Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

The place of minor parties — challenger parties — in American politics needs to be rethought.

Last weekend I wrote one of my regular columns for Townhall.com. I considered what the Libertarian Party challenge means to limited-government folks in the Republican Party. Unfortunately, while I was told they would be publishing that column, it has still not been. 

That’s a first. I’ve been writing a regular column, finalizing it every Saturday (minus one or two vacations) since late 2003. And even when I’ve criticized conservatives, the good folks at Townhall have been kind enough published my words. This time, well, maybe it’s a horrible column. You tell me. Click on over to the column at my archive on this Common Sense site, and then come back here and give me your opinion.

Now, I understand that this is a somewhat controversial issue.

Voting, after all, is a tricky business, with one’s choices very limited. Voting for the lesser of evils might (a) prevent an awful lot of extra evil, or (b) endorse, as a self-fulfilling prophecy, an outcome that guarantees (at least some degree of) malevolence.

Since I believe most of us when we cast our ballot are making the best choices we can to protect ourselves from an oppressive government, I’m not quick to find fault — either with those voting against the worst evil or those opting for the candidate best representing their principles, regardless of the chance to win.

But I do find fault in the attitude that says folks are foolish if they don’t vote for a candidate with whom they have major disagreements, your preferred candidate, instead of a candidate they enthusiastically endorse, because they should despise the other guy even more. If Republicans want Libertarian, or small-l libertarian votes, they’ll have to actually earn them.

“I get that libertarianism is not Republicanism,” writes Carrie Sheffield at Forbes. “But in a two-party, winner-take-all system (for better or worse, that’s just the reality), it begs the question why someone committed to a small-government philosophy would knowingly generate a big-government winner.”

But aren’t those who nominate a Republican candidate unable to win the libertarian votes needed to prevail in the election just as culpable in generating “a big-government winner” as the libertarians who decline to vote for that GOP candidate?

And certainly my suggestion, late in my column, shows a way around the problem. The problem, as it is right now, is that “the best” (the Libertarian Party? — yes, for some of us) serves as the enemy of the “good” (or at least “better than the Democrat”). By altering the manner in which we cast and count ballots — whether IRV or proportional representation, or something similar — the best will not work against the “good enough.”

It seems like an idea whose time has come.

This is especially droll since the mathematician who first spotted the problem, French philosopher Condorcet, did so before the drawing up of the Constitution of the United States. Perhaps its time for a revolution in our heads, or a new rethink of democracy. You know, to make it more, not less democratic; more, not less, republican.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

And these links provide some additional food for thought:

By: Redactor

24 Comments

  1. MingoV says:

    The topic of voting for the libertarian candidate who has no chance of winning or voting for a republican or democrat candidate has been raised numerous times. Here’s the viewpoint I find most logical. If libertarians vote for candidates belonging to one of the two big parties, no one will know how many libertarians vote. Libertarians cannot sway public policy when libertarian candidates for national elections receive 0.1% of the vote. Thus, libertarians should always vote for the most libertarian candidate. If libertarian votes reach 5% of all votes, then politicians may start taking us seriously (especially if their margin of winning was <5%).

  2. David says:

    I feel that the founding fathers would turn over in their graves to think that we only had two parties but might have a conniption to see the essential one party banana republic that we have (all the more to see that that one party is determined to destroy the constitution.

    If they do have a constitutional convention (I am kind of afraid how that will go) the issue of correcting this problem should be tackled instant run off or other means to break the strangle hold of one party rule would be a big improvement

  3. Jerrold Radway says:

    Though wordy, your point is valid

  4. Batting1000 says:

    Haters gonna Hate

  5. John H says:

    You make a valid point.
    How soon people forget Ralph Nader, who “gave” Florida to George W. Bush. Who knows what Gore would have done? Hopefully, a Republican or divided legislature would have limited some of his policies.
    It’s a shame your column was censored by Townhall. By doing that, it has lost a lot, if not all, credibility.

  6. Morgan says:

    In politics, pragmatism is essential. Don’t do futile things. Given the present political system, the best way to get more libertarian policies is to use the primary elections. Libertarian leaning candidates need to challenge big government incumbents.The real trick is to get the vote out in the primary elections. A tiny part of the population is voting in the only elections that would make a difference.

    There is also another problem, and that is with the libertarian party. It’s much the same as the other parties. In my experience, libertarian candidates are not necessarily libertarian thinkers. When you ask them what should be done about this or that problem they atavistically turn to a government solution because that is all that is available to them. The alternative of not passing another law, or creating another program, is often doing nothing. Doing nothing is pretty scary to a politician. That is how big government gets big.

  7. John M says:

    I love this article! Thanks Paul for your service! I always enjoy your writings.

    I’ve had it with both parties. Nobody knows where the middle is anymore…extreme left, extreme right, extreme policies, extreme everything, fight, fight, fight! Geez, this is all so tiresome.

