Libertarians Big Fail

If there were ever an election year when the Libertarian Party could make significant gains, this is the year.

The Bernie Sanders campaign caught fire and inspired a new generation of young people and rallied a cohort of progressives frustrated with eight years of cautious Obama politics.

Many of Bernie’s most ardent supporters were looking for a new champion when Bernie failed to win the nomination.

Donald Trump’s xenophobic populism abandoned traditional Republicans and their concerns about fiscal conservatism and government overreach.

The contest between Clinton and Trump quickly became a personality referendum. Issues took a back seat to an endless cycle of school-yard taunts, shocking revelations of personal weakness, and a deeply disturbing lord of the flies “kill the pig” frenzy.

Libertarianism had the perfect opportunity to assert its simple philosophy that people are perfectly able to make their own decisions and better decisions will be made if people are allowed to experience the consequences of their actions.

This also applies to governments. The world would be a better place, libertarians contend, if governments were less concerned with individual rights and more concerned with national defense.

So why is the Libertarian Party polling at less than 5% of the total vote?

My sense is that when push came to shove, the libertarian faithful including big money sources like David Koch, failed the Trump test.

Trump successfully turned this election into a reality show. Clinton became the villain. Trump became his own hero. His whole campaign is an effort to fan the flames of tribalism by drawing clear lines between us and them. Facts took a beating as every event was re-interpreted within the context of how “they” were biased, crooked, and untrustworthy and “we” were the only choice to save the nation from “them”.

The media, every established political party, the Clinton campaign, and the public have been challenged to respond.

The Libertarians had the opportunity to demonstrate that their philosophy was a better way.

Instead, their leaders and their followers could not resist the temptation to participate in this personality contest in hopes of attracting those who claimed that they disliked BOTH Trump and Clinton.

The issues with Clinton and the FBI are a perfect example. Early on both Johnson and Weld agreed with the FBI’s recommendation not to prosecute. This was consistent with the philosophy that individuals are smart enough to make their own decisions and don’t need government’s help. But when the FBI reopened the investigation, Weld was the only one who continued to stand on principle suggesting the FBI was “off the reservation”. Johnson followed Trump’s line in an effort to pick up some disheartened Clinton supporters. Weld on the other hand received the full wrath of the libertarian faithful.

On social media sites it is hard to distinguish the Trump trolls from the libertarian trolls when it comes to flaming anti-Clinton posts.

The challenge libertarians have always had is walking the talk.

Here’s a classic example from a book by a behavioral economist. The University of Chicago is a bastion of libertarian economists. Milton Friedman was their leader. When the University built a new office building for the economics faulty, there was the obvious challenge of how to allocate office space. Rather than setup a marketplace which would have resolved the issue using the principles that each of these academics spent a lifetime promoting, they essentially appointed a bureaucrat. He created a formula based on things like tenure, seniority, and individual contributions to the institution. That same person then applied the formula in a controlled fashion in an effort to reduce conflict. At the moment when these leaders of libertarian thought could actually put their theories to the test in their own lives, they trusted a government solution.

There are a lot of voters in this election cycle looking for a better choice. Libertarianism failed to gain their votes because libertarians lost track of their major asset which is their simple set of principles. Instead of demonstrating how principles can overcome tribalism, they became just as tribal, just as intolerant, and just as opportunistic as everyone else.

11 Responses to “Libertarians Big Fail”

  1. Keith says:

    In an unrelated piece of information the District of Columbia voted 93-7 for Hillary. The last numbers I saw.

  2. Keith says:

    The liberal progressives on TV are losing it. It’s quite remarkable. They are screaming.

    I don’t know if you have seen the Van Jones meltdown last night but, wow, I can even begin to understand what’s going on g through his mind. How is a trump beating Hillary racist???

    Here’s the riddle;

    A black man defeats a white man for president.
    That same black man beat another white man 4 years later.
    Then a white man beats a white woman who was unable the get white men and women to vote for her that voted FOR THE BLACK MAN 4 and 8 years prior. The white woman was also unable to get black men and women to come vote for her as the black man had been able to. How it the vote for the white man racist?

    Jeff I’m serious, help me, I don’t follow this at all.

  3. Jeff Beamsley says:

    The black vote didn’t turn out in sufficient numbers in particular states to make the difference in what was otherwise a very close election. But that’s not the fault of black voters or Hillary Clinton. All that proved is that an African American candidate is going to energize the black community more than a white candidate. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. That also isn’t the reason, IMHO, that Trump won.

