A New Lesser Evil? Libertarian-Minded Guys Deciding Elections? WTF?

Ryan Sager wrote an excellent article about the impact of the libertarian movement in the West.

In fact, it’s looking more and more likely that the eight states of the Southwest and the broader interior West — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — are on their way to becoming the next great swing region in American politics. As the Republican Party tilts on its South-West axis, increasingly favoring southern values (religion, morality, tradition) over western ones (freedom, independence, privacy), the Democrats have been presented with a tremendous opportunity. If the Republican Party doesn’t want to lose its hold over all of the West, as it lost hold of once-reliable California more than a decade ago, its leaders are going to have to rethink their embrace of big-government, big-religion conservatism.

We’re seeing some cursory outreach to libertarians through some major Democratic outlets, chiefly through Daily Kos’ advocacy of “libertarian Democrat” ideology. Yes, it’s largely going to end up being bullshit in the long run and we’ll just be the battered wife of the left instead.

However, there’s some reason for hope. The sorts of people the Democrats will be needing to court will be the sorts of people we Libertarians need to court: moderate libertarians. To gain control of the West and therefore to gain control of the country, the Democrats will need to appease our moderates. This is the group of people that we will have the absolute best chance of winning over, the sort that the Democrats have had a long long history of pissing off.

The Republicans don’t look to be seriously trying to court their votes, leaving them as a fading power among these people. It’s just us and the Democrats-meaning that the Democrats will have to co-opt many of our positions, at least in the short term, in order to get their votes.

We can become an even bigger power out West… we can be the winner in a few races, the spoiler in many more. We’ll be “in play” and a hot commodity. The Libertarian Party needs to be in position to capitalize on this rare political condition. We’ve already done some housecleaning to welcome moderates, we just need to go the rest of the way. More than anything, I’d say we need a Political Director able to capitalize on this situation.

posted by Stuart Richards
  • Stephen VanDyke

    I dunno, we’re entering an era where the Internet puts us all on equal footing in spreading the word. The netroots Democrat strategy of this decade has replaced the television and radio strategy of the 1990s.

    We’re actually having a considerable impact here in Ohio just because we’ve completely said fuck it to traditional media and taking our message straight to the voters where they are online (MySpace) and offline (bars, clubs, concerts). As a reporter told me the other day, Libertarian candidates need to get out of their comfort zones and go out and engage the voters where they are, not wait for them to come to us.

    As I like to say: Libertarians, the after-party you’ve been looking for.

  • http://www.pnar.org Tom Blanton

    I’m not so sure that libertarians will be such a hot commodity in the west and I am even less sure that the LP needs a political director. The LP would do better by having several regional political directors. If the lack of political savvy displayed by the pragmatists that have been in charge of LPHQ for the last few years is any example, having a director working out of LPHQ Central could be a disaster.

    I would bet that most of the so-called moderate libertarians do not identify themselves as such and they most likely vote GOP. Most of these people would probably describe themselves as conservatives. My guess is that the GOP may court these people the same way they have courted conservatives for the past 20 years – by dangling a few carrots that quickly disappear after the elections.

    My guess is that few of these conservatives will vote for Democrats or Libertarians. Most will continue to vote GOP and a few will stay home on election day.

  • IanC

    Stuart, Stephen — I wholeheartedly agree with both of you in this posting.

    As an Arizonan, and a resident of Phoenix, I can decidedly say that the Arizona and Maricopa LP’s are *NOT* welcoming to moderates.

    I *AM* a moderate… and please keep that bias in mind as I say this: The WLA will not let moderate libertarianism take sway in the West, if it can do anything about it.

    It is precisely the sentiments of such individuals as Barry Hess (AZ candidate, Governor) & Ernest Hancock (AZ Candidate, Secretary of State) preclude the possibility of this at the moment; they are the ‘leadership’ as it were, and they are explicitly of the “Bully-pulpit” “Hardcore purist” model.

    I respect both men, and intend to vote for both of them this November — even though Ernest’s gone on the record as explicitly recommending against it. (www.freedomsphoenix.com)

    There’s hope for a sidereal movement, though. Not all men I agree with, but men who don’t call me unlibertarian for not agreeing.

  • IanC

    Corrolary (Didn’t see Tom’s comment before):

    I find it nigh-unto endlessly fascinating that both sides of the ‘purist’ v ‘pragmatist’ spectrum accuse the LP leadership of being oppositional ideologues. Not *surprising*.. more disappointing really, but still; fascinating.

