Category Archives: Point/Counterpoint

Screw the Parties! Vote Your Heart, Not With FUD

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So far today, we have posts from Matt Souders and Sarah Baker as to why voting a certain party affiliation is a better idea for libertarians. They’re well reasoned, well backed up, and ultimately, I believe, short sighted.

I have a different idea: forget the letters next to the names. Forget “tactical” voting. If libertarians, as a movement, want to make real change, they need to vote independently, without any care for party affiliation. In some cases, they should even write in a vote for someone off the main ballots.

The Trojan Horse

As a libertarian, I’m used to being toyed with. Republicans want my vote to fix the economy. Democrats want my vote to address social issues (translation: “lol smoke weed erryday y’all”) and to keep us from going to war. And every time we’ve gone one way or the other, we’ve gotten burned.

The Tea Party was started largely as a protest against goverment overspending, and candidates were elected to office – including in a massive wave in 2010 – to address that. Unfortunately, once they got into office, spending didn’t go down appreciably in many cases. Instead, they spent all their time implementing what I derisively call “Jesus Laws”: socially conservative laws put in to please white, middle-aged and older Christian voters. If you hate abortion, you love the Tea Party, but otherwise, I’d argue they’ve done more harm than good.

Of course, the Tea Party burns today as a fight against the mainstream Republicans who have run the party for so long and who have contributed to so many of our problems, including our blown up debt. Men like John McCain and Peter King are anathema to these people for their desire to wage war for any reason and being “squishy” on spending. The ironic thing, from the perspective of the Tea Party, is that they keep invoking the name of Reagan, who was the catalyst for the big-spending Republican Party.

Democrats, of course, have always been the big spenders, but at least they will care about social liberties and not going to war, right? Not so fast. The same Barack Obama who was so anti-Iraq War in 2003, and who ran on being against it in 2008 – arguably winning on that front – has since engaged us in multiple illegal wars in Syria and Libya, and is engaging in illegal actions in Iraq once again as a fight against the Islamic State. Civil liberties? Hah, ask the conservative groups targeted by the IRS, and the reporters and whistleblowers being targeted by the government in the war on leaks. All of this from a man who campaigned against the very things he now stands for. For Pesci’s sake, it took Joe Biden’s diharrea of the mouth to get the President to come around on gay marriage.

The underlying point is that the people campaigning to reform the system often get co-opted by it, and being a part of a major party hurts that. The party simply doesn’t help outliers, and trying to take the party from within is going to prove to be a very hard road – one that could take a generation – for liberty-minded people on either side of the divide. Candidates become different people once they’ve been voted into office; their responsibility to their constituents largely ends at that point, as shown by the extraordinary retention rate in Congress. Once in office, the peoples’ use is finished, and they are summarily discarded.

The Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt of the Two Party System

We’ve heard it before: “A vote for X is a vote for Y”. This often comes about when libertarians – either in primaries, or in general elections where they’re petitioning candidates or running on a big-L Libertarian ticket – represent a threat to the status quo. Most recently was the case of Robert Sarvis, who many argue cost Ken Cuccinelli the governor’s mansion in Virginia by drawing 6.5% of the vote, well above Terry McAuliffe’s margin of victory.

This is a good thing, which is not something I say because I personally find Cuccinelli repulsive; that would be the case if Sarvis or anyone else took things to the other extreme and cost a Democrat an election. Anything that upsets the two-party apple cart is a positive development. The system needs a few shocks. If that means some weak candidates of either party have to get voted out, so be it.

One of the most common refrains we hear is that Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter because it’s just two heads of the same dragon. Outside influences – of all shapes and sizes – are like a knight fighting that dragon. The odds are against him, and it’s very likely he’ll be burnt to a crisp by their fire, but even dragons get tired from constantly fighting off outside threats. Also, the more third parties get involved, the more powerful their influence with the media. The best part of Robert Sarvis drawing “only” 6.5% of the vote in Virginia is that it caused a lot of writers to drop a lot of ink/pixels noting how upsetting a force his candidacy was. Even Gary Johnson’s largely Quixotic bid for the Presidency, which drew 1% of the vote, was good for bringing positive attention to libertarian causes. It’s a slow trudge, but the more attention it gets, the better.

Besides, the other half is just as bad, right? So what if a Terry McAuliffe wins an election? Or even Barack Obama or George W. Bush? Liberals who hated Bush likely wouldn’t have loved Gore, and conservatives who deplore Obama wouldn’t be happy with McCain or Romney, either. If they’re saying they’re simply marginally more happy, they’ve already lost. Eating crumbs off the table still leaves a person malnourished.

