July 6, 2015 by Liberty
With the next election nearing closer and closer, I thought it would be a good time to reorient some efforts on the libertarian front. While this may read like I’m trying to depress a motivated libertarian political campaign, in reality I’m aiming to do two things. First of all, I’m trying to point out how futile the political front is these days. It’s almost a couple waste of time for smart people. Second, if I fail to convince someone, I at least want them to go into battle knowing what they’re up against.
Libertarian’s are not Republicans or Democrats. They cannot play by the same sets of rules. In American politics today they’re forced to play by a significantly more difficult set of rules. Based on the principles of libertarianism it tends to get even harder. Here is why libertarians suck at politics:
1. No Quid Pro Quo
Libertarians don’t have favors to offer individual donors.
A Republican candidate can say, “If I get elected I’ll increase military funding” and military suppliers know they’re in for a ton of orders when that day comes. A Democrat candidate can say, “If I get elected I’ll increase regulation in this industry,” and lawyer lobbying groups will know they can expect more money and more business.
Libertarian’s don’t have that luxury because the libertarian platform is less about creating new problems and more about eliminating them. When a libertarian says they’re going to balance the federal budget all lobbying groups suddenly get scared that money will get cut from their industry. If the libertarian specifically chooses industries to reduce then those industries will lobby against the libertarian.
Of course, libertarians talking about reducing regulation may gain some support from the companies that don’t have political support right now but you have to consider a few problems. If a company doesn’t already have political support then it probably has less money. It’s probably less motivated to donate money. It won’t be able to take over the market completely because reduced regulation doesn’t only help their company, it helps every company in the market (including the market leader.) It just doesn’t make sense for companies to support libertarians.
2. Donation Limits
Libertarians happen to be amazingly efficient at spending their campaign money but unfortunately they’re hampered repeatedly by donation limits. Libertarians are philosophically supported in most cases. That means the average libertarian will donate piles more money than the average Republican or Democrat. (Libertarians also tend to have more money.) That’s an advantage that can’t be fully appreciated in American politics.
Democrats and Republicans have created donation limits that make libertarian candidates consistently the long shot. While democrats and republicans can loads of free advertising on a day to day basis, that helps them attract the small donors, libertarians are forced to focus on paying for any viewers. One way to fight that disadvantage would be to focus on people that actually have money to seriously help the campaign. Donation limits prevent that strategy.
3. No Election Subsidies
Federal and General Election funds go to Democrats and Republicans. This is just another way American politics has been politically designed to be a two party system. The government directly subsidizes the two major political parties leaving any competing parties empty-handed.
That adds up to tens of millions of dollars being given to Democrats and Republicans with absolutely no investment on their part. Based on the donation limits libertarians are required to collect the money a small piece at a time. What is given away to the major politicians would take tens of thousands of donors providing the maximum amount to make up for.
4. Media Blackout
You can look at this from a conspiratorial standpoint or a straight up logic standpoint. Libertarians have virtually no chance to win, therefor, libertarians get no media coverage. Naturally this just repeats year after year because libertarians need some major media backing to get any coverage at all.
Libertarians get virtually no coverage compared to the major candidates. Often, libertarians get equal coverage to parties that are going to get a tenth of the votes of the libertarian candidate. For whatever reason, libertarians are screwed when it comes to the mainstream media.
Just look at the Ron Paul campaign (as a republican) for a clear example of this. Ron Paul attracted huge support and crazy donation numbers but the media barely gave him a fraction of the coverage of his opponents. Despite the major hurdles he jumped over (fun imagery,) he still couldn’t get more than a few seconds of coverage at a time.
5. Ballot Access
State by state there are countless ballot access laws that prevent libertarians from ever getting a foothold politically. Some states require exorbitant fees for libertarian candidates hoping to run while requiring smaller fees from mainstream candidates. Some states require countless more petition signatures to run a libertarian campaign compared to a mainstream one. (Remember petitions aren’t signed for free. It costs man hours and money.) Some states don’t even list when a candidate is a libertarian on the ballot. (That means people can’t just vote for libertarians without knowing the libertarian’s name unlike with Republicans or Democrats.)
Libertarians suck at politics because American politics has been specifically designed to keep them out. Every little law passed by every little community makes a huge difference for the little guys. Most of the time, those laws hardly even alter a major campaign. Libertarians have to waste fortunes more time and money just to get on the ballots.
6. Reporting Laws
First of all, like any government regulation, reporting laws unfairly attack the little guy. This is an expense that gets added to every campaign. That expense helps require more time and money spent filling out forms and less actually campaigning. Of course, it’s a much less significant expense when you have tens of millions of dollars coming in.
Did you know many wealthy individuals donate to both Republicans and Democrats in the same election?
That’s because they fear retribution of not donating. After considering how horribly fascist that seems, realize how scary it can be to contribute to a third party candidate. Anyone with any power in politics has to fear supporting a non-mainstream candidate because their name will forever be attached to that donation. Enemies could use that donation against him or her.
Reporting laws suffer the exact same problems as public votes. Americans are quick to accept voting should be private but refuse to accept voting with their dollars should be offered that same level of privacy. (Of course, if they wanted public reporting of donations they could just vote for a candidate that kept their donations public.)
7. Achilles Soundbites
Good luck making an effective libertarian rebuttal in a short enough time to fit in a soundbite.
The libertarian position is not simple. The libertarian position on virtually every issue is almost impossible to make within a soundbite. To make it more difficult, an attack on libertarianism that takes 10 seconds to make can take 5 or 6 minutes (for an expert) to rebuttal without missing something important.
You can see this in virtually every issue. One idiotic comment from a Republican saying, “At least I support keeping our children safe from drugs,” can be responded to in hundreds of different ways, each with pros and cons but none even close to as short as a Republican soundbite.
Soundbites are the Achilles heel of libertarianism. Sure, libertarians can make good soundbites to libertarians but to a mainstream audience they just don’t translate accurately. “I support a person’s freedom to make their own decisions about their own body,” leads to “but what about the children?”
No. It’s not logical but who said people in American politics were logical.
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