To the surprise of no one, the outcome of yesterday’s presidential election is not yet clear, with some suggesting it may be several days—or even weeks—before a victor is declared. To a great extent, this year’s election cycle seemed to be a clash of personalities, with many cynics framing the election as a choice between pomposity and senility, while soothsayers foretold of a dystopian wasteland if their party did not prevail.
While such visions are overly dramatic, there is no denying that this election cycle will have profound consequences. After all, 2020 marks the first time since President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society that a large segment of the left openly advocated for socialist objectives, including limits on free speech and property rights, as well as confiscatory tax rates designed primarily to propagate class warfare. In fact, Joe Biden’s tax plan alone seeks to impose a $4 trillion across-the-board tax increase on Americans, which pales in comparison to his proposed $11 trillion (and counting) of new spending. Sadly, by modern liberal standards this plan is considered the floor for taxing-and-spending rather than the ceiling.
All told, libertarians and conservatives are right to harbor concerns. However, now is not the time for despondency. It’s important to remember that every election—no matter the result—is a chance to recommit ourselves to the fight for liberty. That fight is, by necessity, an endless one. But this challenge is one that can be met. After all, we’ve been here before.
In 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater suffered a crushing defeat to President Johnson in a landslide election. Critics wrote off the conservative conscience that Senator Goldwater championed in favor of the Great Society mentioned above. But as history proved, the modern conservative movement was far from dead. In fact, it had only just begun, enjoying its own landslide victory 16 years later with the election of Ronald Reagan, who ran on an agenda rebuking the abject failures of big government.
Despite today’s media reports to the contrary, the American appetite for freedom remains alive and well. A recent Gallup poll found that Americans prefer free market solutions when it comes to technological innovation, the distribution of wealth, the economy, wages, higher education, and healthcare. That doesn’t bode well for the popularity of politicians seeking to grow government. But it does bode well for those of us committed to defending liberty.
Even in Arizona, where voters unfortunately supported Prop 208—which imposes job-crippling tax increases—there is still reason for optimism. Prop 208 is constitutionally dubious at best, with significant flaws that are ripe for legal challenges—so that fight is far from lost.
Meanwhile, despite significant political support for tax increases in California and Illinois, voters rejected tax increase measures in both states. This is a strong indicator that even in left-leaning parts of the country, not all voters are inclined to turn over more wealth to the government. In fact, in Colorado—a state that has drifted increasingly leftward over the past handful of years—voters passed a significant income tax reduction.
At the Goldwater Institute, we’re in full force to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. We’ve already filed lawsuits in Arizona and across the country in defense of free speech, the Second Amendment, property rights, and school choice. And our legislative agenda for 2021 is extensive, covering everything from healthcare freedom to eliminating government barriers that stop people from working in the profession of their choice—both of which are particularly important today. We also developed a 20-point legislative plan to recover from the damage inflicted by COVID, which we’re now taking to state legislatures from coast to coast.
No matter the ultimate results of this year’s elections, helping Americans live freer, happier lives is important work—and it’s certainly not dependent on who is elected to office. An election is a snapshot of a moment in time, whereas the desire to have control over one’s own destiny—free from government interference—is timeless. At Goldwater, our efforts to ensure Americans are free from government restraints will not wane. Our commitment to pursing liberty through both litigation and legislation in Arizona and across the country is stronger than ever.
Victor Riches is President and CEO of the Goldwater Institute