With control of the U.S. Congress to be decided in less than five months, many factors have been identified that could affect the outcome. Will voters in California flip five congressional seats from GOP to Democrat? Will the “blue wave” wash across America, emanating from the coasts and inundating flyover country? Will Trump’s gambles on trade and foreign affairs turn out to be triumphs or setbacks? With the America’s future hanging in the balance, one perennial (and growing) threat to GOP control does not receive nearly enough attention: Libertarian candidates.
America is a two party system. That’s reality. When a third party candidate runs an effective campaign, with rare exceptions, they siphon votes predominately away from one major party’s candidate. In 1968 George Wallace took votes away from Richard Nixon, who won anyway. In 2000 Ralph Nadar took votes away from Al Gore, who would have otherwise won. In 2016, pothead Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 4.5 million votes, and nearly handed victory to Hillary Clinton.
There are currently thirty races across the country for U.S. Congressional seats that are considered toss-ups. These thirty are all considered toss-ups by three reputable national political analysts, the Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections. It is important to note that if you widen the search to “competitive races” instead of neck and neck toss-ups, that number grows from 30 to around 100. And of just those 30 toss-up congressional races, at least ten of them have viable Libertarian candidates.
Examining the record of some of these candidates reveals just how capable they are of destroying Republican chances for victory. In Colorado’s District 6, Libertarian candidate Norm Olson is running again, after attracting 5% of the vote in 2016. In Michigan’s District 11, Libertarian candidate Jonathan Osment is also running again, after getting 2.5% of the vote in 2016. In North Carolina’s District 9, Libertarian candidate Jeffrey Scott is running a savvy campaign, having earned 5.3% of the vote in 2017 when running for city council in Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city. The list goes on.
The battle for U.S. Senate, where the GOP is in dire need of moving beyond their current wafer thin “majority,” is also likely to be impacted by Libertarian candidates. Five of the toss-up races for U.S. Senate have strong Libertarian candidates competing for votes. In Indiana, Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton got 5% of the vote back in 2016 when she ran for Indiana’s other U.S. Senate seat. In West Virginia, a poll conducted last month had Libertarian candidate Rusty Hollen drawing 4% of likely voters. In Arizona, Libertarian candidate Doug Marks is running, and the last time a Libertarian ran for U.S. Senate in Arizona, they received 4.6% of the vote.
Nevada’s competitive U.S. Senate race features Libertarian candidate Tim Hagan, who has the distinction of handing majority control of the Nevada state legislature to Democrats in 2016, when he attracted 5.1% of the vote in District 5, where the GOP challenger lost that race by less than 1%.
Libertarians are smart enough to know how third parties impact close elections, but many delude themselves into thinking their candidates are as likely to draw votes from Democrats as from disaffected Republicans. They base this preposterous wishful thinking on the fact that many Libertarians consider progressives to be their allies. After all, Libertarians are in favor of open borders, just like progressives. And Libertarians believe that anything goes when it comes to drugs and sex, just like progressives. So it’s tempting for Libertarians to think progressives might be their natural allies. They’re not.
The reality is quite different. Progressives do not support Libertarian candidates. Progressives hate Libertarian candidates. They hate them because they are Social Darwinists who want to eliminate welfare spending, privatize Social Security and Medicare, and dismantle public education – Libertarians don’t even want the government to pay for new roads and bridges. They want to kick poor people into the gutter and reduce the government to courts and cops. Does that sound harsh, Libertarians? It’s paraphrasing their words, not mine. Give it up. Progressives don’t like you. They don’t vote for you. They never will.
Conservative Republicans, on the other hand, welcome Libertarian perspectives, even if they don’t accept all of them. That’s ok. Libertarians aren’t unified, either. Libertarian candidate Ryan Martinez, running in the toss-up U.S. Congressional District 11 in New Jersey, wants to legalize drugs. Libertarian candidate Japheth Campbell, running in the toss-up U.S. Senate election in Missouri, on the other hand, is a self-described “moral conservative.” Why not bring this diversity back into the Republican party?
What unifies Republicans and Libertarians is a belief in limited government. Maybe some Republicans are hypocrites, but it is better to work with people who lack the courage of their convictions than to work with people whose convictions are diametrically opposed to your own. When you work with the timid, they may eventually step up. When you work with implacable enemies, they will eventually destroy you. Libertarians need to stop running candidates and start participating in the refinement of the Republican platform.
This November, Democrats only need to convert 23 Republican seats to take control of the House of Representatives. There are over 100 competitive seats, with Libertarian candidates running in more than 23 of them. These candidates need to withdraw from these races, for the sake of the principles they cherish. Perfect is the enemy, the mortal enemy, of good enough.
This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.
Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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