The candidates are bad, so let’s give them more power!

Many people think that our presidential candidates this year offer the worst choice ever. Public opinion polling tells us that, in any case, they are the least popular pair of presidential candidates in modern history. We don’t comment on candidates or elections here, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that this year’s presidential candidates are really bad, even dangerous. And let’s not stop there, let’s throw in Congress, too. What is Congress’s approval rating? 8%, maybe?

This is what I don’t understand: if you think that the presidential candidates are awful and Congress is worse, then WHY DO YOU WANT TO KEEP GIVING THEM MORE OF YOUR MONEY AND MORE POWER OVER YOUR LIFE? It is the ultimate non sequitur. I despise the government, so I vote to make it richer and more powerful, and to make me poorer and less powerful.

You’ve probably seen memes like this one:


They express a fundamental truth about the political paradox we live with. I have a young relative who is a radical. (I don’t hold it against him, I was a radical at his age, too.) His father told me not long ago that the young man really, really doesn’t like the government. “So he’s a conservative, then?” I responded. No, of court not! He wants government to be all-powerful.

One of the key virtues of conservatism is that it doesn’t depend on a handful of brilliant and virtuous individuals to work. Sure, it’s great–maybe even necessary–to have, once in a while, a leader like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan. But usually politicians are not so outstanding. That’s OK, if you are a conservative. Conservatives aren’t counting on a class of superior beings to save us. We believe that we–and you–can manage our own affairs quite well on our own.

Of course, we can’t man battleships and build roads by ourselves, so government is necessary–a necessary evil. Conservatives think that government should be kept as small as reasonably possible, and should have no more power over our lives than is absolutely necessary. That way, if a bad crop of politicians gets elected, it isn’t the end of the world. We–not they–control our lives and a large majority of our money.

Those voters who are dismayed by the presidential choices we have this year should ask themselves: so, why am I not a conservative?