The Libertarian Party: Our Unreliable Ally

After all this, it’s obvious that we should all rally around the Libertarian Party as our cause celebre, as Sarah argues in her post, right? Not so fast. A closer look shows they’re unreliable at best, and outright using the party at worst. For the most part, the Libertarian Party has been a sort of rehabilitation centre for C-list Republicans, the equivalent of a baseball player being demoted to the minor leagues to work on his swing before being promoted back to the big time.

I need to preface this with an admission: I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. I’m not even ashamed of it. While I didn’t buy the “Hope and Change” nonsesne, I did at least concede at the time that he wasn’t Bush, and wasn’t a Republican. However, another major thing in his favour was that the Libertarians were putting forth an embarrassing ticket of Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root.

Bob Barr was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican during the Newt Gingrich-led Republican Revolution. While in office, Barr was such a hard supporter of the War on Drugs that he was voted out of Congress… with support from the Libertarian Party he would eventually represent. He also supported the Defense of Marriage Act before he was against it, voted for the Patriot Act, and voted for the Iraq War. The LP went from destroying Barr’s career to building it back up again, only to watch him go back to being a Republican in 2011.

As for Root, I’ll let my colleague Doug Mataconis take this one. Root, by the way, rejoined the Republican Party in 2012.

The Libertarian Party is used to grifters. Even Ron Paul used the ticket in 1988 to run for President, before almost immediately switching back to the Republican Party after the 1988 election. When it’s not doing rehab, the Libertarian Party has a succinct problem with crackpots and kooks; Michael Badnarik, the 2004 candidate for President, is a 9/11 truther.

Individual Liberty at the Ballot Box

None of this is intended to persuade anyone to vote one way or the other. In fact, the whole point of this is to point out an obvious truth: our current system isn’t working, and those who allow themselves to be co-opted by larger forces almost always end up disappointed.

What I will call for, however, is a call to conscience. Individual votes are ultimately irrelevant so long as one is voting to their personal convictions, and a request for those who tactically vote – like those who would vote for Mitt Romney despite prefering Gary Johnson – to reconsider. If you think a candidate is a preferable candidate, vote for that candidate. If that candidate lost a primary, write him in. If you think Elmer Fudd is a better option, guess what? Write in Elmer Fudd! Why not? We know he supports the Second Amendment, at least.

The key is never to fall in line with big-party dogma, it’s to ensure that people are voting with their hearts, saying what they want, and in the process sending a very strong message that the status quo is not acceptable. If we can’t even show individual liberty in the ballot box, how can we hope to achieve it in the legislature?

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Take A Stand! Don’t Vote At All!

Today, my illustrious co-contributors have been making the case to you to vote. Sarah wants you to vote Libertarian, Matthew wants you to vote Republican, and Kevin doesn’t want you to vote Democrat, but drew the short straw and we made him argue it anyway.

Now I’m going to tell you why none of their arguments should make you vote for their parties.
Don't Vote!
First and foremost, the Democrats. Some might argue that if you vote Republican, you get big government AND social conservatism, but if you vote Democrat, you get big government and social liberalism. Frankly, it’s a lie. Democrats talk a good game about civil liberties, about ending the drug war, about being pro-choice, reining in the military-industrial complex, and ending foreign adventurism. Yet they change their tune as soon as they’re in power. Remember all those Bush-era domestic spying programs that Obama put a stop to? No, me neither. Remember when Obama closed Gitmo? No, me neither. Remember when Obama forced Congress to give him a declaration of War before bombing people? No, me neither. And it’s been his fellow Democrats defending his [in-]actions. Voting Democrat will never be beneficial to liberty.

As for the Republicans, one can make a very similar argument. Because if you vote Republican, you really do get big government and social conservatism. They talk a good game about small government and fiscal responsibility, but remember who was in office when TARP happened? Hint — it wasn’t Obama. Medicare Part D? No Child Left Behind? Yeah, not small government. Some might say the Republicans are the lesser of two evils, and that libertarians are more naturally allied with Republicans with Democrats, so you might as well pick them as your poison. There’s just one problem with allies when it comes to government: the alliance is forgotten the day after the election. Fusionism between libertarians and Republicans just isn’t going to work.

No, the reason not to vote Democrat or Republican is it truly has gotten very difficult to determine which of them is the lesser evil. And in our system of direct representation, does it really make sense to vote for someone who doesn’t represent you?

