Libertarians, independents, and the Resistance

It’s difficult to make a case from exit-poll results that Libertarian candidate Bob Sarvis threw the Virginia governor’s race to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.  Sarvis drew off plenty of likely McAuliffe voters, too.  There are some exit polls that suggest Sarvis hurt McAuliffe more.  He did well with the youth demographic, which might otherwise have been expected to go Democrat, or stay home during a low-turnout election.

That might not be the way Savis’ campaign was supposed to shake out.  The Blaze ran an eleventh-hour expose on his funding that revealed a top Obama money man was one of the Libertarian’s prime benefactors – a revelation that might have made a significant impact on such a close race, if it had come earlier.

Campaign finance records show the Libertarian Booster PAC has made the largest independent contribution to Sarvis’ campaign, helping to pay for professional petition circulators who collected signatures necessary to get Sarvis’ name on Tuesday’s statewide ballot.

Austin, Texas, software billionaire Joe Liemandt is the Libertarian Booster PAC’s major benefactor. He’s also a top bundler for President Barack Obama. This revelation comes as Virginia voters head to the polls Tuesday in an election where some observers say the third-party gubernatorial candidate could be a spoiler for Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

[…] According to Virginia election filings posted by the Virginia Public Access Project, Liemandt contributed $150,000 of the Texas-based Libertarian Booster PAC’s $229,000 revenue. The Libertarian Booster PAC reported providing $11,454 to pay for signature collection, yard signs and campaign materials for Sarvis and another $4,690 for four Libertarian candidates running for the Virginia state legislature.

The Blaze piece goes on to note that the donor in question, Joe Liemandt, has a history of donating a bit of money to Libertarian third-party runs, in addition to heavy Democrat support.

Sincere Libertarians aren’t going to like hearing that they’ve been used as stalking horses by Democrats looking to split the small-government vote.  (Of course, a truly sincere Libertarian would have had trouble with Savis’ decidedly un-Libertarian policy positions.)  They will angrily reject the notion that they have no electoral significance beyond siphoning off Republican votes.  Polls show enormous public dissatisfaction with the two-party system, and a rising tide of anti-incumbent sentiment.  Could there be a more opportune moment for a third party to take wing?

Well, one thing to bear in mind is that all those anti-incumbent “throw the bums out” polls never seem to translate into actual incumbent bloodbaths.  The re-election rate in even the biggest “wave year” tsunami is over 85 percent.  One reason for this disparity between sentiment and outcome is that the two established parties have enormous strategic advantages – money, organization, the “brand” name, and existing political influence.  It is a huge advantage for the two major parties that they can point to numerous existing office-holders at federal and state levels when they make the case for electing one more of their number.

The small-“l” libertarian complaint against Republicans is similar to the Tea Party complaint: they’re tired of being taken for granted by leadership that doesn’t respect or represent them, once they get into office.  The Tea Party generally works to influence Republican politics, while much libertarian energy goes into third-party candidates.  To date, the Tea Party has a lot more pieces on the political game board.  The hard Left certainly seems to consider them a much greater threat.

Adjusting the nature of an existing party from within is a long, painstaking, sometimes frustrating process… but overwhelming and replacing it from without is even longer and more painful.  We’ll never get past a strong third-party showing without recriminations from the major party that lost.  Sincere advocates of the third party will never enjoy hearing such recriminations.

But everyone who fancies themselves politically “independent” should take a step back and ask themselves exactly how they will remain independent in any meaningful way, if the growth of the State is not effectively resisted, immediately.  The traditional liberal siren song of social license – vote against those mean old Bible-thumping prudes who want to legislate morality! – grows increasingly faint, drowned out by the thunder of their monster government, which you might have noticed is quite active in our bedrooms, along with every other room in the house.

The State is aggressive.  Do nothing, and it will take over more of your life.  If you sit out the next political battle, you will not be treated as a political non-combatant and spared from the hunger of government.  Active, politically meaningful resistance is the only option for the true libertarian, whether his “L” is capitalized or not.  Sadly, that might just mean choosing the lesser of two evils in some unsatisfactory races.  If there are enough Republicans in power, the squishes will squish along with the committed small-government conservatives.  As for those awful social conservatives – what designs do you imagine they have, what agenda do you think they would enact, that would be half as overbearing and destructive of liberty as ObamaCare?

Michael Barone thinks the Virginia results were evidence that “millennials are souring on Democrats,” nothing that Democrat Terry McAuliffe performed far behind Obama with young voters, and actually did considerably better with the middle-aged.  The Democrats would love to maintain a third-party cold-storage system for such youthful idealism.  Republicans would be foolish to give it up without a fight.  The System has become a vast and powerful special interest unto itself, extending its reach through much of the GOP, as well as the entirety of the Democrats.  That’s always been part of the third-party critique – “not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicrats and Demicans!” and all that.  But it’s increasingly strange for any third party to think it stands a chance against such a monster.

At this point, all that matters is whether you’re part of the Resistance, or willing to submit in exchange for your little piece of the pie.  Disengagement is equivalent to submission.