Election 2012

Without You Meddling Libertarian Voters, Romney Could Have Lost By Only 2.7 Million Votes!

Over at National Review, Jim Geraghty takes to task those 1.22 million of us who voted for Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson.

|

If you round up, yes!

Over at National Review, Jim Geraghty takes to task those 1.22 million of us who voted for Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson. Excerpt:

I suspect that if you voted Libertarian this cycle, you're a pretty hard-core Libertarian, and unlikely to be won over by any half-measures the GOP might offer in the near future. Considering how there was little dispute that another four years of Obama would mean another four years of government growing bigger and taking a more active role in citizens' lives, and how no one really thought Johnson would win, it would appear that the 1.22 million Libertarian voters were content to "send a message" with their votes… a message that will now be almost entirely ignored in Washington.

It's their right; every vote has to be earned, and surely a Romney presidency would have offered its own disappointments to the Libertarian worldview. But it may be a continuing liability for the GOP that roughly one percent of the electorate believes strongly in limited government, but votes in a way that does not empower the GOP to do anything to limit that government.

A couple of notes in response:

* In not one single state did Gary Johnson's vote total exceed President Barack Obama's margin of victory over Mitt Romney. Speaking as one of the 42,542 votes for Johnson in New York, Obama's inevitable victory in that state (by more than 1.5 million votes) was definitely part of my decision-making calculus.

This was a good profile!

* As I mentioned in this Friday post on purported Libertarian "spoilers," in the only polling on the subject that I'm aware of (conducted by the Reason-Rupe Poll), likely Johnson voters said they broke down as leaning 53 percent Republican, 38 percent Democratic, and 10 percent independent. While that same poll also indicated Johnson with 6 percent support (when he received only 1), A) third-party candidates always poll pre-election higher than they'll receive, and B) Johnson's Democratic support there makes at least some intuitive sense given that the position he's most famous for is his support for legalizing marijuana.

* Speaking of which, let's think about one possible message that Washington will have received with the Nov. 6 vote—that, with the votes in Colorado and Washington state, legalizing pot is now officially a winnable electoral issue. Does it help or hurt the likelihood of Democratic Party movement on this issue that the highest vote-getting third party candidate this year was, by far, the one most famous for wanting to end the Drug War? (You can make a similar argument about gay marriage, which finally became electorally viable this year, and which Johnson also supported.) Libertarians of both the large-L and small-l variety (I am the latter) have a strong interest in pushing both parties in the direction of smaller government and bigger freedom.

Never forget!

* Even if a vote for Gary Johnson was 100% transferable to any Republican (which it is not), let alone to the hands-off-my-Medicare-and-military-spending Mitt Romney (which it definitely is not); and even if applying that bogus math would have changed the outcome in even one state (which it did not), it does not automatically follow that causing the lesser of two evils to lose is a bad strategy. As Nick Gillespie and I wrote in The Declaration of Independents, the Tea Party became a force in national politics precisely because it was willing to gamble on a Democrat winning now and then as an acceptable price of using the primary process to push the GOP in a more robustly government-cutting direction. A faction crazy enough to lose is one that has to be reckoned with, instead of being taken for granted.

There is an argument to be made that Ralph Nader's spoilertastic 2000 run, coupled with lukewarm Massachusetts flip-flopper John Kerry's 2004 loss, and Ned Lamont's successful primarying (but unsuccessful general-electioning) of Sen. Joe Lieberman, all contributed to pushing the Democratic Party further to the progressive left. I'm not saying that political history works that neatly, but that sometimes short-term tactical losses can contribute to long-term philosophical (and even tactical) victories.

Republicans miffed at Libertarian voters right now should be reminded that 12 years' worth of GOP presidential nominees ran as explicit anti-libertarians. Then,

After [46] months of consistent public hostility to bailout economics, after the rise of the tea party movement, after town-hall opposition to "Obama care," after the long-shot Scott Brown win in Massachusetts, after the 2010 limited-government resurgence in the House of Representatives … after all of these unmistakable signs of public—let alone Republican—sentiment, the alleged party of limited government […] nominat[ed] someone who [was] running to President Barack Obama's left on Medicare , who helped pave the way for the Obama policy Republicans hate most and who has no real plan for cutting the biggest growth items in the federal budget.

