Libertarian Gave Senate to Democrats?

David Boaz had an article on Monday on the Fox News website suggesting that libertarians could be a key voting block in deciding the outcome of the election. Turns out he was right. He wrote:

Libertarians -- people who cringe at intrusive government, high taxes, nation-building and politicians telling them how to behave -- could turn out to be the key swing voters in Tuesday's contentious midterm election.

And, in an unusual development, that might not bode well for Republicans this time around.

A number of political scientists and libertarian pundits say that libertarian voters who sided with the Republicans in the past have become disgusted with bloated federal spending, the war in Iraq and prevailing social conservatism in the GOP-dominated White House and Congress. Many feel libertarian voters will either vote for Democrats on Tuesday or just stay home, and that could play a role in deciding key battleground races.

To see just how much of an impact this may have had, look at the Senate race in Montana. Jon Tester beat Conrad Burns by around 3000 votes total, but libertarian candidate Stan Jones received a full 3% of the vote, far more than enough to swing that election. That one candidate may have swung the Senate from the Republicans to the Democrats simply by being there.

Much has been said about the division between social or religious conservatives and more libertarian-minded conservatives (as opposed to folks like me who might be called libertarian-minded liberals), and I think the last 6 years has really strengthened that division among conservatives. If you're a libertarian-minded conservative, the last 6 years have been a nightmare as the Republicans have combined big government liberalism with the moral authoritarianism of social conservatism.

And it's reached the point where a lot of those folks have abandoned the Republican party. And as long as the Republican party chooses to let the religious right influence a large portion of their agenda, and pay nothing but lip service to smaller government and fiscal responsibility, there's absolutely no reason for them to go back.

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How much of the vote did the Libertarian candidate get last time around?

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 09 Nov 2006 #permalink

If you're a libertarian-minded conservative, the last 6 years have been a nightmare as the Republicans have combined big government liberalism with the moral authoritarianism of social conservatism.

My only heartfelt objection to your statement is that it's been far longer than six years since the Republican party abandoned it's values to start tangoing with the Radical Wrong. Otherwise, AMEN BROTHER.

Speaking as a Republican (In Name Only, I'm assured, since they must have labels to villify anyone who has the temerity to disagree with the Wrong), I'm extremely glad the Republicans lost this election. It's my fervent hope that we lose the next election as well since I entirely disbelieve that losing one will teach them the lesson they need to learn.

And it's reached the point where a lot of those folks have abandoned the Republican party. And as long as the Republican party chooses to let the religious right influence a large portion of their agenda, and pay nothing but lip service to smaller government and fiscal responsibility, there's absolutely no reason for them to go back.

I was very close to going Libertarian for a while during the election cycle, but I'd rather stay in and reform the Republican party if I can (Florida has a closed primary election).

By Michael Suttkus, II (not verified) on 09 Nov 2006 #permalink

For 46 years, until 2004, I was a Republican with a stong libertarian bent (libertarian liberal if one must know). But Bush and the Congress of the last six years totally turned me off. So in November of 2004 I switched my registration to Democrat and last Tuesday voted a straight Democratic ticket for the first time in my life (I'd register as an independent but I want a voice in at least one party's primaries). Unless the Republicans undertake a total makeover and serious political penance--for which I'm not holding my breath--I don't expect to vote Republican again in my lifetime, even if I live to 100!

"If you're a libertarian-minded conservative, the last 6 years have been a nightmare as the Republicans have combined big government liberalism with the moral authoritarianism of social conservatism."

That's exactly how I feel, and why within the last couple of years I've definitively switched to "libertarian-minded liberal".

It's just too bad the libertarians don't have enough numbers to be truly powerful, they're the only ones with any decent ideas.

"It's just too bad the libertarians don't have enough numbers to be truly powerful, they're the only ones with any decent ideas."

No, they just happen to be the ones whose ideas you agree with.

