Four years ago, then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) promised us the world if we elected him president. He would cut the deficit in half, he would bring about a new era of bipartisanship in Washington, he would get unemployment back in-check, and he would run the most transparent presidential administration in history. Well, the people of the United States elected him by an impressive margin with a mandate for all of these things, and none of them happened.

In his first two years as President of the United States, he nearly quadrupled the annual deficit from the previous record set under President George W. Bush. When Republican leaders in Congress presented their economic ideas to the president days after his inauguration, he dismissed them out-of-hand and declared that, “Elections have consequences. . . . I won.” That killed any chance for a productive relationship between the leaders of our two major parties for the four years that followed. Meanwhile, unemployment rates remain stubbornly high. The promises of transparency never materialized, and, on the contrary, Obama has engaged in the very ‘politics as usual’ that he decries, protecting his cronies (like perjurer Attorney General Eric Holder) and crafting major bills (like the ‘ObamaCare’ health care reform bill) behind closed doors.

In the two years that the Democratic Party had a monopoly on our government, holding the presidency and strong majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, things didn’t get better. No, they got worse. The deficits grew astronomically, and the money we spent seemingly just disappeared into the ether. Obama’s ‘stimulus’ plan cost more (inflation-adjusted) than the entire New Deal under President Franklin D. Roosevelt (D), and what do we have to show for it? You’d be hard-pressed to identify any significant ‘stimulus’ accomplishment. Obama’s only major policy accomplishment—the health care reform bill—was badly botched, did not address the worst problems with our health care system, and undermined individual liberty and ran afoul of the Tenth Amendment. A majority of Americans consistently favor repealing it.

None of this is news; I covered it all before in my ‘things to consider‘ piece for the 2010 congressional mid-term elections. And in that election, the voters gave President Obama and the Democratic Party a stinging rebuke, with the Republican Party taking a solid majority in the House of Representatives (with the largest congressional seat-switch since 1948—sixty-three). The Republicans also gained six seats in the Senate, but still fell short of a majority.

In the aftermath, our government largely ground to a halt on major initiatives. Republicans in Congress have been criticized for being ‘obstructionists,’ standing in the way of Obama’s attempts to get the economy moving, but they forget that the American people voted all these Republicans into office to do exactly that. When a government’s bad economic policies are making a situation worse, obstructing them is exactly the right thing to do. Unfortunately the Republicans have not had a strong enough presence in Congress to actually undo the bad policies that had already been put in place, but at least we don’t have to worry about more ‘stimulus’ or new, misguided, anti-liberty experiments in social engineering. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Gridlock is good.

And now another election is upon us. The American people now have the opportunity to choose who will be our president for the next four years, and who will represent each of our 435 U.S. House of Representatives districts. Additionally, thirty-three states have races for seats in the U.S. Senate, eleven have state gubernatorial elections, and there are many local offices and ballot issues on ballots all across the country. I’ve made my opinion known on the specific races that I will have on my ballot, which might be interesting to people who live in Virginia, but there are some ‘universal’ considerations that apply in every state and every district.

First and foremost, we need to get the economy back in order. It is a myth that government somehow acts as the economy’s central planner and is responsible for its ups and downs. It isn’t. In all likelihood, we were just due for a downturn and it would have occurred whether President George W. Bush (R) was president or not. If Senator John Kerry (D-MA) had won the presidency in 2004, I doubt it would have changed much in this area. The real estate bubble had to burst, like every other bubble that came before it, and it was guaranteed to have major systemic impact on the American economy.

However, government can do a few things to blunt the impact and then encourage recovery . . . but instead the Bush and Obama administrations have each followed a similarly misguided and ineffective path of spending, bailouts, and regulatory uncertainty. The next president, and the next Congress, need to change course. They need to get their own fiscal house in order, moving swiftly toward balancing the federal budget and beginning to reduce the national debt. They need to reduce damaging regulations and regulatory uncertainty, giving businesses simple and consistent guidance on their taxes and benefit expenses (e.g., health care) so they know what their costs will be and don’t have to be tepid or cautious in their hiring. And finally, the government (via the Federal Reserve) must maintain a stable currency and low inflation, which Chairman Ben Bernanke’s Fed has failed to do.

Candidates who try to misdirect you by talking about milking the rich with higher taxes (when they already pay a far greater share of the tax burden than any other group) cannot be trusted. At best, those proposals will accomplish nothing. At worst, they will further suppress hiring and increase the unemployment rates. This is also a way of avoiding a discussion of the hard cuts we will have to make to federal spending across-the-board (including defense). We have a spending problem, but these candidates insist on talking about new ‘revenue’ (i.e., taxes) instead. Experience shows us that government will always grow to consume the revenue we give it. Raising taxes would merely side-step an effort to tackle government waste, and completely avoids the serious discussion we need to have about the role of government in our lives.

