Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Rise of Libertarianism

The libertarian message has finally become mainstream. And for this we have to thank Republican Ron Paul who after the Maine caucus results said “the revolution is only beginning”. In the long-run this will be great for our country. It means the electorate is waking up (or more accurately re-awakening) to the libertarian virtues of Individual Liberty, Personal Responsibility and Free Markets and not the faux versions promoted by Republican conservatism. But unfortunately, in the short term, the Democratics will be the primary beneficiaries of this phenomenon.

It may not seem like it, but Ron Paul is on fire. The libertarian message is typically relegated to the 1% range. The best showing of a Libertarian Presidential candidate was in 1980 when Ed Clark and David Koch (one of the Koch brothers) got almost one million votes, 1.06% of the popular vote. Ron Paul has been in the 15% range and sometimes much better, like the 36% he got in the Maine caucuses. We were all hoping he would win at least one primary contest but it doesn’t really matter; because it’s about the message, the message of LIBERTY.

Because Congressman Paul has been in the top 3 or 4 in every primary contest he’s being taken seriously. Not seriously enough that anyone thinks he can win the nomination but seriously enough to invite him on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, This Week, Fox News Sunday, CNN. And the message is getting out, well, at least to the political junkies.

Knowing he can’t win, Ron Paul’s goal is to influence the Republican Party and if he can get enough delegates he may well keep some or his supporters loyal to the Republican Party. But I don’t think most of them will be satisfied with a promise to investigate the Fed. No, they’ll look elsewhere and they’ll find Gary Johnson.

This is where it gets sticky for the Republicans and for the nation. Gary Johnson, the former Republican Governor of New Mexico, who managed to get in one, count ‘em, (1) Republican debate has bolted for the Libertarian Party and will likely get its nomination. So, here’s the bad news. Many of those newly recruited libertarians are going to help re-elect Barack Obama by voting for Gary Johnson.

This is going to be a close election. A lousy economy is bad for the incumbent as many of the independents who supported Barack Obama will have second thoughts about voting for him a second time. However, the Republicans are doing a great job of improving the Presidents chances. As I write this, it doesn’t really matter who the Republicans nominate; Romney, Santorum or Gingrich each of them has significant baggage and would be a weak candidate. If Romney loses in Michigan, a distinct possibility, the whole nomination process could be disrupted to the point that even Ron Paul could get the nomination. Ok, not really.

Hence, if the Libertarian candidate can impact a single state (Georgia with 16 electoral votes comes to mind) that would normally vote Republican; that one state could easily give Obama a second term. And I’m personally ok with that.