Election 2014

The 98 Percent of Americans Who Don't Vote Libertarian Spoil Elections for Everyone Else.

The major parties are the true problem.

|

For the past week election analyses have been, as the tired cliché puts it, thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks in Vallombrosa. Yet despite all the postmortems, one burning question remains: Who spoiled the Senate race in Virginia for Robert Sarvis?

Conventional wisdom maintains that Republicans tend to steal the most votes from Libertarian Party candidates. After all, Republicans usually talk a good game about economic freedom. GOP candidates routinely praise job-creating entrepreneurs, denounce the heavy burden of government regulation, and—like libertarians—contend economic growth does more to alleviate poverty than redistributing wealth does.

Come election time, the conservative effort to siphon the libertarian vote sometimes grows explicit. When Sarvis ran for governor of Virginia last year, some voices on the right tried to argue he was an imposter. The true libertarian in the race, they said, was Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli.

"Sarvis a libertarian?" asked National Review. "Nope. The Virginia gubernatorial candidate is a social liberal." (But a libertar—oh, never mind.) The conservative Red State blog concurred, calling Sarvis a "phony libertarian." "Ken Cuccinelli's policies show a strong libertarian streak," argued a piece in the Washington Examiner. An item in The Daily Caller agreed, accusing libertarians of "running a sacrificial lamb candidate as a spoiler" who would help elect "a real crony capitalist," Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

"It is now clear," the piece continued, that "the majority of Robert Sarvis' votes will come at the expense of Cuccinelli."

As National Review would say: nope. According to exit polls, only 3 percent of self-described conservatives voted for Sarvis. By contrast, 7 percent of self-described liberals voted for him. If Sarvis had dropped out of the race, then McAuliffe would have won even bigger. On the other hand, if conservatives, especially those professing to care about libertarian values, had voted for Sarvis instead of Cuccinelli, then McAuliffe would have lost. Way to blow the election, guys!

Funny thing about those professing to care about libertarian values. This year the Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie, came from the more establishment wing of the GOP, and could not be mistaken for a libertarian even on a moonless night. This made Sarvis the undisputed libertarian in the race. Yet those conservatives who last year urged support for Cuccinelli because he was ostensibly the real libertarian did not, this year, urge support for Sarvis. You can't help thinking their unctuous concern last year for the cause of pure libertarianism might not have been wholly sincere. (It is of course dismaying to contemplate the prospect that not everything in politics is always wholly sincere. But we must be grown-ups and admit the possibility, however remote.)

Democrats also compete for the libertarian vote. Like libertarians, they favor less military action abroad. They also talk a good game on social issues such as gay marriage, civil liberties, and the war on drugs. When he ran for president, Barack Obama was particularly emphatic on the need to restore those constitutional rights that had been eroded by the war on terror. Once in office, though, he became an enthusiastic supporter of the Patriot Act and other tools of the leviathan state.

Mark Warner seems to find this less troubling than some other Democrats do, just as he is untroubled by market interventions such as the Export-Import Bank—for which he voiced support earlier this year. And because Gillespie was less strident on social issues than Cuccinelli—but also less forceful in support of economic freedom—Warner and Gillespie took votes from Sarvis in more equal measure. According to exit polls, Sarvis got 3 percent of the vote among self-described conservatives, 3 percent of the vote among self-described moderates, and 3 percent of the vote among self-described liberals.

On the other hand, while zero percent of self-identified Democrats voted for Sarvis, 3 percent of self-identified Republicans did. This has led to some of the same recrimination on the right as last year. While conceding Sarvis is "a serious, well-qualified guy," for instance, Power Line—a prominent conservative blog—spoke for many when it accused him of becoming "a professional spoiler."

But a spoiler of what? A spoiler of GOP hopes, is the implication. The response to that is twofold. First, that premise is often wrong. And second: Even when it is right, so what?

The reason libertarians don't vote for candidates from the two major parties is not because they suffer from a false consciousness that leads them to misapprehend their own political preferences. The reason they don't vote for Republicans or Democrats is because—brace yourself now—they don't want either Republicans or Democrats to win.