    Trump was such a caricature, that everyone (including Trump) thought that this was going to be a personality contest. Demographers broke apart the country based on how each segment responded to the various objectionable things that were said. Based on that data they built a model that predicted a Clinton win.

    What we all missed was much simpler. This was a change election.

    At the very start of this campaign cycle, most analysts talked about how difficult it was going to be for democrats to win the White House again. Regardless of the state of the economy or the high approval rating of the current president, voters generally don’t like to see the same party occupy the White House for more than 8 years. We lost sight of this fundamental reality as the primary season gave us two candidates with a lot of baggage. Everyone became fixated on the baggage.

    The message of this election was that voters wanted a change. It didn’t matter who the Democrats ran, they were going to vote Republican. It also didn’t matter what the Republican candidate did. They were going to vote for him because they wanted a change. Some voters embraced Trump’s extreme positions. Some voters excused them and voted for him anyway. 20% of Trump voters agreed that he was not qualified for the position, but they still voted for him because he was not a Democrat.

    IMHO, the good news is that many of these voters are angry because they feel government hasn’t been working for THEM. They don’t want to eliminate government. They just want a government that pays more attention to them. They like Medicare. They like Social Security. They like many parts of Obamacare too. But they want it to work better and cost less.

    If Trump is able to deliver on his promises of jobs, better healthcare, and lower taxes. He will deserve another term. If he fails to crank the economy up, get lots of people back to work, and replace Obamacare with “something much better for everyone” those same folks could just as easily turn on him in 2018 and 2020 just as they did with Obama.

    Looks like Obamacare is going to be his first big test. Republicans don’t have the votes in the Senate to replace or modify it. They only have the votes to repeal it using the same budget reconciliation trick that passed it in the first place. We’ll see whether the Republicans are willing to repeal it without having anything to take it’s place. If the Republicans contemplate repealing it without a replacement, I’m sure that the Democrats will tell the country that they will filibuster any bill that fails to offer comparable coverage for at least the 20M people that are covered today. That fight could easily consume the first two years of the Trump administration in the same way that it consumed the first two years of the Obama administration. If that fight basically stalls the rest of his legislative agenda is the same way that it stalled what Obama wanted to do, the Democrats will feel that they have accomplished something. I’m not comfortable at all with this tactic because I feel that there should be consequences to elections and those who win elections should have an opportunity to implement what they promised voters. But if Trump and the Republicans choose to start this Obamacare fight, then it is going to have to play out.

    BTW, the CBO said last year that repealing Obamacare would add $350B to the deficit over 10 years. Combine that with the tax cuts and huge increases in infrastructure spending that Trump promised, and you have a LOT of new debt. The conservative Tax Foundation is very concerned that Trump will be able to grow the economy at the rates that he has forecast with the more restrictive trade policies that he has promised. How do you feel about that?

    We are also in the seventh year of economic expansion. It is HIGHLY likely that Trump is going to face a recession in his administration. Probably sooner rather than later. He can no longer depend on the Fed to help him because the Fed doesn’t have much room to drive interest rates back down. So the substantive action is going to have to come from the legislature. A big fight over Obamacare is only going to make it more difficult to get some consensus on how to respond to a big drop in the stock market and big jump in unemployment. It will be interesting to see Republicans put their money where their mouth is, since this may be exactly the situation that Obama faced in his first term. Are Republicans going to be willing to “let it burn”, or will they support the traditional Keynesian stimulation approach that they criticized when Obama was in power?

    If they do take the “let it burn” approach, then Trump is going to have a very difficult 2018 and the Republicans could easily lose the House, just like the Democrats in 2010. What happens then with a combative President, an oppositional Democratic majority in the House, and a legislative agenda that never gets off the ground? Could be the recipe for a one term presidency.

    I honestly hope that this is not the case. The country will be MUCH better off if Trump has a successful presidency and turns out to be much more practical and moderate than he appeared on the stump. We should find out soon enough.

  4. Keith says:

    I am hopeful Trump will be what I thought he was. Merely staking out extreme positions as the opening salvo in negotiations. I.E. Sending illegals back. I believe he will make deals. I am hopeful the two guys from New York, he an Shumer, can make things happen.