  • Stuart Richards

    This wasn’t really even about the purity/pragmatism dead horse. A political director is just an intelligent move, period.

  • IanC

    Stuart — who brought up the Pu vs Pr angle?

  • http://www.pnar.org Tom Blanton

    Stuart, I would suggest that it would be much better for the LP to have several political directors for different regions of the country. It would be even better to have 50 – one for each state.

    I suppose an explanation is due. One person in one centralized location can probably not understand the political dynamics of each region or state. A decentralized approach would most likely lead to better results, and isn’t results what the LP wants?

    Having one political director who doesn’t understand the voters 3,000 miles away may not be able to produce results. While some ideologues (the moderates) applaud the actions of LPHQ over the past 2 years, the fact is that the number of contributing members is down and I can’t think of any successful endeavors that have produced results.

    If you are seeking to control the message and assure uniformity, then a top down political director czar at LPHQ may be just the ticket. I say leave it up to the state parties.

  • http://www.ballot-access.org Richard Winger

    Throughout its history, the Libertarian Party has always received a higher percentage of the vote for president in the west, than in any other region. Also the Libertarian Party is a qualified party in all 13 states of the west, except one (Washington).

  • http://www.freedomdemocrats.org/ LoganFerree

    I’m just going to throw out an idea that I developed when I found out that the Democratic Party is going to have a caucus in Nevada in between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary.

    Aaron Russo should run in the 2008 Democratic Primary for President.

    No, seriously.

    If he can present himself as a legitimate candidate (and I don’t see why not) he gets to be up on the debate stage with all of the other candidate. A great way to raise awareness about libertarianism.

    And between the early Nevada caucus and a New Hampshire primary, maybe he can make a showing that will get people talking about libertarianism.

    Just my two cents.

  • http://www.rlc.org Bill Westmiller

    Richard is correct.
    In fact, in the 1998 California primary, 2/3 of the votes for the LP Presidential candidate came from registered Republicans … and 2/3 of registered LP voters cast their ballots for the Republican.
    Gave me a clue that the RLC might be the way to go.

  • http://www.pnar.org Tom Blanton

    I’ll never understand the endless fascination that Republicans have with libertarians. Even more bizarre is the recent phenomenon of LP libertarians who accept Republicans as kindred spirits.

    Republicans are no more against big intrusive government than Democrats are against war. Sure, before elections they all talk the talk, but after election day they don’t walk the walk.

    Mr. Westmiller’s anecdotal example above really doesn’t indicate much of anything. Primaries have extrememly low voter turnout and cross-party voting in primaries can be attributed to many things, including voting for the worst candidate the opposition has to offer.

    It is a good thing that there is a libertarian faction within the GOP, but I honestly don’t see much in the way of legislation coming from them, outside of Ron Paul. In fact, none of them really seem to be on the same page within the RLC.

  • http://www.mainstreamlibertarian.com Eric Dondero

    “Outside of Ron Paul”. Why do you view Ron Paul as the only libertarian in Congress. Are you not familiar with Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona, fmr. President of the Goldwater Institute? Flake has score “more libertarian” for his voting record than RP for the last 3 years. Then there’s the Founder of the Libertarian Movement, Dana Rohrabacher, Congressman from California.

    Add to that the 20 to 30 libertarian state legislators serving as Republicans, many of them former LPers.

    There are virtually no elected libertarian Democrats in the nation, certainly not any ex-LPers.

    For a list of Elected libertarians: http://www.mainstreamlibertarian.com

  • http://www.mainstreamlibertarian.com Eric Dondero

    Perhaps some here have forgotten our libertarian history. Tom Blanton asserts that he’s never understood the libertarian fascination with the Republican Party. Well Tom, the libertarian movement was born out of the GOP. The first Modern libertarians were with the Goldwater Campaign in 1964. Than there was Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman of the Libertarian Caucus in YAF.

    All Libertarian Presidential candidates come from the Republican Party, with the sole exception of Harry Browne. That’s right, John Hospers, Roger MacBride, Ed Clark, Dave Bergland, Andre Marrou, Michael Badnarik, all former Republicans.

    And all elected Libertarians to State Legislators have been Republican Caucus members; Fanning, Randolph, Marrou, Gorman, et.al.

    You might say the Libertarian Party is merely an offshoot of the GOP.