Thursday, May 18, 2006

Where is the Libertarian Party Going? Part 2

Leo Morris recently blogged his thoughts on Ryan Sager's recent Real Clear Politics article on the Libertarian Party. Interestingly, Leo says:

It's astonishing, really, that libertarians have split themselves almost 50-50 between the two major parties. If they both advocate big-spending government, I suppose it doesn't really matter much who libertarians let themselves be marginalized by.

He's absolutely right.

If you believe in libertarian principles but are voting either Republican or Democrat, you are wasting your vote. Look to Mike Pence as the prime example.

Pence took a completely libertarian position on federal spending- it's out of control, it's too much, and it's his party that needs to change things because they control majorities in both the House & Senate, plus they have the Executive branch and the veto power.

So what happened? the GOP leadership took Pence to the woodshed, smacking him down hard. Republicans are addicted to spending.

Mainly- why should elected Republicans change their behavior if the small government people keep giving them their votes? Answer: They have no reason to. They keep getting the votes.

Unless and until small-l libertarians vote capital-L Libertarian, Republicans can take fiscal conservatives for granted. Of course, this equally applies to the small-l libertarians who vote Democrat because they seemingly line up on many social issues.

I understand that one of the most powerful reasons small-ls vote major party is to vote against the major party they fear the most. However, voting for something that's half awful in order to prevent something that's completely awful still yields something half-awful. Do half-awful frequently enough, and you get something completely awful anyway.

As for the Sager article, I don't deny his assessment of the Libertarian Party overall. Indiana is one distinctly different state, as compared to the national party and most state affiliates. I really wouldn't expect him to single out Indiana as an exception in a generalized, short article.

Indiana is setting the example for the national party and state affiliates by taking an incremental rather than absolutist, utopian position. We have listened to the concerns average voters have about the utopian positions. Heck- listening to the public is something the major parties' officials ought to do more of. We have a well-organized party, we run a good number of qualified candidates, and we are talking about issues that matter to people- not merely our pet issues.

I hope Libertarians across the country read the Sager article and take heed. There is much to learn from criticism, and Sager's is fair.

I also hope small-l libertarians take heed of Morris. There is much to learn in his criticism of small-ls who vote major party.

Thanks to Jeff Pruitt for pointing out the Morris post!

Update: Pew's research is analyzed by the Cato Institute's John Samples, who blogged thusly:
One-third of Pew’s libertarians are between 18 and 29 years of age. Libertarians are thus fifty percent more likely to be found among the young than in the population as a whole. They are also much more likely to be found among the youngest cohort than are conservatives or populists.

So the present may seem bleak for libertarians. But just wait. Help is on the way.

Indiana Libertarians have already discovered this trend. One of the most successful outreach areas has been the numerous College Libertarian groups statewide. I have visited the Notre Dame and Indiana Wesleyan groups, and they draw numbers that exceed their Democratic and Republican counterparts on campus, and even some county party organizations. Our first Libertarian Collegiate Conclave in February was well-attended despite dreadful weather. It's very promising!

-Mike Kole


Doug said...

I used to believe this argument, but I've come to believe that in this situation the perfect is the enemy of the good. If I believed that the Republicans and the Democrats were roughly equivalent in the harm they caused the country, I'd probably continue casting Libertarian votes.

However, the last 5 years of Republican control at the federal level has been such an unmitigated disaster, there is just no way I could do anything but go with the best shot of checking Republican power.

That's the case at the federal and, to a lesser extent, the state level. I'll still happily cast Libertarian ballots for local elections, and I think that's where the Libertarian Party can best focus its efforts.

Just my two cents.

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