Did Libertarians Cost the Republicans Nine Seats?

The original article is by David Nir at Daily Kos.

As we’ve perused last week’s election returns, we’d noticed a number of races where Libertarian candidates appear to have played spoiler for Republicans—certainly, more than we’re accustomed to. While we haven’t run a comparison with prior cycles, we’ve identified no fewer than nine contests in 2012 where the Libertarian received more votes than the difference between the Democratic and Republican candidates. What’s more, none of these involved the typical 1 or maybe 2 percent you ordinarily expect a Lib to garner: Looking at the three-way vote, all but one were over 3 percent, and three took 6 percent or more, with a high of 6.5 percent in the Montana Senate race. These definitely seem like unusually high figures.

Read more…

I came the Daily Kos article in this commentary by Doug Mataconis.

108 thoughts on “Did Libertarians Cost the Republicans Nine Seats?

  1. Kevin Knedler

    I am so done with this Spoiler crap.
    I just bought some RC cola. Did that spoil things for Coke or Pepsi. Good god, get over it and thank goodness for multiple choices.

  2. Matt Cholko

    I’m with you Kevin, the spoiler stuff really is ridiculous. But, lots of people seem to believe it. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing either. If people are talking about Libertarians, I see that as a positive.

  3. David

    It’s all about numbers. You get your voters out and you win. Republicans did a poor job at getting those voters out. Simple math.

  4. PeterO

    Why do the media always assume Libertarian voters would vote Republican if given only two options? I usually vote for Libertarians, Democrats, and Greens — and rarely Republicans.

  5. Robert Capozzi

    PO, surely you don’t think that your experience makes for a rule, do you? Most of our notable prez candidates have been former Rs. Ls headline position is for “less government,” and (unfortunately and falsely) that’s the headline position of the Rs. The Ds are for “more government.”

    It’s a simplistic duality that most use when surveying the political landscape, esp. one that’s set up as a winner-takes-all regime.

    fwiw, I’ve never cast a vote for anyone who is not L.

  6. PeterO

    I imagine most Libertarian voters would lean Republican, but this piece implies that 100% of those who voted LP in these elections would have otherwise voted GOP. Say 67%, even 75%, if you must — but 100% is nonsense.

  7. Kevin Knedler

    This WILL shock some of you with what I am about to say. For the first time in my life–voting since 1972– I voted for a Democrat in a November election. Actually voted for 7 of them on November 6, here in Ohio. And I did NOT vote for one Republican. For me, it was a choice of Libertarian, Independent, Nothing, or maybe a Democrat. My political journey continues.

  8. NewFederalist

    As long as LPHQ puts out media releases talking about costing the GOP seats why should anyone be surprised at this kind of story? If the LP spins things to make it appear the party is the Triple A affiliate of the Republicans why should we be shocked that it gets repeated? Perhaps Carla should stop saying things to encourage this sort of thing.

  9. Oranje Mike

    The “spoiler” talk is crap but our (LP) impact on races is worth looking at. I would probably not vote if not for the LP but there a plenty of non-Libertarians that cast votes for us. The CD9 race in AZ was interesting. A big race with a potential rising star showing up for Dems and GOP and over 6k rejected them both and voted LP. Amazing stuff.

    @ #9, I voted Democrat & Green on my ballot. Dem for sheriff and Green for the Corporation Commission (vote for 2, only one LP on the ballot).

  10. Stuart Simms

    Interesting, my cola preference is none, I drink water mostly. Imho, all colas are bad for you so I refrain from drinking colas, I think I see a correlation to politics here.

    The KOS article is presumptuous BS. On the other hand, the LP itself makes a big deal about being greater than the margin of victory in a race and has linked the KOS article at LP.org. I think it is a mistake to make a big deal about LP candidates being greater than the margin of difference between R’s & D’s in a race.

  11. Robert Capozzi

    PO, yes, of course, I agree the implicit 100% assumption is too damn high.

    In my case, for ex., I’d be a non-voter were a L not an option.

  12. Robert Capozzi

    I dunno, being greater than the margin of difference feels like a milestone of some kind, albeit a minor milestone….

  13. PeterO

    Robert, just curious: In contests on your ballot with no LP candidate, do you just skip it or write someone in? And if there’s an election in your area with no LP candidates for any office, do you stay home?

  14. Robert Capozzi

    PO, I skip or stay home.

    For me, voting is a symbolic act, with no emotional investment in outcome. Voting L is as far-fetched as I go, since writing in “Drew Carey” or “John Mackey” won’t even be counted.

    I generally root for challengers over incumbents, but never have I felt moved to vote R or D. I did consider voting for W in 2000, as his rhetoric surprised me, and I considered Gore to be too imbalanced to be prez. In the end, I stayed home in 00. (I didn’t vote for Browne, however, as I did not want to encourage flippant L-ism.) I did strongly root for Obama while voting for Barr, as I felt McCain was even MORE imbalanced than Gore.

    When Ls are on the ballot downticket, if I’m there in the voting booth, I do vote for them even though the candidate is also of the flippant L variety. Knowing that they can’t win and my vote doesn’t count anyway, I play the team player and of course I am voting for ballot access when I can.

  15. Stewart Flood

    There weren’t any democrats or republicans worth voting for on my local ballot, so the only ballots I cast were for President (of course!), our congressional candidate, and a friend of mine who was running for the county school board. He won.

  16. Green_Liberal

    The Kos writer overstates the degree that Libertarians (with pro-pot, progressive taxing Johnson at the head of the ticket) were drawing mainly from Republicans. There are no doubt many Libertarian voters who would prefer Democrats over Republicans–particularly with Obama vrs. Romney as the choice.

    There might be an argument the Libertarian candidate made a difference in MA-6, but most likely not in the other races.

  17. D. Lou Shenol

    Vote? NEVER, it only encourages the crooked BASTARDS !

    I too believe this type talk is used against Alternative Parties to frighten voters to STAY AWAY from non-Duopoly candidates. The Ds and Rs are but two wings of the same DEADLY bird of Prey looking each and everyday to destroy and devour all opposition! The WASTED vote argument is perhaps the largest problem Alternative Parties face.

