Election 2012

The Inevitable "Libertarians Could Be Spoilers…" Headline

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From Politico, signs that the libertarian moment (more about that here) proceeds apace:

Libertarians could be spoilers in key Senate races

Democratic hopes of maintaining a razor-thin Senate majority may hinge on an unexpected outside force: Libertarians.

In the battlegrounds of Montana, Arizona and Missouri, polls show the Libertarian nominee poised to siphon a fraction of the vote — a small fraction, to be sure, but potentially enough to tip the outcome in a cliffhanger. And with the battle for the Senate shaping up to be a coin-flip proposition, no factor — not even fringe candidates with little more than a Libertarian label to propel their campaigns — is too insignificant to dismiss….

"Ralph Nader in reverse" was how Arizona GOP strategist Jason Rose characterized the 2012 dynamic.

"When candidates bloody each other up, non-descript candidates can become safe harbors," he said….

Ralph Nader! Non-descript! Does that even make sense? Individual LP candidates may well be non-descript, but the party stands for some totally well-defined ideas and policies (as did Nader in 2000, when Al Gore lost the presidential race despite being part of a highly successful administration).

Let it be noted that no third-party candidate anywhere ever cost a major-party candidate an election. Have third-party candidates gotten vote totals that more than cover the spread between the Dem and the Rep? Of course.

But major-party candidates lose elections all on their own. If they cannot close the deal with voters—even with all the institutional advantages they possess—well, that's their problem. Don't blame others for your own failure to woo voters.

Indeed, the whole spoiler thing tends to falls apart when you look more closely. To wit, here's part of the discussion about the Senate race in the Show-Me State, where a lackluster and thoroughly undistinguished incumbent is facing a challenger whose basic grasp of biology suggests he'd be a first-question washout on Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?

Given the unpopularity of both M[Democratic incumbent Claire] Caskill and [GOP challenger Todd] Akin, [Libertarian Jonathan] Dine could see that support grow this year. An Oct. 3 poll by PPP found McCaskill up by 6 points, with Dine pulling 9 percent of the vote. About one-quarter of his support came from self-identified conservatives, his largest bloc of support.

More here.

When you're suggesting anything other than Todd Akin's big stupid yap and a voting record that includes most of the Bush era's greatest big government hits, plus Obama era highlights such as the National Defense Authorization Act, might cost him the election, you're shifting responsibility in precisely the way conservative Republicans cry about. Note that in Politico's telling, three-quarters of Dine's support comes from non-conservatives, so it's far from clear precisely why he can be the ultimate cause if and when Akin dogs it. How many of that remaining 75 percent is pulling voters who otherwise somehow "belong" to McCaskill? And if McCaskill can't secure re-election as a senator—over 80 percent of distinguished gentlemen and ladies manage the feat—that's her problem. (For more on Dine, a twice-convicted felon, read this enaging profile.)

In a related note, the latest iteration of the Reason-Rupe poll (conducted in early September) found that the 6 percent of voters who said they favor Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson reduced support for both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Each major-party candidate came in three percentage points lower when Johnson was included in the mix. There's no question that traditionally, Libertarian voters were probably more likely to come from the Republican side of the electorate, especially if elections were based on economic issues. But given the prominence of war, immigration, trade, and lifestyle issues over the past dozen years—and the GOP's conservative lurch on all—it's likely that Libertarians really are increasingly equidistant from both parties.

In any case, I suspect that most big and small l libertarian-minded voters would be happy to vote for any major-party candidate who consistently fought to reduce the size, scope, and spending of government in a consistent and principled way. In fact, libertarian votes should be among the easiest to secure since there are virtually no outlying issues to core ideas. If Democrats and Republicans choose to toss those votes out the window, that's too bad for them (and the country).

More on this same type of Libertarian spoiler thing, in the New York Times, circa 2002.

NEXT: Houston a Cash Cow for Romney and Obama

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  1. Claire has the crazy eyes

  2. Todd Akin perfectly represents the pathology of the current GOP. The LP candidate should do better than 9% there.

    1. I think it would be hilarious if he won, because it would say much more about his challengers than him or his supporters.

      1. Not at all.

        Claire is a Blue Dog, anti-earmark Democrat.

        We need more Dems like her and more GOPers like Scott Brown (who is now a big underdog to Liz Warren).

        Akin and Warren winning is the worst possible outcome.

        1. if anyone is badly represented, it is Claire based on the description you provide. There is no room for her among the Dems; she’s more an outlier than the Collins/Snowe wing of the GOP. And your support for the fraud that is Warren should kill off what little credibility you have left.

