Every election year Republican Svengalis come hunting Libertarian Trilbys to convert to the Immutable Platform cast in stone by God’s Own Prohibitionists. This is what happened in 1887. The episode is reported in the words of John Sherman, Congressman, Senator, Secretary of both State and Treasury and brother to Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. Eventually, it is the Major Party platform that changes because integrity wins out over equivocation. People willing to kill you to take your money are also willing to lie–the easier to to rob you with, my voter!
“The only danger he (Governor Foraker) encountered was in the active movement of the Prohibition party. This party ran a separate ticket, the votes of which, it was feared, would mainly come from the Republican party. In a speech I made at Oberlin, on the 4th of November, I made an appeal to our Prohibition friends to support the Republican ticket. I said: “There are but two great parties in this country, one or the other of which is to be put in power. You have a perfect right to vote for the smaller Prohibition party, and thus throw away your vote, but you know very well that either a Republican or a Democratic legislature will be elected, and that there will not be a single Prohibition candidate elected. Will it not be better to choose between these two parties and give your assistance to the one that has done the most for the success of your principles?”
Observe that the prohibitionists wanted the laws to change. They did not care a whit about which politician is grinning from the podium. Yet Sherman immediately offered them a false choice between a grinning Republican and a supposedly wasted vote. Sherman then dangled the real bait.
“We think the Republican party is still entitled, as in the past, to your hearty support. Among other of its enactments there is the ‘Dow law,’ looked upon you with suspicion, yet it has done more for temperance than your ‘prohibition laws’ at present could have done. That law enables you to exclude the sale of liquor in more than 400 Ohio towns. It was passed by a Republican legislature. By it more than 3,000 saloons have been driven out of existence. “Then you have the repeated declaration of the Republican party, a party that never deceived the people with false promises, that they will do anything else that is necessary, or all that is possible by law, to check the evils that flow from intoxicating drinks.” (It took the GOP another thirty years to completely wreck the economy through prohibition enforcement in 1930. That drove plenty of people out of business, and did it again in 2007.)
“Is there not a choice between that party and the Democratic party, which has always been the slave of the liquor party, and whose opposition to the enforcement of the Dow law cost the state $2,000,000? The Democratic party, if put in power, will repeal that law and will do nothing for prohibition that you will accept.” (To frighten fanatics, threaten them with the horrors of freedom!)
“They say they want license, but they know it can never be brought about without a change in the constitution. They want the liquor traffic to go unrestrained. It does seem to me that with all the intelligence of this community it is the duty of all its candid men, who are watching the tendencies of these two parties in this country, not to throw their votes away.” (Again, the Republican platform contained what the prohibition voters did not want, yet proffer it as a future possiblity, and point to the Hobgoblin as the only alternative to surrendering their integrity.)
“It is much better to do our work by degrees, working slowly in the right direction, than to attempt to do it prematurely by wholesale, and fail. More men have been broken up by attempting too much than by ‘going slow.'” (Softlee, softlee, catchee monkey–old Chinese proverb)
“Your powerful moral influence, if kept within the Republican party, will do more good, a thousandfold, than you can do losing your vote by casting it for a ticket that cannot be elected. Next year will present one of the most interesting spectacles in our history. The Republican party will gather its hosts of progressive and patriotic citizens into one grand party at its national convention, and I trust that when that good time comes our Prohibition friends and neighbors who stand aloof from us will come back and join the old fold and rally around the old flag of our country, the stars and stripes, and help us to march on to a grand and glorious victory.”
(Sherman 1895 p. 770–of the single-volume edition)
The prohibitionists of course did not fall for it, but other voters reelected the candidate–who was defeated the subsequent year. Prohibitionists cast their votes for what they really wanted–a change in the laws. To the Republican, his ticket meant his party’s hand in the till. The Prohibition Party did not want a hand in the till. They wanted men with guns to take to the streets and arrest people for beer and liquor. The Major Party seduction relies on the fallacy of equivocation to trick the voters into betraying their own values and sacrificing them instead to what the Major Party wants. By preferring their own misguided lust for the power to coerce others, the prohibitionists injected next to the Bill of Rights an amendment transforming the Constitution into a religious fetish for the initiation of deadly force against peaceful individuals.