    It is really simple to me, Republicans are Pussies and Democrats have become Communists. And so by extension, we have become PC. I think the Team America puppet-movie really does say it best!

    “Another plague upon the land, as devastating as the locusts God loosed on the Egyptians, is ‘Political Correctness.'” –Charlton Heston

    So there we have it, Soylent Green is made from people. Eat up!

    Shared Misery is the rally cry of Commies and also today’s Republicans.

    “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” –Thomas Jefferson

    And when powerful quotes like these are compared to “Eat the suck…”, Nancy Pelosi, it becomes clear to me that The Founders know far better than any alive today.

    So then, why are we not paying attention to them and their words?

    A Merry Christmas to All,

    -John M.

  8. Eric says:

    I would be interested if Townhall could articulate their rationale for not publishing the piece. I liked it, but admit that the argument made gets mildly convoluted. Plus, you used Chesterton’s name four times, and a form of “revolution” twice. Take a deep breath, make sure it’s exactly the point you want to make, see if they might want to reconsider from their side, and move on. (I was quite enamored of The Constitution Party some years back, even before I perceived the “D”s & “R”s sucked a bit less than they do today. Today, I’m of mind that Libertarian seems a bit too much like ABTI – Anybody But The Incumbent)

  9. Frank C. says:

    Paul I loved your article. So right in many ways. still I did love Mr. Romney and felt that he could have benefited our country. As for Libertarians I agree with Morgan above on what he said. Also the Libertarians that I know only believe in two things: less government more marijuana. I’m a non partsian voter but extremely conservative…..I wish there was a viable solution the the party problem….. I remember when the demo’s and repub’s used to both have liberals and conservatives…it was a better time I believe..

  10. Frank Beal says:

    Paul, you are correct as far as I am concerned. I don’t know why the Rs and Ls don’t use the Ds own words in commercials in their races. The scripts write themselves if you would but listen. Every D should have an ad run against them using Nancy Pelosi’s famous, “We have to pass the law (Obamacare) to learn what’s in it” and then emphazise that the D then voted for this bill without knowing what was in it. If this is how this person, does his/her job, then they are not very good at that job and need to be replaced. If this is not used against every D who is up for reelection, then shame on the R or L who is running against them. This is but one example of how easy it is to come up with ads against the Ds. The current Repub establishment congress creatures need to be replaced in toto.
    Keep up the good work that you do. Enjoy every email I receive from you.

  11. Paul,
    This was interesting but it lost some of its appeal because it was too narrowly focused on libertarians and the Libertarian Party. The issue is the role of third parties in American politics. You could have strengthened this piece by pointing out that George Bush won Florida and therefore the presidential election in 2000 because of votes cast for Ralph Nader. All that aside, I think it is a shame that Townhall didn’t publish your column.

  12. JFB says:

    Paul, your points are valid, and voting “for” the lesser of two candidates is certainly repugnant in principal. For those who do so, at least an membership in the Libertarian Party is in order, just to allow an estimation of their numbers and identification of their leanings.
    Townhall’s failure to publish YOUR OPINION is sad, may signal that they no longer to be part of the debate, but are evolving to a just a right of center “republican” publishing house. The Chestertonian “conservative” problem becomes ever greater with more government incursion, perhaps they are giving in to the anesthesia.
    For those who claim “fear” a Republican schism, note the same forces are at work on the Democratic side of the aisle, as evidenced by the Democrats who voted against the “compromise budget” because it failed to provide even more “benefits”.
    The TEA Party was an important development, and is resisting assimilation by the “main stream” Republicans, much to their displeasure.
    It is the alliance of the the Tea Party with the Millennials that could turn the tide. The Mellennials are catching on. They recognize they are being sent the bills, for the hyper-inflated post secondary educational system through their non-dischargeable student loans, for the (Un)Affordable Care Act, and hopefully, as their perception of of reality continues to widen, the existing and future deficits.
    Mellennials are losing any attraction to centrist status quo arguments. They are not interested in greater taxation or further redistribution of the fruits of their labor and investments. The establishment Republicans will move and adapt to the TEA Party and Millennial position, if for no other reasn than to maintain their power.
    I believe the present Republican leadership must either move toward libertarian, or they will be replaced, but that does not mean there will not be skirmishes. In the new alignment “centrist” will not be considered a virtue, or satisfactory. The jukebox is playing the final chorus of the present song, and Dylan’s “The Times They Are A’Changing” is next up, with a syntax updated from the ’70’s.
    I will leave you with a historical hypothesis, I premise the framers and initial adopters of the US Constitution did not seek to correct for the issues raised by Condorcet because they saw no need to. They, I think, believed the document itself so restricted the powers of the Federal Government that it would be basically irrelevant in the everyday lives of the citizens. This was expressed both in its provisions, and by ending it with the exclamation point of the 10th Amendment.
    Let us pray that the US can rediscover the framer’s “initial intent”, re-learn the wisdom of their principles, and re-establish their beliefs as the guideposts for our society.