        2. Claire is a Blue Dog, anti-earmark Democrat.

          She voted for Obamacare. Also, her voting record hardly screams “moderate”, with a few exceptions. Overall, she’s pretty much a TEAM BLUE hack.

          1. Votes with party:

            112th Congress
            85% of 433 votes

            111th Congress
            81% of 689 votes

            Yep, definately a TEAM BLUE hack. But we need more like her. Yea, sure.

            1. 85% and 81% is fairly independent these days. Check Brown out too.

              And Akin is not a Team Red hack?

              And an insane one at that?

              1. Then vote Libertarian, which was the point of the OP, remember?

  3. “The libertarian moment.”

    It used to be a movement, and now it’s just a moment.
    Maybe not the best choice of words.

    1. We’re not just a force, we’re a force times a distance.

      1. Sounds like work to me.

        1. Orthogonal to the distance, you fool. We don’t get any work done.

          1. Sorry, no need to get torqued.

            1. Yeah, Warty don’t get your newtons in a twist.

              1. Be careful or he’ll slug you.

    2. Coming November 7 to a blog near you:
      The Libertarian Nanosecond.

      1. That’s a pretty long nanosecond.

        1. Meaning what? Libertarian policies are succeeding somewhere? There’s an awful lot of sarcasm, cynicism, pessimism and despair here that indicates otherwise.

          1. Boohoo. I’m sorry we’re not all sunshine and rainbows.

  4. Is it telling that Nick seems very happy about the idea that third parties might spoil a Romney victory but has no mention of the idea of spoiling a Obama victory? Nick is really starting to compete with Chapman in the imbecility category.

    Time to turn in The Jacket, Nick. It is for Libertarians, not David Weigel’s waiting for their chance to write bullshit for the WaPo.

    1. The sarcasm is like a fine whiskey for breakfast. Delicious.

    2. Nick is citing polls to show the LP vote is immaterial to this election.

      In a related note, the latest iteration of the Reason-Rupe poll (conducted in early September) found that the 6 percent of voters who said they favor Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson reduced support for both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Each major-party candidate came in three percentage points lower when Johnson was included in the mix.

      Seriously, take your Team Red hat off sometimes.

    3. Time to turn in The Jacket, Nick…

      …and give it to Shirtless Tattooed Guy.

    4. Is it telling that Nick seems very happy about the idea that third parties might spoil a Romney victory but has no mention of the idea of spoiling a Obama victory?

      He didn’t mention it, because it won’t happen. Hardcore Greens and their ilk are a mere drop in the ocean compared to the horde of Obama cultists.

    5. lay out the scenario under which libertarians spoil an Obama victory. Good luck with that.

    6. What the hell are you talking about? The whole article is about how the idea of “spoilers” is stupid. Romney doesn’t own the anti-Obama vote.

  5. I wonder if Gary Johnson has campaigned as a hempy hippie libertarian instead of a buttoned-down libertarian conservative so that he draws at least as many Obama voters. I know I would be more tempted to vote for him if he had a top-hat and monocle instead of the tie-dye and talked about economic freedom more than the pot.

    1. if he had a top-hat and monocle

      You’d vote for him if he dressed like FDR?

      You New Deal supporting son of a bitch…..

      1. How about a monocle and a rasta hat? Best of both worlds?

        1. Sure, why not. As I live in Southern Florida I have met my share of members of the Rasta Movement (they are not particularly fond the word Rastafarian) and have found them to be wonderful and honest people.

    2. No one who was going to vote for Obama this election is instead going to vote for Johnson. Any former Obama voters who are voting third party this time would have otherwise not voted or voted against Obama with Romney.

      That is the Reason-Fist of Etiquette Poll of things I know in my head and it has a margin of error of ZERO PERCENT. Just like me.

      1. I am not so certain about this. There are some voters who care more about social / cultural issues far more than they care about economics.

  6. Those are Sharpie tats, not real ones.

    1. Religion of peace.

    2. and yet, some on here want to accuse POTUS of racism/bigotry for expecting Muslims to do what we’ve seen them do repeatedly. I’m far from Team Obama but come on.

      1. WTF are you talking about wareagle? People accused Obama of bigotry for blaming the embassy attack on a riot over the youtube video, which is/was patently false. In Libya at least, you had counter-protests and protests against the militias. I don’t think bigotry was Obama’s motivation, but you could definitely make an argument based on that

    3. It is so much less savage to drop bombs on those women and children. That way they don’t have to worry about being beaten any more.

      1. tu quoque, tu quoque!

        Listen, one can criticize someone without automatically supporting their murder.

        1. You are criticizing a group of people based upon the actions or statements of a small group of them. I was saying they could do the same thing to us. So go tu quoque yourself.