    I saw this and thought it was interesting. Can You Guess Which is the most popular LP bumper sticker of all time? (Not that any Libertarian would buy something just because it’s popular but WHYNOT help the LP & the NEW building fund…… http://www.lpstuff.com/shop/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=2

    Show everyone else on the road what you stand for and that you enjoy your right to be able to put a political bumper sticker on your car with our new “PROTECT FREEDOM” bumper sticker.
    http://www.lpstuff.com/shop/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=186

  18. Gene Berkman

    I never object to writers who talk about Libertarian candidates as “spoilers’ because at least they are mentioning The Libertarian Party.

    The “spoiler” meme is seized upon by reporters because they are looking for some impact that a third party vote might have, in order to justify writing about a party that rarely wins elections.

    It is also true that probably more than half of Libertarian activists have some previous involvement in conservative or Republican political activism. Among voters probably more than half of Libertarian voters are ex-Republicans or even current Republicans.

    While some progressives – ex-Democrats or even former Greens – and some new left radicals have joined The Libertarian Party – welcome PeterO – ex-conservative dominance is enhanced by the fact that independent voters and former non-voters are probably the second largest group of Libertarian voters, ahead of left-wing or ex-leftist voters who back Libertarians.

    Additionally, some portion of Libertarians who might otherwise vote for a Democrat are themselves former Republicans who have seen Republicans up close and understand their shortcomings. And some Libertarians who might occasionally vote for a Republican are former Democrats who understand their shortcomings.

  19. Gene Berkman

    The Daily Kos mentions the Senate race in Indiana, in which Andrew Horning received 146,000 votes for 5.8%, with the Democrat winning about 49.9%.

    It is pretty clear that Richard Mourdock did himself in, with his comments on rape and abortion. Mourdock had led in the polls; after his comments, some supporters did move to vote for Andrew Horning, but more apparently moved to vote for the Democrat.

    Still, we should be proud of Mr Horning getting a record vote for a state-wide Libertarian candidate in Indiana.

    In Massachusetts, the Libertarian candidate drew mainly from Democrat voters who did not want to support the Democrat, who had corruption issues. The Republican candidate only did as well as he did because the Democrat had corruption issues – otherwise this would have been a safe district for the Democrat.

    It is likely that in the absense of the Libertarian candidate, Richard Tisei (Rep) would have been elected. Based on his views and his service in the Mass. Senate, Richard Tisei would have been one of the most pro-freedom members of Congress.

    If the Democrats do not come up with a cleaner candidate, there is a good argument for Libertarians backing Richard Tisei for Congress in 2014. And a good argument can be made that the Republicans should do something for Libertarians to show their appreciate.

    Mid-term elections are often an opportunity for candidates who favor less government, because the incumbent President has always used government in some bad ways, and generated a backlash. We need to start planning how to use that backlash to promote pro-freedom candidates regardless of party in 2014.

  20. Ted Brown

    Due to Top Two in California, I had no Libertarians to vote for aside from Gary Johnson/Jim Gray. Obama won 70% in my city (Pasadena), so I know that Republicans have as much chance as Libertarians around here. I held my nose and voted Republican for US Senate, Congress, State Senate, and State Assembly. I have never done that before, but may have to do it again in the future as a protest vote.

    As for the “spoiler” issue, I have said before that there is really nothing to spoil. You can only spoil something that is fresh or clean or wholesome. Libertarians are actually the “de-spoilers.” Or maybe the clean-up crew.

  21. Austin Battenberg

    In my district in California, I voted for Gary Johnson for President, and Republican Tom McClintock for Congress. His record is pretty libertarian.

    I left the bubbles blank for the Senate. I don’t mind voting for a Democrat or Republican if their rhetoric or record somewhat reflects my beliefs, but replacing one statist with another for the senate was not something I was willing to do. And if Republicans don’t field a decent candidate next time, I’ll leave it blank again.

    I seriously hope that we can change top two. It’s horrible.

  22. In Louisiana

    @23 — be aware there is some nonzero chance a poll worker filled in your ballot for you.

    I voted for Wes Benedict and several others on a Johnson/Gray ticket for the electoral college.

    Fortunately, every other race in Louisiana was a “jungle primary ” that guts then power of political parties and serves to make all candidates mire independent.

    I voted for an anti-NWO “Ron Paul Republican” running against an incumbent Rwpublican Congressman and some outsider judge candidates in Drmocrat vs Democrat races.

    No US Senate ballot here thus year.

  23. paulie

    Red can no longer claim to be a true southerner. We only drink Coke.

    I’m a fake southerner. I’ve been known to do some things with coke, but drinking isn’t one of them.

  24. paulie

    Ls headline position is for “less government,” and (unfortunately and falsely) that’s the headline position of the Rs. The Ds are for “more government.”

    That only applies to economic issues for the most part, and a few outliers such as guns. On other issues it is Democrats who claim to be for less government than Republicans.

  25. NewFederalist

    “I’m a fake southerner.”

    Born in Siberia??? I would doubt there is much “southern” about you!

  26. paulie

    As long as LPHQ puts out media releases talking about costing the GOP seats why should anyone be surprised at this kind of story? If the LP spins things to make it appear the party is the Triple A affiliate of the Republicans why should we be shocked that it gets repeated? Perhaps Carla should stop saying things to encourage this sort of thing.

    I’m not a fan of playing up the “spoiler” angle but, to be fair, we got these stories before Carla and we’ll keep getting them if she stops encouraging it.

  27. paulie

    @28

    Live in Alabama since ’91 (although I’ve mostly been on the road since 2000), in Alabama now, I’m the alternate for Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma on the Libertarian National Committee, graduate of the University of Alabama (1994, Geography), etc.

    And it was southern Siberia :-)

  28. Robert Capozzi

    p26: That only applies to economic issues for the most part, and a few outliers such as guns. On other issues it is Democrats who claim to be for less government than Republicans.

    me: Sorry, no, I don’t see it that way as a HEADLINE matter. I don’t see Ds saying they are for, say, “marriage equality” because they are for “less government.” They FRAME it as a matter of “equality,” not an overarching statement about the size of the State.

    This is not to say that the Ds aren’t more in a L direction on some issues, (or more precisely that they are less anti-liberty on some issues). They are, as I see it.