That leaves the argument that we should vote our conscience, and vote Libertarian. I’ll admit, of all three arguments, this is the one I’m most sympathetic to. After all, I would actually want to see Libertarians elected. I would trust a Libertarian candidate to represent my beliefs in Washington. And there’s one more argument for voting Libertarian, which Sarah overlooked: Since Libertarians never win, we don’t have to worry about being hypocrites when they then go to Washington and violate their campaign promises!

So why should you stay home? Why not “vote your conscience” and pull the lever for the Libertarian?

Because any vote, even one for the Libertarian, is an affirmation of the system.

But let’s face it. The system doesn’t work. And the reason it doesn’t work is that the system is rigged. The direct representation system with first-past-the-post voting is only stable with two parties. The two parties then exist to move as close to the center as possible and ensure that they don’t alienate voters. Parties don’t exist to cater to minority views.

But we’re libertarians. We’re not centrists. We are a minority view. Some suggest that we’re 15% of the electorate. But the other side of that 15% is 85%. We can NEVER expect the mainstream parties to represent our interests, no matter who we vote for, because the money is in the center, not at the edges.

The alternative is a parliamentary-style proportional representation system. If we truly are 15% of the electorate, we would be able to gain a sizable chunk of the legislative body and we would force the Republicans and Democrats to work with us to govern. In today’s system, they only work with us until the campaign ends.

No, you shouldn’t vote. Validating the system of direct representation with your vote is a losing strategy. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be active. I’m not saying you can’t make an impact. If I believed that, I wouldn’t be blogging. What I’m saying is that if you want to make a difference, focus everywhere except the ballot box. You actually have some likelihood of doing good that way.

Yes, There Are Reasons Why Libertarians Should Vote Democratic

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It’s no secret that there are very few issues that Democrats and libertarians can align on. The modern Democratic party is awful once they have a position of power. The Democratic party is reflexively hostile to free enterprise, embraces crony capitalism, has a strong nanny state component, is awful on civil liberties, have proven themselves to be even worse on foreign policy than neocons, and have contributed the current state of affairs which has created a Federal government that is highly dysfunctional. If you’re looking for a policy alignment between Democrats and libertarians, you won’t find it outside of very few social issues.

Having said all that, there are still some reasons why libertarians should consider voting Democrat, although I won’t be taking my own advice.

The Republicans are running on nothing:

What are the Republicans running on this year? Where is this year’s Contract With America?  The GOP released something last month called the Principles for American Renewal, which are essentially talking points. The only concrete pledge the GOP is making is to try and pass a balanced budget amendment. Why should a party running on nothing but “Obama sucks” be rewarded with control of the Senate?

The GOP Contains The Most Useless Politician In America:

The Republican Party is home to the most useless politician in America. That man is none other than Senator Ted Cruz. A vote for the Republican Party is a vote for Ted Cruz and to allow him to increase his power. Ted Cruz released his own set of talking points in October which reads like a reactionary manifesto. If you want to reform the Republican Party, you have to defeat Ted Cruz. The only way to defeat Ted Cruz is for him to lose power, which can only happen if the GOP loses the midterms. Just an illustration of how powerful Ted Cruz is, last year he shutdown the government in order to promote himself. As long as Cruz is in a position of influence, he can sell conservatives and Republicans on false hopes that Obamacare will be repealed, gay marriage can be stopped, and everything will go back the way they used to be. A vote for Democrats will help marginalize Ted Cruz.

If Republicans Fail, Maybe They’ll Have To Change:

Doug Mataconis wrote a good article over at Outside The Beltway about a what might happen if Republicans don’t take the Senate. Mataconis argues that it would the beginnings of a no holds barred civil between the hard-right Ted Cruz/Tea Party wing of the GOP and the establishment and more moderate conservatives. Unlike many liberty Republicans, I don’t view Ted Cruz and the Tea Party as allies because they’re pursuing a hard-right, exclusionary agenda. Perhaps this would make Republicans acknowledge the need to reach out and broaden the party’s appeal to more than just old white males.

Long story short, libertarians should vote Democratic to force the Republican Party into the 21st century and punish it for its lack of an agenda. At least with Democrats, you know what you’re getting.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Why Libertarians Should Vote Republican

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America is a bit of a rarity in modern politics in that it is a two party system with so little penetration by independent and minority party politicians that it is difficult to attract qualified candidates to any alternatives. Of the billions spent on electioneering in the U.S., mere millions go to Libertarian, Reform, Constitution, and Green Party candidates, let alone pure independents, unless they have the explicit backing of the Democrats or Republicans. In almost every state in the union, Libertarian candidates struggle to draw enough signatures on petitions to even appear on the ballot, and even when they do, they rarely pick up more than a few percent of the vote. In the face of such a rigged system, it is hard for Libertarians not to become bitter and frustrated with the process, abstaining from the vote, voting for Libertarian candidates in protest, or even using their vote as a weapon against the GOP for keeping them from the podium. I, myself, have felt such a desire myself on occasion. Although I am closing to core republicanism than most of the contributors here, I don’t consider myself a member of the party and have a number of issues where I lean more Libertarian. But here’s the thing that should stop us from walking out on the GOP – here is the reason we need to vote Republican, at least for now.

