rand in 1966, became a libertarian around 1972, started work for Libertarian Review in late 1977, became Managing Editor and stayed with them until the end of 1980 in Washington, when they merged with Inquiry. I was the Editor of Prometheus, the newsletter of the Libertarian Futurist Society, from 1982 until 1987. After that I got a B.S. In Communications, and then a Masters in English Literature, while working for a legal publisher, where I was sorely tempted in insert the word “NOT” in the laws of the nation.

It was an easy decision to vote for Biden, even though I recognized that some of Trump’s actions might be deemed libertarian by less critical thinkers, and I had no reason to think that Biden had many libertarian ideas. Biden is a human. He appears to learn from his mistakes over the years. Trump’s actions are only for for the benefit of himself and his cronies. He is an evil Hitler clone. I despise him to the depths of my soul. I’ll go into greater detail, if you wish, in an e-mail.

Jason Weinman
Former National Youth Director for Johnson/Weld

The 2016 election was plainly the most significant in American history, or at least the most significant since 1860. …Forty-five percent of American voters… had embraced a brand of fascism that differed only from 1920’s and 30’s European manifestations in its particular symbols. The movement was characterized by intense nationalism, the scapegoating of various groups, fanatical conspiracism, militarism, disdain for democratic or liberal norms, and a capricious obsession with law and order that strangely placed law enforcement outside of that system.

…it seems unconscionable to me to vote third party. At stake in this election is not what policies or agenda the country will adopt over the next four years. This is no dispute about taxes, spending, or even social policy. This is a fight for the preservation of a peaceful mechanism to move policy in the first place. If Trump does not lose, we are closing the door on the American experiment of liberal governance, which I consider to have been wildly successful, and replacing it with a dictatorship of the sort that hasn’t been seen in the developed world since WWII. It strikes me that those voting Libertarian under these circumstances are doing so out of either a confusion on the state of affairs in this country, a deontological commitment to go down with the ship, or a tacit desire to watch the world burn.

Dr. Kyle Varner

I am a life member of the Libertarian Party, first joined the party at the age of 15... I frequently travel to Latin America to deliver lectures on the humanitarian case for laissez-faire capitalism. I’m an avid fan of Ayn Rand and consider myself to be an Objectivist. I served as the treasurer of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii from 2014–2016, and I’ve been a delegate to three Libertarian National Conventions.

I have two primary motivations for voting for Biden. First, I am extremely alarmed by the rise of radical socialism as an important constituency in the Democratic party. I was extremely alarmed by the campaign of Bernie Sanders for President, and extremely relieved when Joe Biden beat him. I’m under no illusions, though: Joe Biden beat Bernie on the strength of the argument that moderation is needed to defeat the GOP. If this argument is successful, I see the radical socialists getting marginalized within the Democratic Party. If Biden fails to beat Trump, I see the Democratic party fundamentally transforming into a very radical socialist movement in much the same way as the GOP transformed into a right wing authoritarian populist movement.

Secondly, I see Trump as an authoritarian populist who is actively undermining the rule of law. It is true that he is a right wing populist — but populism is populism, and it doesn’t belong in a liberal society. I have become especially alarmed as he has begun to lay the foundation to claim this election is fraudulent and attempt to hold power even if he loses. This is an existential threat to our liberal democracy. For this reason, I think it is essential that Biden win overwhelmingly, so as to potentially dissuade Trump allies from joining him in what appears to be a planned post-election Coup d’Etat.

Lastly, the political issue that matters most to me is immigration. While I’m not a fan of Biden’s approach to immigration, it is materially different from Trump’s. Trump has done everything in his power to lock people out of the United States.

Lester Hunt

I have been a libertarian since reading The Fountainhead and subscribing to the Objectivist Newsletter in late 1963. When I attended UC Berkeley in 1966/67 I joined the Berkeley conservative/libertarian organization. As I recall, it was called University Society of Individualists and Sharon Presley was one of our officers. I also helped found a group called Students Opposed to Conscription.

Since then I have published in Reason and Reason Papers and written a

number of articles on Rand (work which included working with her manuscripts in the ARI archives).

