Gary Johnson

Segmenting of the Libertarian Vote: Tea Partiers, Civil Libertarians, and Libertarian Independents

Written by David Kirby, associate policy analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Last week, I posted data from the latest Reason-Rupe poll showing 77 percent of libertarians supporting Romney—the highest percentage share of the libertarian vote of any Republican presidential candidate since 1980.

Many commenters on Twitter and Facebook were horrified! Surely, many reasoned, this large vote share is a measure of antipathy for Obama rather than affinity for Romney. Others commented that any libertarian supporting Romney doesn’t deserve to be considered a “true” libertarian.

I wanted to reflect on this last comment. Who should count as a libertarian?

In our Cato research, David Boaz, Emily Ekins and I have taken to using a relatively broad definition of a libertarian. Why? Compared to other political words like “capitalism” or “socialism,” fewer know the word “libertarian.” Many who hold libertarian views call themselves “moderate” or “independent” or even “conservative.” Few polls even offer respondents an option to identify themselves as “libertarian.” Those that do reveal confusion about what the word means.

How to win libertarians to the GOP (and how not to)

As the election approaches, backers of both major candidates are doing their best to round up any potential uncommitted voters.  For the Republicans, one of these target blocs seems to be libertarians, many of whom are planning to not vote, or to support Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson (myself being the latter).   However, as Jason expressed earlier this week, these attempts are often counterproductive because conservatives, by and large, do not understand how libertarians think, and thus conversion efforts fall flat.

Now, for my purposes I don’t particularly care who wins this year, because both candidates are frankly awful. As I expressed in my post last week the GOP has in many ways become a joke, dominated by people who add nothing to the intellectual marketplace, and in fact often dumb it down and polarize the country for their own gain.  When Mitt Romney expressed his now infamous “47%” theory, he was regurgitating the sort of fact-free nonsense that is rampant on the right.  However, there are also those who believe the party has some hope, and offers the best chance for libertarian voices to be heard.  If that is the case, though, the party as a whole needs to understand some things about us crazy libertarians, and the current tactics used to convince us are in fact going to do the opposite.

On libertarians, Mitt Romney, and the future of fusionism

Mitt Romney

Over the last few days, I’ve been reading some interesting conversations on Twitter and elsewhere about the role that libertarians will play in the presidential election. There has been a lot of talk about Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee, spoiling the election for Mitt Romney. That has obviously caused some concern by and friction from conservatives, who are saying that a “vote for Johnson is a vote for Obama.”

Before I jump into some points, I’d like to remind my conservative friends that this is not one national race for president, but rather 51 separate races, including the District of Columbia. By my count, Romney has a long road to haul in many battleground states, including Colorado, Ohio, and Virginia. Right now, President Barack Obama holds a substantial advantage in the Electoral College, which is what ultimately matters on election day.

There is a disconnect between conservatives and libertarians. Our conservative friends tend to believe in the concept of “ordered liberty,” a principle perhaps best explained by Russell Kirk. To most libertarians, the concept of ordered liberty is really “soft statism.” As you might imagine, this view doesn’t really have much of an appeal to libertarians.

When it comes down to it, libertarians don’t fit anywhere on the political scale. While many will dumb down our beliefs as “socially liberal” and “fiscally conservative,” there is really much more to the equation. We believe in the sovereignty of the individual. Our view of morality can be best defined by what John Stuart Mill called the “harm principle.”

Should libertarians support Mitt Romney?

One of the biggest questions many libertarians are dealing with is who to support for president this year. The Libertarian Party has nominated a somewhat credible candidate, at least by his resume alone, in former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Some others are trying to mount a nationwide write in campaign to try and get Ron Paul elected, even though his campaign is over.

