Why I’m Running as a Libertarian

Thomas R. Laehn

~by Thomas Laehn

This November, I will be a candidate for Greene County attorney. And, against the advice of family and friends, I am running as a Libertarian. Many people for whom I have great respect encouraged me to run as a Republican or a Democrat instead. To run as a Libertarian, they argued, all but guaranteed an opponent, who would automatically gain the support of one-third of the electorate based solely on his or her party affiliation. However, despite their sound advice and legitimate concern for my electoral prospects, I sought and obtained the nomination of the Libertarian Party.

I am aware my decision to follow my conscience might cost me some votes this November. Indeed, I would rather keep my principles and lose a campaign than exchange them for an elected office.

However, I owe it to my fellow citizens, whose support I am seeking, to explain why I have chosen the more difficult path. First, I have faith that most voters put their community before their party and are ultimately more concerned with a candidate’s character and ability than with his party label. Second, I cannot in good conscience run as a Republican or a Democrat.

Indeed, at the national level, neither of the two legacy parties is even remotely concerned about two fundamental transformations in our Republic about which all Americans should be greatly distressed: the rise of the monarchical presidency and the Supreme Court’s usurpation of the sovereignty of the People. In fact, the two legacy parties have been complicit in both of these transformations.

The Rise of the Monarchical Presidency. Machiavelli once observed that there are only two types of government: (1) those in which power is concentrated in one man or one body of men; and (2) those in which power is divided and counterpoised. In the former, men are subjects and there is no true liberty; indeed, the concentration of power, whether in one person or in one body, permits its arbitrary exercise. In the latter, men are citizens and are free from the whims of unchecked power.

This is why our Founders divided power – first across two layers of government, state and federal, and then again across three separate branches. And yet, for more than a century, power has gradually accumulated at the federal level and, in particular, in the person of the president. Whereas 4.5 percent of laws were made by executive order in 1956, in 2016 executive orders constituted 48.5 percent of the laws created at the federal level. In other words, nearly one-half of federal laws in 2016 were created unilaterally by the president without the participation of Congress.

While the last year for which I have data happens to be the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency, both parties have been complicit in the rise of the monarchical presidency. Republicans rightly criticized President Obama for his abuse of executive power, but their criticism ultimately extended only to the occupant of the office and not to the unchecked power he wielded. Republicans now praise President Trump’s use of the same, arbitrary power in furtherance of their policy goals. Only the Libertarian Party prizes freedom from unchecked power above the achievement of short-term political ends.

The Supreme Court’s Usurpation of the Sovereignty of the People. In 1958, in the single greatest power grab in the history of our Republic, the Supreme Court declared itself “supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution.” Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 18 (1958). Whereas the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause states that the “Constitution … shall be the supreme Law of the Land” (Article VI, Clause 2), the Supreme Court in Cooper v. Aaron boldly proclaimed that its “interpretation” of the Constitution “is the supreme law of the land.” In other words, according to the Supreme Court, the Constitution means whatever five of the nine justices say it means, regardless of whether the People think otherwise. At that moment, the words of the Constitution, which were meant to limit the federal government, became empty vessels into which federal judges could pour whatever meaning they wished. The rule of law, one of the Western world’s greatest but most fragile achievements, once again gave way to the rule of men.

Our nation’s greatest presidents warned that if the Supreme Court ever obtained the power it claimed for itself in 1958, our Republic would be lost. In 1820, for example, Thomas Jefferson stated that “to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions … would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.” Similarly, in his First Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln argued “that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court … the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned the government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”

Republicans and Democrats in Congress, however, have been content to sacrifice the sovereignty of the People at the altar of their own political ambitions. Members of Congress have realized that the judicial resolution of our nation’s most controversial issues allows them to focus on securing appropriations for pork-barrel projects and campaign fundraising, the prerequisites of reelection, rather than on the difficult task of governing. Once again, only Libertarian candidates for Congress appear more concerned with the preservation of our Republic than with their own election.

If I am elected county attorney, I will aggressively prosecute crime. I will also continue my efforts to introduce cost-saving efficiencies into the operation of the county attorney’s office. My fears concerning the rise of the monarchical presidency and the loss of the sovereignty of the People will have little, if any, effect on how I conduct myself in office. However, for the reasons given above, I have decided to seek office as a Libertarian, and I hope that the people of Greene County will give me the opportunity to serve them as their next county attorney.

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