Read This If You Believe Your Candidate Lost Due to Third-Party Voters
A primer on arguing outside the war between the blue and the red
So it turns out Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli were able to draw away enough votes to keep Robert Sarvis from winning Virginia's governor's race. I hope the folks who put those guys on the ballot are happy.
Last night, my Twitter feed had quite a few conservatives laying the blame on Sarvis for costing Cuccinelli the election (which really isn't true according to polls, and it probably wouldn't even had been a close outcome but for the Obamacare mess). So in the spirit of reconciliation, here are some tips from a typical third-party voter to major party movers and shakers who are trying to figure out how to approach us. Note: I live in California and therefore did not vote in Virginia's gubernatorial race. If I had, I probably would have voted for Sarvis.
We don't like your candidate. Really, this should go without saying. We are not voting for your candidate because we don't like your candidate and what he or she stands for. At least, he or she stands for enough things we don't like to want to see your candidate lose. Even if Sarvis voters did cause Cuccinelli to lose, it's extremely important to understand that this is what these voters wanted. That the outcome was McAuliffe's victory is also unfortunate, but don't assume that Sarvis voters actually saw Cuccinelli as the lesser of two evils.
You need to make an actual case for your candidate. Once you wade out of the red team versus blue team fight, you have to set aside the mentality that comes with it. Too many folks were still making the argument that Cuccinelli was better than McAuliffe when they needed to be making the argument that Cuccinelli was better than Sarvis. Timothy Carney at the Washington Examiner took on this task later in late October and made some good points about Cuccinelli. It probably wouldn't have been enough to get my vote, but it was at least enough to make me think it over.
Don't presume to tell us what we believe. Oh, look, conservative National Review says Sarvis isn't a real libertarian and libertarians shouldn't vote for him. Libertarians are used to having their positions misunderstood, misappropriated and mischaracterized by both the left and the right. Anybody trying to come explaining libertarianism to libertarians better be able to make a good case. Sarvis has been hit over his position on taxes, particularly on paying for roads with a mileage tax. The mistake here is assuming that libertarians are supposed to believe in a world without taxes entirely. Not entirely true, depending on where an individual libertarian falls on the spectrum. As has been noted before, Adrian Moore of the Reason Foundation has himself spoken in favor of mileage taxes as a way to pay for roads using the money of the people who actually use them. From my background in covering and watching municipal politics I'm a skeptic. I don't think it's a bad idea – I just don't trust that it will be implemented as a replacement tax and will just add to citizens' burdens, and I don't trust that the money would actually go to roads. This doesn't make either Moore or myself non-libertarians. We are assessing the likely outcomes of the policy in different ways.
No really, don't pull this blue versus red crap on us. The Blaze noted that an Obama bundler helped pay for the petitioning process to get Sarvis on the ballot. So … guilt by association? I guess Sarvis should have just not run for governor if he needed assistance from somebody experienced in political processes because it's from the left? According to The Blaze's own reporting, the guy gives money to both libertarians and Democrats. We get the same crap from the left whenever the Koch brothers money finds its way into hands of conservatives as well. Strangely, this piece is the one getting thrown at me the most, but it has the least compelling argument. It's pointless left vs. right purity test crap.
Respect that voters determine their own political priorities. I criticized Carney's column because it felt to me like he was saying that those libertarians who were voting against Cuccinelli because of his social conservatism should deprioritize these concerns. He argued that "identity politics" was helping sink Cuccinelli. As frustrating as "identity politics" can be, it's important not to confuse the term with the idea that voters have different priorities than you have. Voting against a candidate because you believe he will try to implement policies that will harm you or people you care about is not identity politics, even if the policies are connected to your identity. I have read a number of folks lamenting that voters turned against Cuccinelli on these "social issues." The outcome of such a complaint is giving the voter the impression that you don't care about or don't respect their personal priorities when choosing a candidate. If that's the case, how can you ever expect them to vote for yours?