    But this is a GRANULAR issue. Like it or not, accurate or not, the Rs are positioned as the “smaller government” party and the Ds as the “more government” party.

    Think of it this way: if there was a national poll that said, “Which party is for less government, the Rs or the Ds”?

    I would bet BIG money that the poll would result in the Rs being picked by at least 80% of the respondents.

    Do you disagree with that?

  29. paulie

    I see that as a problem, but I also see a solution.

    Roderick Long describes the genesis of both at

    http://mises.org/daily/2099

    Rothbard’s “Left and Right”: Forty Years Later

    A link I’ve been trying to get everyone to read for years.

    In practice, while I think your poll may in fact produce the results you say, in reality – if anything, the Republicans have a record of voting for bigger, more intrusive government overall. See Ivan Eland, Recarving Mount Rushmore, on this point.

  30. Robert Capozzi

    p36, yes, the Rs are probably more hypocritical than the Ds.

    Unfortunately, perception is reality for the perceiver.

    The positioning of L-ism as beyond (or both or GJ’s “the best of”) left and right is probably the best we can do. Rothbard’s quaint notion that L-ism is left isn’t rhetorically serviceable, as I see it.

  31. Robert Capozzi

    Personally, I’m more about the Ebonical approach: I’m gonna do me, y’all do y’all.

    That is, rather than worrying about how relatively dysfunctional the Rs vs. the Ds are, I suggest employing the LMs limited bandwidth by making the case for lessarchism on an across-the-board basis. And I’d be looking for weaknesses in Lord Vader’s defenses…places where we can flow with The Force to reverse The Empire’s grip on my peoples. And it appears to me there are some chinks in their armor, but, time and again, we fall into the trap of extremism in the service of foolish consistency.

  32. paulie

    rather than worrying about how relatively dysfunctional the Rs vs. the Ds are,

    I’m not worried about it. I’m just trying to break the paradigm that we are somehow closer to the Republicans or that they are somehow closer to us.

    Nothing but trouble comes from that faulty understanding of where everyone stands.

  33. Robert Capozzi

    That’s gonna be a VERY DIFFICULT paradigm to break. I can’t imagine voters reading ponderous tracts by Long to see the light.

    If your point is that L themselves should not position Ls are “real conservatives” or “hardcore Rs,” there we CERTAINLY agree.

  34. paulie

    Start by getting to understand that dynamic ourselves. Then work on breaking it.

    Will it be easy? That depends.

    Gary Johnson helped things along by emphasizing peace and civil liberties issues heavily.

    If the Republicans go in a Santorum direction in the future, as they well might, that would help break it.

    Alexander McCobin of Students for Liberty gave a lecture at the national convention saying the new wave of libertarian youth activists is far more in line with the left than past waves.

    So, I actually think it’s not a matter of if but when.

  35. Robert Capozzi

    When a high-profile, headliner L candidate is a person formerly of the left comes along, the paradigm might shift. So far, that’s not happened. So far, we have a hard enough task in distancing ourselves from the haters.

  36. paulie

    Well, Gravel may have been an early indicator, although his conversion was far too last minute and not nearly complete enough and he did not win the nomination.

    I think a lot of it will be driven by factors other than the LP.

  37. Robert Capozzi

    Yes, my hope is the Rs move in a more deranged, Santorum direction, and the Ls become more moderate and centrist, and we take the place of the Rs.

  38. Robert Capozzi

    46 p, sure, for a while, I could imagine a 3 party system, for ex., or even a 4 party setup. Whether that’s sustainable at the national level…dunno. Seems to me that winner-takes-all points to 2 parties for prez, at least, to be competitive.

    The GOP is becoming non-competitive in the northeast and the west coast. And the mountain west GOP seems quite a bit different (more L) than the deep South GOP.

    This is why I’d like to see GJ run for Congress in ’14…as a test of the hypothesis that the current paradigm is functionally broken. Were he to gain a seat in Congress (no easy task, of course), that could be a breakthrough sort of event. Yes, one can be pro markets, pro choice and pro peace, AND actually have a seat at the table.

    The – let’s call them – more theoretically minded Ls can continue to discuss “principle” and “morality,” delving into cutting-edge matters like bestiality and machine-gun-toting in the subways in online chat rooms while we applied lessarchists can figure out a reasonable, positive position on how to unwind the more here-and-now matters in the public square.

  39. Robert Capozzi

    OK, yes, like the UK. But when was the last time the Liberals got the PM?

    I seem to recall that the Liberals in the UK have some say on who gets to be PM, as it’s a parliamentary system. And there may well be 3 party countries where it works, and all 3 trade off who gets to drive…. Could it happen here? There’s no PROHIBITION on it, but my gut and the math tell me things revert to 2 parties in the US, barring a change in the Constitution.

    Say, in 15 years, the LP had 15 MCs from MT, NH, ID, and AK. Say the GOP all but folded in those states. That might be an improvement over the current configuration, but those 4 states would have pretty much no say on who becomes prez (unless they go for a D or possibly a R).

  40. paulie

    If the Libertarians become a major party, we’d have to take a chunk of Democrats too, not just replace the Republicans…otherwise we basically would import the entire issue mix/coalition of Republicans. Supposing the Republicans collapsed or became a minor party, where do you think the Religious Right social conservatives, crony capitalists and neocons would go?

    It is conceivable, but not likely, that they would become Democrats…… and that former Democrats who care more about peace and civil liberties than about big government solutions to economic problems would unite with former Republicans who care more about economic liberty than about enforcing their preferences on social mores through law enforcement or other parts of the world through Team America World Police to constitute a major party…

    But considering that possibility, I see three major parties, roughly corresponding to the three major parties seen in many other countries, as relatively more plausible.

    I don’t think either scenario is likely, however; I see a libertarian path that makes the LP big enough to cause the big two to adopt our major issues, as the Democrats and Republicans did to the Prohibitionists and Socialists a century ago, as more likely.

  41. Robert Capozzi

    Yes, agreed. The LP as a major party would attract members of the Ds, of course. I draw a distinction between the party as an institution and its rank and file.

    I happen to think that the LP as major would draw more from the Rs, though. Where the knuckle-draggers’d go…hard to say.