As far as libertarians are concerned, the 2 percent of Americans who vote libertarian don't spoil an election. Rather, the 98 percent of Americans who don't vote libertarian are the ones who spoil it for everyone else.

NEXT: Chinese President Annoyed That Obama Made Him Take Questions

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. Nice. Wish I’d thought of that angle.

    1. It is an interesting angle.
      What say you we plagiarize it?

  2. Democrats..Like libertarians, they favor less military action abroad,

    HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    (breath)

    HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    Ohhhh, my – GOOD one, A. Barton!

    1. Yeah, I almost choked myself with my coffee while reading that. Oh, boy! What a whopper.

      Wilson with WWI; Roosevelt provoking the Japanese into attacking the U.S. per orders of Stalin; Truman with Korea; Kennedy/LBJ with Vietnam; Clinton and his myriad wars; our Novel Laureate and his wars…. Yeah, those guys weren’t real Democrats.

    2. I see your point , but I took it to mean “Democrat voters SAY they favor less military action abroad….”

      1. LIberals favor military action when there is no compelling US national interests involved.
        To them the use of military action for american interests or self preservation is immoral jsut like they think that the use of deadly force(use of guns) in a self defense situation is criminal.

        1. What about “Spreading Democracy” and “Humanitarian Interventions”?

          You know – for the children.

      2. In much the same way that Republican voters SAY they favor free markets.

  3. We’re not satisfied unless we get EVERY LAST LIBERTARIAN VOTE!!!

    Even if we take back the senate, increase our majority in the house, gain several more governorships, and humiliate the president with a Republican sweep of the election.

    Those Libertarians are still spoilers because the 2.5% of the votes they get would have been JUST ENOUGH to let Ed Gillespie win in a state we weren’t even expecting to be competitive in!!
    Damn you libertarians for making our Senate Majority one seat smaller! Damn You to hell!!!!

    1. I’m picturing them shaking their fists, too.

      1. I’m envisioning more of a petulant crossed-arms/stamping-feet display.

    2. Looking at my state’s (Arkansas) election results, third parties siphon votes from each other. In races with both a Libertarian and a Green, they’d each get 1-2 percent. In elections with only one, they’d get 3-4 percent.

  4. Oh, also:

    Who Really Spoiled Last Week’s Election?

    Lemme guess – Hitler?

    1. Mike Godwin’s porcupine?

  5. Sarvis and Haugh both got less than 4%. They didn’t spoil anything. No one cares. I don’t see how inventing the meme that they do and everyone is “angry” at the Libertarians for being too popular helps things.

    1. Is it fair to say that Virginia is now a “blue” state? If GOP couldn’t beat Warner in a wave of anti-Obama sentiment and a low turnout, which generally favors the GOP, will Virginia ever be consistently red again?

      1. Not really. Gillespie was a lousy candidate with a ton of baggage. And Warner was a pretty nondescript Senator who had been a fairly popular governor.

        It is all a question of semantics I guess. But the other way to look at it is if the Democrats had to go to the wire pulling out the election for a former popular governor against a poorly regarded Republican candidate, Virginia isn’t very blue.

        1. So Gillespie was that bad? Why was he mentioned in WSJ as a potential gubernatorial candidate, due to his showing? The Virginia GOP must be pretty f’d up.

          1. Yes he was. He just did a lot better than people thought. It is not that Gillespie was that good. It is that Virginia turned out to be this year at least not quite as Blue as people thought. That means that a candidate like Gillespie has a shot where he wouldn’t in a more blue state.

            And McCaulliffe is absolutely horrible. Absent the Republicans running another real culture war candidate, he is going to have a hard time winning re-election.

            Actually, McCauliffe’s elections puts lie to the blue Virginia meme. Cucinelli was right out of central casting for the Democratic Culture war. And he still damn near won.

            1. Virginia Governors are limited to one term. If he wanted to run again he’d have to wait four year after someone else wins.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governor_of_Virginia

              “Virginia governors are not allowed to serve more than one term at a time and therefore cannot stand for reelection at the end of their term as per the 1830 state constitution. However, a governor is permitted to run for a second term in a future election. Only two governors since 1830.”