…I gradually came around [to voting for Biden] due to arguments from a couple libertarians of the “Trump must go” variety. I was impressed by Harry Binswanger’s argument that the brazen, grotesque irrationality of Trump’s public comments is an extremely bad thing. Rational public discussion is to a community and a nation what rational thinking is the the individual. If something happens to me that makes me unable to think rationally, I will be unable to help myself and on a course to one disastrous mess after another. The same is true of a community or nation that has to have public deliberations about important policy issues. The last straw was an idea I got out of Grier’s “A Pox on One of Their Houses.” It was this: Usually, your vote has no effect on the outcome of the election. Either your candidate wins, and would have won anyway without your vote, or he/she loses and your vote didn’t help. Voting at all makes little rational sense, except under what Nozick called “symbolic rationality.” We do it because it represents something, not because it causes something or makes any causal difference. This time is different, because Trump has indicated that he intends to do whatever he can to create suspicions of illegitimacy if he loses. This becomes more difficult to do, the larger the margin by which he loses. So despite the winner take all nature of the election, and despite the Electoral College as well, the sheer size of the popular vote matters this time. This means that while the causal significance of your vote is usually zero, this time it does have a positive value: Admittedly it is a fraction, something on the order of 1/70,000,000 or so. It’s small, but it’s something and symbolically (there it goes again!) the difference between something and nothing is not small. Voting for a third party candidate would not have this sort of value. It would not enhance the margin by which the winner is the clear winner.

Richard M. Castaldo

I’m a Libertarian candidate for Congress in Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District, a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma, and a member of the national Party as well.

Despite the pressure not to, I am voting for Joe Biden because he’s our best chance at defeating fascism and he is our best chance of replacing the hate and narcissistic abuse coming from the White House. I want someone who is capable of empathy and who wants to unite the country after such a tremulous 4 years.

Joe Biden has said, “As President, I will embrace: Hope, not fear. Peace, not violence. Generosity, not greed. Light, not darkness. I will be a president who appeals to the best in us. Not the worst.” This inspires me. So for the first time ever, I’m voting for a Democrat and won’t be held back by libertarian tribalism. I must follow my conscience, and this year that means prioritizing character over policies. Joe must replace Trumpism…

Brian Bensimon

Why am I voting for Biden? He is a man of better character and infinitely more equipped to handle the current pandemic than President Trump. It’s been an easy decision because Trump has proven time and time again to be a threat to democracy — not to mention, to our civil liberties and the rule of law. Biden will surely disappoint, and we should be eager to check his abuses once he is in power, but Trump remains the greater threat to civil life and it is imminent he is removed from office before he does more harm. Specifically, the Trump administration’s weaponization of institutions like the DHS against American dissidents has convinced me not to vote for him

Diane Aguilar

I’ve considered myself a libertarian for well over fifteen years. I’ve supported various libertarian candidates including Gary Johnson back in 2016 and converse on the regular with fellow libertarians, including my feminist mentor Dr. Sharon Presley and the person who runs Libertarians for Vaccines, Mike Warren…

I cannot support anyone who is as racist, sexist, bigoted, hateful, and evil as Trump, and with this election I feel particularly strongly that a vote for anyone else but Biden is a vote for Trump. The entire fate of this country rests in this election and I feel it’s more important to shove the entire Republican party out of power than it is to vote for a candidate who’s in the right party but whom I have certain ideological problems with that are difficult to overllook (for example, her anti-choice viewpoints). Right now, though, I feel like it’s a matter of “country over party” and if we can get Biden and a Democratically-controlled Congress in this year we can comfortably throw our support for Spike Cohen in 2024. But this year it’s either Biden or the end of this country.

Jeff Campbell

My political philosophy has been of a libertarian sort since I became politically aware. While I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats over the years, a preference for libertarian-leaning public policy has driven much of those voting decisions.

…I knew from the start I was not going to vote for Donald Trump. Doing so was anathema to me from the moment he announced his original candidacy. Everything we’ve seen from him since has borne that out.

His explicitly racist immigration policy, blatant corruption, advocacy of violence against protestors, attacks on an independent judiciary and free press, politically-motived economic interference, destabilizing influence on relations with other nations, and assault on the bodily autonomy of women have all made him a non-starter for me.

His rank negligence in the face of a pandemic — needlessly putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk of death or disability — hasn’t helped, either.

…It has become increasingly clear that Trump seeks to discredit the outcome of this election. As such, an overwhelming popular vote victory won’t just be for bragging rights, but also as a defense against a premature declaration of victory as mail-in ballots are counted. The more overwhelming the loss the less room he will have to cry fowl should he lose.

