TGIF: Midterm Blues

by | Nov 11, 2022

TGIF: Midterm Blues

by | Nov 11, 2022


As midterm elections go, for champions of individual liberty this one could have been worse. I see two bright spots. The likely slim majority of Republicans in the House could — maybe — produce a measure of gridlock on domestic spending and regulation, and the blame for the Republicans’ substandard midterm performance might fall entirely on Donald Trump, driving him from the stage. When you consider all the possible outcomes from Tuesday, that’s not bad.

In most midterm years the only outcome worth hoping for is gridlock. Gridlock, however, wouldn’t be the best outcome under all conceivable circumstances. Libertarians want Congress to get many things undone, especially but not limited to out-of-control military and so-called entitlement spending. The latter, which is on autopilot, finances programs that are facing insolvency. When that happens, today’s spending, taxing borrowing, and money creation will look trivial.

But hardly anyone in power even talks about these and similar problems, so gridlock for the next two years is hardly likely to stop anything good from happening. In other words, gridlock was worth rooting for. It won’t be worse than continued Democratic domination.

So regardless of what happens in the Senate, if the House goes Republican, even by the small margin that appears likely, we might see it block the most egregious domestic spending and regulatory measures proposed by Joe Biden and the congressional Democrats. I’d keep an eye on any more energy bills intended to interfere with the use of fossil fuels. Not that Republicans are reliable when it comes to opposing domestic spending — far from it — but we can hope. On the other hand, don’t look for a freeze, much less a reduction in military and related spending. Republicans have not lost their commitment to the warfare state.

As noted, the other good news from Tuesday was the poor showing for Trump, some of whose favorite candidates lost. Not all of those he endorsed bit the dust, but some key ones did, such as in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. He may yet be disappointed by still-undecided races in Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, and elsewhere.

I’m hoping that Republicans will blame Trump for their party’s poor showing in the midterms. The out-party is supposed to make big gains in Congress, in governor’s mansions, and in state houses, but the Republicans did not do it. This happened in a year when the voters’ top concerns were inflation and crime, and with an unpopular Democrat in the White House. Who or what else could be responsible for the lackluster midterm performance if not Trump?

So if Tuesday’s results play a role in convincing Trump to stay out of the 2024 presidential election, we can breathe a sign of relief. Liberty would be better off without his toxic presence. (This is not to say that Ron DeSantis, who would be the chief beneficiary, offers any hope.)

With another election behind us, it’s worth remembering what a fraud electoral politics is. Campaigns are little more than performance art — bad performance art. The skill that ignorant voters tend to reward is a candidate’s mastery at delivering a particular tribe’s or coalition’s talking points. Much of what elected officials do is interfere with our peaceful productive endeavors, but how many voters know anything about economics? Without that knowledge, all that’s left are cosmetics and rhetoric that reassures.

The candidates typically don’t know anything either, but they and their handlers do know that the voters are ignorant and thus are suckers for comforting soundbites. It’s just a matter of which candidate gets more of his or her tribe to the polls.

If you can see in this any resemblance to selecting office holders according to their actual knowledge, judgment, competence, and integrity, let me know.

I’m not implying that politics could be better than this. The problems are inherent because government is a top-down way of attempting to organize society that cannot help but violate individual liberty. What I’m saying is that at best politics is show-biz by other means.

So as usual, the election gave us both good news and bad news. The good news is that the losers lost. The bad news is that the winners won.

About Sheldon Richman

Sheldon Richman is the executive editor of The Libertarian Institute and a contributing editor at He is the former senior editor at the Cato Institute and Institute for Humane Studies; former editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education; and former vice president at the Future of Freedom Foundation. His latest books are Coming to Palestine and What Social Animals Owe to Each Other.

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