1) Gary Johnson won't be on the ballot. Based on the trends for the actual Libertarian Party, as opposed to libertarian-leaning politicians (Johnson or Paul), they will nominate someone truly insane. Or else someone too mainline (Barr in 08?, the guy was basically a Republican, fuck that). Give me a politician who talks openly about the failure of the drug war and admits that as governor he did not "create jobs" (that honor belongs to others, not the government, usually). Most crucially he puts everything on the table in his budget plan (and it's an actual plan unlike Ron Paul).
He does not have a chance of winning in the GOP primary as a result. So I won't get to vote for the guy. Without someone on the ballot who gives me a reason to vote FOR, as Johnson does, I no longer see reasons to vote AGAINST as fully legitimate and satisfying.
2) The GOP likely won't nominate someone reasonable instead, but it is sounding like it will be either Romney or maybe Rick Perry. Neither of these are very popular with me, but in Romney's case, the distinctions between him and Obama are mostly rhetorical emphasis rather than real political decision making. Perry is openly flawed for me. I would be willing to consider voting against if it is Perry. Perhaps (the Willingham case alone helps there, but so does his state's budget deficit. Again, Johnson just looks so much better there that it's not even funny). If it's Romney like it looks like, as much as his rhetoric and foreign policy positions bother me (double Gitmo?, no thanks), they don't look to be all that different from Obama's real positions on these matters. As opposed to the caricatures drawn by conservatives. There are therefore fewer good reasons to vote AGAINST. Romney doesn't give me a reason to vote for either, of course.
3) Local or state matters will take precedence for me. Mind you I'm not likely to see any of my local or state preferences reflected by other voters in my state or local area, what with the level of statism here in the Midwest generally being very high,... but I'll at least feel free to express them.
4) Obama has done the following to fail to distinguish himself from his predecessor in order to convince me that voting for a quasi-liberal candidate has any impact on the process as opposed to voting for quasi-conservative ones.
a) Bombed Libya. And essentially ignored Congress. This is actually more excessive from Bush's lame war with Iraq, which at least sought Congressional approval, but bears the advantage of not being as flagrantly expensive a waste of military assets, lives, and of course treasure. I bear no ill will over Afghanistan and Iraq, basically he already told us that these were the policies he would pursue (as asinine as I found them to be and as rhetorically oversold as they were, especially in Iraq)). And bin Laden is dead after all. So there's that.
b) Failed to prosecute or recognize the torture violations during the previous administration. 2 (two!) minor guys become fall guys for the many deaths and scandalous/flagrant use of torture "legalised" by Yoo and others. At the very least, they should have sought to have the lawyers disbarred and the doctors involved stripped of medical licenses.
c) Expanded immigration enforcement and deportations. Not that conservatives have noticed, but Obama's effectively a bigger "wall" guy than Bush was. There's also the matter of there being fewer jobs for illegals, or anyone, to get, but that's a side issue for which little new blame can be firmly attached.
d) Talked rhetorically about supporting school reforms, but allowed Congress to throw charters, even modest and successful ones, in DC under the bus. Weak sauce. Backing unions to the hilt is abstractly expected from a left-leaning administration, but it's not matching policy with talk. When somebody talks like he has about school reform I want to see some more deeds than we've gotten.
e) Drug raids on medical marijuana producers and dispensaries have expanded even while he's talked about ending them. Also, chuckling about even amending, much less ending, the drug war policies of this country is not an appropriate response to questions about it. We're not all stoners first off. More importantly, people are dying Mr President. In other countries by the thousands (Mexico especially), and in our own inner cities (and some rural communities too), by the hundreds. To say nothing of the many people incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses and the damage this does to communities (especially inner-city black neighbourhoods). I was personally annoyed that I didn't get plucked last month for federal jury duty on the theory that I might get to practice a little activism on this issue. But that's a whole other story.
f) Failed to nominate replacements on the Federal Reserve board. Monetary policy responses seem to be a lot more important to the growth or sluggishness of growth in the general economy, not to mention about the only way to deal with supply shocks in food and energy prices. We've had a lot of agitated discussion revolving around recess appointees to the NLRB, but that board is basically useless by comparison (other than the Boeing decision, which is a mite troublesome).
g) In general I expect left-leaning political figures to have economic proposals and especially economic rhetoric which I find to be troublesome, sometimes extremely so. I also expect right-leaning political figures to be generally as useless on these matters, but with a more tolerable rhetorical flourish as they both seek to support statist policies to satisfy their corporate masters to crush the free market (the biggest enemy of capitalism seems to be "capitalists", in the sense that most big businesses seek to control their markets by using the shields of regulation and taxation as cudgels against their competitors). All of this is certainly a problem. But what I naturally expect from left-leaning politicians is a stronger support for things like basic civil liberties, relative tolerance of other cultures, etc. I instead hear a big whiffing noise on these issues from this administration (see above). I will grant there's some modest progress regarding federal anti-homosexuality policies, but this more from indifference than actual leadership on the issue. I'm pleased DADT is ending, and that DoMA isn't getting a full fledged legal defence from the government that instituted it. But I cannot say I'm really impressed when there were Republicans who had positions to the left of this (hell even Cheney's position was more appealing).
True a libertarian should support there being no federal (or even state) consideration of marriage contracts between consenting adults. But since the public broadly speaking likes having government/public sanction for their choice of (one) spouse, the perfect is kind of the enemy of the good herein. We will need to recognize these as legitimate if we are going to have policies to favor marriages with benefits and privileges. One good analogy I've seen compares the thought experiment that we have Social Security set up to implicitly exclude non-white people from retrieving funds that they've paid into. Clearly the forced provision of a government annuity to provide for retirement is a limitation on human freedom, more so than even forcing a provision of income toward retirement anywhere in the economy, a more utilitarian argument that I favor. But if we're going to have such things, and it certainly appears Social Security isn't going anywhere in our lifetimes (medicare/aid are a different story), we should not start excluding from participation in retrieving those funds people based on non-meritorious reasons like race. The same applies to excluding full marriage benefits and rights from homosexuals. That we don't get this sort of argument out of liberal politicians should be a problem. Similar problems emerged during the August anti-Muslim scare of last year (the "Burlington Coat Factory recreation center" fiasco), in that there were few people willing to take up the torch of defending the civil rights of Muslims against populist (ie, ignorant) rage.
Tabarrok on Econ Talk on Private Cities
25 minutes ago