    Being big enough to be like the Prohibitionists or Socialists might be neat, but that was a time when political spending was MUCH lower than it is now. In some ways, I’d suggest that’s even HARDER than going for major party status.

    Getting to be of any size – either actual political clout or as a kind of ideological threat – will require more work in de-fringifying the LP. We were able to delete the accursed implicit private nukes clause, but vestiges of absolutist extremism remain. Getting elected OR being “influential” requires being plausible, reasonable, and encamped within spitting distance of the mainstream. Otherwise, it’s a charming outpost on the fringes for the duration….

  42. Robert Capozzi

    I’d add that if being “influential” is the goal, the RLC and (if it’s still around) DFC seem like better strategies to me…

  43. paulie

    I happen to think that the LP as major would draw more from the Rs, though.

    I actually think not.

    Where the knuckle-draggers’d go…hard to say.

    Think it out. There are a lot of them, you know.

    I’ll actually help you out.

    In Alabama, many black Democrats, just like many white Republicans, are socially conservative as well as big government oriented on the economic issues. From a Nolan Chart perspective they both lean the opposite of libertarian. They are in different parties though, because of the historical legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. If and when they ever get past that – and only then – it is conceivable that they could coexist in one party.

    Hey, maybe if the LP ascends we can finally unite them…in opposition to us :-)

    Being big enough to be like the Prohibitionists or Socialists might be neat, but that was a time when political spending was MUCH lower than it is now.

    There’s a lot of ways that organization can make up for spending, and would expand spending. No reason why, say, Libertarian campaigns could not become big enough to be as well funded as Ron Paul’s. And, it is possible that we could actually expand spending ahead of other organizational measures – say, with SuperPAC donations.

    In some ways, I’d suggest that’s even HARDER than going for major party status.

    I don’t see that.

    Getting to be of any size – either actual political clout or as a kind of ideological threat – will require more work in de-fringifying the LP.

    Much of the reason people were attracted to Ron Paul had to do with his fringiness. The Gary Johnson campaign was really starting to take off right at the end, when he was at his most fringy. But I’m not necessarily against a “low tax liberal” framing, either.

  44. paulie

    I’d add that if being “influential” is the goal, the RLC and (if it’s still around) DFC seem like better strategies to me…

    I don’t see it that way. They get no voice in the general election when most people are paying attention, and can’t shift electoral outcomes, thus missing the main carrots and sticks that alt parties have. They do however play a role as well.

  45. Robert Capozzi

    I’d say RP as a prez candidate was more edgy than fringy. I agree that he does have his fringy, Alex Jonesesque side, to be sure, but I doubt the average Paulbot was that way.

    Or, you could say that RP ’12 represents the high-water mark for a fringe candidate. There might be, say, 5MM of them, and he gathered 20% or so of them.

    The knuckledraggers might be on the order of say 40MM. These are the people who don’t seem to get that ideas like not carving out rape as a justifiable reason for abortion is about as toxic an idea as there is, even if it’s “consistent” with their philosophy.* I would LOVE to see them go back to the Ds as a kind of karmic justice.
    _____
    * It was topped by one LP candidate this cycle who himself for a bit, then his manager, maintained that bestiality should be legalized. See what I mean about the need to de-fringify?

  46. paulie

    Or, you could say that RP ’12 represents the high-water mark for a fringe candidate.

    I think there are a lot of Ron Paul supporters who have never actually voted for Ron Paul. I’m one, for example (I did vote in 1988, casting my mother’s absentee ballot, but I was a Democrat back then).

    It was topped by one LP candidate this cycle who himself for a bit, then his manager, maintained that bestiality should be legalized. See what I mean about the need to de-fringify?

    When you put it that way, yes.

  47. Robert Capozzi

    P, why do you think GJ was catching fire at the end? Why do you think he got fringier at the end?

    I’m not seeing either.

  48. paulie

    From my experience as part of the campaign and constant observation as a reporter/political junkie. I’ll explain more later, but need to go now.

    Someone else will hopefully fill in the blanks.

  49. just Libertarian

    @51 — If/when the GOP collapses into a minor party, the social-cons will be the ones still controlling it as far as primary voters go. The other two groups you mention — crony capitalists & warmongering neocons are more likely to throw in with the Democrats.

    And you are right, as warmongering becomes more prominent in the D party that will drive some pro-peace Ds to considering the LP.

    LP would/will — if they don’t screw it up — probably pick up a lot of the Western GOP voters if/when that happens.

  50. just Libertarian

    @62 & @63 — Gov. Johnson emphasized pro-peace and anti-FedReserve issues more as the campaign went on. In the dominant discourse paradigm pushed by TV etc,m those are indeed “fringe” issues.

  51. Pingback: Third Party Watch | Conservative Heritage Times

  52. Robert Capozzi

    jl 65, stepping away from the dominant paradigm is not, IMO, to be “fringe.” GJ was generally an “edge” candidate, including on those issues. I personally found his budget positioning to be “fringe,” since I can’t imagine it could possibly pass or even come close to passing. But, even there, GJ was pretty effective as simply advocating a balanced budget, which is a pretty mainstream idea, as I see it.

    In a political campaign – esp a lightly covered, largely unscrutinized – one, there is a bit more leeway. Mostly, though, what distinguishes mainstream, edge, or fringe is HOW it is articulated more than WHAT is articulated.

    For me, GJ was positioned well: Credible, edgy advocate for liberty in all things. We’ll never know, but with more time and money, I suspect he could have done a LOT better in terms of votes and media interest.

  53. Zapper

    I agree with RC that Gary Johnson in 2012 was a credible, edgy candidate and not fringy. Other than the “prebate” he did a great job presenting a transitional libertarian program for a 2013-2017 POTUS term.

    I agree with Paulie that Johnson was catching fire at the end. This from a relatively low LP baseline, but the interest he was starting to generate at Universities and other public appearances was just starting to kick in from the usual almost zero point.

    The overall problem was the usual lack of publicity and lack of advertising.

    The Johnson campaign missed the key early spring opportunity to lay down a targeted advertising campaign and establish an early beachhead of publicity in the spring of 2012.