Voting Republican is Working

If you’ve been paying any attention to the Republican Party of late, you know that much is being said about a “Republican Civil War.” The media is no doubt eager to cover our internal squabbles, waiting in the hope that the party splinters, yielding a permanent liberal plurality in command of the Capital. While the headlines may be a bit overblown, they’re not based on outright fabrications, and here’s the thing – the battle of ideas within the GOP doesn’t just come from the Tea Party (the populist flank). Libertarians are making their mark on conservatism as surely as they ever have – and their impact is much more viable, politically, than that of the Tea Party. Libertarians are winning the argument on multiple key issues.

Foreign Policy

Prior to the Reagan presidency, Republicans were not the party advancing the theory of Communist containment, nor were they particularly inclined to use American military might very proactively. Reagan successfully fused American fears about Communism’s international reach with a doctrine of expanding American concepts of liberty and free trade for the betterment of our economy, but he also ushered in an era of Republican military aggression. It became “red meat” in the Reagan years for conservative candidates to promise a strong national defense. From Reagan to Bush to Dole, Bush Jr. and McCain, the GOP grew synonymous with hawkish calls for a defense based on strong offense. Libertarians have long questioned this use of our resources, but ask yourself this – when was the last time you heard a competitive Republican fighting for a national elected post whose campaign was centered on an aggressive foreign policy? Did Romney spend more of his time than I remember talking about his plans for nation building abroad? Are this year’s GOP senate candidates proposing an all-out offensive against ISIS? George W. Bush’s ‘State of the Union’ address in 2004, heading for election season, was roughly 60% national defense and the war on terror. Romney’s campaign was roughly 90% domestic policy. If you’re attempting to advance the Libertarian goal of speaking softly but carrying a big stick in reserve – or forcing the world at large to start spending some money solving their own problems – the GOP is right there with you now, at least at the national level.

Gay Marriage

The national party has not come around on this issue as of yet, but even ten years ago, the thought of a gay Republican group at CPAC would have been out of the question, and the fact that, since DOMA was struck down by the Supreme Court, the GOP no longer makes mention of Gay Marriage unless pressed to do so by the media, and then only reluctantly do its candidates offer a plea for traditional marriage should tell you something. If you believe that liberty should include the liberty for gay adults to make contracts of their free choosing but that churches should not be forced to participate – the GOP is right there with you in spirit, and voices like Rand Paul are yanking it in that direction in policy.

Ending the War on Drugs

I remember, when I was growing up, that it was local and state level GOP candidates leading the charge – playing on the “security” voters (married couples with children especially) with promises of laws meant to crack down on drug use. The national GOP has never made this a top priority outside of the Reagan administration, but continues to maintain a position against legalization of marijuana at this time. But for how long will that remain the case? The core GOP voting bloc – even evangelicals – rate the war on drugs as among their lowest priorities in exit polling nowadays and the GOP is not actively pursuing any meaningful legislation on the issue. Sooner or later, libertarian voices, now by far the most passionate advocates in any direction on drugs within conservative ranks, will win out here as well. When the libertarian position on drugs reaches Paul Ryan, and he starts executing decriminalization concepts and jail population reduction plans in his latest round of budget plans, you know your ideas have reached critical mass within the GOP.

Deficit Spending and Government Downsizing

W. Bush’s ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ (because we all know that libertarians have no compassion, right? /sarc) is now rightly seen by both the Tea Party and the libertarian flanks of the GOP as one of the greatest betrayals in the party’s history. They’re flat outnumbered on this and, if they get a majority in the legislature in 2014, they will be forced to consider actual cuts to government spending and actual tax hikes or face the wrath of the electorate in 2016. Not a libertarian will be rooting for higher taxes, but enough of the middle class is willing compromise now to get the government to reduce spending that it will be incumbent on the GOP to abandon their “no tax hikes ever!” pledge and forcus on reducing taxes on small businesses while increasing taxes on the very wealthy and simplifying the tax code for all. That is if they ever want to be seen as a party that can govern. But even if they fail in that regard in the next few years, they remain a libertarian’s best hope to some day see reason.