It seems to me that giving near-historical votes to the LP candidate in the face of such a GOP nominee is arguably a low-cost method for encouraging a more libertarian nominee next time around. And for encouraging the LP itself for putting up a good candidate as well!

But then, voting rationales are like, um, bellybuttons: Everyone's got one, and they all look a bit weird.

NEXT: Home Sales Climb Two Percent in October

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.

  1. The gamers, apologists and suck-ups at nationalreview – ?pobrecito geraghty! – are the poster children for the repube con game. Their whining and griping makes me happy.

  2. But it may be a continuing liability for the GOP that roughly one percent of the electorate believes strongly in limited government, but votes in a way that does not empower the GOP to do anything to limit that government.

    Er, you got that exactly backwards, there, Jim. We tried that whole “empower the GOP to… limit that government.” They gave us W and DeLay and the Dept of Homeland Security. So, pardon us when we decline to play Charlie Brown when you ask us to kick the football again.

    1. Welp, that’s pretty much it. We could end the thread right there.

    2. as an exercise, if you laid out some of the the things that happened under W, left out who did it, and asked the typical person to ascribe party to action, most would say Dems.

      Give the left this much – they don’t insult your intelligence with any pretense of wanting to scale back govt. Their aims are clear.

      1. “if you laid out some of the the things that happened under W, left out who did it, and asked the typical person to ascribe party to action”

        The First Amalgamated Church of the Demorepublcraticans (TM/R) statist coalition Inc.

  3. But it may be a continuing liability for the GOP that roughly one percent of the electorate believes strongly in limited government, but votes in a way that does not empower the GOP to do anything to limit that government.

    Dunno, maybe if they had nominated a libertarian-leaning Republican — and, early on, there were TWO of them, one of whom became the LP nominee — some of those votes for Gary Johnson (L) would have gone for Gary Johnson (R) or Ron Paul (R). I would have, anyway.

    1. I’m proud to say I voted for both of them this year.

      1. Voting for Ron Paul in Hawaii would have entailed spending several hours in a room full of Republican primary caucus-goers.

        Voting for Johnson (L) involved filling in a box on my absentee ballot.

        “Having a life” prevailed over the former option.

        1. Both votes took me five minutes at the polling place, which was about 1/4 a mile from my house.

          1. The vote for Johnson took about about 20 seconds, plus whatever time it took to fill out (or leave blank) the rest of the ballot and seal the envelope.

            The “polling place” was my mailbox, which is maybe 30 feet away from my front door.

  4. Shorter: if the GOP wants to get the libertarian vote, maybe they should nominate someone from their libertarian faction instead of a neocon or theocrat or the centrist windmill they did nominate?

    1. And watch the sociocons stay home, both as non-voters and as non-volunteers.

      You might be able to get the sociocons on board with a candidate who thinks we should let states decide whether MJ should be legal within their borders. It would take some serious message-massaging but it could be possible.

      Once you say that in regard to heroin and cocaine, etc, you’re losing a much bigger faction than you gain.

      1. Bad news for you, Tulpa: those vaunted socon / evangelical voters did stay home.

        1. Because Mitt Romney was a big government yankee liberal jerk.

          Ron Paul got the most Evangelical votes in the Iowa Caucuses, IIRC

          1. More than the repulsive Santorum?

      2. you could just focus on talking about the thing on which most elections turn – the economy. Are you going to get govt out of the way or at least reduce its meddling, or will you continue to regulate everything.

        Repubs refuse to recognize that even among people who may agree with them on social stuff, they appear as loons in the media wash.

        1. Bingo. We have a winner.

        2. Romney did focus on the economy, and Reason put up an article Nov 7 saying that he lost because he didn’t push gay marriage, open borders, and abortion.

      3. Why would a libertarian vote for what the socons want?

        As for the MJ thing — perhaps I missed the part of the debates where the Temple Recommend holding Mormon candidate advocated legalizing MJ.

        Maybe what you’re suggesting is solid advice if what the GOP wants is to continue losing elections by currently narrow but ever-growing margins. If they want to win, the socons like Santorum need to be ditched.