    If the 2016 LP POTUS campaign wants to be taken seriously at all, they’ve got to be on broadcast major network TV in at least 7 small target states by the end of May 2016, preferably as early as Jan – April 2016, before the nominating convention.

  54. Robert Capozzi

    57 P: They get no voice in the general election when most people are paying attention, and can’t shift electoral outcomes, thus missing the main carrots and sticks that alt parties have.

    me: Are you saying the LP does? If so, I’ll need some evidence.

    Last I checked, the RLC has helped to get people elected, generally right-thinking people, near as I can tell. Perfect, no, but then I don’t know of a “perfect” candidate/pol.

    Of the 2 experiments, so far the RLC seems more consequential than the LP. I’m personally not interested in the RLC, since it’s my take that the knuckledraggers have so poisoned the GOP that it’s – on balance – a force for more dysfunction, not less, and only through its dissolution can liberty ascend. It’s a faux front for liberty, and I happen to believe that only truth sets us free.

    The “southern strategy” of the 70s kinda worked for them, but it became Frankenstein’s monster. Feeding the monster only encourages the monster.

    Despite my calling them “knuckledraggers,” I remember that even they can find redemption. But, a shift in consciousness requires demonstration, and the LP – with its fixation on theory – remains in no position to demonstrate anything. Difficult as it is, it requires the LP come in off the fringes to engage the center in this increasingly “center-libertarian” nation.

    Or it can continue to argue about internal processes and DC property rent v. buy decisions that are clearly and utterly inconsequential in the big picture. IMO.

  55. Robert Capozzi

    Zapper, you now have 3.5 years to do the math. My gut tells me that small MARKETS in deep blue and red states are more likely to elicit large vote totals and better CPM performance.

    As even Knapp sees, people now “get” that prez’s are elected by just a few states. That frees voters in lopsided states to “waste” their votes.

  56. langa

    Red can no longer claim to be a true southerner. We only drink Coke.

    As someone who has lived his entire life in the South, I have known many people who drank RC (and even a few oddballs who preferred Pepsi), but regardless of what brand it was, they still referred to it as “Coke”.

  57. langa

    It was topped by one LP candidate this cycle who himself for a bit, then his manager, maintained that bestiality should be legalized. See what I mean about the need to de-fringify?

    Wow, I think you’ve finally figured it out! There are obviously millions of people out there just itching to vote for the LP, if only we would take a more hardline stance against all those folks who insist on fornicating with their pets! I propose we amend the platform to call for the death penalty for anyone who even goes so far as to allow themselves to be licked by their dog!

  58. Robert Capozzi

    72 L: There are obviously millions of people out there just itching to vote for the LP….

    me: It may be “obvious” to you, but it’s not obvious to me. I happen to believe the truth actually does set you free, at every level, all the time. I happen to believe that freedom in the abstract is something tantamount to our “inheritance,” and that at some level everyone recognizes that truth, too. It’s my observation, however, that not everyone applies that truth in all things at all times, and certainly not in their politics.

    Politics is a game. Games have rules. One of the big rules – one that is certainly not a bright line, however – is to be appropriate. The subject of bestiality is IMHO not appropriate, certainly not in this time and place.

    This last cycle showed that the Rs are losing touch with what is appropriate. Somehow or other, they seem willing to talk in public about taboo subjects like their definition of “forcible rape” in the context of the life/choice issue. In a year when they SHOULD have picked up seats and won the presidency, they lost, rather convincingly.

    This made them look like knuckledraggers, and for the most part, voters don’t want knuckledraggers in positions of power.

    Politics, as opposed to political theory, is about calibration, including of course appropriateness. The moment this is forgotten is the moment the game of politics is lost, in favor of the political theory game.

    This should be non-controversial.

  59. Warren Redlich

    There are plenty of potential LP voters out there. They like the message if it’s kept simple and repeated with frequency. Those two characteristics rarely apply to an LP campaign.

  60. paulie

    P, if yer referring to the drone ad, I didn’t see that as fringy, btw.

    It was one of many things.

    For example, Johnson went from saying Audit the Fed to End the Fed.

    His whole tone became more radical close to the end of the campaign.

    He was clearly saying end the wars, bring the troops home.

    Compared with the tepid language at Our America Initiative, his original Issues page on his website or his early interviews – it was a whole different Gary Johnson.

    He even crowd surfed. Radical, dude!

    As for surging in popularity – you had to have watched the facebook likes, twitter followers, crowds at in person events, growth of other related facebook pages, the activity taking place at state and local levels. It came together VERY late this year. The TV ads were only placed in the last ten days or so. In Alabama, and I suspect many other places, the vast bulk of the campaigning we did was in the last couple of weeks.

    If we had another month to build that momentum all over the country I think we could have doubled Johnson’s vote totals. On the other hand if we had had a month less I think he would have barely beat Bob Barr’s results. The difference was that dynamic last two or three weeks.

  61. paulie

    If/when the GOP collapses into a minor party, the social-cons will be the ones still controlling it as far as primary voters go. The other two groups you mention — crony capitalists & warmongering neocons are more likely to throw in with the Democrats.

    And you are right, as warmongering becomes more prominent in the D party that will drive some pro-peace Ds to considering the LP.

    LP would/will — if they don’t screw it up — probably pick up a lot of the Western GOP voters if/when that happens.

    Yes, I see that as plausible.

    That’s a scenario for three parties, though.

    I think that the Republicans would still be a pretty significant party, especially in the South and parts of the Midwest, under that scenario.

  62. paulie

    with more time and money, I suspect he could have done a LOT better in terms of votes and media interest.

    Agreed. Which is why I hope he will decide to go for it for 2012, and not to wait long before doing so.

  63. paulie

    The overall problem was the usual lack of publicity and lack of advertising.

    The Johnson campaign missed the key early spring opportunity to lay down a targeted advertising campaign and establish an early beachhead of publicity in the spring of 2012.

    Yep.

  64. wredlich

    @rc: wr, yes, like “the rent is too damn high,”

    Jimmy McMillan got a lot more votes in 2010 than the LP candidate did in 2006.

    But I was thinking of something a little more libertarian: “Stop Wasting Money”. That simple message, repeated with moderate frequency, got over 3% of the vote in four counties near Albany.