While our conservative friends are trying to persuade us to support Mitt Romney. Kurt Schlichter has written one of the more persuasive pieces over on Breitbart’s Big Government:

There is no more time for games, no room for hurt feelings. Ron Paul fans, you need to choose, because not voting for Romney is a vote for Obama. It’s that simple. And you could make the difference.
[…]
Making no choice in this election is a choice –it’s a choice for a collectivist who will get two or three Supreme Court picks over a man who picked a guy, Paul Ryan, who understands capitalism and its unbreakable link to human freedom. Now, this is a two-way street. Romney and Ryan need to reach out to libertarians over their common ground. Fortunately, there is lots of common ground.

No, the Republican Party is not a libertarian party, but it is the only party with any libertarian element. It’s the only place you have any chance of being heard. And with guys like Rand Paul and the libertarian-friendly Tea Party elements, you can be in the GOP.

Most of that is true. The Republican Party of the two major parties is the one that has a genuine libertarian element. The Democratic Party as seen in its convention is generally hostile to individual liberty.

Can this Marriage be Saved: Libertarians and the GOP

Republicans

Conventions aren’t just about the present, conventions are also about the future. As the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa draws to a close, one of the most important questions for the party going forward is what role – if any – will libertarians play in the direction of the GOP in the years ahead.

Congressman Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination helped to launch the modern day liberty movement and gave voice to libertarians within the Republican Party.

The rise of the Tea Party and a second Paul Republican Presidential run gave the libertarian wing of the party hope for the future and increased visibility.

As Paul’s popularity grew in the party, so did the tension between the libertarian wing of the GOP and the party’s establishment. Many in the establishment would have you believe that the tension was more about the behavior of Ron Paul’s supporters than about policy. While there is no doubt that Ron Paul has an intensely loyal and fervent following, the truth is the tension wasn’t about behavior – it was about policy.

Libertarians want an end to foreign adventurism, they want deep cuts in spending across the board (including the military), they want government out of the boardrooms and the bedrooms, they want dramatic tax reform (starting with throwing out the current tax code), they want to privatize social security and Medicare, and they want a return to sound money.

The policy differences between libertarians and the current GOP are real and they are significant. The question going forward is whether this marriage can be saved?

Sentences I Hate: “Americans Are Hungry for Leadership.”

Cross-posted from Friction Tape.

By United States Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Wall Street Journal editorial board today floats House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan as the best possible vice presidential running mate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney:

The case for Mr. Ryan is that he best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election. More than any other politician, the House Budget Chairman has defined those stakes well as a generational choice about the role of government and whether America will once again become a growth economy or sink into interest-group dominated decline.

Against the advice of every Beltway bedwetter, he has put entitlement reform at the center of the public agenda—before it becomes a crisis that requires savage cuts. And he has done so as part of a larger vision that stresses tax reform for faster growth, spending restraint to prevent a Greek-like budget fate, and a Jack Kemp-like belief in opportunity for all. He represents the GOP’s new generation of reformers that includes such Governors as Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and New Jersey’s Chris Christie.

As important, Mr. Ryan can make his case in a reasonable and unthreatening way. He doesn’t get mad, or at least he doesn’t show it. Like Reagan, he has a basic cheerfulness and Midwestern equanimity.

Build the Liberty Farm Team

After the GOP convention in Tampa in August, Ron Paul’s presidential campaign and political career will officially come to an end. Despite the protestations of some hardcore supporters, Ron Paul will not be the Republican nominee and in fact, he will likely not even be nominated at the convention in Tampa.

Many supporters are gravitating towards campaign of Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, however to be perfectly blunt, my three month old puppy has a better shot at being elected President than he does. In addition, there will be same number of Libertarian Party members of the House and Senate, none. This is not what I hope will happen, this is simply stating reality. If the liberty movement is to continue after the end of Ron Paul’s career, we need to lay a solid foundation for political success. I believe the best way to lay a foundation for the liberty movement is take a page from professional baseball and build a “farm team” of future leaders to run for political office and activists to work the races.

In professional baseball all Major League Baseball teams have a developmental system of minor league teams. The minor league teams are rated from AAA all the way down to A. In addition, there are special developmental leagues for rookie players drafted right out of college. Other sports leagues are trying to replicate the system to develop the next generation of professional athletes. We in the liberty movement, regardless of what we call ourselves, need to take the same approach to politics and political office.

