The Republican Killers

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The answer to “bad” Republicans is to replace them with better Republicans – not with Democrats who are far worse. Such common-sense political wisdom, however, appears to be completely lost on the Libertarian Party, which seems to subscribe to a political strategy equivalent to burning the village down in order to save it.

Republican John Thune lost his bid to knock off incumbent Sen. Tim Johnson in South Dakota by a lousy 524 votes. A stinkin’, lousy 524 votes.

Thune had racked up a respectable lifetime rating of 83 from the American Conservative Union, while Johnson earned a pathetic 21, so South Dakota voters had a clear choice between a government-loving incumbent liberal and a fairly consistent limited-government conservative.

Yet knowing that this was likely to be a neck-and-neck race from the beginning – and that control of the Senate may well have hinged on this one race – the Libertarian Party put up Kurt Evans as a spoiler candidate. To Evans’ credit, he dropped out of the race and endorsed Thune about a month before the election, but not soon enough to have his name removed from the ballot.

On election day, he garnered 3,071 votes – more than enough to have changed the outcome of this race and given the limited government cause an additional voice in the Senate.

It defies common sense for the Libertarian Party to have gotten into this race at all. Evans never had a prayer of winning; the only possible impact he could have was to serve as a “spoiler” who would throw the race to Johnson. Which is exactly what happened.

I do give Evans credit for seeing the light – even if too late. Who I can’t excuse are the 3,071 supposedly limited- government numskulls who voted for a candidate who had dropped out of the race, thereby giving another six-year term to a guy who stands against just about everything they stand for.

Libertarian Party supporters have a point when they observe that many Republicans are far from being champions of limited government. But while they excel at diagnosing the disease, they are remarkably deficient in providing a cure.

Witness a column written by the LP’s last presidential candidate, Harry Browne, in which he lamented that, “The winning incumbents have never bothered to introduce a single bill to reduce government in any significant way, while they have been reliable supporters of all sorts of new big-government schemes.”

Okay, let’s stipulate that this is true; you’d be hard-pressed to get much of an argument over it from me. But it is also true that not a single Libertarian Party member of Congress has ever introduced a single bill to reduce government in any significant way.

And why not?

Because not a single Libertarian Party candidate has ever been elected to Congress.

It’s easy to sit in the stands and criticize the players. It’s easy to take strong, no-compromise positions when you know you’ll never win an election and actually have to govern.

The simple fact is, if you want to change public policy, you have to change public officials. In that regard,· the Libertarian Party has been a dismal failure – unless, of

It defies common sense for the Libertarian Party to have gotten into the South Dakota senate race at all. Its candidate never had a prayer of winning and the only possible impact he could have was to serve as a “spoiler” who would throw the race to Johnson. Which is exactly what happened.


course, you consider it a success to throw a few close elections from a decent-but-not-perfect Republican to a far worse Democrat.

Until the LP takes seriously its responsibility to get candidates elected instead of just heckling from the sidelines, I can’t take it seriously as a credible political party, no matter how sympathetic I am to its ideology. Being nothing more than a perennial spoiler is not something to be proud of nor to aspire to.

Liberty-minded people who want to change public policy need to join with conservatives in the GOP. Period. The key isn’t just to get more Republicans elected, but better ones, like Texas Republican Ron Paul.

Libertarians can help do that by abandoning their third- party “movement” and helping to elect more limited- government candidates in the GOP’s primaries. And having more libertarians under the party’s “big tent” would help enormously to buck up the spines of the conservative jellyfish already there.

A far better use of the time, talent, and treasure invested in the LP would be to establish a grassroots organization to put libertarian issues into play on Capitol Hill and around the country by lobbying. and campaigning for ballot initiatives.

One need only to look at Massachusetts this year to see the potential of such an approach. Libertarian Carla Howell’s ballot initiative to repeal the state’s income tax received the support of 45% of the electorate. Yet Carla Howell, the. gubernatorial candidate, received a puny one percent of the vote totaL

Clearly, the problem wasn’t the message, it was the messenger.

The LP has shot itself in the foot year after year by running candidates who weren’t serious, or were, often, outright kooks. And it sure doesn’t help to have earned the reputation of inevitable losers. People still root for the Cubs, but no one seriously expects them to win the World Series. It’s even worse for the LP.

It’s time for rational libertarians to abandon the rookies and amateurs in the LP and come play in the big leagues with the big boys.

We’re leaving the light on for you.

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