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as Cruz is in a position of influence, he can sell conservatives and Republicans on false hopes that Obamacare will be repealed, gay marriage can be stopped, and everything will go back the way they used to be.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
* * *
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.
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.
Editor’s Note: The views of this piece should not be construed as the views of the other contributors of The Liberty Papers or of the blog itself. TLP as a blog does not endorse any candidates or political parties. –Kevin
I don’t intend to make this a lengthy piece of sophistry. We are coming up on a crucial midterm election (well – as crucial as a battle can be between a group of incompetent buffoons who can’t settle on an ideology and a group of intentionally evil people who wish to end the American experiment and have hijacked a party which, at one time, was an important voice for the disadvantaged). You are going to hear people make a bunch of different arguments as to what strategy you should use when you vote. In fact, many of those arguments are about to be deployed in an upcoming point/counterpoint series this very blog will run on the question of how a libertarian should vote to advance the core values of the movement) – here are some of the classics that you hear every election cycle these days:
1) Vote for the person whose platform most closely matches your beliefs!
After watching politicians advance platforms that are often plagiarized from party leadership or put together by a campaign think tank and not the figurehead actually running for office, and then once elected, running from their platforms as fast as their legs will carry them, I’ve decided that voting on a platform is nonsense. Candidates will say anything to get elected – it’s human nature. And if you are prone to believing what they say on the stump, you’ll be a slave to sloganeering forever.
2) Vote for the “least bad” option!
Here’s a classic that is commonly used by libertarians and frustrated conservatives who’ve seen the GOP flee from the Constitution when it was expedient to do so. The argument goes: if you’re a liberal but dislike the direction of the democrat party, or a conservative but angry at the GOP or the Libertarian party for perceived sleights, you should vote for the candidate who will hurt you less. Liberals should vote democrat even if they dislike the blue position on abortion, say, and conservatives should vote GOP even if they think the Patriot Act was one of the worst bits of hackery that their party has ever mustered and wish to punish them for it, because the alternative is way, way worse. I call bollocks on this one too. Not that it’s completely untrue, but such behavior also perpetuates those same bad habits in your party of choice in the future. Libertarians and Constitutionalists have been told for the last 20 years that, even if you dislike the GOP on major issues or think they’re badly run, you have to keep voting GOP or the other guys will win…but when we keep voting GOP, they take it as a sign that what they’re doing works and they keep doing it – look who keeps running for the White House!
3) Vote for the people who are least connected to the Beltway!
There’s a strain of populism in play in both parties these days that’s driven by the very correct observation by middle class Americans that DC has ZERO interest in solving our problems or representing our wishes – that Capital Hill is dominated by a system of crony capitalism, crony government, and horse trading that has nothing to do with anything but maintaining privileges and influence for a select few. But rarely are purely-populist movements motivated by data and efficacy – they tend to be very emotional things; more governed by anger and retribution than by merit. Enter Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. The thing is…in their zeal to select candidates that are not insiders, both parties have been picking horrendously unqualified candidates. I would strongly advise against voting simply to punish incumbents and reward people with no history in politics. The results don’t tend to be very good for anyone.
4) Vote for the guy who is least corrupt!
Not gonna say much about this, but it is common in electioneering to hear all about scandals and rumors of scandals. My (admittedly still limited) experience tells me that 90% of the smoke is not fire, and that corruption charges are usually based on wishful thinking, more than hard evidence. If there is good evidence, fine, factor that into your thinking, but you may also want to keep in mind that corruption isn’t always worse than incompetence, and that it frequently attaches itself to whoever is in charge, no matter how good their intentions were when they started.
5) If you don’t know much about the stakes, vote anyway!
Please don’t. I’m not saying I don’t want voter participation to be high, but if all you’re going on is The Daily Show or snippets in Yahoo! News or the political party next to a candidate’s name, stay home please. Or only vote for the things about which you have some knowledge (you can leave election slots blank on most ballots!).
6) Vote this way or DOOM!