I'm a libertarian with republican leanings (homeschooling, gun-owning and such) but this time around I had no temptation to vote republican.
I voted (Montana) for the blueman (Stan Jones) and hoped it would help put Tester in. (Stan Jones received 10,000 votes and only 2,000 votes separated Burns and Tester) I could not stomach voting democrat as I have never done so but knowing what the currant crew has done, I really wanted to see them thrown out. In the past when a libertarian candidate was not available I would vote republican but this time I just left it blank in disgust. I know of many other republicans who voted libertarian because of Burns' vehement support of the Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act-they just felt abandoned by their party. I think they know this will be turned internal when a dem is president and they (as homeschoolers, gun-owners) will be the new enemy combatants)

"Libertarian" as a political modifier seems to be all the rage...first Kos, now Ed and a few others. True libertarianism is pretty harsh and unpalatable except for the hardcore and anarchists, and it's no surprise few people will claim to be adherents once they hear the whole party line. I always wonder if those who want to use it as an adjective -- especially for modern liberalism -- understand what it truly means. I mean, libertarians approve of sweatshops, title pawns, welfare elimination, public school elimination, public ROAD elimination, natural elites, no minimum wage, no worker protections.... Whatever your views are on those subjects, they certainly aren't liberal viewpoints.

No, Ed is right. Unless you want tyranny, either the republican kind (the kind that pulls christina morality over your head and regulates what you can do in your own bedroom) or the democrat kind (the kind that denies you the right to self-defense and the right to keep your own paycheque), you will agree that the libertarians are the only sane people in the US political sphere.

"I mean, libertarians approve of sweatshops, title pawns, welfare elimination, public school elimination, public ROAD elimination, natural elites, no minimum wage, no worker protections.... Whatever your views are on those subjects, they certainly aren't liberal viewpoints."

No, because the meaning of the word "liberal" has changed drastically in the USA over the last century. It used to mean support of laissez-faire politics.

As far as I can tell, except for toying with the Goldwater candidacy in 1964, the Republican party has never had libertarian leanings. Republicans might have talked a pretty line during the Reagan/Bush I years, but they weren't libertarian even then.

Regarding

To see just how much of an impact this may have had, look at the Senate race in Montana. Jon Tester beat Conrad Burns by around 3000 votes total, but libertarian candidate Stan Jones received a full 3% of the vote, far more than enough to swing that election.

the presumption that Libertarian voters swung the election to the Democrats because the LP candidate this time got 3% of the vote does not follow unless one sees what % the LP candidates got in previous elections.

"No, because the meaning of the word "liberal" has changed drastically in the USA over the last century. It used to mean support of laissez-faire politics."

I'm aware of the difference between classical liberalism and modern liberalism. I'm referring to today's alive and kicking liberals, of course.

No, Ed is right. Unless you want tyranny, either the republican kind (the kind that pulls christina morality over your head and regulates what you can do in your own bedroom) or the democrat kind (the kind that denies you the right to self-defense and the right to keep your own paycheque), you will agree that the libertarians are the only sane people in the US political sphere.

Who says the people in charge of any party have to be sane?

How much of the vote did the Libertarian candidate get last time around?

About 10,000 votes the last time Stan Jones ran. Of course, then it was against a Democrat incumbent Max Baucus, and the last time Burns ran a Libertarian candidate for Senate did not run. So, it is hard to say just based on this, IMO, as the comparisons are not apples-to-apples.

Regarding sweatshops and libertarians:

Sorry to burst your bubble, but even Paul Krugman, one of the most shrill liberal commentators, wrote in defense of third world working conditions.

Regarding welfare elimination:

Yes, you got the libertarians there. They do tend to hold to the belief that if you earn something it is yours. Frankly, I'm looking forward to welfare programs for Olympic athletes where each Athlete gets a share of the gold medal winner's medal.

Regarding public schools:

Well, I think a libertarian minded person, not a strict doctrinaire libertarian, would accept some form of public spending for education. Based on the ground of positive externalities.

Public roads:

I think a libertarian can make an argument for public roads based on the theory of public goods (from economics, not the dippy liberal version which includes just about everything).

