Standing Still On A Down Escalator

Even if you don't win, elections should offer some semblance of a fresh start and the optimism of having either endorsed or changed the direction of the country.
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When I announced my candidacy for president in the spring of 2011, I did so as a Republican. It made sense at the time. After all, I had served two reasonably successful terms as a Republican governor of New Mexico, a 2-1 Democrat state that also happens to be the most Hispanic state in the Union. On pocketbook issues of taxes, spending and job creation, my credentials were strong.

Trying to be objective, I understand the reality that my shot at the Republican nomination was severely hampered by a lack of national recognition and funding. But that wasn't the only hindrance. Though my record on fiscal issues is as conservative as it gets--I vetoed more bills than probably all the other governors combined, cut taxes at every opportunity, and balanced the budget--my positions on Republican litmus-test issues didn't exactly endear me to the powers-that-be in the party of so-called "values."

I didn’t proclaim that gay marriage is a threat to society, as we know it. I actually believe a woman should make her own decisions about her body. I don’t even support capital punishment, having come to the shocking realization that government makes mistakes — lots of them. On top of all that, I came into the campaign having long advocated an end to the failed prohibition of marijuana. On immigration, I foolishly refused to engage in the rhetorical contest of “who will build the biggest fence” and put the most guns on the border.

On foreign affairs, I even had the audacity to say that we shouldn’t be fighting wars we can neither afford nor justify, and that national defense should actually be defense, not offense. We shouldn’t be attacking unless we are attacked. I was the skunk at the picnic.

After being excluded from the all-important Republican debates — and even the polls used to determine who was invited to those debates — it became obvious that the nomination picnic didn’t have room for such a skunk. With eyes wide open about the challenges of mounting a “third party” campaign, I decided to cease my campaign for the Republican nomination and run instead as a Libertarian. Why? I felt strongly, and still feel strongly, that a sizable chunk of the American electorate shares my fiscally conservative, socially accepting view of truly smaller government. And I wanted to do everything possible to give voice to that view, knowing that neither the Democrat nor the Republican nominee would do so.

Fast forward to today. The morning after the election, America awakened to realize we had reelected a status quo that virtually no one can say is satisfactory. Knowing that things aren’t good, the Democrats are wisely avoiding reckless claims of a mandate. Yet, the election really gave them no reason to change what they are doing.

As for the Republicans, we are reading and hearing widespread shock that they couldn’t win an election after having systematically alienated virtually every voting group in the nation other than white men over the age of 40.

It was a great plan for the Republicans: Go to shameful lengths to tell Hispanics they aren’t welcome, even though they are the fastest growing demographic in the country. Tell women their bodies really aren’t their own to manage. Call themselves small government “conservatives” while espousing that government should tell us who we can marry and supporting laws like the Patriot Act, FISA and the NDAA that give government powers the Founders never dreamed of.

While doing and saying all this, on the key issues of the economy and war, the GOP managed to conduct an entire campaign without demonstrating enough difference with President Obama to compel anyone’s vote one way or the other. “Debating” which decade in which we might expect a balanced budget and simply putting a slightly different wrapper on the same foreign policies obviously didn’t cut it as real challenges to business-as-usual.

Combine this lack of differentiation on the budget and foreign policy with scary stances on the so-called social issues and immigration, and the result is the Republicans’ embarrassing failure to replace a president who is presiding over the worst economy and the most dangerous foreign policy in a generation.

Even if you don’t win, elections should offer some semblance of a fresh start and the optimism of having either endorsed or changed the direction of the country.

When that doesn’t happen, and I would suggest that it isn’t today, it is time for all of us — Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, et al., to take a good look at what we are doing.

Otherwise, we are standing still on a down escalator, and the country really, really needs to be on an up escalator.

This story originally appeared in Huffington, in the iTunes App store.

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