    Agree completely with the above with one exception. The Times article above is perfect! Over the course of the election I don’t remember hardly any positive articles being written about Trump. None in the most text 3-4 months. All articles were negative. All written from the perspective of the democratics. I don’t know how much coverage you watched but the media, except the most liberal were blaming themselves for the lack of objectivity in the reporting and news. Even still nothing positive is being written. Everything is “stunned” “shocking victory” etc. it’s not an mistry when Hillary won DC 94-4 (I was wrong above) this is the bubble. So when Fox acts the exact same way, biased, then THEY are the outlier. They are the bubble. But that aren’t. They are merely a much smaller bubble. It’s no wonder all the news anchors melted down on election night. It was funny at first but not after awhile. It was a reflection, and exposed, of what really is happening in the media. The woman on ABC, their global reporter no less, was visibly shaken and couldn’t contain herself at one point. This is t like Rachal Madow or Van Jones losing it, this was one of the MODARATORS of one of the debates.

    I was surprised at the use of race yesterday and last evening by the media. Please watch MSNBC CNN and listen.

    Also in light of much of what I’m hearing now. Please help me. I don’t get this.

    Here’s the riddle;

    A black man defeats a white man for president.
    That same black man beat another white man 4 years later.
    Then a white man beats a white woman who was unable the get white men and women to vote for her that voted FOR THE BLACK MAN 4 and 8 years prior. The white woman was also unable to get black men and women to come vote for her as the black man had been able to. How it the vote for the white man racist?

  5. Keith says:

    Im not belaboring the point. There is a moment of clarity that is happening for some right now. It won’t last long.

    I am very happy with President Obamas speech yesterday. He hit the ball right out of the park. No one could have said it better as he discribe our democracy on our transfer of power. He was fantastic. He can play a major role going forward in race relations. Somehow I don’t think the intolerance of the far left will listen. The vote the other night was not about race but the far left Will play that card Trumps entire presidency. It will be interesting to see if this happens. I hope it doesn’t but won’t bet on it. Then the race hustlers will be clearly exposed.

    My prediction he will be a very moderate president.

    Reagen was a dem before becoming a republican
    Clinton after two years governed as a repub
    Trump is/was a dem. and certainly isn’t an old time republican .
    Hopefully Trumps presidency is as good.

  6. Jeff Beamsley says:

    I know that race is a touchy issue for you, but this election was not about race, other than the fact that the black vote did not turn out as much for Clinton as it did for Obama.

    IMHO, the WORST thing that the Democrats could do as a result of this election loss is to decide that the next candidate that they run has to be black.

    This was an election about change and EVERYONE except for the voters, missed it. Bernie and Trump were the change candidates. As soon as Trump won the nomination Clinton was sunk. The change voters would have been willing to elect pepe the frog as long as he wasn’t an establishment Democrat.

    We will never know what would have happened if Bernie won the nomination. If voters agreed that both candidates represented change, maybe the election would have been decided on some other major issue.

    Fortunately for the Democrats, the change issue is now off the table. Trump can’t point to Obama in the same way that Obama used Bush. The economy is growing (though slowly), unemployment is down, wages are going up, deficit spending is right around the 3% of GDP mark so the debt is manageable, inflation is low, the dollar is strong, and interest rates are low.

    IMHO Trump needs some quick bipartisan wins and Obamacare isn’t it. So we will see pretty quickly how smart he is. If he is the moderate that we both hope he is, he will cut taxes and pass a big infrastructure bill first. That will give him some ammo to make the recession that is in his future a mild one. If he gets that done, then he will have a little time to turn his attention to Obamacare.

    Another indication of what is going to happen in his presidency is whether or not he takes some unilateral action regarding Clinton. He doesn’t have to do anything. Congress can easily get something going without his help. But if he starts to take some executive actions to punish those that he feels are his enemies, he is setting himself up for a fall later in his administration when the balance of power in Congress shifts back to the Democrats.

    We’ll find out soon enough.

    Rather than rerun the last election, as the Republicans attempted to do when Obama won, I think the best thing the Democrats can do is regroup, focus at the state level to get the next generation of Democratic leaders elected, and prepare themselves for 2018 and 2020. It’s time for the baby boomers to step off the stage and for younger people to step up and lead the party in a new direction.