  13. MoreFreedom\ says:

    I think some of the editors at Town Hall are R team cheerleaders, regardless of R positions, and they consider Libertarians a threat to them winning elections, which they are, but as others here have pointed out, they also threaten Democrat statists.

    I would have emphasized more, the fact that R legislators don’t vote the way they tell conservatives they will vote (you did an excellent job of showing what the did under Bush, which wasn’t limited government or conservative).

    I know I rile up a bunch of conservatives, when I rail against voting for RINOs.

    For people who want smaller, limited government, it just makes no sense to vote for a Republican who promises bigger government, even if the Democrat promises to spend even more.

    A Republican who promises less welfare spending (but doesn’t vote that way) isn’t much different than a Democrat who promises more welfare spending, when compared to Libertarians who say welfare spending is immoral and should be eliminated. Republicans ought to live up to their promises.

  14. MoreFreedom\ says:

    I forgot to mention, Instant Runoff Voting, is a great approach we should implement. The reason it’s ignored, is that it will give a lot of power to 3rd parties. Neither statist party wants this. They both realize, that Rs/Ds would often rather elect a Libertarian than a D/R.

    But that would totally upend the Demopublican’s monopoly. And introduce voters to real libertarians, rather than statists in Tea Party clothing.

    I expect it wasn’t used in the past, because counting the votes with IRV is more difficult manually. But it’s very easy with computers. We should make efforts to get it implemented locally, then nationally.

  15. Erne Lewis says:

    I loved the article and shared it on my facebook page

  16. No Party Allowed says:

    When the dead corpse of the republican party begins to rot away then and only then will rise liberty.

    Then the liberty zombies can eat the progressives alive, for their republican guardians are dead and unable to defend them.

    Death to the GOP! Liberty rising!!

  17. Lynn Atherton Bloxham says:

    As usual I agree with your remarks. Of course I have been libertarian before there was a party, so I admit to bias. Actually I would be happy if you were tougher on both R’s and D’s. And if the shoe fits let them whimper and whine. I am disappointed after the national and international repercussions of the devastating War on Drugs, there are still people who do not comprehend the brave and lonely stance the LP has taken. Actually I would say far fewer are interested in smoking pots as protecting the concept of self ownership. All sides, R’s, D’s, and Conservatives have been very lax in protecting civil liberties and presenting a consistent case against wars of aggression and interference in other countries. So too, the R’s and Conservatives cannot see the irony of being for a market economy, except when they are not, as in the immigration issue. The libertarians put the other groups to shame and I have run out of room to critique the Occupy, Greens or social justice groups.

  18. Jam says:

    First, thanks for letting us know why an article of yours didn’t appear last week. But as for the article that went unpublished, I think it was a great article for the most part. All but the electoral reform suggestions. While I agree that ballot access for minor-parties needs to be opened up and the signature gathering is bs, I like first-past-the-pole elections. And with the dems and reps both losing appeal amongst the people, pretty soon the first-past-the-pole method may just well benefit the Libertarian Party.

  19. Kenneth H. Fleischer says:

    From a literary standpoint, the article was a bit overlong, weakened by repetition, but from a political-philosophical standpoint, it was right on the money.

    My own way of putting the matter is that you can trust the Democrats to give you the shaft, but you just can’t trust the Republicans.

    Personally, I vote Libertarian because I need to look in the mirror, sometimes.

  20. Jay says:

    One problem that I have with libertarians and conservatives– they want everybody’s benefits and freebies 9abd/or subsidies) cut EXCEPT THEIRS, which are an necessity.

    This includes (in my view) many libertarian groups–which prize their tax exemptions ( but oppose that of others–sort of a reverse of Obama’s IRS).

    I know of some die heart libertarians, but are adamant in their opposition to (either) end federal flood insurance and let the market decide, or at least end the subsidies ( aka welfare for the wealthy)–because they make money on waterfront properties. BUT cut medical care for the indigent. And subsidies for the others. A take on the theme of a book by NAT HENTOFF—” FREE SPEECH FOR ME, BUT NOT FOR THEE”.

  21. Bob Cornelius says:

    Totally agree Paul. Excellent article. Shame on Townhall for not publishing.

  22. Bob Cornelius says:

    I totally agree Paul. Excellent article. Shame on Townhall for not publishing it.

  23. Ted Berthelote says:

    Excellent article and no surprise Townhall refused it.

  24. Dave P says:

    Paul, You got it right. It’s as simple as that. I haven’t voted for a major party candidate in a national election since 1968. Unfortunately, the libertarians have run some real doozies here in Indiana. I wish some of them were more sophisticated.

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