And of course…if I’m to believe every campaign email I get, if I choose differently than the way they want me to choose, all hell will break loose instantly. Elections do have consequences, but I think we’re doomed already. Vote with your head, not your fear.
My recommendation? It’s hard to find a good man who would want to be a politician. It’s even harder to find a good man who is a good candidate and a skilled campaigner who wants the job. If you enter every election insisting that the candidate be the perfect fit, you’re going to hate every cycle. I recommend that you look for a few “good enough” men – men who are motivated by data, by history and by what works. Vote utilitarian – choose the candidate whose ideas have the best chance of actually being implemented and working; or at the very least, choose the people who you think will be most likely to quickly pick up a clue bat and hit themselves with it once they’re in office and have access to all of the information. Barack Obama was never that guy. Mitt Romney might not have been a true Constitutional conservative, but he was definitely a utilitarian, driven by a desire to solve problems. Better to select a man you dislike but respect for his acumen than a man you like but know is incompetent. The same scale can help you distill the current Senate and Gubernatorial races in some cases. I’ll throw out a few endorsements now, to clarify my meaning.
COL SEN / GOV: Both Beauprez and Gardner strike me as people who are less ideologically driven and more driven by common sense and evidence. You might disagree and I’m open to hearing counter-arguments, but both seem like “good enough” men as far as I’m concerned.
WI GOV: I’ve heard some bad things about Scott Walker from Wisconsin locals who are involved in conservative politics, but, corruption or no corruption, I believe Walker gets results and is focused on those results.
OK SEN: Alright – this race isn’t competitive, but I’ve actually exchanged multiple communications with Sen. Inhofe (I’m the guy that writes his congressmen and senators regularly if there’s something that needs to be said…I would encourage all of you to do this at least some of the time), and he never answers with a form letter unless it’s a basic request or issue statement you sent him. The man is seen as the Antichrist by the environmental left, but, whatever his faults might be, I believe him to be genuinely connected to his constituents.
NH SEN: My wife and I had a rather gnarly argument once over his last bid for the senate in Massachusetts. She’s a classical democrat from Boston (who is waking up a bit to the nastier, progressive side of the party that is taking over these days), and in the battle between Full-of Bull and Scott Brown – a man who can hardly be called a far-right conservative and would more accurately be termed a pragmatist – she voted for Chief PantsOnFire. Yeah – I took that personally, because my wife is full of common sense on just about everything, and you can’t possibly choose the radical with a history of deception and the total lack of relevant experience over a solid, pragmatic moderate based on rational thinking. The same applies now that he’s running against Jeanne Shaheen, who, while less offensive than Elizabeth Warren, is most certainly not coming across as motivated by an honest assessment of the facts on many key issues. Watch some of Shaheen’s debate performances and think about the things she says.
So that’s how I tend to process elections, and it’s how I would urge more of the readers here to respond as well.
Supposedly, Colorado parents have a ‘unique challenge’ this Halloween. You see, because enough Colorado voters were bamboozled into legalizing pot for recreational purposes in 2012 (in addition to the already legal for medicinal purposes), now parents have to worry about cannabis laced candy in their trick-or-treat bags. There have even been products made available to test questionable candy of the presence of THC.
[T]his year should be no different for parents, who should always employ common sense on Halloween. Throw out any unwrapped candy and inspect all packaging before letting your kids gorge on treats.
If the package looks suspicious, tampered with, torn, unwrapped or in unfamiliar packaging, throw out the candy. That should be the same message every year.
Wow, how hard was that? The board also points out that these ‘edibles’ aren’t cheap. The example they use: a package of 10 pot laced gummy bears retails for about $27 before taxes. Who is really going to be that motivated to spend that much money to get strange children high? I suppose it only takes one to start a new wave of ‘Reefer Madness’ circa 2014*.
My bold prediction: there won’t be even one reported case of a child receiving pot laced candy in Colorado.
*Maybe a bit conspiratorial on my part but who would be more motivated to give children pot laced candy, those who are in favor of its legalization or those opposed?