3 Ways Obama and the Democrats Can Win Libertarian Votes

Get transparent, legalize reality, and earn your Peace Prize already, Mr. President.

The 2012 presidential race is likely to be a real squeaker. According to most polls, it's in a tie situation and there's little reason to believe anything is going to change drastically between now and November.

If Barack Obama and the Democrats are going to win, they will need every vote they can muster. So maybe the party of stimulus spending, Dodd-Frank, and the broccoli mandate is willing to turn libertarian this time around.

To be sure, Obama’s economic and regulatory policies have rightly irradiated him with most libertarians, but there’s still little love lost among libertarians for the GOP. When they last controlled the White House and Congress, Republicans spent wildly, expanded government at every level, meddled in people's personal choices, and charted a disastrous foreign policy. If the GOP faithful is lukewarm about Mitt Romney, voters who favor less government spending and more social tolerance are even less enthusiastic. 

So if Obama and the Democrats explicitly move libertarian on some issues, anything could happen. (Related: "3 Ways Romney, Ryan, and Republicans Can Woo Libertarian Voters.")

Here are three ways that Obama might win at least some of the 10 percent to 15 percent of libertarian-minded voters who believe in shrinking the size and scope of the federal government.

1. Get Transparent, Right Now!

Candidate Obama promised the most transparent administration in history but he’s delivered the exact opposite. One example: Between 2008 and 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration has more than doubled the number of exemptions it has claimed from Freedom of Information Act requests.

He also promised to rein in abuses of executive power but he’s even got a top-secret kill list that apparently includes U.S. citizens on it and is free of any sort of judicial review or restraint.

Come clean, Obama, starting right now. Acknowledge the cavalier attitude you've taken both to the Constitution and your own promises and explain how you will change paths in a second term.

Libertarians take institutional checks on the restraint of power very seriously and nobody was expecting anyone to match George W. Bush's record on that score.

But Obama raised the bar for himself—and then just walked right under it.

2. Drug War Is Over, If You Want it

Back when he was a state senator, Obama used to say the war on drugs was a failed policy. When he was running for president, he joked about inhaling deeply while smoking dope ("that was the whole point") and since taking office, he continues to crack wise about marijuana policy even as hundreds of thousands of Americans are arrested each year for possession. That's not funny. It's sick.

Since becoming president, Obama has raided a record number of medical marijuana dispensaries that are legal under California law and he’s given no indications that he’ll change his policy in a second term. His own attorney general, Eric Holder, continues to either dissemble before Congress on the matter or evince incompetence in running his department.

The federal "asset forfeiture fund" (AFF) has been swollen with money and goods taken from dispensaries and other drug-related raids; seized property is being kicked back to the law enforcement agencies who do the seizing in record amounts.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • John||

    So after four years of doing the exact opposite, all Obama has to do is make three promises and he will get Nick's vote? Cheap date.

  • WTF||

    But this time he really means it. Really.

  • wareagle||

    give me a major fucking break. That Nick even writes bullshit like this renders him incredible. Obama is who he is; he's not changing, unless it is to become even more authoritarian. Nothing in his background suggests otherwise.

    Libertarians who vote FOR Obama deserve all the mocking and ridicule that can be mustered.

  • RBS||

    Seriously, at least the rest of the reason staff continues calling Democrats and Republicans on their bullshit.

  • Loki||

    But he promised to quit drinking and to get some help for his anger issues.

    "Hit me again O, and this time put some stank on it!"

  • ||

    AND, libertarians who votED for Obama deserve all the mocking and ridicule that can be mustered. Didn't a handful of the Reason staff vote for this imbecile?

    It wasn't exactly a big surprise that Mr "spread the wealth" turned out to be a socialist.

  • John||

    But I always wanted to vote for a black man for President.

  • ||

    That's what it boils down to, doesn't it. This man is in office because a lot of whites wanted to prove they weren't racist. No one with a fiscal conservative bone in their body could rationally justify voting for the man. And it wasn't as if it was a big secret prior to the 08 election.

    Libertarians voting for Obama was nothing more than a bunch of feel good about not being a racist bullshit.

  • johnl||

    It's OK to mock in fun but why be angry about it? It's not like retired LA lifeguards are the key constituency that swung 2008 to BHO.

  • RoninX||

    Likewise, those who vote for Romney.

    I'm voting for Johnson, not because I think he's going to win, but because I can't stomach the idea of voting for either Romney or Obama.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Is this like the other article? If Dems/Repubs were Libertarians then Libertarians would vote for them? You don't say.