Mitt Romney: Can’t Be Trusted on Judicial Nominations

The Romney campaign has been bragging to every outlet they can about the amazing $4.6 million haul they took in yesterday in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the individual mandate.

The fact that Romney was able to so immediately and succesfully capitalize on the Supreme Court’s decision is a stark reminder that a sucker is born every minute.

The swing vote in the landmark Obamacare decision was that of Chief Justice John Roberts.  Roberts wrote the opinion that grants the federal government almost limitless power via the taxation clause.  Even worse, and most frightening, this decision provides a roadmap for future Congresses and future Presidents to end run any lip-service limitations the Court provided to the limits of the commerce clause power or any other supposedly “limited” power of the federal government.  And don’t even get me started on the 9th or 10th amendment, because apparently neither of those amendments exist any longer.

According to Mitt Romney, Chief Justice Roberts, now enemy number one to many conservatives and constitutionalists, is EXACTLY the kind of justice he would nominate if elected President.

Romney’s own website continues to say that he will appoint justices like Chief Justice Roberts (you would think his crack team of consultants would have scrubbed this by now).

Indeed, not only is Romney promising to nominate justices like Roberts, he has been effusive in his praise for Bush nominess like Roberts:

I think the justices that President Bush has appointed are exactly spot-on. I think Justice Roberts and Justice Alito are exactly the kind of justices America needs.

An Open Letter To Ron Paul Supporters

Brian Doherty, whose written a history of the libertarian movement and, most recently, a history of Ron Paul’s two most recent campaigns for the Presidency, writes today about what might come next for the movement that has sprung up around the retiring Texas Congressman now that his campaign, and his political career, have come to an end:

While Ron Paul has no future in politics, the Ron Paul machine and his son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, will. That’s why the political pros in the Paul movement don’t appreciate acting-out like Richard Gilbert’s lawsuit. That’s also why Rand Paul risked the wrath of his father’s hardcore fans by endorsing Mitt Romney, just as soon as Ron Paul admitted he would not win.

Senator Paul knows he needs to reach beyond his father’s 10-15 percent base in the primaries to more mainstream, red-state, talk-radio Republicans. He can’t do that by marking himself as a traitor to the party. So he stands behind nominee Romney and plans to actively campaign for him.

But he also can’t mark himself a traitor to the Ron Paul cause. So Rand Paul followed up his endorsement by calling out Romney in the pages of National Review for Romney’s declaration that he would have the authority as president to start a war with Iran. That sort of foreign policy adventurism — especially when done without respect for Congress’s traditional constitutional power over declaring war — is anathema to the core Ron Paul crowd, and Rand Paul condemned it.

(…)

Three Reasons Why I Think Romney Will Win in November

I’m not going to pretend for a minute that I think that Romney is the best thing to happen to America. He has not committed to seriously cut spending, he’s been pandering to his social conservative base so much we can’t expect improvements on that front, and I don’t expect him to end the wars. But, when I look at the data out there, I think that he will win the election in November. Not handily, not by a landslide, but it will be a win.

My reasoning comes down to three points:

  1. It’s the Economy, Stupid
  2. Majority of Americans Opposed to Big Government
  3. Obama’s Support Fading

It’s the Economy, Stupid: This one is fairly simple. The economy is in tatters. Roughly 13 million Americans are out of work. The unemployment numbers are just horrific for recent college graduates, one of the biggest support groups for Obama ‘08, half of whom can’t find work. Obama’s stimulus programs have been abject failures. But there’s one datapoint in particular that has only started getting attention recently.

That’s the “civilian labor force participation rate.” Essentially, the civilian LFPR is the percentage of Americans who are either working or are unemployed but are looking for work. That means that if you’re not sending out job applications and have given up, well, congratulations—you’re no longer unemployed! (At least in the minds of the analytical mentats of the Bureau for Labor Statistics.)


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