        1. If they want to win, the socons like Santorum need to be ditched.

          This is a just-so story that fits the libertarian narrative. “If Republicans want to win, they should be more like me”

          Not buying that.

          1. We could at least try it the other way once, just to see what happens.

            1. exactly — republicans have lost one way, what’s the harm in losing a different way.

              1. They’re going to go in the exact opposite way you think, and the country will pretty much deserve it.

          2. The voters for U.S. Senate in Missouri disagree with you. Some other socon Senate candidate also got a bit too candid about their socon beliefs and blew a winnable race, IIRC.

            But yeah, nominate Ricky Santorum in 2016 and see how that turns out.

            1. But yeah, nominate Ricky Santorum in 2016 and see how that turns out.

              I’m not a Republican. However, what reason and other libertarians have been doing is concern-trolling the GOP without any evidence.

              “Gee golly, if more people thought like me the world would be a better place”

              We know everyone believes that. It doesn’t mean you can assert that a major party needs to change its tack sans proof.

              The voters for U.S. Senate in Missouri disagree with you. Some other socon Senate candidate also got a bit too candid about their socon beliefs and blew a winnable race, IIRC.

              It was a down year for Republicans of all stripes: Rockefeller Republicans, war vets, socons, fiscons, etc. Look at Scott Brown.

              1. without any evidence.

                The fact that more and more of America particularly the young are not SoCons and are in fact anti-SoCon is not evidence?

              2. And why was this?

                Because the Democrats were able to successfully paint all of those strains of Republicans as being dangerous socons just itching to file their womyn into binders where their appointments for the rape rooms would be scheduled.

                Hell even here in Massachusetts about every 3rd ad I saw placed abortion and the lilly ledbedder act prominantly and Scott Brown is openly and vocally pro choice.

                Brown had to spend an inordinate amount of time trying (largely unsuccessfully based on the ads) to make the point that he was pro choice and Warren kept saying he wasn’t.

              3. Akin in Missouri was AHEAD before he made his comment about legitimate rape not causing pregnancy. He wound up getting creamed — 54.7% for the D, 39.2% for Akin, 6.1% for the libertarian.

                The GOP needs socon VOTERS to win — socon candidates, maybe not so much so. So the argument is — are all the non-Republican voters who supported the likes of Ron Paul outnumbered by the socons who will stay home rather than vote for that kind of Republican?

                Dunno about it being a completely “down year” — the entire House was up for election, as always, and Republicans held on to it. Lost about a dozen seats, but hardly a landslide.

          3. It’s the same story the liberal media and economically conservative Democrat voters are telling: the so-con fundies are scaring off independent and centrist voters from even considering the Republican nominee.

    2. Centrist windmill? I thought Romney was a liberal weather vane?

      1. Six in one hand, half dozen in the other.

        1. Weather vane is prolly more accurate, and what I meant to say.

          Romney’s liberal for a Republican, centrist for the electorate as a whole.

  5. “I suspect that if you voted Libertarian this cycle, you’re a pretty hard-core Libertarian, and unlikely to be won over by any half-measures the GOP might offer in the near future.”

    Come on. Offer a few half measures. Some of us are cheap dates. You might win few of those newer libertarians. Maybe some legal pot – or take a war or two off the table – or a few less business regulations.

    Don’t offer us the old “at least you’ll be ass-raped by a corporatist from the red team rather than a corporatist from the nasty blue team” arguement.

  6. So ignore libertarians at your peril and lose 2.5 million next time, and then 5 million and so on as it becomes ever evident that mere lip service to limited government no longer works.

    1. Are libertarians rabbits?

      1. Typical ad cuniculum from Tulpa.

      2. In an age of instantaneous and free information? Something like that, yes.

  7. votes in a way that does not empower the GOP to do anything to limit that government.

    Hey, just like the GOP congresscritters!

  8. But are the libertarians prepared to share the credit. for Mitt’s peformance?

    1. An almost-clever parody of the real WUWT.

    2. I don’t get this, and it’s like the third time you’ve posted it. WTF?

      1. I think it is trying to say that his view on global warming cost Romney the election. But since that issue was really not discussed at all in the campaign, it doesn’t seem too likely.

