I am on the record having voted Libertarian for President in 2012 and 2016. Indiana is a pretty safe state for Republicans and like many people I have found myself drifting further to the Right as the years have gone by to the point that I got tired of generic neo-con dominated Republicanism that promised those of us on the Right great things if only we elected Republicans just one more time. But I also voted for the Libertarian candidate for the Senate in 2012, Andrew Horning. The GOP candidate that year was a disaster and Horning managed to pull in a significant 5.67% of the vote (145,282 votes). That is not the entire difference between the Democrat winner Joe Donnelly, who beat Republican Richard Mourdock by 147,560 votes but it was awfully close. Way back in 2012, I am pretty confident in saying that most Libertarian voters were far closer to the GOP than Democrats so in general Libertarian votes were drawing people who otherwise would have voted Republican or not at all. Mourdock was a lackluster candidate so I don’t feel badly about casting my vote as I did.
Fast forward to today. The national Libertarian party today is a circus. To the casual observer it seems most LP leaders and many of the most prominent Beltway Libertarians are a mix of social libertines that are primarily concerned with legalizing pot and cheering on sexual deviance and a lot of fanatical open borders advocates. The libertarian future seems to be one of a whole bunch of gay people smoking pot with their Mexican neighbors. Smaller government? Whatever man, pass me another bowl.
However there are still a lot of people with politics similar to mine that are supportive of Libertarians. I understand this completely. Republicans control the White House, Senate and House and we haven’t seen Obamacare repealed. We haven’t see any progress on the wall. No immigration reform. Sure corporations got a big tax cut and while I support that on principle, the reality is that the entire corporate world is completely sold out for the Left’s social agenda and is actively opposing or even suppressing and censoring any dissenting thought on the Right. So thanks to the tax cuts many workers got pay increases, great!, but now corporations have more cash to actively work to undermine America’s heritage values.
As we approach the 2018 midterm elections a lot is on the line. The incumbent President’s party often loses seats in the midterms after his election. The media has also been wildly openly partisan in opposition to Trump since he won. We have been hearing about a “blue wave” for most of the year. With thin margins in the Senate and House, this election could flip one or even (unlikely) both houses of Congress to the Democrats which would signal an end to Trump’s agenda at least until 2020 and usher in an inevitable push for “impeachment”, which now apparently means “redoing the last election because I didn’t like the outcome until we get an outcome I do like”. Certifiable lunatic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a leading advocate of “impeachment”, has recently said that once they “impeach” Trump they are going to go after Vice President Pence as well.
“I had a conversation here today, when someone asked, ‘Well what about Pence? If you were able to impeach, Pence will be worse,” Waters recalled.
“And I said, ‘Look, one at a time.’” said the congresswoman as the audience applauded. “You knock one off — one at a time. We’ll be ready for Pence. We’ll get him too.”
She has yet to offer any reason for impeaching Pence if he somehow ended up as President but she also doesn’t care. She is mad about 2016 and thinks she has the right to reverse the results of that election. Calling for the impeachment of Trump and then Pence for no reason other than political differences is tantamount to calling for a coup. Like I said, absolute lunatic.
So clearly this is an important election. Trump has already nominated two Supreme Court Justices, Kavanaugh who should be confirmed in a few weeks, and Gorsuch. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 and Stephen Breyer is 80, simple life expectancy suggests that a retirement or death of one or both of them is at least probable in the next two years so controlling the Senate is likewise important. But Beltway left-libertarian Reason magazine recently ran a piece, Libertarian Lucy Brenton Polling at 8 Percent in Toss-up Indiana Senate Race, cheering on the solid poling of several Libertarians in key races, including my home state of Indiana.
According to the very useful Wikipedia page on 2018’s U.S. Senate elections, exactly four races are currently deemed by all nine campaign forecasters as tossups: Arizona, Florida, Missouri, and Indiana. As we saw last week, the Libertarian Party’s Japheth Campbell is pulling a respectable 6 percent in Missouri, and his inclusion in the one poll so far appears to be bumping the race from a dead heat to a four-point lead for incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill.
Something closer to the opposite appears to be happening in Indiana.
In an August 26–29 Marist College survey of 576 likely Indiana voters, Libertarian Lucy Brenton, who received 5.5 percent of the vote running for Senate in 2016, polled at 8 percent, compared to incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly’s 44 percent and Republican Mike Braun’s 41 (“other” was 1 percent, “undecided” 6). What happens when you take Brenton’s name off the poll? It’s 48–42 for Donnelly, with other at 2 percent and undecided at 9.
Reason seems to think that Lucy Brenton is pulling support from Democrats but what exactly is her appeal to liberal voters? It seems more likely to me that this poll reflects the poor name recognition of Mike Braun. If these poll numbers hold up, which I doubt, Indiana could re-elect Joe Donnelly in a state that went overwhelmingly for Trump. The same is true in other close elections like Missouri. If Campbell pulls 5% in Missouri that could toss the election back to Claire McCaskill, a weak candidate.
What you see over and over is that Libertarians are polling around 5-6% which is a little more than what Gary Johnson got in 2016. In our sharply divided country that is enough to flip races but I also believe that it is a hard ceiling for Libertarians. In 2016 in an election between two deeply flawed and unpopular candidates, Gary Johnson received over 4 million votes but that was still only 3.8% in what I view as the best chance for a third-party Presidential candidate since Ross Perot. What that tells me is that the Libertarian Party simply doesn’t have enough appeal or natural constituency to get more than around 5% of the vote in national elections and never will. I made this point last year in my post R.I.P. L.P. Or Why Libertarianism Isn’t A Viable Political Party.
More broadly speaking, I see Libertarianism as equal parts an academic exercise and an online treehouse. It is fun to post “Taxation Is Theft” memes on Facebook and talk about Austrian economics on Twitter. It is especially gratifying to have the smug sense of intellectual superiority compared to those sheep who vote Democrat or Republican. It is kind of like being a Calvinist. Half of the fun of being a Calvinist is commiserating with other Calvinists and chuckling over a craft beer at how simplistic and inferior Arminians are.
I stand by that. Libertarianism, especially in the 2016 and forward iteration, isn’t a serious political philosophy. It appeals only to a fringe constituency and is arguing about issues that either almost no one cares about (fiat currency) or that actually makes it less appealing to rank and file voters (open borders).
I once had high hopes that libertarianism would increase in influence and become a viable political party and movement. It isn’t going to happen. It is still an important philosophy but in the real world it is irrelevant and certainly can’t be trusted to govern. I made this point in my post Open Border Libertarianism Is Self-Defeating. Libertarians love to talk about absolutely free movement of people and capital but don’t seem to understand that in practice this would ensure that libertarianism never gets beyond blogs and thinktanks.
The Libertarian Party now only serves in one capacity: being a spoiler for Republicans. While it may draw some disaffected white Democrats that want legal pot, most Democrats are now completely sold out on identity politics. There is no appeal for a Democrat to vote for a Libertarian. What does the LP offer them that Democrats don’t? I want to see Libertarians calling out the two parties on issues like the national debt and war. I want to hear from real libertarians on questions of liberty. I think libertarian thinkers like Tom Woods and Stefan Molyneux, Ron and Rand Paul, Justin Raimondo and Hans-Hermann Hoppe are important voices for the Right. But the Libertarian Party is just a useless spoiler.
Libertarian philosophy, especially actual libertarianism, has an important place for the future in the political philosophy of the Right. It just has no electoral purpose other than helping to elect Democrats.