Did the Libertarians Cost the Republicans the Senate?

An interesting article in the Economist (via Instapundit) suggests that this was indeed the case.

Libertarians are a generally Republican-leaning constituency, but over the last few years, their discontent has grown plain. It isn’t just the war, which some libertarians supported, but the corruption and insider dealing, and particularly the massive expansion of spending. Mr Bush’s much-vaunted prescription drug benefit for seniors, they fume, has opened up another gaping hole in America’s fiscal situation, while the only issue that really seemed to energise congress was passing special laws to keep a brain-damaged woman on life support.

I’d say that is a fair summary of the problems many libertarian minded people (such as myself) have had with the Republicans.

In two of the seats where control looks likely to switch, Missouri and Montana, the Libertarian party pulled more votes than the Democratic margin of victory. Considerably more, in Montana. If the Libertarian party hadn’t been on the ballot, and the three percent of voters who pulled the “Libertarian” lever had broken only moderately Republican, Mr Burns would now be in office.

Note to the Republicans: stop spending so much money you fools.

Of course, this kind of thing isn’t without its own problems.

Does this mean that the libertarians are becoming a force in national elections, much as Ralph Nader managed to cost Al Gore a victory in 2000? Hope springs eternal among third-party afficionadoes, but the nature of the American electoral system, which directly elects representatives in a first-past-the-post system, makes it nearly impossible for third parties to gain traction. The last time it happened was in the 1850’s, when the Whig party dissolved over internal disputes about slavery, opening the way for the emerging Republican party to put Abraham Lincoln in office. And acting as a spoiler is dubiously effective at achieving one’s goals. In theory, it could pull the Repubicans towards the Libertarians, but in practice, it may just elect Democrats, pushing the nation’s economic policy leftwards.

Hopefully it will have the effect of inducing the Republicans take the libertarian wing of their party more seriously. And with Bush’s policies, I don’t think there would be much difference in terms of the “leftward shift in the nations economic policies”. After all, Bush hasn’t seen a government program he didn’t like and would spend lots of money on.

Update: Here is an amusing story about the Montana Senate race between Burns and Tester.

Libertarian Party candidate Stan Jones garnered about 10,000 votes, making him a likely target for accusations of being a spoiler because Libertarians are generally seen as siphoning votes from Republican candidates.

This is the Stan Jones who turned himself blue by drinking colloidal silver out of fear that Y2K would devestate the country and leave the health care system in shambles. No really.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Steven Plunk says:

    Having strong libertarian leanings I have become somewhat disgusted by Republican shenanigans. But is it smart to give power to the party which is even more removed from my beliefs in order to send a message? I chose not to.

    The proper way is to contact your party and your elected officials directly and lobby for the reforms you seek. It’s not as dramatic as voting in the other guys but who needs drama? A little more maturity would do the voters some good.

    It would be very wise for the Republican party to embrace many of the key issues that concern Libertarians since those are the same concerns as conservatives. You keep your base happy while expanding the tent.

    Now if the Libertarians party would just get the drug thing sorted out we could see a real alignment of interests benefiting both.

  2. I don’t see this as libertarian votes costing the GOP victory, but rather as the GOP not winning the libertarian votes. Will those libertarians perhaps regret this choice under a democratic congress? Perhaps, but again the time to make that case was before the election. The party responsible for making the point was the GOP and it certainly would not be helpful for the GOP to play the lefts “voter stupidity in understanding where their interests truly lie” card rather than looking internally at what went wrong.

    Looking at the close senate races, the dems pulled a larger percentage of their 2004 state numbers than the GOP. Whether that is a GOP GOTV problem or a GOP losing people is a good question to ask. But either is a problem for the GOP, not to be blamed on people voting libertarian.

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    It would be very wise for the Republican party to embrace many of the key issues that concern Libertarians since those are the same concerns as conservatives. You keep your base happy while expanding the tent.

    And there is the problem Steven, the Republicans didn’t care about these things at all. The senior prescription drug program is a great example.

    Lets expand the fiscal outlook a further $8.7 trillion in the red! Yeah that will get the fiscally conservative minded and libertarians to vote for us!

    I’m thinking probably not.

    The proper way is to contact your party and your elected officials directly and lobby for the reforms you seek. It’s not as dramatic as voting in the other guys but who needs drama? A little more maturity would do the voters some good.

    I don’t think it is that libertarians are immature, but that they just can’t, in good consience, vote for big spenders who want to poke their noses in everyone’s private life. So you vote for the Libertarian candidate, don’t vote, or in the rare case, vote Democrat.

  4. legion says:

    If the Libertarian party hadn’t been on the ballot, and the three percent of voters who pulled the “Libertarian” lever had broken only moderately Republican, Mr Burns would now be in office.

    Badly oversimplified & missing the point. If there are Repubs who voted Lib, it was because they couldn’t hold their noses enough to swallow the Repub candidate. if the Lib hadn’t been on the ticket, they would have stayed home. The only question is: what would the _actual_ Lib voters have done if there was no Lib candidate?

  5. Good News for Libertarian Republicans (UPDATED)…

    UPDATE: Bad news about Libertarians: they may have cost the Republicans the elections. Good news about the two-party system: when one of the major parties feels threatened by a third party, they may begin the process of co-optation. This means……

  6. Bad Libertarians!…

    No free market for you!……

  7. anjin-san says:

    Ummm Republicans lost the senate for Republicans. Now our county needs solutions, not spin…

  8. Fersboo says:

    I am going to laugh my ass off when the Democrats remove the Bush tax cuts and then double the prescription benefit. Sure, they’ll decimate the military again, but you know they’ll be spending like hogs in slop as soon as they can get their grubby little fingers into the batter.

  9. geezer says:

    Dubya ran as a “compassionate Conservative” in ’00, and won. Surprise, surprise he’d do something compassionate like a prescription drug bill for seniors. After we were attacked on 9/11, he went after the bad guys, and has been pounded on ever since, from the left and the right.

    I honestly don’t think the Republican Party will sort itself out until Dubya has left the stage. There’s just too much bile out there on both sides to think otherwise. “My country, my President” doesn’t seem to work for too many people, if it ever did.

    For me, my votes for Ford, Reagan, Bushes 41 and 42, as well as straight-ticket Repubs meant they reflected most of my values, not all of them. Each one disappointed me somewhere, but never enough to think I’d chosen the wrong party or candidate. I think I’m old enough now to realize that no single party will ever reflect every single thing I’d want in gov’t. The best you can hope for is a majority.

    Let the blood-letting begin, let the long knives flash. After the dust settles a bit, we’ll have a clearer picture of where the GOP is headed. We’ve been down this road before. One thing I do know: every Repub who held Dubya at arm’s length, be it Ahnold on the left coast to Kean, Jr. on the Atlantic, down to Crist in FL — they will always be dead to me.

    One of the many lessons to be learned from the Sopranos.

  10. anjin-san says:

    Its instructive that Fersboo is perfectly happy to see our country harmed if only it makes those who disagree with his politics look bad…

    BTW the military that Clinton handed off to Bush acquitted itself pretty well. They achieved military victories in Afghanistan & Iraq that were undone by incompetence in the Bush admin.

  11. Election Analysis…

    Well the Republicans certainly got a kick in the butt this year. Not an entirely undeserved one, and not an unexpected one, but a butt kicking nonetheless. Some pundits say this is a defeat for Republicanism, not conservatism. It’s true that the elec….

  12. Michael says:

    Having strong libertarian leanings I have become somewhat disgusted by Republican shenanigans. But is it smart to give power to the party which is even more removed from my beliefs in order to send a message? I chose not to.

    And that is exactly why the Republican party has done nothing to address issues concerning Libertarians. Seriously, if you’re telling them “Listen to me or I’ll vote for you anyway”, why should they? To them, you are a free vote, they don’t have to give you anything but lipservice and a little fearmongering to keep you in line.

  13. Michael says:

    It would be very wise for the Republican party to embrace many of the key issues that concern Libertarians since those are the same concerns as conservatives. You keep your base happy while expanding the tent.

    Now if the Libertarians party would just get the drug thing sorted out we could see a real alignment of interests benefiting both.

    So let me get this straight:

    1.) You have strong libertarian leanings
    2.) Libertarians are basically conservatives
    3.) Libertarians need to get over the whole “small government” thing and embrace government deciding your personal issues.

    Explain to us please what exactly you meant by “Libertarian leanings”, because I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

  14. McCain says:

    No, but the Republicans may have cost the Libertarians the Senate. If ya’all had just voted for them, we could have replaced Burns and Talent with real fiscal conservatives.

  15. Wickedpinto says:

    ‘Pub’s under Reagen were completely libertarian, acknowledging participation in the world.

    I don’t blame the libertariens, I blame the jag’s like stevens.

    Stevens from alaska did more to damage to the ‘pubs much more than foley ever could.

    Though foley wasn’t in congress, he was an ugly person, and the ‘Pubs are happy to destroy those who break the rules, but alaska keeps voting for stevens.

    Foley? a 2 week constant hash in the common media, but stevens, a clear offender of conservative ideals stands, for the addicts, stevens did more to hurt the ‘pubs than foley.

    At least in my mind. I’m a so-chi-burbanisticite, so I don’t know many ‘pubs, including my family.

  16. Mac says:

    In my state the libertarian candidate garnered less than %2 of the vote. ROTFL. They don’t have any voting power. At all. Period. LOL.

    Yes… libertarians did cost the GOP the senate, but… not in the intellectually dishonest way that you’re putting up.

    By embracing creeping libertarianism and free market extremism the GOP sold out their true core conservative base. This cost them both houses.

    Now that they’re out of power it’s time for them to regroup and recognize that libertarian values aren’t compatible with true conservative values.

    Libertarians haven’t been able to elect so much as a dogcatcher in this country unless they’re intellectually dishonest and wrap themselves in another party’s flag. There is a reason for that. Conservatives need to realize this, and put as much distance as they can between themselves and this intellectually bankrupt ideology.

    Now that the Republican’s have lost both houses because of their embrace of creeping libertarianism, my bet is that they’ll grow a brain and begin to clean house.

    It’s about time.

  17. Michael says:

    Mac,
    Sorry, but Libertarians were “conservatives” long before evangelicals where. You may own the party now, but you didn’t invent conservatism, you just rebranded it.

  18. Steve Verdon says:

    Mac,

    By embracing creeping libertarianism and free market extremism the GOP sold out their true core conservative base. This cost them both houses.

    Uhhhmm no. Republicans are not big proponents of free markets and limited government, that is why libertarian minded voters turned away from them, IMO.

    Now that they’re out of power it’s time for them to regroup and recognize that libertarian values aren’t compatible with true conservative values.

    Conservativism does not mean statism Mac. I know you might think telling people what to do is a good idea, but in general it isn’t.

    Libertarians haven’t been able to elect so much as a dogcatcher in this country unless they’re intellectually dishonest and wrap themselves in another party’s flag. There is a reason for that. Conservatives need to realize this, and put as much distance as they can between themselves and this intellectually bankrupt ideology.

    Well unfortunately for you, Reagan Republicans have far more in common that your kind of kooky conservativism. There still are a fair number of such Republicans and your only going to alienate them further…in short your going to the Konservative Kos Kids thing, not a good strategy for winning.

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