          1. You are criticizing a group of people based upon the actions or statements of a small group of them.

            Just what group am I criticizing? Are you saying these views are a minority amongst hardcore Islamists?

            I was saying they could do the same thing to us.

            No you weren’t. Considering there are no drones flying over the skies of Egypt*, you were merely playing the moral relativity game, hoping to get a pat on the head and your official Edward Said Seal-Of-Approval.

            Go ahead and call Pakistani journalist Kunwar Khuldune Shahid an ‘Islamophobe’ for going even further than I in his condemnation; I dare you.

            *(unlike you, I comprehend that the Muslim world is not an abstract monolith, but a dynamic, interconnection collection of different cultures and ethnicity, which I have direct experience with.)

            1. “Just what group am I criticizing?”

              Unless you are a different person who happens to use the same handle, you have in the past criticised Islam itself – are you not doing this today? Have your beliefs changed in this regard?

              “No you weren’t.”

              I have a FAR better idea of my own intentions than you.

              “Considering there are no drones flying over the skies of Egypt*, you were merely playing the moral relativity game,

              This is irrelevant. When We were attacked on 9/11 other Western countries came to our aid because they viewed it as an attack on them too. Are you saying this cannot happen from their point of view as well?

              “unlike you, I comprehend that the Muslim world is not an abstract monolith, but a dynamic, interconnection collection of different cultures and ethnicity, which I have direct experience with”

              LOL, do you have any actual evidence that I have ever viewed the entire Muslim World as an abstract monolith?

              1. “Just what group am I criticizing?”

                Unless you are a different person who happens to use the same handle, you have in the past criticised Islam itself – are you not doing this today? Have your beliefs changed in this regard?

                “No you weren’t.”

                I have a FAR better idea of my own intentions than you.

                Congratulations! You’ve just created an recursive, iterative argument loop. Did you actually think when constructing those two arguments or do you just randomly emote?

                “unlike you, I comprehend that the Muslim world is not an abstract monolith, but a dynamic, interconnection collection of different cultures and ethnicity, which I have direct experience with”

                LOL, do you have any actual evidence that I have ever viewed the entire Muslim World as an abstract monolith?

                First of all, unless you are a teenaged girl, don’t use the particle “lol”, you’re just embarrassing yourself. As for evidence, I point to the conflation in your arguments.

                1. “Congratulations! You’ve just created an recursive, iterative argument loop. Did you actually think when constructing those two arguments or do you just randomly emote?”

                  I was basing my judgement upon your actual stated past actions and words.

                  “As for evidence, I point to the conflation in your arguments.”

                  Such as …………

              2. “Considering there are no drones flying over the skies of Egypt*, you were merely playing the moral relativity game,

                This is irrelevant. When We were attacked on 9/11 other Western countries came to our aid because they viewed it as an attack on them too.

                That’s because of NATO obligations.

                Are you saying this cannot happen from their point of view as well?

                The Organization of the Islamic Conference was created as a response to Israel’s victory in the Six Day War. So what? That is what’s ‘irrelevant’ to your moral relativity game.

                Nice way to avoid Shadid’s arguments, by the way. Float like a butterfly and sting like a ladybug, QoA!

                1. Do you think I view the West as a monolith?

          2. You are criticizing a group of people based upon the actions or statements of a small group of them.

            See, you don’t get to make that argument. In Egypt, an Islamist political party was elected to lead the country by popular vote.

            By definition, this means the majority of the Egyptian people are, at the least, indifferent to the viewpoints of Abdallah, if not outright support for them.

            No amount of politically correct stamping of the feet and crying can change this fact.

            1. In Egypt, an Islamist political party was elected to lead the country by popular vote.

              And what have they done so far?

              By definition, this means the majority of the Egyptian people are, at the least, indifferent to the viewpoints of Abdallah, if not outright support for them.

              No, it means they liked the Islamist party better than the alternative. What WAS that alternative, again?

              1. And what have they done so far?

                What does any government accomplish in their first 100 days?

                Perhaps we could ask some Copts, that is when they stop crying over the destruction of their churches, in which the police were ‘mysteriously’ late…every time.

                1. “Perhaps we could ask some Copts, that is when they stop crying over the destruction of their churches, in which the police were ‘mysteriously’ late…every time.”

                  Ask black people who live downtown in U.S. cities how often the police are late.

                  1. In which critics of HM’s point validate HM’s point.

            2. “See, you don’t get to make that argument. In Egypt, an Islamist political party was elected to lead the country by popular vote. By definition, this means the majority of the Egyptian people are, at the least, indifferent to the viewpoints of Abdallah, if not outright support for them.”