  6. In Virginia, turnout was less than 37 percent of the voting-eligible population, as low as the national average. http://prospect.org/article/on…..er-turnout

    I wonder why we hardly ever hear anyone talking about the 50-60% “no show” vote. I contend that this is the most libertarian voting bloc out there. These are “protest votes” by default, except nobody counts them. If someone can figure out how to motivate even half of these non-voters to get their asses to the polls, we might finally get somewhere.

    1. Most of those people are functionally retarded. They wouldn’t vote Libertarian, they’d vote “blue” or “up” or “sparkly”. There’s a reason they don’t vote.

      1. I’d also vote for “sparkly” if given the opportunity.

        1. I’d vote shiny.

          1. I’m definitely with you on this one davis.

  7. 70% of Sarvis’ support came independents, 30% from Team red. TEAM blue is stuck on stoopit.

    That said, I live in VA, and Sarvis sucks. BIG TIME. The LP cannot do better than this douche? Redpath would be an excellent candidate. Sarvis is on record bashing the free market.

    Hinkle, of all the faces and races you picked this one? Then there is this whopper of a statement:

    Democrats also compete for the libertarian vote. Like libertarians, they favor less military action abroad.

    Hinkle, you’re an idiot

    1. I have never understood what is so impressive about Sarvis.

  8. If Sarvis had not run, the Republicans likely would have another Senator. That does NOT mean Sarvis should not have run. The people that voted libertarian made the choice that voting libertarian was more important than voting for the least bad of the major parties.

    1. I was curious and looked at the ontheissues.org; I ended up with a slight preference for the Republican candidate, but not enough to care either way.

      I suspect most Libertarian voters are like me that we vote Libertarian when the Republican and Democratic choices are equally bad.

    2. I thought the analysis by Sarvis was that he gave people who hated Gillepsie someone to vote for besides Warner.

  9. There is a psychological component to voting for the predicted winner that will be a thorn in the side of 3rd parties for as long as humans vote.

    Voting for the winner makes people feel good, like their football team won on Sunday. Voting Libertarian may work for the principled voter but many people will struggle with voting for someone they think is likely to not win. This may explain the gap in how Libertarians poll vs the actual votes.

    1. Yep. I had this guy tell me that he would consider voting for Ron Paul, but he didn’t think Ron could win. I told him that I don’t vote for someone based upon whether or not I think someone can win. I think he started to go into something about how “we need to come together on something” or some such. I was already pretty much starting to walk away. I can’t hang with someone that votes based upon whether or not they think the person can win. I mean, that would have to be one of the very last criteria I would base my vote upon.

  10. The problem being a Libertarian is that there is not one kind. Me I am fiscally Conservative, moderate on some social issues and Right on others. I think as the Largest and Richest Free Country in the world we have a duty to promote Democracy and bomb the $hit out of anyone that screws with us….

    So that makes me a Conservative Libertarian, Neo-Con.

    And loads of people who call themselves Libertarian have opposing views.

    Winning Races and being Libertarian depends how your world view aligns with the people voting.

    1. If you want to promote democracy and “bomb the shit out of anyone that screws with us” you are not fiscally conservative. Thanks for playing.

      1. Promoting freedom, democracy, and rule of law is fiscally conservative in the long run, as is retaliating against your enemies.

        Thanks for playing.

  11. We need a two party system in this country. The two parties should be the Republican and the Libertarian. The Democrats should be a weak third party at best

    The primary argument in politics should be the size and scope of government with the Conservatives and Libertarians contending.

    Liberals have proven themselves wholly incapable of running anything and are largely responsible for this train wreck we call the Administrative State which has massively exceeded its Constitutional Mandate.

  12. Well, since people asked…..no, Gillespie wasn’t a great candidate. Being a DC lobbyist and doing some work on VA campaigns is the extent of his connection to the state. He’d never run for office before, and he was heavily outspent. Warner ran a ton of ads in the final month of the campaign and Gillespie couldn’t. If he had the money, he likely would have won IMO.

    No one better ran for the nomination because A)the VA GOP is really weak in potential candidates for higher office and b)no one thought there was any chance Warner would lose. For reasons that elude me, Mark Warner has been very popular for most of his political career. He really talks up how moderate and bipartisan he is, even though he’s a pretty standard-issue Democrat, and people eat it up.

