Much has happened in the two years since the last Congressional election. In the lead-up to the 2008 polls, outgoing President George W. Bush (R) was just kicking-off an unprecedented ‘investment’ of billions of your tax dollars to bail out Wall St. executives and failed banking and automotive firms. Voter anger quickly rose to a crescendo, and the people rightly rebuked the Republican party for its mad, wasteful spending and record-breaking federal deficits. President Barack Obama (D) roared into power with strong Democratic majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It was, we were promised, the dawn of a new era in Washington.

Well, it turns out that the new era looked a lot like the last one. The new administration promptly quadrupled Bush’s deficit record, increased the mad bailout spending, embarked on a misguided health care ‘reform’ bid, and alienated much of the angry electorate that rocketed them into power. This is the background against which we must consider our votes on November 2. All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are in contention this year, as are 37 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, 37 of 50 state governorships, and many other state and local offices. We have an opportunity to either lend our endorsement to the policies of the last two years, or demand a new course.

At the risk of sounding overly melodramatic, this is possibly the most important election you will ever vote in. The economic policies initiated by Bush and accelerated by Obama will, if pursued much longer, catastrophically collapse the American economy and quite possibly take our system of government down with it. Never in the history of the world has a government successfully spent its way out of a recession and, on the contrary, excessive deficits and ‘injections’ of money into a faltering economy invariably serve to prolong and deepen recessions. The longer it goes on, the greater the risk of massive inflation, hyperinflation, and collapse. Governments that follow this path rarely survive intact.

There are basically four kinds of politicians standing for election this year.

Two of them are political opportunists and party loyalists who change with the wind, and must be roundly rejected by the American voters. These are the politicians who opposed the Bush bailouts but supported the Obama ones, or who supported the Bush bailouts and opposed the Obama ones. Given that the economic policies implemented in the waning days of the Bush administration are essentially indistinguishable from those implemented under Obama (except in size), a politician who supported one president’s policy and opposed the other is clearly voting on the basis of party politics, not principle. The only difference between these two types is whether they have an R or a D after their names.

The other two are, essentially, politicians who vote what they believe in. In almost all cases, I will prefer a principled statesman over an unscrupulous opportunist, but in these extraordinary times it is not always that simple. Principled politicians who believe in government intervention in the economy—and thus supported both Bush’s and Obama’s socialist spending binges—are quite possibly the most dangerous and destructive choices in this election cycle. Even an unprincipled opportunist will vote correctly some of the time on economic matters, while the principled interventionist will always vote to inject the inept and destabilizing hand of government into the market.

The last of the four kinds of politicians is the only kind worthy of your vote: the principled free-market, limited-government conservative. These are the politicians that saw both the Bush and Obama bailouts for what they were, which was the redistribution of taxpayers’ dollars for the sole benefit of the Wall St. elite and beltway insiders. They were counterproductive wastes of money that have not solved anything and, on the contrary, are already prolonging and deepening the recession. They were an unconstitutional federal power-grab. Any politician that doesn’t speak in these terms, any politician that hedges his bets or hems-and-haws about his bailout votes, any politician that sees federal government intervention as a solution instead of a problem absolutely does not deserve your vote.

The very survival of the republic may depend on how you cast your ballot this year. Your vote could be the deciding factor between a Congress that rubber-stamps a bipartisan effort to spend us into an economic abyss, or a Congress that slams on the brakes and puts a stop to this mad, destructive, wasteful deficit spending. Your vote could be the deciding factor between a Congress that respects and obeys the directives of the U.S. Constitution and the separation of state and federal authorities, or a Congress that keeps accumulating more power at our expense. Your vote may be the one that decides whether our country survives as a free republic for decades or centuries to come, or whether it will collapse and disintegrate sooner than you might think possible.

This isn’t a matter of Republican or Democrat. Decades of leaders with both party appellations after their names have followed a big-government, interventionist policy course. Presidents and Congressmen from both parties have expanded the powers and authorities of the federal government, Constitution be damned, at the expense of state and individual sovereignty. On this site, I refer to the economic policies of the last two years as the Bush/Obama Bailout Bonanza—an obviously bipartisan affair. I will not (and likely never will) encourage a blind party-line vote. There are plenty of dangerous, power-hungry politicians on both sides.

This time around, it is the Republicans who are saying the right things—strongly opposing the mad spending of the Obama administration and the Democratic majorities in Congress and promising to slam on the brakes—but that is no reason to blindly vote for the candidate with the ‘R’ after his name (although it is probably safer than voting for the ‘D’). There are too many so-called Republicans who were silent (or even vocal) supporters of the Bush bailout policies, Bush deficits, and Bush growth in federal government authority. It is little consolation to say that ‘Obama has been worse;’ it might be true, but we deserve better than the ‘lesser of two evils.’

So my message to you, the American voter, is that you should vote on principle. Vote for the candidate who most closely mirrors the American values of individual liberty, a federalist separation of powers, fiscal conservatism, and free markets. Don’t vote for the ‘R’ or the ‘D,’ vote for the person who believes in these ideals. They might be a Republican. They might be a Democrat (I’m sure there are a few out there). They might be under the banners of the Libertarian Party, Constitution Party, Green Party, or something else entirely. You might feel like you’re ‘wasting your vote’ if the candidate happens to have one of these ‘third party’ labels, but you have a responsibility as a voter to vote for the candidate you think is the best—even if, realistically, he stands no chance of winning.

You have a responsibility to vote for the candidate who won’t toe any party line, but will stand on principle—against his own party, if necessary. So do the research, find the right candidate, and vote on principle. This is our great opportunity to let Washington know that we won’t stand for this kind of wasteful, destructive madness any more. This is our chance to reclaim our government, reclaim our liberty, and reassert the free market values that have made this country great.

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.