              Actually, we DO get to make that argument. Lysander Spooner said it better than I could:

              “In truth, in the case of individuals, their actual voting is not to be taken as proof of consent, even for the time being. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, without his consent having ever been asked, a man finds himself environed by a government that he cannot resist; a government that forces him to pay money, render service, and forego the exercise of many of his natural rights, under peril of weighty punishments. He sees, too, that other men practise this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further that, if he will but use the ballot himself, he has some chance of relieving himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he may become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no other alternative than these two. In self-defence, he attempts the former.”

    4. TV host? He’s just a shock jock, paid to say outrageous things. He probably ended a show asking, “Mark Basseley Youseff: Infidel or Pinhead?”

      1. “TV host? He’s just a shock jock, paid to say outrageous things. He probably ended a show asking, “Mark Basseley Youseff: Infidel or Pinhead?””

        And now onto the back of the book segment, a new book detailing how the [insert scapegoat religion]s control the world.

      2. He’s just a shock jock, paid to say outrageous things.

        You missed the zabiba on his forehead? He is completely sincere in his beliefs. By the way, he’s the same guy who popularized the existence of the Innocence of Muslims to the Islamic world.

        1. Many think that Bill O’Reiley is sincere in his beliefs as well.

          1. When Bill O’Reiley[sic] is seen with scars from his daily ritual of mortification of the flesh, you might have a point.

            1. I don’t think he rejects Vatican II unlike Opus Dei.

    5. Sounds like the Bill O’Reilly of Egypt.

      1. I see I’m not the only person to think that.

  7. Maybe the Republican Party should have thought about that before trying so damn hard to alienate Ron Paul supporters.

    1. Nick’s premise is that Ron Paul supporters will not be spoilers, that candidates win or lose elections on their own, without the “help” of third-party distractions.

      1. I think that depends on this election in some senate races 3rd parties could be important. Others, not so much.

      2. He’s saying that if a candidate can’t sway voters, that’s the candidate’s fault, not any supposed “spoiler”‘s fault.

        1. “He’s saying that if a candidate can’t sway voters, that’s the candidate’s fault, not any supposed “spoiler”‘s fault.”

          And I agree

    2. As long as “libertarians” vote as they are told, they can kick and scream all they want during the primaries.

      Thy only break on the GOP’s behavior libertarians have is to throw their vote away on Gary Johnson, which is just like voting for Obama. This is the most important election of our lifetimes! Don’t vote for Obama, vote for Mitt Romney… the only choice we allow you.

      1. “which is just like voting for Obama”

        I have heard variations of this argument my entire adult life. It is patently absurd on its face. Is buying Jones Soda “just like buying Pepsi”? I mean if we assume there are only two choices, Coke and Pepsi and if this is a very imporatnat purchase is buying an alternative brand “throwing my money away”?

        1. Don’t blame me, I voted for RC Cola.

          1. RC Cola is better than Coke or Pepsi, I agree but I love Jarritos Mexican Cola:

            http://www.amazon.com/Jarritos…..xican+Cola

        2. Coke and Pepsi are not in a zero-sum competition with only one winner.

          1. Voting is not entirely zero-sum, necessarily. What candidates are running has an effect on how many people and which people vote. I, for example, would not vote for Romney or Obama if Johnson or another candidate I find acceptable were not running.

            1. You make a good point, in 1992, when I voted for H. Ross Perot I also voted for many Republican candidates down ticket. My willingness to vote at all benefited the Republican Party as a whole. Had I not voted I would not have voted for ANY Republican.

          2. If I am going to the store to purchase only one soda, whichever I choose to purchase at that moment is the only winner.

            1. But you haven’t stuck the entire country with your choice for 4 years.

              1. Zeb above makes a good point. In 1992, when I voted for H. Ross Perot I also voted for many Republican candidates down ticket. My willingness to vote at all benefited the Republican Party as a whole. Had I not voted I would not have voted for ANY Republican.

      2. “brake”

      3. My dad made that argument. I said, “You’re assuming Romney is my second choice.”

        1. My second choice would be a coin toss between Jill Stein and Virgil Goode. After that, why bother? Texas isn’t exactly a swing state.

          I believe the good of voting third party always trumps irrational outcome-based voting. If you live in a swing state, maybe it’s worthwhile to vote for the best divided government combination of the major parties (imo Obama + Republican Congress).

        2. My family is pretty much the same way, they assume Romney would be my backup choice in the race, however my only presidential ballot options in Oklahoma are Obama or Romney, not even a write-in option…I am going with “blank”.