    Doesn’t have to be my tagline of course. But it has the advantage of being tested.

    Maybe I should trademark it and then lease the rights to the LP. :-)

  65. paulie

    Are you saying the LP does? If so, I’ll need some evidence.

    The evidence is all around you.

    I talked with Rodger Paxton, State Chair of Arkansas a few days ago. He ran for state legislature and did not win. However, his state legislator, who defeated him and won re-election, has asked for his input in crafting legislation. Was she sincere? How much impact will his advice have? That remains to be seen. But, the more we run against them and the better organized we get, the more they will seek our input and the more incentive they will have to take it seriously…even when we lose.

    This is the historical role of alternative parties. It’s how the Socialist and Prohibition parties got their major platform planks passed into law by the two largest parties in the first half of the 20th century.

    Or it can continue to argue about internal processes and DC property rent v. buy decisions that are clearly and utterly inconsequential in the big picture. IMO.

    Internal processes and arguments about them are unavoidable, and continuously blowing a wad of money on jacked up rent is one reason we can’t become more effective at doing other things. These things don’t magically take care of themselves.

  66. paulie

    people now “get” that prez’s are elected by just a few states.

    I think you overestimate how many people get this. Try petitioning some time in a deep blue or deep red state. Or read the geographic analysis which was posted here a few weeks ago.

  67. paulie

    There are plenty of potential LP voters out there. They like the message if it’s kept simple and repeated with frequency. Those two characteristics rarely apply to an LP campaign.

    Agreed.

  68. langa

    The subject of bestiality is IMHO not appropriate, certainly not in this time and place.

    My point exactly. So why do you continue to bring it up?

    You constantly complain that libertarians are obsessed with issues like bestiality, private nukes, etc. Yet you’re virtually the only person (“libertarian” or not) I ever hear talking about these things. Red herring, anyone?

  69. paulie

    Well, if you get too overwhelmed with sensations while getting licked by your dog, you may accidentally launch your private nukes. And that’s why we should all vote for Omni and Robomba :-P

  70. Robert Capozzi

    85 L, I bring up the MOST extreme examples that have been uttered by L candidates to illustrate.

    The continuum might be private nukes/toting machine guns in the subway/handguns anywhere/1A applies to a person’s home but states can regulate what’s carried in private.

    It’s completely inappropriate/far-out fringy to advocate private nukes. Machine guns in the subway is only slightly less crazy-sounding. Handguns anywhere gets us into the edge, just out of the fringe.

    For me, that a seemingly sane candidate for the LP nomination for prez would advocate the right of bestiality could just be an anomaly. Or it could be that the ideology as practiced has some pretty big flaws in it.

    You may think it’s the former. I contend it’s the latter.

  71. Robert Capozzi

    wr, to be clear, I thought your campaign was strong, clearly not in the flippant L category.

    Jimmy, however, was such a hoot. I still burst out laughing whenever I think of that performance.

  72. Robert Capozzi

    82 P, if your Paxton ex. is the best you can do, that speaks volumes to me. A rival saying, Hey, Baby, let’s keep in touch. Really? 40+ years and that’s the best we can do?

  73. paulie

    Actually, no.

    We’ve played a large role in coalitions that have helped stop bond measures, stop local taxes, defeat various regulations, enact partial privatization of various government functions at various levels, pass medicinal and now recreational marijuana initiatives, and so on.

    It’s mostly ripple effects, so it’s hard to prove a direct LP role, but it’s there.

    Keep in mind that many movement organizations are made up or strengthened by people that the LP has brought into the movement, so we play a role there too.

    That even includes the RLC.

    And also keep in mind that I am talking about the role alt parties historically play in politics. The LP has not yet played that role as well as the Socialist and Prohibition parties once did, but we might in the future if we get marginally better organized.

    It doesn’t take rising to the level of becoming a major party or winning major elections on a regular basis.

    Rising to the level of the SPUSA and Prohibitionists of the early 20th century is well within our grasp given the number of existing libertarians, without large scale ideological conversion.

    The ability to swing close elections and challenge otherwise unchallenged incumbents post-primary, when a lot more people are paying attention, is what gives us this unique leverage. Other libertarian organizations, including single issue groups, nonpartisan coalitions and duopoly caucuses, don’t have this leverage – only the LP does.

  74. Robert Capozzi

    90 P: It doesn’t take rising to the level of becoming a major party or winning major elections on a regular basis. Rising to the level of the SPUSA and Prohibitionists of the early 20th century is well within our grasp given the number of existing libertarians, without large scale ideological conversion.

    me: Sure. I would note that the Socialists and the Prohibitionists had underpinning constituencies (unions and the Methodist Church, respectively, IIRC). Ls have no such natural constituency. It’s constituency IMO is diffuse.

    Liberty’s main attraction is that it’s virtuous and it works better than tyranny (for most, except tyrants themselves and heavy net tax consumers). It’s also the way of peace, as I see it.

    So, for me, the Socialist/Prohibition model seems sub-optimal. And to the extent it’s a compelling model, I’d say it could be accomplished through the RLC and DFC in many ways better than the LP. That’s simply my judgment, though not a proveable one.

    For me, the better model is the GOP itself. Building a real, competitive party that ultimately supplants a moribund current one. If what I’m suggesting is unsuccessful in actually supplanting the GOP as a major party, the fallback is that it serves the function of the Socialists and Prohibitionist, i.e., pressuring the majors to adopt pro-liberty positions.

    Aiming “lower” coddles fringy extremism in the LP. It becomes a kind of game in which the few who are in the LP use it as their political Dungeons and Dragons, applying a theoretical construct to a realpolitick world. There’s nothing “wrong” with this approach per se, but it does explain why the LP remains small. Those who wish to advance liberty directly through the political process quickly recognize they in a roomful of “gamers.”

    (I note that the gamer factor is often hidden, i.e., most of the gamers don’t explicitly talk about the more loopy aspects of applied L theory. That’s why I bring that darkness to light as often as I do.)

    That IMO is missing a massive opportunity to bring about more significant change faster.

  75. paulie

    Ls have no such natural constituency.

