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The Libertarian Effect

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  • Jan
    Below is a repost from the RealClearPolitics Blog. I ve been reading a lot about the Libertarian swing vote lately and thought this article offered some
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2007
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      Below is a repost from the RealClearPolitics Blog. I've been reading
      a lot about the Libertarian "swing vote" lately and thought this
      article offered some interesting comment.

      Jan
      -----------

      The Libertarian Effect
      by ROSS KAMINSKY
      November 13, 2006

      In one closely watched Congressional race (Sodrel v Hill, IN-9) and
      two critical Senate races (Missouri and Montana), the Republican
      candidate was defeated by fewer votes than the Libertarian candidate
      received.

      [Note: the last data I could find on the Missouri race still had two
      of the 3746 precincts to report, so it is possible that statement
      isn't true for Missouri, but if it is not true it is still very close
      and does not diminish my point.]

      In other words, in these two critical Senate races and if the
      Republican had gotten the Libertarian's votes, the Republican would
      have won.

      For the rest of this article, please recognize that I am speaking of
      the small-"l" libertarian, and not the Libertarian Party of the
      candidates mentioned above. A "libertarian", in the shortest
      definition I can muster, is someone who is fiscally conservative and
      socially liberal. In other words, it is someone who wants the
      government to perform a very small set of legitimate functions and
      otherwise leave us alone.

      I can hardly contain my glee at seeing this happen after years of
      hoping it would. And in such dramatic fashion, with such important
      results. I did not hope it would because I wanted Republicans to
      lose, but because the Republicans had become corrupted (by which I do
      not mean corrupt in the typical sense.) They became enamored of
      power, and believed that they could get away with expanding the size,
      intrusiveness, and cost of government as long as they had government
      aim for "conservative" goals rather than liberal ones. This loss, and
      the way it happened, was the best thing that could have happened for
      Americans who care about a government focused on limited government
      and liberty.

      No, the Democrats are not that government. They believe in anything
      but limited government, and they only believe in liberty in one's
      personal life, but not in one's economic life. In a sense, Democrats
      believe that the citizens work for the government.

      Republicans on the other hand have acted in just the opposite way:
      they believe in economic liberty and they know we do not work for
      government. But they do not believe in personal liberty. The failure
      of the strategery of the Republicans, to focus on "the base" by
      trotting out social issues such as the South Dakota no-exception
      abortion ban (which lost, I'm pleased to say) demonstrated two
      things: First, social issues do not have long coat-tails. Second, the
      GOP base is fiscal conservatives more than it is social conservatives.

      Fiscal conservatives, even more than social conservatives, were the
      demotivated voting block. Fiscal conservatives who are not socially
      conservative, i.e. voters who are libertarian even if they don't know
      it or wouldn't identify themselves that way, were the key swing vote
      in this election and were the reason that the GOP lost Congress...the
      Senate in particular.

      In a recent study called "The Libertarian Vote", David Boaz (Cato
      Institute) and David Kirby (America's Future Foundation) discuss the
      growing number of American libertarians, the growing dissatisfaction
      among them (including me) with the GOP, and the continuing shift in
      voting patterns caused by that dissatisfaction. Tuesday held the
      obvious conclusion of this shift.

      The party which went from reforming welfare to banning internet
      gambling by sticking the ban inside a port security bill, the party
      which went from Social Security reform to trying to amend the Federal
      Constitution to prevent gay marriage, the party which went from
      controlling the size and scope of government to banning horse meat
      became a party which libertarians and Republicans alike could not
      stomach.

      The Democrats are a disaster, though they probably realize they need
      to move to the center. The Republicans have just been taught a brutal
      lesson that they also need to move to the center (on social issues)
      and back to fundamental principles of our Founders on issues of
      economics and basic liberties. No party can rely on the unappealing
      nature of their opponent to be a strong enough motivation to win
      elections, nor should we let them win if being just a bit better than
      the other guys is all they aspire to.

      What I love about libertarian voters is that they vote on principle,
      not on party. The GOP might not like it, but politics should not be
      about blind loyalty if your party has lost its way. So, I disagree
      with suggestions that libertarians are fickle and unreliable voters.
      Instead the Republicans became an unreliable party. The Democrats on
      the other hand are extremely reliable -- they will always raise
      spending and taxes, get government involved where it doesn't belong.
      But other than the tax cuts of several years ago, the Republicans
      have been no different other than choosing different areas of our
      lives to intrude upon.

      I hope that the result of the Libertarian Effect, particularly on the
      GOP, will be that the next election may provide us an opportunity to
      replace this batch of Democrat placeholders with Congressmen who not
      only have read the Constitution, but respect it. Congressmen who
      understand that Republican voters do not elect politicians to have
      them impose their (or our) morality on the people, but rather to keep
      government from interfering in our lives and leaving us, in the
      immortal words of Milton Friedman, "Free to Choose".
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