Spoiling Things for the GOP


The Republican Party and right-wing solons are finally beginning to notice the Libertarian Party, if a New York Times op-ed by National Review writer John Miller is any indication.

Miller notes that there is strong reason to believe that the LP has "spoiled" what would have been GOP victories in a Senate race in each of the past three elections: Nevada in 1998, Washington in 2000, and South Dakota this year. And unusually successful Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Ed Thompson in Wisconsin probably helped ensure victory for incumbent Democrat Jim Doyle.

Miller accuses the LP of "serving, in effect, as Democratic Party operatives." Miller is savvy enough to note that "Libertarian voters are not merely Republicans with an eccentric streak" and that they "tend to support gay rights and open borders" and "oppose the drug war and hawkish foreign policies," but he still thinks they mostly lean GOP and owe it to the polity to vote that way.

Miller isn't the only person who feels this way about strongly ideological third parties and their effect on the Big Boys; shouts of "Blame him, he voted for Nader" continue to dog many Greens during this second Bush regime. Even the LP itself doesn't entirely deny pursuing the GOP-killer strategy that Miller decries.

But such spoiler complaints, whether from Democrats who think they should own the votes of Greens or Republicans who think free-market libertarians are their rightful vassals, ignore that there are good reasons why Greens or Libertarians should want to flee the major party fief. The candidates of the major parties, with their usual scrum for the center, just don't offer what the ideologically consistent want.

If GOP partisans really wonder why the LP is beginning to cost them victories, they need look no farther than any given daily paper. A Republican-dominated federal government is giving us more federal land grabs, secret arrests, restrictions on political speech, and increased pushes for even wider-scale ability to do warrantless searches of phone and Internet lines.

The libertarian-minded have very little reason to feel any loyalty to the Republicans, despite the GOP's pretensions to being the party of free markets and limited government. If the Republicans want to stop outsiders "spoiling" their victories, they need to acknowledge that—and do something about it.