    Au contraire, we have several:

    Youth
    Immigrants
    Pot Smokers
    Small Business Owners
    LGBT

    …just to name a few

    So, for me, the Socialist/Prohibition model seems sub-optimal. And to the extent it’s a compelling model, I’d say it could be accomplished through the RLC and DFC

    How? What worked for them was swinging close races and challenging otherwise unchallenged incumbents.

    Additionally, to the extent that candidates serve an educational role, that works best in the general election, when more people are paying attention, not in the primary.

  76. paulie

    For me, the better model is the GOP itself. Building a real, competitive party that ultimately supplants a moribund current one.

    The Whigs fell apart and the Republicans basically took over as the Whigs under a new name. How would it benefit liberty if the LP did that to the Republicans?

    Aiming “lower” coddles fringy extremism in the LP.

    Aiming higher ignores the vast majority of historical precedent, and you never explained where you think the elements of the Republican coalition that we don’t want in the LP would go if the Republicans collapsed.

    Also, your model relies on the Republicans falling apart. I don’t know if they will, and it’s not under our control.

  77. Robert Capozzi

    p, my comments of your claim that these constituencies are equal to the Socialist/unions or Prohibition/Methodists. I note the latter is basically a single issue matter, making it QUITE different.

    Youth. > No, I don’t see it. I see NO evidence that the vast majority of youth view an amorphous notion of liberty is any different than any other age bracket.

    Immigrants > No, I see NO evidence that immigrants are screaming for political liberty on an across-the-board basis.

    Pot Smokers > Probably a pretty good constituency, certainly. Whether pot smokers are for liberty across the board, I see no evidence.

    Small Business Owners > Similar to pot smokers.

    LGBT > No, like youth. I’d say this group AS A GROUP is probably more aligned with the Ds. What does the LP offer them as LGBTers that the Ds don’t?

    Note that L-ism is an overarching ideology. Yes, we should appeal to the constituencies you cite, but it’s not nearly a “match” as the Socialists/union built in constituency. Not close, actually.

    p: candidates serve an educational role, that works best in the general election, when more people are paying attention, not in the primary.

    me: Agreed. Where the RLC plays mostly is down-ticket. Those elected are less about big ideas at the prez level and more about working in the trenches.

    For the most part, because the LP has so little credibility (since it elects no one at the federal level), our candidates get very little national face time. This is why I throw out the idea that GJ consider running for Congress.

    P: How would it benefit liberty if the LP did that to the Republicans?

    me: Well, the LP is all about across the board liberty. The GOP isn’t. I’d think that’d be obvious.

    P: …you never explained where you think the elements of the Republican coalition that we don’t want in the LP would go if the Republicans collapsed.

    me: Sorry, I did. I see most of the knuckledraggers returning to the Ds. The white-collars come to the LP. Some Ds come over, too. Where the neocons go, I can’t say, but my sense is their numbers are tiny. I encourage them to emigrate!

  78. paulie

    No, I don’t see it. I see NO evidence that the vast majority of youth view an amorphous notion of liberty is any different than any other age bracket.

    Wait, so your claim is that most unionists were SPUSA or most methodists Prohibition Party? I doubt that.

    There’s a strong correlation of libertarian opinion with the 18-30 demographic. We’ve cited quite a few articles on that on LNC-Discuss (see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LNCDiscussPublic/ archives) in addition to my own research, etc.

    Immigrants > No, I see NO evidence that immigrants are screaming for political liberty on an across-the-board basis.

    Pot Smokers > Probably a pretty good constituency, certainly. Whether pot smokers are for liberty across the board, I see no evidence.

    Small Business Owners > Similar to pot smokers.

    LGBT > No, like youth. I’d say this group AS A GROUP is probably more aligned with the Ds. What does the LP offer them as LGBTers that the Ds don’t?

    These are groups the LP can represent better than Democrats and Republicans can. I never claimed most of any of these groups were libertarian. As for LGBT, many are business owners/professionals, thus may not be Democratic constituencies based on economic issues, but social issues (IE Republican homophobia) trumps economic issues for them; the LP is a natural fit, and better on their key issues than Ds or Rs.

    And note that these are just some of the potential constituencies, not meant to be a comprehensive list.

    Agreed. Where the RLC plays mostly is down-ticket. Those elected are less about big ideas at the prez level and more about working in the trenches.

    My analysis of the historical role of alt parties extends down ticket as well.

    P: How would it benefit liberty if the LP did that to the Republicans?

    me: Well, the LP is all about across the board liberty. The GOP isn’t. I’d think that’d be obvious.

    But we wouldn’t be anymore if the LP replaced the NSGOP by taking in all the Republican groups we don’t want, as the Republicans basically did by replacing the Whigs and essentially becoming the same party under a different name.

    Otherwise, we still have to explain how the LP becomes a major party by taking in only one of several parts of the Republican coalition. Unless you think all those people would go to the Democrats while a large chunk of Democrats go to the LP? That would seem like a lot of assumptions, probably too many.

  79. Robert Capozzi

    96 P: Wait, so your claim is that most unionists were SPUSA or most methodists Prohibition Party? I doubt that.

    me: No, not my claim, but thanks for asking. My claim is that the leadership of the union movement and the Methodist Church spurred on and often led the SP and PP, respectively. The LP has no such analog. We do have some constituencies that are more ripe than others, as you’ve IDed..

    p: But we wouldn’t be anymore if the LP replaced the NSGOP by taking in all the Republican groups we don’t want, as the Republicans basically did by replacing the Whigs and essentially becoming the same party under a different name.

    me: Right, well, it would be different from the Whig/GOP transition in some ways, although IIRC the GOP engaged the anti-slavery movement of the time far more than the Whigs did.

    My view is that everyone is ontologically wired with some form of the Golden Rule in his/her head. To the extent practicable, the GR > political liberty. Sometimes, of course, things get VERY murky when we get into practicalities. You, IIRC, believe liberty means open borders. I don’t. This is just one illustration of how there would continue to be disagreement in the LP as a major party.

    Still, it would require a paradigm shift in mainstream thinking. In my lifetime, we’ve had two fairly major shifts in thinking: late 60s-early 70s, where the counter-culture broke through into the prevailing culture, and the 80s, where the capitalist ethic re-asserted itself.

