If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, how should you vote in November?
In my last two columns, I offered some suggestions and historical observations regarding presidential elections. As some of my readers have pointed out, I can't dodge the bullet forever. After much soul-searching, I've reached my decision, for better or worse.
The reason we in the small business/entrepreneur community are having trouble making up our minds is that both major parties offer at least one position we cannot agree with:
—Most of us believe in small government and individual freedom — entrepreneurial startups do not thrive in socialist economies — and both candidates are pushing for massive increases in the size of the federal government, albeit for different reasons.
—Most of us believe in low taxes, and the Democrats are pushing for massive tax increases on successful upper-income Americans — the definition of "upper income" being notoriously slippery.
—Most of us want to keep regulations and government interference at a minimum, yet both parties want a say in who we can hire or fire and how we run our businesses.
—Most importantly, we believe in equality of opportunity (if not outcome) for all Americans, regardless of race, color, creed, sex or sexual orientation, and are horrified by the wall-building, exclusionary rhetoric of many Republican candidates (or at least Trump supporters).
Last week, I highlighted the strong possibility of a major structural shift in American politics after this election. We will be seeing a proliferation of third parties trying to grab a piece of the American center and bridge the yawning gaps between the two major parties. Frankly, we should embrace this trend, not fight it.
That is why I am voting for the Libertarian Party this year.
I can already imagine the emails I will receive from some of you, saying: "Wait a minute! You're voting for that lightweight Gary Johnson? You're throwing your vote away."
I didn't say I am voting for the Party nominee although frankly, I have nothing against him. He seems competent enough, and in my opinion his "Aleppo moments" contrast favorably with the majority of millennials who think Syria is part of New Jersey.
And yes, I did notice that an Elvis Presley impersonator named Elvis D. Presley is running on the Party ticket in Arkansas (although I have nothing against Elvis. Hey, Richard Nixon thought he had a future in politics).
I said I am voting for the Libertarian Party, and not just as a one-off protest vote. I think we as a community have a vested stake in making this party viable in American politics.
The Libertarian Party was formed to promote civil liberties, noninterventionism, laissez-faire capitalism and the abolition of the welfare state. It generally promotes a classical liberal platform (what John Locke, David Hume and Thomas Paine talked about in the 1700s), in contrast to the Democrat progressive platform and the Republican conservative platform. Johnson says that the Party is "more culturally liberal than Democrats, but more fiscally conservative than Republicans."
Reading the Party's platform on specific issues is a lot like reading the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Some of the ideas (like abolishing the IRS) are never going to happen. Some of the ideas (like favoring gun ownership and abolishing the death penalty) won't sit well with many Americans. While it favors a strong national defense, its tilt towards isolationism and its adamant opposition to compulsory military service (even in the face of foreign or terrorist aggression) will require some rethinking in an increasingly hostile world.
But I think most of my readers will agree with 90 percent or more of what Libertarians stand for. It's a platform we can get behind.
As of Feb. 2016, there are only 411,250 voters registered Libertarians nationwide. The Party has never won a seat in Congress. Some of the Party's candidates are, shall we say, not ready for prime time. (It's not too late — you can run for office on the Libertarian Party ticket on the Party website.) But it is on the ballot in all 50 states, and I suspect lots of voters who are disgusted with both major party candidates will find Johnson to be an emotionally satisfying protest vote.
Whatever happens this November, I think our community needs to get involved and help make what is today a fringe party a part of the mainstream political discussion. Hey, this is how the Republican Party got started in the 1850s. With solid funding, credible candidates and a national organization, there's a good chance the Libertarians could garner 20 to 30 percent of the popular vote in the next presidential election — more than enough to make a difference.
There is no political party for our community right now, so let's make one. We are entrepreneurs, after all.
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at www.creators.com.