The case for electoral politics

By Justin Raimondo

This abridged version of a Nov. 3, 2014, column by Justin Raimondo was reprinted with permission from in the June 2015 issue of LP News (page 11). It applies to all Libertarian issues, not just war.

Why participate in electoral politics?

This is a question I’m often asked by antiwar activists of all stripes, and especially by young people who wonder why they should bother with a process that oftentimes seems rigged from the get-go.

The mere fact of running or being involved in an election campaign can have a powerful ripple effect.

It’s a definite understatement to say most Americans aren’t ideologues, and don’t think about politics a great deal: if and when they do consider the subject, it’s usually because Election Day is approaching. The great majority are too busy with the details of day-to-day living to consider the pressing issues of the day, but a window opens up around this time — a brief moment when political issues, including foreign policy issues, become a subject of discussion around the dinner table.

What this means is that the days and weeks preceding Election Day are the one time when a good many Americans are open to considering the price they pay for Empire.

Even in an era or a locality where the chances of victory are small to nearly nonexistent, electoral politics can have a powerful impact as an educational device — a way to reach great numbers of people who would be otherwise inaccessible. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard people say to me: “I was watching the Republican presidential debate and listening to Ron Paul go up against Rudy Giuliani and I suddenly realized ‘Hey, he’s right!’”

Which is kind of funny, since the Conventional Wisdom — as perceived by our all-knowing pundits — was that Giuliani won that debate, and Paul was finished, vanquished, over. It took a while for the reality to sink in, as events in Iraq progressed, that Paul was absolutely right: many people remembered that moment, and were won over in retrospect. So the fruits of a persistent educational effort aren’t always apparent at the beginning: the Ron Paul Effect, so to speak, was cumulative. So much of politics is sheer repetition, after all, and by the time Paul ran for the GOP nomination a second time the message had finally begun to sink in. It just took a while.

Dismantling the Empire is not a task for the impatient. It took over a century for the American people to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the center of the international arena: decades of constant propaganda, much of it emanating from abroad — and from the financial centers in New York, New England, and Washington — before the natural “isolationism” (i.e., common sense) of the American people was overcome. It will take some time to undo all that — but it can be done.

Electoral politics is a key part of how it will and must be done. That’s because people make policy. The only way to change the policy is to replace the people making it, and the only way to do that in this country is through the electoral process.

Of course we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that if only we elect the “right” people, everything will automatically fall into place from the day after Election Day. That will only mark the beginning of our fight.

An entire stratum of the population lives off of the policy of imperialism: the military contractors, and all those who make their living either directly or indirectly due to the depth and breadth of America’s footprint in the world. And of course there is an entire class of politicians who have made appeasing the war god a lifelong career, and quite a profitable one at that.

These people have a vested economic and psychological interest in maintaining and expanding the Empire. What’s more, they are well organized, vocal, and very well funded: since their economic survival and social status is dependent on our foreign policy of perpetual war, they are highly motivated to keep the war wagon rolling and you’d better believe they are pushing it as hard as they can. It’s really all about pub – lic choice theory: those who reap benefits from a given government program, usually a tiny minority, expend enormous amounts of energy protecting “their” piece of the pie.

On the other hand, most ordinary people — non-beneficiaries — are usually indifferent to and/or entirely ignorant of whatever government program is at issue. During an election, however, matters not directly impinging on their circumscribed world enter the popular consciousness — and that is our cue, our chance to make an impression and win hearts and minds.

We would be foolish not to take it.