Tom VanAntwerp

Republican Victory Spoiled

In a race where nobody won a majority of the vote, Terry McAuliffe beat Ken Cuccinelli and Robert Sarvis for the governorship of Virginia. Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate, won 6.6% of the total vote, which is greater than the margin between McAuliffe (the Democrat) and Cuccinelli (the Republican). This likely means that many conservative pundits will start complaining about libertarian “spoilers” who cost Republicans elections, including this one.

And they will be right. Libertarian candidates do spoil elections for Republicans. And that’s awesome!

Republicans need to remember that they are not entitled to anyone’s vote. (Nor are Democrats, for that matter.) They have to run a solid campaign that promises what people want if they hope to win. And over time, when they do win, they have to deliver. When Libertarians draw enough voters away from Republican candidates such that they lose, they should take it as a sign that they promised the wrong things and delivered the wrong things.

The Republican reliance on social conservatism will continue to be a growing weakness, and Libertarians will exploit it. And if Republicans hate that Democrats win because Libertarians exists, then they should take the views of the libertarian swing vote more seriously.

Telling libertarians to vote Republican because they have more in common than with Democrats is just silly. In the case of my home state of North Carolina, the government is firmly Republican controlled. Since they came to power, they’ve tried to institute a state religion, banned Sharia Law (in case it wasn’t clear which law governs NC), gerrymandered the state (admittedly, par for the course in NC), tried to require parental permission for teens to buy birth control, or be treated for STIs, substance abuse, or mental illness, and attempted to ban co-ed university housing. Sure, there have been some economic reforms that may appeal to libertarians; but I, for one, can tolerate the existence of unemployment benefits more readily than the conservative paternalism that they’ve been pushing. It’s clear that when Republicans promise to protect economic freedoms, they may do so only as an afterthought; their first priority is to enshrine their religious beliefs in law. Why would any sane libertarian believe the promises of a Republican? How could I honestly think that they are somehow preferable to Democrats?

Can anyone really be shocked that Virginia libertarians were as turned off by Cuccinelli’s crusade against sodomy as they were by McAuliffe’s cronyism?

In my own experience, Republicans are not better than Democrats—they are just bad in different ways. They are no more preferable as a second-best choice for libertarians than are the Democrats.

I want to believe that Libertarians “spoiling” elections for Republicans will teach them a lesson, but I doubt it. I expect complaints, continued pushes for insane laws, and probably some ballot restrictions to kick Libertarians to the curb wherever possible.

But maybe in the near future, Libertarians can start spoiling things for Democrats too. That would be progress.

Note: I have alternated between “Libertarian” and “libertarian” in this post to denote either members of the Libertarian Party or philosophically libertarian individuals, respectively.

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