I also think it important to offer a thorough, unambiguous rebuke of the white nationalism that has undergirded Trump’s movement from the very start.

Joe Biden is a relatively moderate Democratic candidate, and likely won’t offer a major departure from President Obama before him. While this is hardly a ringing endorsement from a libertarian perspective, I do not fear that he will undermine fundamental voting rights or encourage fascism to take root in this country.

Shika Sood Dalmia

Writer for Reason magazine.

I will cast my ballot for Joe Biden in Michigan, a swing state, because there is no bigger libertarian cause right now than to prevent Donald J. Trump from getting re-elected. He is a proto-authoritarian who digs dictators such as the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte and glorifies state violence. It was no surprise that this summer he deployed the military police to tear-gas peaceful anti-police brutality protesters outside the White House to clear the way for a photo-op.He launched his first election campaign by stoking racial hatreds — calling Mexicans “rapists and criminals” — and any hope that the responsibility of governance would temper him was dashed as he dehumanized immigrants and demonized opponents. His zero-tolerance border polices have resulted in unspeakable human rights abuses, his economic nationalism is no better for the cause of free markets than Biden’s supposed socialism, and his fiscal irresponsibility has been worse than his predecessors’. But his most dangerous trait by far is his open contempt for institutions that check executive power and hold it accountable.

Jack Walsh

I’ve considered myself a libertarian of one kind or another since 2007 or 2008.

…. It was a very easy decision. Anything would be better than more fascism. And, this might sound like hyperbole, but it’s not: I truly don’t think the country would survive another Trump term. If Trump wins the 2020 election, it could very well be the last election we have. As for Biden, he’s not a libertarian by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s MORE LIBERTARIAN than Trump by far (although admittedly that’s a low bar). He hasn’t made neo-fascists or racists his constituency. He is not a serial rapist. He’s religious but he doesn’t cater to religious wingnuts or let religion dictate his policies. He’s not anti-science. A Biden administration would handle the ongoing pandemic much more competently than Trump has. I don’t know how Biden personally feels about LGBTQ+ issues, but he would not go out of his way to harm the community the way Trump has.

Rob

I am an editor who has moved back and forth between the US and Asia in the last two decades… and written for libertarian/classical liberal publications.

…I have been aghast at Donald Trump’s positions on immigration and trade from the beginning, but also his self-aggrandizement and his supporters’ steadfast approval of these traits. He casually incites hatred of the press, of immigrants, of those who want police reform, and anyone (from any party) who disagrees with him.

…Joe Biden is not what I would call a forward-thinking politician; indeed, he seems to move with the times and this has led to him making some very unfortunate statements and policy actions. But the zeitgeist on the Democratic Party’s side seems to be more immigration, more trade, more multilateralism, and defending liberalism abroad (though not necessarily through force of arms). It’s going to take some grassroots momentum to keep his administration on the right path, I’m sure, but even without it I believed he’d govern better on all the above issues than Trump has.

Geoffrey Nathan

I became a libertarian in 1967 after I read Atlas Shrugged, which I found transforming. For a number of years I called myself an Objectivist, attended Nathaniel Branden Institute lectures and joined Objectivist associations, first in Toronto, then in Honolulu. Over the years I have moved away from fundamentalist Objectivism towards ‘bleeding heart libertarianism’, but still consider myself a libertarian.

When Trump was first elected I was amused. I thought it was silly that someone like him could be President, but thought we’d have a bumpy ride. …instead he has turned out to be a bull in a china shop, stumbling around breaking things (like international relations). He flails about in every direction, making decisions based on spur-of-the-moment opinions based on rumors or conspiracy theories. He hasn’t done anything to reduce the size of government, and, by adopting some ideas pushed by some libertarians he has tarnished those ideas. And his use of federal police in Portland, his arbitrary bans on (some) Muslims, his hatred of immigrants (and I’m an immigrant, a naturalized American citizen since 1980) is totally anti-libertarian. Compared to this, Biden will merely be bad, but no worse than Carter, Clinton or Obama.

Tyler Johnson

There are some positives that Biden has, which drew me to him initially. One is his overall respect for the institutional and constitutional framework that, while not perfect, have worked to provide many of the freedoms and safeguards against the will of the majority that we have come to enjoy. Biden represents, moreover, a cooling of the anti-minority rhetoric that has infected today’s society.

PS: If you haven’t seen it we ran George Meyer’s piece on voting for Biden separately.

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.