  • ||

    ^This

  • ZacJ||

    Essentially yes. I commented on the last article that pointing to the GOP and saying they could win over libertarians is as arbitrary as doing the same with democrats. For pragmatic libertarians who do vote for either Obama or Romney in order to avoid whomever they feel is worse, there are ways to win them over. But overall essentially the fact is that Obama and Romney could easily win over libertarians by not being who they are and being libertarian. That is, they could if they didn't have their crystal clear records.

  • kinnath||

    1) No
    2) Fucking
    3) Way

  • ||

    Dit-fucking-to.

  • Hyperion||

    FTW? Democrats win Libertarian votes? That is so absurd that I can't think of a reply.

  • sarcasmic||

  • Brutus||

    Well Shriek's a libertarian and he's voting Obama in November.

    (cue Barfman)

  • ||

    Not surprising. Both Shriek and Obama are equally libertarian.

  • ||

    I usually like what Nick writes, but this is a pretty baseless appeal to any liberal readers. I like reason when they point out the follies of a two-party system. There needs to be more encouragement of abstaining from a vote if none of the candidates suit one's taste rather than selling out one's beliefs because a candidate promised a few things.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I'm thinking he was just trolling John with this one.

  • RBS||

    You both make good points.

  • JW||

    Convert, quit or die.

  • Trespassers W||

    That.

  • The Craig||

    This is why no one takes us seriously :-(

  • lightning||

    No one takes libertarians seriously because there is way too much infighting or as evidenced by Nick to much obsequiousness to either dems or repubs. If libertarians would truly embrace their ideological platform, the sheer size of the party would allow them to be the major party. Problem is that even on this site you have verbal fights break out between libertarian christians/atheists, between classical libertarians/the other six categories, etc. I find this sad because to me the libertarian platform is one of minimal government interference in ones personal life. Therefore there is no reason why religious, social, racial, economic, or other issue should be divisive - yet it is. Blogs on bringing solidarity among all factions of libertarian would be a lot more helpful.

  • George26||

    "If libertarians would truly embrace their ideological platform, the sheer size of the party would allow them to be the major party."

    For a movement that prides itslef on "reason", your comment could use a little. Public opinion polling shows that about 20% of the population says they beleive in liberty, and 10% support policies consistent with that. It is pretty depressing being part of a movement that has at most 10% of the population, and of them half don't even know what to call themselves. So some create a myth that says that alot of the "independent" and democratic voters are really libertarian, and explanations why, usually that there exists some "two-party conspiracy" or that the leading libertarians are incopetent sellouts. However, for someone interested on those pesky things called "facts", look at the numbers.

  • Sudden||

    There is only one thing that any candidate can do, no matter party, to win my vote: Propose serious and sweeping reform to the old age entitlement programs. I'm even somewhat disillusioned with Gary Johnson since he hasn't made that part of his campaign. For christsakes Gary, you're not getting any elderly votes anyway. The young are the ones that might take up the libertarian mantle in some substantive way, throw them the bone of serious entitlement reform.

  • John||

    That is a good point about Johnson. If you go read Johnson's website, his entitlement plan isn't that much different than Ryan's. It is actually less radical than Ryan's. All Johnson would do would block grant the program to the states.

    Yet, Reason spent endless inches accusing Ryan of being a big government shill and a fake. But hasn't said a damn word about Johnson other than vote for him. And they expect anyone to take their criticisms of Ryan seriously why?

  • Sudden||

    One thing I'll say though John, you vote for the top of the ticket, not the bottom. If it were Ryan as the POTUS nominee, I might very well vote for him (not that it makes a difference in California). But it's not, it's Mitt Romney and he hasn't exactly been very bold in entitlement reform and has been as much a status quo candidate as Obama in that regard. So GJ will likely get my vote.

  • ||

    ^This. Otherwise, Obama would have no votes except from Amtrak lovers based on Biden as VP.

  • John||

    True. But Reason has said Ryan was a horrible pick for VP and the biggest of big government Republicans. Reason looks at the Ryan pick as a reason to vote against Romney not even as a push.

  • John||

    And Reason has made it clear that Ryan is one of the worst most dishonest big government loving politicians in living memory. So I don't want to hear what a good guy he is. Because clearly Reason doesn't see it that way.

  • The Hammer||

    Why are you so fucking sensitive about any criticism of Ryan, John? Nowhere did Reason say anything like that, they just said that according to his voting record, he is not the bona fide debt-destroying savior that he was being portrayed as. Stop with this butthurt bullshit. You're better than this.

  • ||

    No he is not.

  • Calidissident||

    STFU John. Reason never said Ryan is the worst Republican of all time. All they did was correctly point out that his record shows that he is in no way an advocate of small government

  • Cyto||

    Well, he is an advocate of small government compared to most of the Washington crowd.

