The Political Divide Between Libertarians & Conservatives

Patrick Hynes of Ankle Biting Pundits popped off a provocative column on the political divide between libertarians and conservatives. Here’s an excerpt to give you a feel for the piece:

“Too often, though, the idea of a conservative-libertarian divorce reads like an ultimatum from libertarians, who occasionally express so much frustration at conservative apostasy they threaten to walk away. If we’re going to follow the marriage analogy to its grisly end, this dynamic is akin to a mouthy, pushy wife riding her hardworking husband (cheap fedora cocked to one side, tie askew, briefcase bulging with work still unfinished) about how useless he is around the house from the moment he walks in the door to the moment his head hits the pillow. With all respect, on Election Day, conservatives are the ones doing all the work.”

Let me try to get across what Patrick was saying in…uh, let’s say a bit more of a diplomatic way =D.

On issues where they philosophically agree with conservatives — like taxes, free markets, & shrinking the size of governments — Libertarians tend to be impossible to please purists. On the other hand, in many areas where Libertarians philosophically disagree with conservatives — like open borders, legalizing hard drugs, & legalizing prostitution — their beliefs equal political death for almost any Republican who espouses them at the national level.

Then when you consider the small size of the Libertarian voting block and you factor in that generally sensible Libertarians like Neil Boortz and Glenn Reynolds seem to be equaled in popularity in the Libertarian community by complete, raving, lunatics like Lew Rockwell and Justin Raimondo, it becomes clear that it’s futile to try to court Libertarians politically.

Don’t buy that? Then take a look at this article from Reason that polled prominent Libertarians about who they were going to vote for right before the November 2004 election. Here’s the wacky breakdown from the Creme de la Creme of the Libertarian community:

Bush: 10
Kerry: 11
Badnarik (The Libertarian Candidate): 5
Undecided: 9
Not Voting: 5
Other: 7

Not only were these Libertarians all over the map, but almost all of them seemed to be ambivalent about their choices. The same ones who voted for Bush this time could very well be voting for Hillary next time and the ones that voted for Kerry might not vote and the ones who went with Badnarik could vote for the Republican candidate in 2008, yada, yada, yada, etc., etc., etc. If you’re trying to figure out which way these same Libertarians will go in the future, you might as well flip coins, because there’s no reliable way to predict which way they’re going to go next time around.

Ultimately, this is what leads to Libertarians being given the short shrift in the Republican Party. Libertarians are a small, extremely unreliable, block of voters who can’t be appealed to by conventional means. So, given the circumstances, it’s very understandable that most Republicans don’t bother to make the effort.

On the other hand, there is something Libertarians can do if they want to make more of an impact politically and that’s join one of the two major parties and try to co-opt the Party from the inside. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t, but it beats sitting outside with your nose pressed up against the glass complaining that, “No one wants to listen to people out here,” while simultaneously refusing to walk in the open door.

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