Posted: 5/2/2001 12:17:50 PM EDT
A major political magazine says that Libertarian Party candidates have cost Republicans control of the U.S. Senate -- but LP leaders say that if Republicans kept their
small-government promises, they would also keep their jobs.
On March 19, the National Review Online posted an article that claimed the "most underreported political phenomenon of the last two election cycles [is that]
Libertarian Party candidates are seriously hurting Republicans." A version of the article al so appeared in the April 16 print edition of the magazine.
The article, written by political reporter John J. Miller and Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru, noted that LP candidate Jeff Jared may have cost Republican Slade Gorton
his U.S. Senate seat in Washington state in 2000, while Michael Cloud may have knocke d Republican John Ensign out of his U.S. Senate seat in Nevada in 1998.
In both cases, the Libertarian candidate won more votes than the losing Republican's margin of difference. If not for those two defeats, Republicans would have a
52-48 majority in the U.S. Senate, instead of the current 50-50 split with Democrats.
"Libertarians have put Republicans on the brink of losing the Senate," wrote Miller and Ponnuru.
In addition, two Republican U.S. House candidates lost close races in 2000 by less than the number of votes won by LP candidates, which winnowed the Republican
majority in that house of Congress.
In an era of near-parity with the Democrats, the Republican Party leadership needs to start paying more attention to its "Libertarian problem," the article concluded. In
fact, National Review reported that Republicans had met in Washington, DC to dec ide what to do about the Libertarian threat.
"In this age of Senate power sharing and a razor-thin GOP House majority, Republicans can't ignore the Libertarians," wrote Miller and Ponnuru. "If they do, it may cost
LP National Chair Jim Lark agreed. "We have clearly hurt the GOP in some important races and are regarded as a danger," he said.
But instead of worrying about Libertarians, Republicans should start worrying about their voting records, said LP National Director Steve Dasbach.
"It's good to see that some Republicans are recognizing that their failure to 'walk their talk' about reducing government could be causing them to lose elections," he
said. "I hope we're drawing votes away from any politician, of any party, who isn't working to reduce the size, power, expense, and intrusiveness of government."
The GOP's real problem, said Dasbach, is that there are very few Republicans who genuinely support a smaller-government agenda.
"I wouldn't need a calculator to count the number of 'good' Republican office-holders -- that is, those who are actually trying to shrink government," he said. "For
example, in the 106th Congress, Congressman Ron Paul was the only member of Congress whose bills, if enacted, would have reduced the overall cost of the federal
Lark agreed that if Republican politicians had consistently voted for a pro-liberty agenda, voters would not have deserted them.
"[The article] revealed what I suspect many important Republican strategists have feared: Some voters who have strongly supported the Republicans, especially on tax
and gun rights issues, have finally had enough of the 'promises, promises' from Repub licans and are willing to vote for (or join) the Libertarian Party," he said.
"Since some elections are decided by very narrow margins, the loss of a relatively small group of dedicated activists and voters can mean key GOP losses."
However, said Lark, "If a Republican is truly 'good' (in Libertarian terms), it is likely that the LP candidate will be able to pull only a tiny number of votes. What is more
likely to happen is that we may cause a Republican who may be good (in Libe rtarian terms) on two or three issues, but is generally mediocre to horrible on other
issues, to lose to a Democrat who may or may not be worse in aggregate terms than the Republican."
Despite the premise of the National Review article, it may be somewhat simplistic to believe that Libertarian candidates only take away votes from Republicans, said
Dasbach -- since research has shown that, in different races, LP candidates can draw from Republicans, Democrats, independents, or formerly unenrolled voters.
"I hope we can attract voters who already recognize that both the Republicans and the Democrats are selling out freedom, and who had given up hope," he said. "But
however we attract votes, we should continue to field as many candidates as possible, i n races at all levels, and encourage them to run active campaigns that promote
Libertarian Party members appear to agree with that strategy: After the National Review article came out, the LP hosted an online poll that asked the question: "[Do
you agree that] Libertarians should run active campaigns in as many races as possible , even if this sometimes results in the election of the worst of the two major
Of the more than 3,000 respondents, 80.9% said they strongly agreed, and another 10.8% somewhat agreed. Only 3.7% somewhat disagreed, while 3.2% strongly
"Republicans are big-government politicians like Democrats," posted one poll-taker. "If the GOP was really the party of smaller government, they wouldn't have to worry
The National Review is widely considered one of the most influential conservative magazines in the nation. It has a national circulation of more than 150,000.
It's interesting that the Libertarian Party is finally becoming a significant force in politics. I tend to doubt that a majority of voters will be ready for full-strength libertarianism in the near future, but I'd love to see the Libertarian Party give those two-faced Republicans a big kick in the ass.
I can see that, however I'd say Libertarians are having a republican problem.
I'm going to run as a Libertarian against my unopposed Republican state rep in 2002, just to keep him honest. But then again, who knows? Maybe I can pull off an upset! [:)]
"Beliefs? Beliefs cause people to kill each other. its better to have a pretty good idea."
(paraphrased) -the 13th apostle
(in reference to party loyalty. i like this quote)
libertarian ideals are more important than party. should the republicans adopt libertarian ideals, then i would vote republican. i dont see this happening except in a few individuals.
I hope the Libertarians are having an impact. The Repubbies have become weak and spineless.
Although I do vote for some Republican candidates, I am most definitely Libertarian minded. Just this last weekend I attended a luncheon with my Congressman, who is very pro-gun and pro-Constitution. AT one point when the Congressman was introducing me to a friend of his he stated, "this is another fellow good Republican", to which I took the opportunity to quickly correct by saying, " Oh no, I'm not a Republican - I am an Independent and I usually vote Libertarian." They all dropped their jaws but listened to what I had to say about my complaints regarding the Republican Party.
I meet with my Congressman regularly so he [i]remembers[/i] me and my views.