Civil Liberties

Here again, the Tea Party and libertarians see eye to eye and have outflanked the establishment wing of the GOP. The leading voices against NSA spying, the use of drones against Americans, the suspension of due process for those accused of sexual assault, the imposition of the IRS on political speech, etc – they’re all Republican. Liberals are united in their indifference to these things, at least in Washington. The McCain wing of the GOP continues to support such actions as the Patriot Act, but they are fast decline and will soon “age out” – both in the electorate and in Washington.

I’ll close by asking, honestly, is the existing Libertarian Party – unsupported as it is, a strong enough body to affect change on its own and bring about an era of increased liberty and prosperity? And which of the major parties is most likely to seek such a noble goal? Small “l” libertarian voices, to a much greater degree than Libertarian voices, are having their say – the system is working, albeit slowly. As the elderly conservative base begins to die, a whole generation of millennial voters who are, by their nature, DEEPLY skeptical of big government AND big business, are primed to come home to conservatism if it puts on a more libertarian face. If libertarian voters of today want to see such a new era, they must keep the current Republican Party afloat and work to change it from within. There won’t be a country left worth saving if the progressives currently running the Democrat Party are ushered in by libertarian support (direct or through abstaining).

I advise libertarians to stay the course – our system is designed to change slowly – be patient and the GOP is yours to inherit.

Vote Libertarian, Because Not All Politicians Are Smart, But All Politicians Can Count

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Thus proclaims Arvin Vohra, Vice Chair of the Libertarian National Committee and a candidate for Maryland’s fourth congressional district. Vohra and I are in agreement that the only effective way to tell politicians they must shrink the size and scope of government is to vote for libertarian candidates (“small l” intended).

Not voting at all accomplishes nothing more than making one’s opinions irrelevant to the people who hold political power. Voting for the “less bad” of the two contenders is guaranteed to continue the policies of the last two administrations.

In contrast, consistently voting only for libertarian candidates pulls the two major parties toward more libertarian positions. That, standing alone, is reason to vote libertarian.

We know the strategy works because it is working! Twenty-five years ago, mainstream journalists rarely mentioned libertarians. Now, not a day goes by that the word is not featured in the headlines of big-name publications or crossing the lips of mainstream commentators.

Google the words “libertarian moment,” and witness how shrilly both the left and the right deny that one is occurring.

Their foot-stamping to the contrary, Republicans are fundraising for openly gay candidates. Donors are pressing the party to stay out of marriage altogether. Republican candidates are campaigning to make birth control available over the counter. The first U.S. Senator has come out in favor of marijuana legalization.

Thanks for these shifts goes in some degree to the people who consistently prove their motivation to visit the polls, while simultaneously refusing to cast votes for statist candidates in either party. More people today identify as independents than either Republicans or Democrats. Fifty-nine percent of voters self-identify as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” Even under conservative estimates, 15% of voters can be treated as consistently “libertarian” in their positions.

Libertarians (“small l”) have become a swing-voting block as powerful as the religious right.

The best use of that power is to end the conspiracy of false choice and emotional partisanship that operates to keep the two-party oligarchy in power.

The Republocrats have given us federalized schools; a morass of unfunded entitlements and dependency; wild inflation in the cost of education and healthcare; the Drug War, the highest incarceration rate in the world, militarized police, and asset forfeitures; welfare and cronyism for corporations, agribusiness and green energy; a national debt in the trillions; the surveillance state and the erosion of the fourth amendment; expensive, immoral, ineffective and deadly interventions overseas; and restrictions on political speech.

If the foregoing is not convincing enough, consider the following. When Republicans are in power, Democrats support balanced budgets, oppose unfunded spending and resist increases to the debt ceiling. As then-senator Barack Obama said in 2006:

This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our chil- dren of critical investments in edu- cation and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.

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Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘‘the buck stops here.’’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

When the Republicans are in power, they simply trade positions. Republicans complain about spending and Democrats oppose balanced budgets.

Or consider this example from Robert Sarvis, Virginia’s libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate:

In 2008, when Republicans were the ones supporting the Export-Import Bank, candidate Barack Obama called it little more than corporate cronyism, but in 2014, it was Democrats lining up to support it. Virginia’s Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine introduced the reauthorization bill, and President Obama signed it.

Republicans are keeping the bank going until 2015 when they can figure out who is is in power, so they know which position to take.

How anyone keeps falling for this shtick is beyond me.

Spoilerism is a feature of third party voting, not a glitch. It communicates to mainstream politicians that we’re here, we vote, and if they want to beat their opponent, they need us to do it. The libertarian moment is nigh. Stay the course.

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.
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