Why I Refuse to Vote for Mitt Romney

He supports policies that are an affront to the Constitution, can't possibly make good on his domestic agenda, and has terrible foreign-policy judgment.

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On the eve of the Republican primary, before the field of candidates was established, I found myself hoping that the eventual nominee would be someone whose bid for higher office I could support. President Obama's transgressions against civil liberties and expansion of executive power were dealbreakers. I wouldn't back him as I had in 2008. Nor would I vote for a Fox News Republican like Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, or Michele Bachmann. But a deficit hawk with a steady hand on foreign policy, like George H.W. Bush? An efficiency-loving fiscal conservative willing to call a temporary truce on social issues like Mitch Daniels? A Chris Christie candidacy that critiqued the Obama Administration's transgressions against due process, calling out War on Terror fear-mongering in the same way that he's called out bigotry against Muslim Americans? Or a fiscally responsible former governor with vaunted China expertise?

Some scenarios were more likely than others. But I could imagine a Republican possessed of qualities I liked and without any flaws I couldn't overlook, even if my ideal candidate -- a non-interventionist civil libertarian -- wasn't on offer. An incumbent who orders Americans extra-judicially assassinated sets a low bar. A half-hearted critique of his worst excesses could have swayed me.

Mitt Romney failed even that test.

For months, he has attacked the incumbent. He would have us believe that he is more attuned to American values and prudent enough to understand the importance of limiting federal power. He speaks as if he holds the values of the founders in high esteem, extolling the Constitution and portraying himself as a principled champion of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

What a joke.

Romney and Ryan are perfectly comfortable with all of the most sweeping attacks on Madisonian checks and balances that Presidents Bush and Obama have presided over. The Republican nominee hasn't just defended detaining people indefinitely without charges or trial. He's called for doubling the main facility where it is done! Romney avows that he is alarmed by an advisory board that would decide which treatments Medicare and Medicaid should cover; yet he is comfortable with the literal death panel Obama runs from the White House, where he and his minions add names (including American citizens denied due process) to a secret kill list.

Did Romney defend the Fifth Amendment? ("No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury... nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") No. Rather, he defends actions that plainly violate it.

During the war in Libya, waged in violation of Obama's own articulated understanding of the War Powers Resolution, Romney didn't point out that the Constitution gave Congress the power the declare war. And no surprise. Romney subsequently said that if elected, he wouldn't need to consult Congress before launching a war against Iran. Is that the position of someone who grasps the wisdom of the Constitution and champions an original understanding of it? In fact, it shows disregard for the plain text of the document, and ignorance of the reasoning for vesting war-making power in the legislature rather than a single man empowered like a bygone British king.

Other things Romney favors: a secretive federal agency that conducts warrantless spying on millions of innocent Americans; strapping terrorism suspects to boards and forcing water into their lungs right to the edge of drowning them; and constant invocations of the state secrets privilege to shield federal officials from being held accountable for past illegal acts they perpetrated. In short, Romney is a friend to neither liberty nor the rule of law nor a federal government limited by the Constitution. He should feel the ire of all limited government conservatives.

And his failures go beyond disregard for Madisonian principles, civil liberties, and the rule of law. He has no foreign-policy experience. He became a minor laughingstock during his campaign trip abroad, and failed to persuasively demonstrate depth of knowledge on foreign affairs in a debate. His position on Afghanistan is incoherent -- he vows he'll be out of the country by 2014, and simultaneously says it's reckless to announce a date by which we'll leave. Even in hindsight, he doesn't understand that George W. Bush's War in Iraq was a mistake, and has argued that the U.S. should've kept troops there longer. The team of neoconservative foreign policy advisers he has assembled made numerous costly errors of judgment during the Bush years. There is circumstantial though not conclusive evidence that a Romney Administration would be more likely than Obama to involve the U.S. in yet another imprudent war of choice. Plus Romney's VP pick is totally unqualified to step in as commander in chief.

That isn't all.

Romney favors continuing the War on Drugs. If a man can't see that a government program is doomed after five decades of failure, and favors continuing to waste resources on it without even suggesting reforms, why would anyone trust him to cut or reform other parts of the federal bureaucracy that aren't working? It isn't as if those other cuts would be without political obstacles.

In his capacity as a husband and father, Romney seems to be a man of integrity. As a politician and elected official, he has repeatedly shown himself willing to lie without a hint of shame or remorse.

In his capacity as a husband and father, Romney seems to be a man of integrity. As a politician and elected official, he has repeatedly shown himself willing to lie without a hint of shame or remorse. He has a well-deserved reputation for flip-flopping in a particularly off-putting way, insisting not only on his new position, but that it is what he's fervently believed all along. Don't call him a moderate -- he self-describes as a "severe" conservative, or perhaps he now prefers another new label.

The centerpiece of Romney's campaign?

A domestic agenda that he obviously cannot enact. As Romney tells it, he'll cut tax rates 20 percent, repeal the estate tax, refrain from raising taxes on the middle class, refrain from cuts to Medicare, spend more on the military, possibly wage a war against Iran, and reduce the deficit. Doing all he's promised is mathematically impossible. And the conservative wonks who say otherwise could be forgiven for their flawed analysis if it weren't for the fact that every last one knows damned well that Romney is never in a million years going to keep all of those promises. If elected, he'll most likely succeed in cutting taxes and fail at addressing the federal deficit. But it's impossible to know for sure which promises he'll break, only that it'll be some of them.

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican candidate in this race is trustworthy or desirable as a leader. Obama is a left-leaning technocrat who habitually breaks his promises and is eager to assume near dictatorial powers in the realm of national security. He has little regard for the Constitution or the recklessness of the precedents that he's setting. And Romney? He's a right-leaning technocrat who unapologetically breaks his promises, is eager to assume near-dictatorial national-security powers, and has little regard for the Constitution. Each of these men would have you believe that it is imprudent to trust the other. Yet if their opponent wins, each is on record affirming that he is empowered to spy, detain and kill in secret, and wage war without Congress. Given their willingness to confer those extreme powers, how deep can their mistrust really be?

So don't support Obama, and don't vote Romney either.

There is no point in voting for a Republican who has neither respect for the Constitution nor a credible plan to close the budget deficit nor foreign-policy experience nor sound judgment on the prudence of past wars nor any appreciation of the threat imperial overreach poses to a republic. For right-leaning libertarians and fiscal conservatives, a vote for Romney is a signal to the Republican Party that you'll support whoever they nominate, no matter how implausible it is that your favored cause will benefit. For any Republican dissatisfied by the Bush Administration's foreign policy, a vote for Romney is a signal to the Republican Party that there's no cost to putting the same discredited neoconservative ideologues back in positions of power.

I refuse to vote for Mitt Romney in part because I want to send a signal to the Republican Party: if you want liberty-loving, Constitution-citing, fiscal-responsibility urging independents to vote GOP, you're going to need to do better than this ticket, and better than the party that shaped it. The conservative media can pretend that Romney isn't awful on all the issues I've mentioned.

I won't.