      2. Not WTF, Randy, VVTF.

  9. Major question-begging there that the GOP would, in fact, do a damned thing to limit gov’t.

    And “slightly slowing the rate of catastrophic growth” does not count.

  10. As Nick Gillespie and I wrote in The Declaration of Independents, the Tea Party became a force in national politics precisely because it was willing to gamble on a Democrat winning now and then as an acceptable price of using the primary process to push the GOP in a more robustly government-cutting direction.

    OK, but that’s still a long-term strategic vote. The TP was big enough within the GOP at the time that they really had to be catered to. Libertarians are, unfortunately, small fry in the anti-leftist milieu.

    The fact that GJ didn’t swing the election, and didn’t take votes only from MR, means that libertarians can indeed be ignored at no peril whatsoever. If a vote for GJ didn’t matter then it didn’t matter.

    A faction crazy enough to lose is one that has to be reckoned with, instead of being taken for granted.

    Not if that faction is relatively small and difficult to win over without pissing off much bigger factions.

    1. That faction has been driving into the GOP behind Ron Paul. Small but highly energetic, like a bullet.

    2. But the power of one of those other factions (SOCONS) is waning. And some day the numbers will be such that said pandering loses more votes than it wins. I hope I live to see that day.

      1. Rand Paul 2016.

        1. We can always hope…

          But it’s Ricky’s “turn”.

  11. …it would appear that the 1.22 million Libertarian voters were content to “send a message” with their votes? a message that will now be almost entirely ignored in Washington.

    Yes, most contented, indeed. And we’ll keep sending it until you listen. P.S. fuck you.

    1. I’ve been sending that message for 24 years. What’s another 4?

  12. and so the navel-gazing continues. Truth be told, neither party is particularly interested in libertarianism though the Repubs could make a stronger case by actually doing what they give lip service to – governing as fiscal conservatives. Instead, the establishment GOP has howled just as loudly about tea party folks as have the Dems.

    Fiscal conservatism sells because most folks get the ever-spiraling public debt is a bad thing. But where would the Repubs be without the culture warz? Speaking just for me, it is as off-putting as the typical Dem wanting the govt to dictate other parts of my life. As it is, evangelicals are more to blame for Romney’s loss than libertarians since the former can’t wrap their collective pinheads around the concept that Mormons are not Branch Davidians or Moonies.

    What libertarians exist do so solely within the GOP but their task is nearly impossible. Less impossible than trying to convince Dems to limit govt, but on a scale that turning the water down from 212 degrees to 200 may scald you less severely.

  13. Fiscal conservatism sells because most folks get the ever-spiraling public debt is a bad thing.

    Not the ones who aren’t paying taxes. If anything, the massive debt is a signal to them to make sure to loot the treasury before it goes bare.

    1. then explain to them how they are also impacted and stop wasting time on the gayz and abortion and prayer and whether god is in the other party’s platform. You may never win the free-shit crowd, but that 47% includes a good many folks who see 16T and are not happy about it.

      1. stop wasting time on the gayz and abortion and prayer and whether god is in the other party’s platform

        Jeebus, even my 64 yo, WSJ Republican father has figured this out. Stop talking about traditional marriage and whether rape is part of God’s plan. Just quit.

        1. Uh, the problem is that immigrants to this country are largely fiscal libs but are socons, so keep pushing the GOP to change and they will: just not the way you want.

        2. Brett, I think you’re misreading that other commentatatorer.

          1. I’m in total agreement with him, just in a very ranty way.

          2. My bad, rant on. That’s why Aitch Amper Arrgh is here.

  14. a message that will now be almost entirely ignored in Washington

    Well, by the party that won the election, certainly.

    The message is that there are votes to be won for an enterprising party. And it’s not just the votes for Johnson; those represent the hard-core ells. For every vote for Johnson there were probably four more winnable votes; those four people either stayed home or held their nose and voted for one of the major candidates.

    First they ignore you…

    1. If they’ve been ignoring you for 40 years, you’re probably NOT Gandhi.

  15. I’m a pretty hard core Libertarian voter, and I would have been won over by the simplest of half measures, if Romney had thrown it out there:

    cut spending back to 2007 pre-bailout levels, balancing the budget immediately without raising taxes.

    1. But the Prez can’t do that on his own. There are some promises a candidate could have made that wouldn’t have required getting congress to act.

