I read Jim Geraghty every day mostly for laughs. He is a middle-brow Republican toady and C-List talking head. National Review gives him a space to talk campaign gossip, because they think people care about it. Predictably, he had a post yesterday denying the obvious in Virginia. That is the presence of a Libertarian straw probably cost The Stupid Party a seat.
The “Libertarians, without a candidate of their own, would otherwise vote for Republicans” theory is not so sound, and it’s not a factor Republicans should base a strategy on.
Those willing to vote Libertarian — as opposed to those who describe themselves as libertarian or having some libertarian views — are usually deeply attached to policy positions that are still pretty unpopular to Republicans as a whole — oftentimes (though not always) a quasi-isolationist or outright isolationist foreign policy, drug legalization (often well beyond marijuana), and gay marriage. Many (but not all) Libertarians oppose restrictions on abortion, habitually offer long diatribes about the Federal Reserve and the Gold Standard, and in some quarters, an inability to discuss U.S. foreign policy regarding Israel without lapsing into conspiracy theories and uglier sentiments.
Ah yes. Those people voting for third parties are “ugly” and we don’t want anything to do with them anyway. While it is true that most Libertarians are bat-shit crazy, most who vote for these guys just find the main party options too odious to support. The GOP had a chance to win in Virginia, but demanded that the candidate be a long time bagman with a long history of helping Democrats win policy debates. Asking conservative-leaning voters to support that flaming bag of poop is asking a lot.
What’s more, a lot of self-identified Libertarians see their policy differences with Republicans as key to their political identity; otherwise, they would be Republicans. To many Libertarians, the difference with Republicans is the point.
Nor is there much evidence that Libertarians fear that their vote will elect a Democrat. For all of of the alleged or potential flaws of voters who choose Libertarian-party candidates, they’re usually not stupid. They know their guy is in the single digits in the polls. They’re not voting in order to vote for a winner, and hearing Republicans complain that the Libertarian cost them the victory doesn’t make them feel guilty or a sense of regret. They may feel a bit of vindication in that result.
Why would anyone think Gillespie is different from Warner? Hod carriers like Geraghty imagine a world where placement of the 75th comma on page 1,822 of the 3,500 omnibus spending measure that grows the state by 10% a year in perpetuity is a battle worth waging. To people who would like to see one year in their lifetime where government actually shrinks in real dollars tend to think those fights are just a giant circle-jerk for the benefit of the hack-a-rama.
I take a back seat to no man in my condemnation of Libertarians. I think they are as nutty as Progressives. But, they vote their interests and that’s not something most conservatives can say these days. If you vote and you’re not a Liberal, you are either voting for a guy who honestly wants to murder you or the guy who wants to help him, but would like to be on good terms with you until the right moment.