At the polls last November, conservatives and libertarians who vote according to conscience had two options: Bob Barr (Libertarian Party) and Chuck Baldwin (Constitution Party). Combined, these two garnered only 719,655 votes—a paltry amount compared with John McCain’s 59,082,002. For those who believe in smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and individual liberty, the 2008 election was the perfect opportunity to reject the GOP’s latest insult. Why, then, did 59 million Americans hold their noses and pull the lever for McCain?
The answer is complicated, especially in a system that discourages third parties. Yet, while systemic barriers tell us part of the story, we must not discount the issue of judges. Other than a dislike for the Democratic Party, control of the federal courts—especially the Supreme Court—has become the central issue that has garnered sizeable conservative and libertarian votes for Bush I, Bob Dole, Bush II, and now McCain.
In debates with fellow travelers about McCain, I often heard the following: “Sure, he’s not perfect, but if we get one more Roberts or Alito on the Supreme Court, we can rein in some of the real excesses of government and maybe even overturn Roe.”
Republicans have controlled the White House for 28 of the last 40 years and have nominated seven of the nine sitting Supreme Court justices. ...