A recent article in the Washington Examiner titled “Maybe the libertarians weren’t so irrelevant after all” just scratches the surface of the challenge posed to conservatives in America by the Libertarian Party. To state the obvious, America is a two-party system. When you split the anti-socialist vote, the socialist wins.
When elections are close, and three of America’s last six presidential elections have been decided by razor thin margins, the spoiler doesn’t have to be relevant to be “relevant.” When electoral votes are decided by margins of a few thousand, a one-percent shift to a third party changes who wins.
As Washington Examiner columnist Tiana Lowe put it: “In Arizona, Jorgensen has more than 50,000 votes, with 98% of total votes counted. Biden leads Trump by fewer than 15,000 votes. In Georgia, Jorgensen’s total is nearly six times Biden’s lead. In Wisconsin, it’s nearly double, and in Pennsylvania, it’s almost the same story.”
In the six states where Trump is reportedly losing by the thinnest margins, the impact of the Libertarian candidate either flipped the election to Biden or very nearly did. Notably, the Green Party candidate was not present on the ballot in any of these states except for Michigan, where he only won 0.2 percent of the vote. As the chart below shows, if the voters who’d opted for Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgenson had chosen Trump instead, Biden would now be losing in Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin, and his lead in Pennsylvania would be just 2,263 votes.
One common argument ventured by Libertarians whenever they are accused of being spoilers is that the people who vote for them are often Democrats, or they are Republicans who weren’t going to support their party’s candidate this year anyway. So, if there had not been a Libertarian candidate, these people wouldn’t have voted at all. Given the success of the NeverTrump movement in convincing some Republicans to abandon Trump, the second half of this argument has some validity. But what about the rest of it? Can Libertarian candidates take votes away from Democrats?
This question became especially acute in Georgia’s senate race, where Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel threw the battle between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff into an upcoming runoff. Perdue earned 49.7 percent of the vote against Jon Ossoff’s 47.9 percent. Did Shane Hazel’s 2.3 percent performance cost Perdue a victory? Probably.
Here are some of Hazel’s “key messages” as submitted to Ballotpedia:
#EndTheWars—It is long past time to bring the men and women in service home. Undeclared unconstitutional never ending war is used to enslave Americans through debt and taxation. 20 years of war is enough death and destruction for a lifetime. It is time for Peace.
#EndTheFed—Both Democrats and Republicans have enslaved every American for generations to come through a $23,000,000,000,000 debt owed to a faceless, unaccountable, international banking cabal that is growing at over $1 trillion a year. It is time for Free Markets.
#EndTheEmpire—The bureaucratic D.C. cabal is deployed in 150 countries around the world, for the interests of international aristocrats, not Americans, and they need to be exposed and removed. Wars, Taxes, Policies, “Laws,” Permits, and Debt are all out of control and must be abolished. It is time for Liberty.”
These talking points—regardless of their coherence or lack thereof—do not attract Democrats, not because there aren’t certain sentiments here that you might have also heard last year from Democrats like Bernie Sanders, (I-Vermont) Tulsi Gabbard, (D-Hawaii) and others. They don’t attract Democrats because “free markets” and “liberty” are known to Democrats as far-right code words.
On the other hand, most everything Shane Hazel has to say in his “key messages” appeals to Republicans. To suggest this candidate didn’t attract 0.3 percent of Republican votes, when he garnered 2.3 percent of all votes, is lunacy.
In a fawning article at Reason, Hazel had this to say to people critical of his role in throwing the Georgia Senate race into a runoff: “Give me your tears. They are delicious.” Apparently Hazel, and the folks at Reason, think this is funny.
Hazel went on to say, “We have principle on our side, we have a great understanding of economics, of peace . . . and when we articulate those things firmly and with no compromise outside our echo chamber, we can do amazing things.”
But even if Hazel has “a great understanding” of economics—which is debatable—does he understand how libertarian “principles” fall short in the real world?
The problem with fighting for limited government on principle is simple—your influence will be decisive, often providing the extra shove that represents the tipping point, but only when the Left and the corporations agree with you.
The Libertarian adherence to principle over practical outcomes helps explain the otherwise paradoxical alliance between the Left and the corporate elites in America. When Democrats advocate a policy where there is Libertarian agreement “on principle,” the winners are leftist pressure groups and big business. But it is a very select list, with critical adjunct policies also advocated by libertarians that are completely ignored.
This is why Libertarians are having a decisive influence on densifying America’s cities through “infill,” but are ineffective when it comes to preventing taxpayer-supported subsidies for the new construction, or enabling development via urban expansion onto open land.
It is why Libertarians successfully oppose government-funded infrastructure projects “on principle,” which stops new freeways from being built but does not stop construction of subsidized light rail or high-speed rail; or stops new dams and desalination plants but does not stop water rationing and mandatory purchases of new “water conserving” appliances that cost a lot, don’t work very well, and break down often.
It is why Libertarians successfully oppose laws that might get drug addicts, psychopaths, and vagrants off American streets, but cannot prevent compassion brigades from providing them free amenities which only attracts more of these unfortunates, nor can they prevent opportunistic developers from coming in to build tax-subsidized “supportive housing” for them at a cost of over a half-million per unit.
Libertarians support “free movement of peoples” on principle, but have no impact whatsoever on the growing welfare state that is a magnet for economic migrants to come to the United States. They support “free trade” without first insisting on reciprocity. And on principle, Libertarians have stood on the sidelines as left-wing billionaires in the Silicon Valley used their online communications monopolies to manipulate what information Americans had access to in order to destroy a sitting president. Because “on principle” these companies are privately owned. So what if they’re monopolies, using their power to swing a presidential election?
We see a common thread to all of these policy outcomes: multinational corporations, international banks, and billionaire investors do well. Ordinary Americans do not. Libertarians have not adequately confronted the fact that their economic “principles” are put to good use when they serve the agenda of corporate globalists, but are indeed irrelevant when they do not.
Worse yet, Libertarians like Shane Hazel claim to want an end to foreign wars, but fail to recognize that rising nations will fill the vacuum wherever Americans withdraw. Even more to the point, they give President Trump zero credit for being the first American President since Jimmy Carter to not start a new war. Trump deescalated tensions all over the world. Biden is bringing back the warmongering Bush-Obama team. Trump stood up to the military-industrial complex, a fact lost on Libertarians.
Which gets us back to the core issue: What did these Libertarian candidates think they were going to accomplish by spoiling the Republicans’ chances? It is quite likely that if Libertarian candidates hadn’t run in the battleground states, Trump would have won the election. It is also possible that Shane Hazel, by forcing a January runoff, could cost Republicans control of the Senate.
One may assume that Hazel, the Libertarian Party, the Reason Foundation, and all the rest of the assorted “libertarian” think tanks and billionaire donors are quite pleased with themselves. They may be the reason that, come January 20, Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress.