It is not the libertarians’ fault when a conservative candidate loses. As conservatives, we should avoid blaming others when we don’t succeed. That’s what liberals do. That, plus shred the Constitution and shovel our money to deadbeats.
Libertarians are not conservatives, and we don’t have a right to their votes. But sometimes we share the same goals, and some of them are gettable voters for conservative candidates. We just need to understand that there is no one kind of libertarian any more than there is one kind of Republican. In the GOP, you have social conservatives, the moderate/RINO wing, the national security hawks, and so forth. Despite the hand-wringing of the fainthearted pundits, it really is a big tent.
Libertarians, in contrast, are a big cluster flop.
It is not for us as conservatives to define who is and who is not a “libertarian.” Many different people call themselves “libertarians” – principled liberty advocates, committed Objectivists, people worried about CIA mind control lasers.
We usually think of a libertarian as a committed anti-statist who favors very limited government operating within strict parameters that maximize individual liberty. Some libertarians fit that mold. Others just want to take bong hits and pretend to be edgy by dissing conservatives.
The first kind are important allies of conservatives who should be welcomed and respected. The second kind ought to be slapped.
While what theoretically characterizes libertarians in general is anti-statism, what characterizes them in practice is that some really believe in anti-statism and others only believe in anti-statism as it applies to sex and pot.
When it comes to other kinds of statism, these sorta-anti-statists are too wrapped up in their inarticulate hatred of conservatives to care because they suspect conservatives live to spy on them in their bedrooms. This is ridiculous. Nothing ever goes on in these libertarians’ bedrooms.
The fact is that this kind of libertarian is quite open to statism in any form that doesn’t involve abortions or bongs. Look at Robert Sarvis in Virginia. The guy was practically a Democrat. He supported higher taxes, more regulation and all the other things Democrats love. He was even funded by a Democrat. But none of that mattered to these whiny, contrarian libertarians. Electing a crony capitalist so shameless he offered his corruption as reason to vote for him? No problem! Phew, that was close – now Virginia is safe from Cuccinelli’s proposed ban on kinky sex!
Many of these libertarians are part of the “socially liberal but fiscally conservative” set that always, every time, invariably, ends up supporting the social liberal over the fiscal conservative. Every election year they tell us how their couple of million votes are totally there for the taking if we just exile the tens millions of social conservatives who actually do vote for Republicans.
We are never going to get their votes. These libertarians feed on our attempts to woo them. Once every four years, someone finally pays attention to them and they bask in that fleeting spotlight. This kind of libertarians should be ignored, or if not ignored, mocked.
The Tea Party/Constitutional Conservative movement has a wide libertarian streak. Folks like me would watch Ron Paul and marvel at his awesome domestic policy stand on shuttering huge swaths of the government bureaucracy. But then he would keep talking. He would launch into his views on “fiat money” and our eyes would glaze over. By the time he got to discussing foreign policy we would be tuned out entirely.
Still, conservatives share common ground with many libertarians on issues like gun rights, taxes, regulation, overzealous prosecutions, government spying on the citizenry and petty fascism by government officials. There are some differences too, like on social issues. They also see foreign policy much differently than traditional interventionist Republicans, but on that issue many conservatives are moving their way, albeit with the clear understanding that support for our ally Israel remains nonnegotiable.
These libertarians understand that the most effective way to fight statism is to elect the least statist of the two presidential contenders and to focus on a long-term strategy of political work at the grassroots level. We can get those voters, and we do get many, but we need to understand that we will have some conflicts down the road. Still, if decriminalizing pot is what it takes to get enough support to restore our civil rights and prune back the federal government, hey stoners, puff away.
We need to stop considering libertarian candidates spoilers who steal votes that belong to us. The only votes that belong to us are the ones we earn. We can earn some of them, but we need to accept that we are never going to get the vote of that tiresome, smug libertarian who read a couple Ayn Rand books back at Gumbo State before he graduated in 2011 and now has a website where he blogs away about how Republicans would try to stop him from having sex with his girlfriend if he ever got a girlfriend.
These dorks would happily see the election of a liberal petty fascist like Hillary Clinton, who reeks of nanny statism from every pore, just for the chance to tell the GOP “I told you so.” We are never going to win them over and we shouldn’t feed the trolls by pretending their opinions matter.
As conservatives, we need to leave the welcome mat out for our libertarian allies and earn their votes by addressing their concerns. But we should stop deluding ourselves by thinking they are responsible when we lose elections. They are not. We are, and acceptance is the first step to recovery.