Likewise, candidates who have no interest in reining-in needless business regulations (or, worse, talk about creating even more of them) should be dismissed from consideration outright, as should any candidate who approves of the Federal Reserve’s money printing policies. But the economy isn’t the only issue we need to consider this year. We also need to consider some really basic, fundamental civil liberty issues.

Many of our Congressmen, and our president, support undermining our First Amendment free speech rights around election time. The DISCLOSE Act, proposed by Democratic members of Congress and supported by the president, would have imposed strict restrictions on political speech and even exposed web sites like mine to Federal Election Commission regulation. The Obama administration shredded the Tenth Amendment with the ‘ObamaCare’ insurance purchase mandate, and shredded the First Amendment religious liberty protections with a new, narrow definition of what constitutes a religious organization (that excludes Catholic hospitals and charities, among thousands of other religious organizations). Our Fourth Amendment rights protecting us from unreasonable searches and seizures are also under assault, with invasive scans and pat-downs at airports and illegal seizures of Internet domain names. And lastly, the most fundamental human right of all—the right of every human being to live—is dismissed with derision by many of the political elite, including the president, most especially on the Democratic Party side.

Any candidate that doesn’t have a basic understanding of natural law, civil liberties, and the Bill of Rights ought to be ineligible for high office in this county.

Although Republicans do tend to be better on both economic and human rights issues than Democrats, there are plenty of fundamentally misguided candidates on both sides. Former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), the Republican candidate for the presidency, is a prime example. He has been consistently inconsistent on right to life issues, Second Amendment liberties, Fourth Amendment liberties, and more. He also supported most of the socialist bailouts under Bush and governed Massachusetts as a big-government, ‘center-left’ Republican.

So don’t vote for a party. In each race on your ballot, evaluate each of the candidates as individuals. Look at their positions and records, and choose the best one. I believe a clear-headed analysis will lead to a lot more Republican votes than Democratic ones, but I’m also the first to admit that there are plenty of good Democrats out there (especially in down-ticket state and local races). And you need not limit your consideration to these two parties. On the Virginia presidential ballot, we have three third-party candidates representing the Constitution Party, the Libertarian Party, and the Green Party. They deserve consideration as well. Indeed, I came very close to endorsing the Libertarian candidate in the presidential race this year (and said as much in my endorsement, which did end up going to the Republican).

And most importantly, vote. Even if you disagree with everything I’ve said here, you should do your research, make your choice, and go to the polls. Our right to vote is something that none of us should take for granted. Countless Americans have died to secure this right, first in the Revolutionary War, and again in the Civil War. And great men like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., died in peace-time trying to expand that right to all American men and women of all races. Every eligible American voter who stays home from the polls is spitting in their faces.

I’ve heard some people say that they’re staying home because they don’t like any of the candidates. Nonsense. This isn’t about who you like, it’s about who you think is best qualified among the available options to serve in the office for which they are running. Even if you don’t like any of the five presidential candidates (using the Virginia ballot as an example), you can still discern that some of them are better than the others, and that one is the best of the bunch. Maybe it’s the Republican or the Democrat, and maybe it’s the Libertarian or Green or Reform or Constitution or some other ‘third-party’ candidate. Either way, your choice should be counted. And don’t listen to the scoffers telling you that voting third-party is throwing your vote away; the two major parties, in an effort to court third-party voters, will sometimes adopt at least some of those party positions as their own. Third-parties—especially when they make an unusually strong showing—can and do have an impact on public policy, albeit indirectly.

If you really can’t pick a candidate for a particular office, you also have the right to under-vote (i.e., abstain from a particular ballot question). This is better than staying home, because your abstention—your protest—is counted. A voter who stays home might be making a statement about the quality of the candidates, or they might just be lazy. With a voter who under-votes, there is no doubt what they are trying to say: none of the options are acceptable. If you choose to do this, and your state uses punch-card ballots, just be sure not to dimple or impregnate your chads, lest a review committee decide to interpret that as a vote (thanks, Florida, for setting this idiotic precedent back in 2000).

Finally, for those of you who are religious, I urge you to pray. Pray for wisdom and prudence in your own decision-making as you prepare to vote. Pray that your neighbors, locally and nationwide, make prudent choices as well. Pray for the country as a whole, that the best possible candidates will be chosen by the American people, and that we can begin to recover our economic stability and bolster our most fundamental and non-negotiable civil liberties.

Choose wisely, and God bless America.