Natural elites:

Well, some people are better than others. Michael Phelps is one of the best at the 200 and 400 meter individual medley. Should we pull a Harrison Bergeron on him and put weights on him?

Minimum wage:

Yes, it is very important to make sure that today's 16 year olds have enough gas, food, and movie money while living at home with Mom and Dad. And forget that the EITC works better and promotes working over pure welfare.

No worker protections:

I think with todays legal system there is probably alot of redundant and counter productive regulations out there. Of course, I could be wrong and repealing these things could lead to wholesale slaughter of workers by employers.

I'm not saying that the points I brought up are my personal opinion (and I understand the arguments). I'm talking about a modern liberal -- or a modern conservative -- using libertarianism as an additional descriptor of their political position. I don't see how someone can claim to be pro-welfare and anti-welfare at the same time. Or pro-Iraq and anti-war. Or protest tax cuts while wanting a smaller government. Or demand laws forbidding same-sex marriage while demanding freedom for individuals. Steve, could you see yourself claiming to be a modern liberal while still holding the views you outlined? That's what I'm commenting on: Ed's claim that he is a libertarian (minded) Republican, or Kos's claim to be a Libertarian Democrat. Using "libertarian" as a modifier. Some position or the other is being watered down or denied.

SL, why should we strive for ideological purity?

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 09 Nov 2006 #permalink

I see the libertarian label (and the big 'L' Libertarian one) being used to completely duck any real involvement in politics. As a teenager in the 1970's I went through the Ayn Rand Objectivist phase, then the libertarian phase, then I grew up and became a adult. Yes, I know how snarky that sounds, but here's my rationale:

Libertarians address real world problems by appeal to the most abstract set of principles and utopian thinking without any concrete instance of those principles in action. The whole philosophy is a series of "if only" statements completely devoid of supporting evidence. The best they can do is a series of thought experiments. Sorry, that's intellectually childish considering the serious of the issues. It's pure ideology with no pragmatic component. It allows you to stand on the sidelines and criticize both major parties with no skin in the game.

No libertarian ever attempts to explain how a modern society of 300 million people might transition to a libertarian system. They just pound on the table muttering talking points and jargon like "taxes are theft," "statism," "collectivism," "coercion," as if these are somehow compelling arguments.

See http://sethf.com/essays/major/libstupid.php and http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/libertarian.html

In sum, arguments for libertarianism have the same form as those for evangelical Christianity.

I'm with Roman, why the desire for ideological purity? I have a huge libertarian bent, when it comes to personal freedom and social contract. Yet I am also about as socialist and still believe in somewhat free markets. I am entirely unwilling to give up my guns, yet believe they should be controlled. I often identify as a liberal, not a classic liberal, but a modern type, yet I am not really. Culture and politics are way to complicated to pin under any one ideology.

Ideology in general, way to often, is an expiriment - we have to "try" this or that collective of ideals. We have to rip things apart and re-create it all. I am tired of living in such a labratory. I am much more interested in working with what we have and fine tuning, making it better. Where ideas have completly failed, find new ones - but don't rip apart the whole house, just to fix a small hole in the wall.

I have liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, even fascist leanings - depending on the issue. Sometimes several on the same issue. I couldn't stand living in a society that actually, strictly functioned with only one of those labels. Hell, I wouldn't want to live in a pure democracy - that is truly a frightening notion. Society will not and likely could not function with one strict ideology. Society functions by trying a lot of different ideas, as ideas fail or become irrelevant/redundant, they are abandonded or replaced.

Sorry, but any kind of real drive for ideological purity just seems remarkably naive to me. It also strikes me as rather lazy. On any issue that actually matters to a person, they should have their own, personal reasons for feeling the way they do about it - it should certainly not be dictated by any one ideology.

Libertarians address real world problems by appeal to the most abstract set of principles and utopian thinking without any concrete instance of those principles in action.