    Small hurdle I know.... tallest midget, fastest snail, freshest-tasting cesspool, etc. Still, he is in the upper quintile of "small government" advocates in Washington....

  • sarcasmic||

    aye

  • John||

    That is true. But if you read Reason, you would think Ryan was worse than Romney. And all the criticisms Reason made against Ryan's plan, could be made of Johnson's plan but never are.

    Reason absolutely loathes Ryan because they say he wants to continue the existence of medicare forever. But so does Johnson. It is almost as if they are being dishonest or something.

  • sarcasmic||

    You're doing it again.

  • John||

    By pointing out what the Libertarian Party Candidate is actually running on?

    Is this a political movement or a cult?

  • sarcasmic||

    You're being shrill Red Tony again. It's embarrassing. Please stop.

  • John||

    Is it embarrassing to point out the truth that Gary Johnson wants to continue medicare now and forever? Why?

  • sarcasmic||

    You're flailing at straw men and moving the goalposts, just like Tulpa/Tony.

    I guess if you want the same level of respect as them, then keep it up!

  • John||

    It is not a straw man. Read Johnson's website. I would give you the link but the Reason spam filter blocks it. Camping in your park quotes it below. Johnson doesn't want to eliminate entitlements anymore than Ryan does. Go read it. It is not a straw man if it is true.

  • Proprietist||

    Johnson plans to cut 43% of the federal government immediately to balance the budget. Compare to Ryan, whose plan won't balance a budget for 20 years. Sorry, big difference.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Here's a clue, John: there are other policy positions besides the budget.

  • John||

    Sure there are. But I don't hear Reason saying a damn word about Johnson's positions on entitlements. Johnson is the freaking Libertarian Party nominee. And Reason has nothing to say about his pledge to continue entitlements forever?

    Give me a break BP.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Johnson isn't as good as he could be, but he's also proposing eliminating the drug benefit, along with repealing Obamacare and the block grants.

    But you're moving the goalposts. You said Reason hates Ryan b/c he wants to save entitlements. They're negative against him because he's not the fiscal hawk he could be. Johnson has said he'll cut the budget by over 40% in one year.

  • John||

    No I am not. Reason had a fit because Ryan's plan doesn't eliminate entitlements. They have said in numerous posts that the GOP is now the party of medicare. If the GOP is the party of medicare, so is the Libertarian party. That seem to leave that last part out. From reading Reason I always assumed Johnson intended to eliminate entitlements. It wasn't until I read his website that I realized he believed no such thing.

    Reason just doesn't mention that so that they can apply a different standard to Ryan than they apply to Johnson.

  • ||

    I agree with this. But the criticism against Reason should be for not calling out Johnson. Calling out Ryan for the thing's he's wrong about is not the problem.

  • ||

    They're negative against him because he's not the fiscal hawk he could be.

    He is not a fiscal hawk at all. A true hawk would make a bolder plan (ala Rand Paul's) that actually cut the size and scope of government instead of nibbling at the edges of future spending.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Curious if you've even read Romney's proposal for Medicare:

    "Nothing changes for current seniors or those nearing retirement.
    Medicare is reformed as a premium support system, meaning that existing spending is repackaged as a fixed-amount benefit to each senior that he or she can use to purchase an insurance plan"

    It's just as bold as block granting benefits to the states. Maybe more efficient since it bypasses the state bureaucracy.

  • johnl||

    Instead, we should be happy to shut down everything else the government does except pay old people. Once you get past the unfairness problem, it's obvious that this is better than our current situation. The withering away of the state is approaching, very quickly, and Medicare and CalPers are what's going to make it happen.

  • T||

    So, Nick's setting the stage for when the staff voting list comes out and shockingly, some Reasonoids vote for Hope + Change II: Hopeless Boogaloo?

    He'll keep beating you if you don't leave. He won't change. You don't have to make excuses for him.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Nick,
    Endeavor to Persevere.

  • ||

    ^^winner

  • shamalam||

    I agree with Gojira... Winner!

    I wonder if they made Nick's horse surrender?

  • Sevo||

    "Endeavor to Persevere."
    And then declare war.

  • ||

    fuck the police, legalize everything, smash the welfare state

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    No promise either "major party" candidate makes is worth the oxygen that was expended to make it. They don't keep 99% of their promises, either because they lied outright or because they were deluded when they thought they could keep them.

    The 1% of the promises that they do keep are the fucked-up promises.

    There really isn't anything they can say as far as I'm concerned.