          If it wasn’t for some ballot initiatives and a few down-ballot candidates, this would be the first major election I would sit out completely.

  8. I remember during the 2004 election when all the MSM could do when they interviewed Nader was to ask him why he wanted to be a spoiler. It was question after question, were you born a spoiler, did you grow up to be a spoilers, etc etc. No matter how many times Nader tried to bring up the issues the MSM turned back to the spoiler question.

    You are only allowed to be either team red or team blue and preferably a team red/blue that is bipartisan.

  9. 3rd parties can turn elections: Ross Perot siphoned away enough support to let Clinton win with just a plurality of the vote. Nader’s presence likely meant votes for Gore and, in retrospect, earns Ralph a hallowed spot in history. Prince Albert might be the only human being even more insufferable than The Obama.

    1. Yeah, and as I remind libertarian/conservatives unwilling to vote for Johnson, it was Perot’s showing that led to the Contract with America, to Clinton being cowed into supporting welfare reform. So maybe a great showing for GJ will cause the GOP to sit up and take notice and reform?
      Probably not, but still a better chance than if Romney goes down and the narrative becomes he didn’t throw enough bombs or was too moderate.

    2. I had just turned 18 when Ross Perot ran the first time I voted for him. I didn’t trust Clinton because I could tell he would say whatever he had to to get more votes. I was FURIOUS with Georve H. W. Bush because he broke his “Read my lips” pledge not to increase taxes.

      I know partisan Republicans like to say that he was “forced” to do it by congress because the Dems could have ammased enough votes to override his veto – but so what? Let them override his veto! If they did he could simply go to a mic and truthfully say “I tried but they had the votes to override my veto”. Few, if any, would have put the blame on his shoulders.

      1. The reason is that if they’ve got enough to override your veto and you don’t compromise with them, they’ll override your veto with something worse than the compromise you agreed to sign.

        1. Thus causing more Demosocialists to lose in the next round of midterm elections and then taxes could be brought down later when Congressional Republicans could agree with a now-re-elected GHWB – but that didn’t happen because he betrayed his principles – that is, assuming he ever had any principles.

    3. No, exit polls of Perot voters showed that not a single electoral vote would’ve gone differently had Perot not been running. It’s a phony meme that Perot took more Bush voters than Clinton voters. If Clinton had lost, his supporters would’ve blamed that on Perot too.

  10. Libertarian nominee poised to siphon a fraction of the vote…

    Siphoning implies theft; like they somehow own those votes and libertarians are stealing them. I think it’s important to push back against this type of thinking and take every opportunity to remind the teams and the media that failure to win these votes is due to the teams reluctance to embrace pro-freedom, government-limiting policies.

  11. Without runoffs, election spoilage is a real thing. Third-party candidates have the perverse effect of having voters split their own coalition in favor of the major party opponent of their coalition. If Team Red + Team Burnt Orange = 51%, but Burnt Orange takes 5%, then Team Blue wins 49%, Team Blue wins despite the will of the electorate favoring the Red/Burnt Orange coalition. Your vote for Burnt Orange gave you Blue, the worst outcome.

    1. the perverse effect of having voters split their own coalition

      They weren’t much of a group if people drop out at the first sign of someone new.

      the will of the electorate favoring the Red/Burnt Orange coalition.

      In your scenario, that’s obviously untrue, since not enough people voted for Red. Red /=/ Orange. You can’t simply squash them all together however you like.

      Your vote for Burnt Orange gave you Blue, the worst outcome.

      Nope. The votes for BLUE gave us Blue, one of the two worst outcomes. If Blue or Red can’t earn my vote, that’s their fault.

      1. And Tony’s analysis is once again completely useless. Multiple polls have shown that Johnson pulls as many voters from Obama as he does from Romney. So your little Team Orange scenario completely misses the point.

        1. Tony makes the false assumption (much like John and other regulars) that libertarians are just angry Republicans.

          1. or buys into the old “pot-smoking” Republican trope.

        2. That wouldn’t surprise me all that much, and if that’s the case then it’s a wash. It’s not always like that and my scenario is more common, I think.

        3. Wait. My scenario misses HIS point? No, it doesn’t. That his point is faulty in other ways doesn’t make my critique wrong.

          1. Oh, you’re referring to T o n y’s scenario. This makes more sense, since I didn’t have my own scenario at all. Sorry.

    2. Which is completely irrelevant to an election where the coalition is between the parties carrying ?+ of the vote.

      1. That “ninety-plus percent” of the vote.

        Finally, my own mangled post to bitch about.

  12. But for what it’s worth I hope Gary Johnson is on as many ballots as possible.

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