Of course by that title I mean how do all the liberty movement people feel about being conned into flushing their vote away on Romney? This post is inspired by a comment I left on a Jeremy Kolassa piece over at United Liberty (if you are not reading him, by the way, you should be). Jeremy was making the pre-election case that if the Libertarian Party, with a candidate as good as Gary Johnson, couldn't crack a million votes he was just plain done advocating or supporting them. Well they did crack the threshold, giving their best showing ever in raw vote total, but there was so much more that could have happened here. The real tragedy, and problem in my opinion, is that so many people who would have voted for Johnson, if for no other reason than to make a statement of their displeasure with the system, bought into the fiction that this was THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF YOUR LIFETIME AND IF YOU DO NOT SUPPORT ROMNEY THE REPUBLIC WILL FALL horseshit that was flowing hard and heavy from many quarters. It was unfortunately flowing very heavy from many people in the liberty movement, supposed standard bearers for principles of limited government and freedom. They said that we had to play nice-nice with the GOP, that if we split the vote and cost the election they would never let us in the tent. They advocated fusionism and long ball, that whole ‘what happens to Rand in 2016?’ shtick, as if that is the only possible or desirable outcome for the liberty enthusiast. They said an awful lot about this, and I would say (and said at the time) they were wrong, and that they actually did a disservice to the movement. I would say they actually suppressed the Johnson vote, something that could have panned out to well over 5% of the electorate and maybe started to build momentum for the future.
As an example let’s start with my home state of New Hampshire. Romney made a real push for the state, purple on any given day, with a lot of big money outreach (commercials, phone calls etc). When you look at the actual outcome of the election, it wasn't even competitive, and the Johnson vote had absolutely no impact on the outcome. What also had no impact were any ‘potential’ votes Johnson might have gotten that ended up being wasted on Romney. When you look at the numbers:
Obama: 368,259 - 52.6%
Romney: 327, 870 - 46.4%
Johnson: 8,319 - 1.2%
Pretty pitiful, huh? 1.2% of the vote for Johnson, and Romney lost by more than 40,000 votes. Yet what about ‘potential’ votes? Take a look at our other races:
Governor 1st Congressional District 2nd Congressional District
Hassan (D) 378,258 (54.6%) Shea-Porter (D) 171,356 (49.7%) Kuster (D) 168,954 (50.2%)
Lamontagne (R) 294,477 (42.5%) Guinta (R) 158,482 (46%) Bass (R) 151,858 (45.1%)
Babiarz (L) 19,868 (2.9%) Kelly (L) 14,968 (4.3%) Macia (L) 15,779 (4.7%)
So, if you are an arrogant and pretentious GOP blowhard who believes all Libertarian votes should go to the Republicans you could make the case that Guinta lost his job thanks to the LP. More important than that piece of fiction though is the Governor’s race. This race was not even close, thanks in no large part to terrible, terrible candidates, but look at the raw numbers: 11,000 more people filled an oval for Babiarz in the governor’s slot (less than a ½” right below Johnson who was the first name on the ballot) than actually voted for Johnson. If you combine the two congressional races, again leaving aside whatever internal dynamics might be involved in NH, over 30,000 voted LP in those races, holding over 4% of the vote, while Johnson carries only 1.2%. Why? How many of those people found themselves believing the silly idea that there was a dime’s bit of difference between Romney and Obama, or that they were saving the nation from the evils of Progressive European style socialism? How did people find themselves vested in the notion that their vote for Romney was one to save the country, yet decided that in all the races down ticket involving craptastic generic R and D candidates they would buck the system and cast a vote on principle? What impact did all the media bloviating, including that of our supposed leaders and intellectuals in the liberty movement, have on these people decision? What might have been the outcome had all those advocating betraying principle to vote, once again, for the ‘lesser-of-two-evils’, had said instead ‘don’t fall for it again, make a real statement by supporting the person who’s beliefs you actually agree with’? You could reasonably say Johnson would have passed at least 4% here, and maybe much, much more had the message been the latter. But this is just New Hampshire, what about the rest of the country?
There are a few other governor’s races, one’s that draw a statewide crowd, that show similar trends. 1% for Johnson while the other race garners 2 to 4%:
North Carolina Missouri Indiana
McCrory (R) 2,447,988 (54.7%) Nixon (D) 1,485,147 (54.7%) Pence (R) 1,268,076 (49.6%)
Dalton (D) 1,931,750 (43.2%) Spence (R) 1,157,475 (42.6%) Gregg (D) 1,187,508 (46.4%)
Howe (L) 95,154 (2.1%) Higgins (L) 73,196 (2.7%) Boneham (L) 101,326 (4.0%)
Johnson @ 44,798 (1%) Johnson 43,029 (1.6%) Johnson 49,838 (1.9%)
Now, in all of these cases the LP vote did not affect the outcome of the governor’s race, and had all the people who voted LP down ticket voted Johnson it would also not have changed the outcome of that state’s presidential race. Given the nature of the absolute creaming the GOP took nationwide the complete flipping of the LP vote behind Johnson wouldn't have changed the electoral map at all. Romney and the republicans lost this race all on their own, and there was nothing they could have done about it, except maybe running a coherent campaign. The impact of a 4 or 5% Johnson vote though would have paid much higher dividends. The LP being designated as a ‘major party’ would have avoided future ballot and debate access issues that played out this year. Imagine what would have happened with Johnson on the debate stage, challenging the stupid little narratives that Obama and Romney brought to the stage. How well could the cause of limited government and liberty been advanced, say had, oh I don’t know, an actual advocate of those principles had been talking about them for the American people to hear? Wouldn't that have been nice? Instead we had people in our own tent openly and often scoff at the notion, demeaning the notion that we should be supporting and voting FOR something. Asking us to be place holders for some big grand fight in 2016 instead of making a push for real separation did everyone a disservice.