  • coma44||

    "3 Ways Obama and the Democrats Can Win Libertarian Votes"

    So your saying that it is impossible for them to get "our" votes, because that list goes against everything Progressive Liberal Democrats stand for. And Progressives are all that enhabit the Democratic party.

  • 16th amendment||

    Libertarians are more like republicans. At least now, where the number one issue is our spending, debt, etc. Besides, the two Pauls are republicans, John Stossel is on FBN, and various editors at reason sometimes appear as guests on FBN but not on MSNBC.

  • Loki||

    So maybe the party of stimulus spending, Dodd-Frank, and the broccoli mandate is willing to turn libertarian this time around.

    Hahahahahahaha!!!!!

    [inhales deeply] BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

    Oh man, I haven't laughed that hard in years.

  • ||

    Nick's tongue was pretty firmly in cheek throughout the whole article.

  • ChrisO||

    There must be a pony in there, somewhere...

  • Proprietist||

    I'm so glad I always have Vermin Supreme as a backup option in case Gary Johnson drops out. Free ponies for everyone!

  • ant1sthenes||

    The only way Obama is going to get libertarian votes is by doing. Talk is cheap, especially for someone who's set a new low (even for politicians) in terms of lies and empty promises.

  • ||

    I believe the title of this article should be changed to, "Three Ways that President Obama and the Democrats Can Win Reason Staffers' Votes."

  • ||

    You'd have to be a pretty damn retarded libertarian to decide to vote for a Democrat (or a Republican) because they threw you a small bone two months before the election, after fucking you over royally for the previous four years and promising to fuck you over more after getting reelected.

  • Kent||

    Can't see any self respecting libertarian who'd vote for Obama at this point.

  • Lisa||

    So it's cool that the Democrats want to turn us into a third world country, but be transparent about it!

  • George26||

    Why do many libertarians think that the liberals agree with them on "social issues," and that the conservatives do not? The conservative National Review has always supported legalization of marijana, and so do many conservative leaders, including ones who are far from libertarianism such as Pat Robertson and Bill O'Riely. Despite this, libertarians seem to think that Obama and the liberals want to stop the WOD, despite absolutly no action on their behalf. When they do complain about the WOD, it is not about the war itself but about the "racial disparities" in the justice system. Liberals use the WOD to get the votes of minorities and the poor who hate the police and the justice system, but once in power, they do nothing.Just look at the democrat-run inner cities. They are where the drug war is being fought the most, and the democrat-rulled governments have done nothing about it.

  • Blueman||

    Eh, no, not going to vote for Obama.

  • jester||

    No matter who purposefully satirical you make your story, someone will believe you. Anyway, it's too risky for Nick to vote for either Obama or Romney. He has to keep his track record of voting for a loser in every election. Johnson or Other is the only safe bet. This race is too close to call.

  • Sevo||

    OK,
    1) Get transparent: Show us you're an asshole, rather than having us dig around to find out.
    2) Stop the drug war: 'Hey, I *promise* I'm quitting just as soon as you vote for me! And I won't start again!'
    3) Cut defense spending: 'Yep, I'll knock, oh, 2-3% off the expenses in, oh, 8 or ten years! Promise!'
    If that's what it takes to get the libertarian vote, why, I'm sure certain libertarians would own controlling interests in the north anchorages of some famous bridges. For *CHEAP*!
    Romney has a better chance; he might make some snow-balls in hell.

  • oijxsfbnwkljsdj||

    Here are More characteristics, novel style,varieties,and good quality low price

    http://avoo.net/ajgjk

    http://avoo.net/ajgjk

  • ||

    After thinking about it, there is one way Captain Zero can get my vote;

    shoot himself in the face on national television during prime time. That would ensure my vote.

  • Dragonborn||

    Obama is anti-gun. How could an anti-gunner possibly win a Libertarian vote?

  • nike001||

    So, Nick's setting the stage for when the staff voting list comes out and shockingly, some Reasonoids vote for Hope + Change II: Hopeless Boogaloo?

    He'll keep beating you if you http://www.cheapbeatsbydreheadphonesau.com/ don't leave. He won't change. You don't have to make excuses for him.

  • nike001||

    No matter who purposefully satirical you make your story, someone will believe you. Anyway, it's too risky for Nick to vote for either Obama or Romney. He has to keep his track record of voting for a loser in every election. Johnson or Other is the only safe bet. This http://www.nikefootballcleatsmercurial.org/ race is too close to call.

  • nike001||

    I'm so glad I always have Vermin Supreme as a backup option in case http://www.footballcleatstrade.org/ Gary Johnson drops out. Free ponies for everyone!

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement