Should Libertarians Abandon the Republican Party?
Logan Ferree argues that the Republican Party has failed in its promises to libertarians for so long that it’s time to stop voting for them. While I disagree with the tone and even some of the particulars of the piece, his analysis is likely right. The GOP is dominated by its religious conservative wing (although, I’d note, they’re pretty unhappy with the party’s record vice their rhetoric on most issues, too) and has largely given up on more than the pretense of being fiscally conservative. As Jim Henley (from whom I found the piece) observes, “the Republican Party doesn’t even engage in much libertarian rhetoric any more.”
The logical follow-on, however, is What then?
If one doesn’t vote Republican, one has three choices that I see:
1. Vote Libertarian A very satisfying option and the only conceivable way the LP will ever have a chance of winning elections. The LP has the virtue of being ideologically pure, in contrast to the frustrating pandering of the two dominant catch-all parties. It comes with the minor problem, however, that true libertarians are a minor fringe of the American polity. There are few Congressional Districts and no states where libertarians have a plurality. Thus, for presidential and senatorial races, at least, this winds up being a “protest vote” or, in the more popular parlance a “wasted voted.”
2. Vote Democrat There are several issues, notably abortion, gay rights, and drugs, where the Democrats are closer to the libertarian position than the Republicans. Then again, that’s been the case since at least the 1960s and, I suspect, most libertarians who are focused mostly on these social issues already vote Democrat or Libertarian, not Republican.
As bad as the Republicans are on the fiscal issues, however, the Democrats are worse. Is the trade-off worth it? Again, if so, one would think the libertarians now voting Republican would have come to that conclusion long ago.
3. Don’t Vote. Essentially, the lazy/apathetic man’s Choice 1, minus the satisfaction.
Unfortunately, as aggravating as the major parties are to True Believers, they’re the only choices we’ve got. One has to operate within the framework of available realities, not simply complain that one’s chosen team has let us down.
UPDATE: Commenter Jay below contends that, “Anyone who votes for the lesser of two evils well and truly deserves their Drug Plans, their No Child Left Behind and their Bridges to Nowhere that inevitably result.”
I’d paraphrase Don Rumsfeld and say one has to go to the ballot box with the candidates one has. To argue by analogy, I want a car that gets 500 mpg, looks and drives like a Ferarri, has the roominess of a Lincoln Navigator, and can both fly and float on demand. Sadly, that model is not yet available. I choose, nonetheless, to go ahead and have transportation in the meantime.
Picking among available options is not surrender. One can try to change things, by engaging in campaigns, editorializing, protesting, or whatever. That works, over time. In the interim, you chose between available options. Unfortunately, most of the public disagrees with us and actually wants bigger government. That, not the sleaziness of politicians, is the reason we have the government we have.