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Liberals should caucus GOP to influence election

BY WILL MATTESSICH | DECEMBER 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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It's a sad time to be a liberal. The president who promised to unite and change the country in 2008 has shown the same corporatism and disdain for civil liberties as his predecessor. None of the current crop of Republican candidates seems to promise anything better. Liberals can't resign themselves to voting for the lesser of two evils and support President Obama even if their heart isn't in it.

The way to make sure Obama hears the message of dissatisfaction from his own party is to caucus Republican.

Elevating a Republican nominee who espouses issues that merit rigorous discussion will shape the direction of the presidential race and help determine the positions of the next president. Instead of rushing to your local Obama campaign office and getting "in" so that you can call local voters with the same old talking points, take action that will allow you to help dictate the direction of the presidential race, not just promulgate it.

It may be difficult for many in the People's Republic of Johnson County to overcome the sense of nausea that may come with imagining the "R" next to their name in voter-contact lists, but just remember that it's for the greater good. You will need to register as a Republican to vote, which can be done when you arrive at the polling place.

Then the question becomes which Republican to caucus for. Remember, you can still vote for Obama in the general election to avoid giving the Republicans in the House a friendly pen in the Oval Office. By that time, if this plan works, it will be a very different Obama we see on his second inauguration day. Once you're in the booth, there's no turning back. Vote for the Republican candidate that espouses issues you feel are important on which Obama has disappointed you.

If it came down to Romney or Obama, the difference in the campaign would be mostly rhetorical. Sure, the two men would try to appeal to different bases, one playing to the right and the other playing to the left, but the chief executive produced by such a matchup would be more of the same. Romney's decisions as governor of Massachusetts differed little ideologically from Obama's decisions as president, and Obama has shown that his ties to corporate interests are just as strong as Romney's.

Rick Perry seems to be painting himself as the theocratic candidate, and the Palin-esque incompetence he has demonstrated for policy means defeating him would be far too easy for Obama.

That leaves Newt Gingrich, Gary Johnson, or Ron Paul.

Newt Gingrich would mostly talk about himself, but he may also be able to steer the race toward a discussion about immigration and entitlement spending. Gingrich's breadth of experience and understanding of policy issues would create a race full of substantive debate.

Liberals concerned about America's wars abroad or the state of civil liberties in the country could caucus for Gary Johnson or Ron Paul. Both candidates would turn the race into a discussion about war, civil liberties, and the size of the federal government.

If Obama ran against one of these three candidates, he would be forced to defend his bad positions and articulate his good ones. He would be forced to clearly explain his plan for the budget and why his approach is better than simply axing funding left and right. He would have to defend the need for a federal Department of Education and hopefully come up with plans to improve national education standards. He would be continuously challenged on his renewal of the Patriot Act, and he might even shift his position.

All meaningful change in electoral politics starts at the ballot box. Instead of resignedly checking the president's name next November, liberals should take action now and force Obama to become the candidate we want him to be.


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