Interesting that you should say that. It has actually been my impression that libertarianism, regardles of whatever else you may think of it, is decidedely not utopian because it doesn't support mandating the government to improve our existence. Rather, it supports handing as much freedom as possible back to the people to pursue their own interests as they see fit, which are obviously going to be unique based on what they want in life. The predominate thinking among authoritarian types is that if you want something done, you support authorizing the government to do it (using our money, of course, whether we like it or not). Libertarianism is almost exactly the opposite of this.

Am I a die-hard libertarian? No, not really...however I find the concept of more freedom and disapproval of government force to provide "services" (not to mention wars) we may or may not want to be incredibly hard to argue against on a moral level. Whoever is working to cut back the government, I'll support, because it's going to take a long, long time (or a revolution) to chip it away. All the Repubs and Dems seem to want to do is increase it more and more in favor of their particular interests.

Oops, I meant "predominant." How embarrassing.

AndyS,

Thanks for the Paul Treanor links. Those essays are a welcome blast from the past.

Gretchen, pointless comment:
"Predominate" is okay, even though most people think it sounds somewhat illiterate. It's actually the earlier form, and now "predominant" is somewhat...dominant...I just had to add that because I'm a copy editor and found that out only earlier this week.

Ed's claim that he is a libertarian (minded) Republican

When did Ed claim allegiance to any particular party, with or without a modifier? I missed that. Do you have a link to a quote?

My apologies. He's a "libertarian-minded liberal," this post. I skimmed too fast re-reading the post.

I mean, libertarians approve of sweatshops, title pawns, welfare elimination, public school elimination, public ROAD elimination, natural elites, no minimum wage, no worker protections.... Whatever your views are on those subjects, they certainly aren't liberal viewpoints.

Uh, not really on some of those. It's more nuanced and realistic than that.

They believe that the private sector can do better when it comes to schools and there should be less public schools and more private schools. If the private schools outshine the public ones then why not eliminate the public ones? If a kid can't afford school, then there would be private mechanisms to get him in there. I don't think most libertarians would agree with the existence of sweatshops since that infringes on the rights of the exploited worker. But, they wouldn't want to publicly fund a govt agency in order to protect the workers rights, which is dumb, since that's govt's sole job, according to libertarians (protecting your rights). I've heard many a libertarian railing against toll toads and how they are taking over in certain places. Most libertarians aren't as extreme as you have painted them.

They believe that the private sector can do better when it comes to schools and there should be less public schools and more private schools. If the private schools outshine the public ones then why not eliminate the public ones? If a kid can't afford school, then there would be private mechanisms to get him in there.

How would blighted, inner city neighborhoods populated by the working poor, the lower middle class and recent immigrants attract private education? The market would bring private schools there because...? Likewise for low density areas.

It would be an amusing experiment to try the "no public education" experiment if the consequences weren't so tragic.

Jake said -
If a kid can't afford school, then there would be private mechanisms to get him in there.

You mean like church schools that were all the rage before public education? That seems like a bloody brilliant idea. Of course that wouldn't get all kids into school - I am curious as to what sort of private entities would fund education for everyone who can't afford it and either can't get into or object to religious schools.

I don't think most libertarians would agree with the existence of sweatshops since that infringes on the rights of the exploited worker.

But, but, if they don't want to work under those conditions, they can get a job elswhere. Or at least that is what I hear from most libertarians I know. They absolutely believe that the majick of the markets will take care of that sort of thing. And they don't think that the government should protect your rights, in the sense that you are talking about.

The only times I have seen libertarians write in favor of sweatshops is when the families involved have a choice between having their children work and eat or not work and starve. That is the choice people have to make in some third world countries. Thankfully, most of us will never know what that is like.

The private education market served America very well before public schools came into being. Literacy levels were about as high as they are today. There were no fights about prayer in the schools. I'm betting that before public schools, people appreciated and valued the education they got much more than people do today, where most take it all for granted and many waste the opportunity they are given. Now, education is just another thing that society "owes" each of us. I say bullshit to that.