  13. As far as Virginia goes in general…..yes, the parasitic growth of the DC suburbs will ensure that it’s never a Republican stronghold again. Now, whether it becomes a solid blue state like NY or MD is another thing. Bob McDonnell won fairly handily here just five years ago, so I don’t think the GOP is dead here by any means. They just need better candidates than Gillespie and the retread years of George Allen and Jim fucking Gilmore. Bill Bolling probably would have beaten McAuliffe in 2013 if he hadn’t been too much of a pussy to battle Cuccinelli for the Republican nomination. I don’t think Tim Kaine is a particularly strong incumbent, so a decent candidate (Barbara Comstock or , maybe?) could knock him off. VA Govs are limited to a single term, so McAuliffe can’t run for re-election in 2017, and there’s no one who’s any kind of a lock for the Dems. The attorney general is Mark Herring, who only beat Mark Obenshain by 900 votes even with the rest of the Rep ticket dragging him down. The lt. gov. is Ralph Northam, who excites no one. The state offices will be pretty much up for grabs that year.

  14. Not to mention the FACT that more than a small number of Americans (eligible and registered to do so) DO NOT vote. Why? The primary reason (no pun intended) seems to be that those absentee voters are totally disgusted with both the Democrats and Republicans, and the self-serving and arrogant politicians who run those parties, and who have been dictating their self-centered agendas to this country for at least 100 years now.

    To top all of this off, Libertarians have pandered their real interests to a Senator who claims to push a Libertarians agenda, although his chances of being nominated for the Presidency of The U.S. by the Republicans is slim to zero.

    Don’t forget that it was The Democrats (under The Clintons) who pushed for Gay and Lesbian civil rights, and the current administration who actually made it open and legal for Gays and Lesbians to serve in The Armed Forces of The U.S. That’s just one example. Add to that, the probability that The Democrats are far more likely to further another Libertarian favorite, Immigration Reform, which can only be resolved by making it a lot easier for non criminal foreign nationals to legally enter this country faster, and become citizens faster.

    1. “To top all of this off, Libertarians have pandered their real interests to a Senator who claims to push a Libertarians agenda, although his chances of being nominated for the Presidency of The U.S. by the Republicans is slim to zero.”

      Are you talking about Ron Paul? I guess you cannot be talking about Ron Paul since he was not a Senator. He was never in the Senate.

      Pander? PANDER? Are you pandering to Libertarians right now? With the notion that I should vote for someone based upon whether or not I think they can win? Rather than the issues and platform that they run upon!?!?

  15. libertarians, with their obsession with being as far
    for the right AND left are just left with a bunch
    of ideas that have no basis in reality
    that’s why they are the fringe

    1. I hear ya. I mean, End The Fed?

      That has no basis in reality! Kind of like the “money” that they “produce.”

  16. “The 98 Percent of Americans Who Don’t Vote Libertarian Spoil Elections for Everyone Else”

    Best title ever.

  17. Let’s face it, an election involves a choice between only two alternatives.

  18. I know when I vote Libertarian that a vote is being siphoned off of the Republican candidate because I never vote for Democrats ever and often vote for Libertarians. Even when a Democrat is the only person running I won’t vote for them. They are leftist socialist collectivists that have no thought process in common with libertarians even where their interests align. Their motives are always completely different and in the long run will lead to very different ends even if in the short term they agree.

    I myself would probably go full blown Libertarian and change my registration from Republican to Libertarian except for the fact that the current movement is off the rails in regards to mass illegal immigration. Of course, not all Libertarians are so suicidal in their immigration beliefs (Hans-Hermann Hoppe)but I can’t join a party run by suicidal leaders believing they can permit a massive reordering of society and culture and not have widespread negative consequences for libertarian ideals which cannot prosper in a country run by collectivist planners. Since these illegals overwhelmingly side with Democrats and overwhelmingly reject Libertarian philosophy by their own words, what do Libertarians think is going to happen when their dreams of open borders end up giving collectivists planners a permanent voting majority in one of the only places on the planet where Libertarians actually have a chance to advance their ideals?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.