      1. He can put it in his platform, push for it, then accept a compromise of say, cutting half of the annual (supposedly one-time) stimulus spending without raising taxes.

        But Romney didn’t even try. Whenever someone brought up Ryan’s fiscal half-measures, Romney made it clear that those weren’t his plans.

      2. Veto.

        If Congress asks why, refer them to Pro Lib.

  16. Considering how there was little dispute that another four years of Obama would mean another four years of government growing bigger and taking a more active role in citizens’ lives, and how no one really thought Johnson would win, it would appear that the 1.22 million Libertarian voters were content to “send a message” with their votes? a message that will now be almost entirely ignored in Washington.

    Part of the problem is the assumption that Romney was my second choice. Republicans are stuck in this false dilemma where the only two options are Red and Blue, so anyone upset with Blue must like Red better. In actuality, one pretty much every issue, Obama is a terrible president, but Romney was running on vows to be even worse.

    1. We know you’re a Democrat, Stormy. You don’t have to confirm it with us.

      The fact is that regardless of what Romney was going to actually do, people voted on what they THOUGHT he was going to do, what the narrative about Republicans was, which is that they were going to force-feed grandma cat food, and you’re out there being a useful idiot for the liberal populists.

      1. Look at his record as governor of Massachusetts. Perhaps a few people decided to vote Gary Johnson or opt out because they recognized that a vote for Romney meant a vote for more government viewed through the prism of Romney’s gubernatorial performance.

      2. We know you’re a Democrat, Stormy.

        Yup, just keep telling yourselves that everyone who disagrees with you is just a secret Democrat. And in four years you’ll all lose again and be just as shocked by it.

        1. Wait…are you saying you aren’t a Democrat?

          Not being snarky, either, I thought you were pretty openly Democrat. Mea culpa and all that.

  17. If Gore had the full power of the nutroots backing him and demonizing George W. Bush in 2000, Nader would have gotten 1% too. Short of the Democrats nominating Joe Lieberman, I don’t see any lefty third party siphoning that many votes again.

  18. It is the Republicans fault that Romney got 3 million less votes then McCain did in a year when Obama got 9 million less votes then he did in 2008.

    People simply did not vote because Obama obviously failed in his first term and the republicans offered nothing to those 12 million voters who opted out.

    But yeah sure blame the libertarians. It is easier then admitting your own failings.

    1. McCain 2008: 59,948,240

      Romney (so far): 59,134,475

      Not sure where you’re getting this “3 million less votes” thing.

      1. Obama 2008: 69,498,215

        Obama 2012 (so far): 62,611,250

        Not getting this “9 million less votes” thing, either.

        1. It’s now 63,797,318 to 59,827,479, so Romney’s catching up to McCain’s total. With all the provisional, mail-in and absentee voting, it’s taking a long time to get a final total.

  19. The Republicans took a giant shit on Ron Paul supporters during the primaries and during the convention.

    if you are looking for voters perhaps the Republicans should not have taken that shit.

    1. ^^^ THIS.

      You can get votes simply by showing people some respect, and taking their concerns seriously.

      1. “You can get votes simply by showing people some respect, and taking their concerns seriously.”

        LOL..Empathy is for poet socialists, vegan tree huggers, and drug addled hippies, man the fuck up, and vote for US!…pussies! -G.O.P
        -then-
        What happened, how did we lose? ?G.O.P

      2. That was indeed a pointless and stupid act of the GOP establishment, but it’s highly unlikely hardcore Paulites were going to vote Romney anyway.

        1. Yes, but it turned off many of the marginal ones.

  20. “They all look a bit weird.” I want a link with weird bellybutton pictures, not an old article about voting. Disappointing.

  21. I’m now a Republican, and was a nominal supporter of the Romney candidacy.

    But NOT in CA. The election was over before it started, with Obama winning CA by 1 million-plus votes. 100% of our Electoral College votes went to Obama. Game over in the Golden State.

    So while I (reluctantly) send money to the Romney campaign (to be used in the swing states), I proudly voted FOR someone in CA — Gary Johnson, the man who SHOULD be President. I didn’t waste my vote.

  22. 2.7 Million Votes are really a huge number

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.