    For the LP to become a major party, the language of liberty and L thought would need to become comprehensible. The notions that Ls take for granted would need to be understood broadly. Notions like self-ownership and “no free lunch” would need to be “gotten,” accepted, and practiced by a critical mass of people.

    What the path to becoming a major might take I can’t say. It could unfold a lot of different ways. We’ve been dicking around for decades playing in construct-land, so one might assume a few more decades of that. But, now, with the R3volution and now GJ, I could imagine some Ls might decide to get serious and come in off the fringes and make a run for the center.

    This is of course threatening to the cult of the cult of the omnipotent state! ;) Armed with Rothbardian one-liners and non sequitur nostrums, staying in construct-land and keeping their hands clean of realpolitick offers a comfortable tower from which to watch the world go by.

    As a navel gazer myself, there’s certainly nothing wrong with watching the world go by. Different strokes for different folks and all that….

  80. Thomas L. Knapp

    RC@89,

    “A rival saying, Hey, Baby, let’s keep in touch. Really? 40+ years and that’s the best we can do?”

    In terms of seeking elected office within the existing system, yes, probably.

    Systems tend to evolve with their own preservation as a high priority. The existing system had that priority well-codified by the beginning of the 20th century and has only needed to fine-tune a few things like ballot access barriers to keep it codified since.

    There’s no obvious incremental path to major-party status for a new party in that system. Absent a complete collapse of the system, the best the LP can probably hope for on anything like a regular basis is to use a “spoiler” threat to get the existing party’s functionaries to bend a bit to their will.

  81. Robert Capozzi

    Tk 98, since there have been and are independents elected to Congress, I see no reason why L could not

  82. Thomas L. Knapp

    Robert,

    1) Independents getting elected to Congress are a rarity

    2) Most of those who DO get elected are former major party people who still have a recognizable relationship to that party (e.g. Lieberman, Murkowski); and

    3) Affiliation with a non-major political party other than of the “personal vehicle” variety (e.g. “Connecticut for Lieberman”) seems to be mostly contraindicated if one wants to try to get elected outside the major party system.

  83. Robert Capozzi

    100 tk, yep, certainly’d be tough to pull off. I happen to think someone with more savvy than me would look into GJ’s (outside) chances for Congress in his home district. IF he’d be into it, it might be the rare opportunity for the LP to break through. My swag is his chances might be as high as 1:5. National money and some SuperPAC checks, and who knows, maybe better?

  84. Thomas L. Knapp

    RC@101,

    I agree, Johnson might have an outside chance at Congress from New Mexico. But he’d probably have a better chance as an independent than as a Libertarian (or as a candidate of any other third party).

  85. Matt Cholko

    RC: ” Handguns anywhere gets us into the edge, just out of the fringe.”

    ME: I don’t think this is accurate.

    Even here in Democratville, VA hand guns anywhere has been accepted as the norm for as long as I can remember. Movement in the law is several years behind general public opinion on gun rights.

    That doesn’t mean there are no gun-grabbers around, as there are plenty. But, their better days have come and gone.

    I realize that VA is one of the better states as far as gun rights are concerned, but others are close, and many others are moving in the right direction.

    “Machine guns in the subway” may land you in the fringe when presented that way. But, even then, I think 20% of the population would agree with you.

  86. Robert Capozzi

    103 MC, I don’t think we disagree, per se. There certainly are parts of VA where one sees people packing in public. In my years in NoVA, however, the only public packers I ever saw were visitors from downstate.

    Other than cops, I’ve probably only seen people walking around with guns in public maybe 5 times in my life. But it’s entirely possible that my experience is different from most.

    If you are saying that 20% would say that anyone can carry a machine gun in the subway, that may be about right, maybe a smidge high. Of course, I think the number who’d state they believe Elvis is alive might be higher still. And, for a time, the percentage who believe that 9/11 was an inside job was quite a bit higher.

    I don’t know how to put this, but for me these all still feel fringy to me. As, btw, does partial birth abortion advocacy, which might be more popular in the circles I tend to run in.

    Fringiness is difficult to quantify, I guess.

  87. paulie

    What the path to becoming a major might take I can’t say. It could unfold a lot of different ways

    That might be nice, but it would only take getting marginally better organized among existing libertarians to grow to the size – and thus influence – that Socialists and Prohibitionists had a century or so ago. Unlike replacing a major party, this wouldn’t take any major paradigm shift in public thought or a major party collapsing, neither of which we have the direct power to make happen (it’s possible we could cause it somehow indirectly).

  88. paulie

    Absent a complete collapse of the system, the best the LP can probably hope for on anything like a regular basis is to use a “spoiler” threat to get the existing party’s functionaries to bend a bit to their will.

    I tend to agree. We may hope for more, but counting on it as likely is like counting on landing a hail mary shot.

  89. wredlich

    “It’s completely inappropriate/far-out fringy to advocate private nukes. Machine guns in the subway is only slightly less crazy-sounding. Handguns anywhere gets us into the edge, just out of the fringe.”

    It’s easy to stay focused on core issues and avoid the fringe when you’re in control of the message.

    But then you get asked a fringy question by a reporter. I just got a call yesterday asking whether I’d end the school lunch program.

    I said that in a libertarian utopia there would be no government funded school lunches, or for that matter government funded schools, but (and I stressed this point) cutting schools or school lunches is not on the priority list for most libertarians. Our top issues are ending the war on drugs and the wars.

    I did explain that government funded nutrition has led to a massive problem of obesity and diabetes. This was a college student so I also pointed out that her tuition (over $50K) is quadruple what her school cost back in the 80s, so government funding of education …

    But the key point in that fringey world is to be as clear as possible – that’s not our key issue. We’re not focused on that.

  90. paulie

    It’s easy to stay focused on core issues and avoid the fringe when you’re in control of the message.

    But then you get asked a fringy question by a reporter. I just got a call yesterday asking whether I’d end the school lunch program.

    At that point it’s a matter of whether they are going for the gotcha soundbite regardless of whatever else you say.

    I said that in a libertarian utopia there would be no government funded school lunches

    If it’s a hostile reporter – that’s all they would play regardless of whatever else you say.

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