Those who stood with the GOP are on the losing side, and those of us who stood with Johnson can only point to the fact we brought a million votes to the table. The Ron Paul supporters, many million liberty minded votes we were told, where were they? What portion of the losing tally were ‘liberty’ voters? Do you see the problem? This race was lost months ago, there was no hope of a Romney presidency, and everyone seems to be realizing that now. Now, in the GOP civil war that everyone says is coming, what possible metrics does the liberty movement bring to the equation. If the liberty voter, who probably liked Johnson much better than Romney, had voted for him what could we be saying now? Four, five, six million votes? If the Paulites had come on en mass, what would that have meant? As it stands what can anyone say? When the factional strife comes who will come out on top? There is a great deal of talk about the direction that the party will take. There are some saying the GOP has to go more libertarian, while others say they need to go even more conservative. In an all out brawl who wins, Rand Paul or Rick Santorum? Is this a turning point for the republicans? Will they change their ways? What should the liberty enthusiast be doing?
Personally do not see it happening, and even if it did the real problem is, and some may disagree, is that the well is poisoned. What does the GOP stand for? How easy was it to take the extreme, yet entrenched, elements of the party and make it a winning talking point all over the country? Take as an example the Scott Brown race in Massachusetts. Near the end of the campaign you started to see in the commercials state something to the effect of “a vote for Scott Brown might give the radical republicans a majority in the senate”. Brown was a middle of the road guy if there ever was one, and Elizabeth Warren is a barn burning ideologue, yet who won and why? The national attention paid to the ramblings of idiots like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock allowed for that set-up, if you could even call it that. Hold up the ‘rape-baby’ theocratic types, and ask the question - a vote for your local republican puts clowns like that in positions of power, do you really want that?
While people will say look at the inroads, look at the Republican Liberty Caucus in congress, think of the potential; my response is always what happens when the brand is tarnished? Who gets thrown out with the bathwater. The Skeptical Libertarian wrote a great piece educating people that it is the libertarians who have been leading the charge on gay marriage. He is absolutely correct in everything he says, and he uses New Hampshire as an example. In our state the just terrible Speaker of the House (who had super-majorities in both houses and has essentially run the show without the governor for two years) let the social conservatives off the leash and they tried to implement some of their planks. The biggest fight was over trying to undo the marriage equality law. It was stopped by the libertarian leaning republicans and other moderate legislators, most standing on principle and some who held greater than a 3rd grade education and realized this would cost seats to the majority. These people did good work that day, and nearly to a man they were all swept out of office last week. They were in the poisoned well. I have friends who got bounced out of their seats even though they were the ones who stood athwart of the crazy train, receiving no credit from the voters for their action. Most all of those social conservatives, including the now former speaker, get to keep their seat however. Place that now on every race for the next four years. If the democrats have half a brain (which is debatable) then in every race going forward there will be commercials, interviews and debate questions foisted on every GOP candidate demanding they answer questions about abortion, contraception, rape babies, science vs. God’s will and every other thing that can be thrown out there from the direct quotes of social conservative candidates in other races. This limits any chance you have of talking about the issues of limited government and liberty, the general GOP baggage prevents you from doing it.
The GOP and the Democrats spent well over $2 Billion on securing the presidency. Does anyone really think they did that because they truly and deeply care about you and I? Is our message of being free of a state that has so much power over us and our economy that it justifies some groups spending $2 Billion on the top office ever going to resonate with either of those stated groups? There are GOP thinkers who say to secure future victory they need to be less anti-gay, anti-Mexican, theocratic ‘family-values’ oriented and more libertarian. Why not just be Libertarian then? This is why I advocate for not bothering with the GOP, and I would hope that at this point some of our intellectuals and media titans would start doing the same. If you came out as a Libertarian party candidate you automatically avoid having the social conservative baggage. You could advocate for the things you believe in from a clean slate, and you could attempt to convince not only independents and registered republicans, but democrats as well. We could reach out to the TEA Party and see if they truly have the limited government credentials they have claimed for so long. For those of us who claim to be members and advocates of the liberty movement we need to start asking how important our principles really are. If it is really about principles and not party or people, then why not advocate and support the people and the party that most closely reflects our principles, for as long as they meet that criteria? Doesn't that seem more productive then joining in what is going to be, at least for the next few years, a naked and hollow attempt to pander for votes in order to maintain or retain power?