    The young versus old fight is one of the next ones that will be waged in our country. Republicans are already at a disadvantage regarding that fight. Dems just need to get some young leadership in order to fight it properly. Trump is just the catalyst that young people need to get themselves motivated and engaged. Trump could very well become the Nixon for this generation of progressive kids.

    Should be interesting.

  7. Jeff Beamsley says:

    BTW, Reuters just published an article quoting a Russian Foreign Minister saying that there had been “contacts” between Russia and the Trump campaign during the election.

    You have to wonder why this official would say something like that at this point in time.

    If Russia is interested in continuing to disrupt the US political process, what would happen if they admitted to being behind the Wikileaks activity AND that they had been coordinating that effort with the Trump campaign?

    What would happen if Russia started to leak stuff to the Wash Post or the NYT which documented the extent of the cooperation between Russia and the Trump campaign? Even if it were all lies, how would the country respond?

    Is there enough political will in this country at this point to investigate it and how would that affect Trump’s ability to govern? I suspect that there is, and the result would be that Trump would be dead in the water until this issue was resolved, and if it was in Russia’s interest to keep us tied up in this way for quite a while, they could.

    Now imagine an economic crisis, or some Russian aggressive actions that popped up in the middle of these investigations. A Trump government would have a very difficult time responding.

    Or is this Russia just reminding Trump that they have the ability to make life very difficult for him if he doesn’t fall in line with Putin’s agenda.

    Again if Trump is smart, he will quickly distance himself from Putin because Putin can only be trusted to act in his own self-interests.

  8. Keith says:

    So I am understanding your answer to my riddle is “it isn’t .” Good we agree.

    The far left isn’t following your advice however. Just turn in the TV. It was race. “Whitelash”

  9. Keith says:

    It’s interesting to me the republicans maybe find themselves in the strongest position in their history. The White House, house of Reps, Senate , 34 governors, and the ability to elect Supreme Court justices. The interesting point is the “republicans” didn’t accomplish this. Trump did. The republicans could never have done this.

  10. Keith says:

    As I correctly pointed out, Trump is negotiating already… He staked extreme positions which I never believed to be what will happen.

    “Trump supporters took him seriously but not literally.
    The media took trump literally but not seriously.”

    That’s be best post election analysis is I’ve heard.
    Certainly sums up the way I thought.

  11. Jeff Beamsley says:

    It is interesting that the Republicans are in a strong position at the moment, but the underlying demographics are still a serious problem.

    Trump will end up losing the popular vote by 6M voters. Because of the electoral college, fewer than 100K voters actually decided this election. Most of those were past Obama voters who were voting for change.

    Those in the popular majority are now just as unhappy as the “change” voters who gave Trump his victory.

    We are very likely to see the same 2018 backlash to Trump’s election that we saw in 2010. Democrats gained at least 5 House seats in an election that Trump won.

    The 2018 Senate map isn’t as favorable with only 1 Republican, 6 Democrats, and 1 independent who caucuses with the Dems on the ballot. The best outcome would be to gain one seat which won’t change the balance of power because at 50-50 the VP can cast the deciding vote. What it will do, however, if setup the possibility that the second two years of Trump’s presidency will look a lot like the second two years of Obama’s first term.

    BTW, the Trump University judge refused to delay the trial until after the inauguration. Trump may be the first President to be inaugurated while defending himself in a civil fraud suit. If he is convicted, he will be the first sitting President convicted of fraud. I suspect this will be the first of a waterfall of civil cases that he will find himself defending.

    Two final bits of irony.

    The professor who was one of the few (other than Michael Moore) who predicted a Trump victory? He has also predicted that Trump will not serve out his first term. Instead he will be impeached because the Republican leadership in the House and Senate would prefer Mike Pence who is a “down the line” conservative.

    David Brooks is predicting impeachment or resignation for slightly different reasons. He believes that Trump will find that he just doesn’t have the attention span necessary to do the job.

    The second irony is that if Trump fails to sufficiently stimulate the economy to sustain the current economic expansion for another two years, he will not only lose the house, but he might literally lose his own house. Another collapse of commercial real estate combined with a spike inflation and interest rates or some new crisis in the financial sector that affects lending could bring his “house of card” empire down. As President, his ability to generate income as a celebrity is severely limited. His investments will have to stand on their own and his kids will have to figure out how to do that, while their activities are under more scrutiny than ever before. Would be particularly ironic if Trump leaves office in the same “broke” condition as the Clinton’s claimed.

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