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Reblogged:Historical Echo in Libertarian Vote

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Over at The American Spectator, Dov Fischer argues plausibly that the Libertarian Party cost Donald Trump his chance at reelection:

But did you vote responsibly? (Image by Element5 Digital, via Unsplash, license.)
Although some who voted Libertarian might otherwise have voted Democrat, while others might have stayed home and not voted if there were no ballot alternative to Trump and Biden, the vast majority of Libertarians would have voted for Trump and Perdue if the idiots of the Libertarian Party had not been on the ballot. Look at Ron Paul and Rand Paul: they both are determined libertarians (hence Rand's very name [sic]), but they affiliate and come down unabashedly as Republicans, not as Democrats. For all the anger among disappointed Trump supporters over the vote count and irregularities, it may emerge that, really, the vote essentially was mostly honestly tabulated.
In part because I strongly disagree with Fischer's contention that the Trump Presidency has been "marked by ... movement towards smaller government" (much less towards proper government), I do not think that the choice of Trump over Biden was black-and-white, particularly out of the context of the admitted aims of the congressional Democrats. (As I wrote before the election, it was the danger of the Democrats ramming through a far-left agenda -- including structural changes to our federal government -- that prompted me to vote, very reluctantly, for Trump.)

Arguendo, let's say it really was as clear a choice as Fischer asserts. What did the Libertarians do wrong in this election? More importantly, what can advocates of liberty -- this emphatically excludes many big-L libertarians -- learn from this election?

The answers to those questions come from history, when the abolitionists were debating the very idea of forming a political party around their cause.

The abolitionist Lydia Maria Child argues against doing this in part:
In Massachusetts, for instance, before the formation of a distinct abolition political party, both parties were afraid of the abolitionists; both wanted their votes; and therefore members of both parties in the legislature were disposed to grant their requests. All, who take note of such things, can remember how the legislature seemed to be abolitionized, as it were, by miracle. "The anti-slavery folks are coming strong this session," said a member to a leading democrat; "they want a hearing on five or six subjects at least." "Give 'em all they ask?" replied the leader; "we can't afford to offend them." When a similar remark was made to a whig leader, the same session, his answer was, "Concede everything; it wont do to throw them into the arms of the democrats." Now [that] there is a third party in Massachusetts, the two great parties have much less motive to please the abolitionists. Last year, the legislature of that State seemed to have gone back on anti-slavery, as fast as it once went forward.
So, yes: Looking at numbers -- and ignoring the pregnant question of whether Trump was his own greatest liability -- Fischer has a point.

But he misses a bigger point: Advocates of liberty who form their own party marginalize themselves by making it clear that their votes won't help anyone who listens to them. The opposite lesson is staring us in the face, too from this very same election: Trump courted and did relatively well among Blacks and Hispanics, whom many Republicans write off and Democrats take for granted. The media has that story somewhat backwards, too. Trump's performance there is noteworthy, but so is the Democrats' discomfort: They might actually have to start trying to listen to and earn the support of individuals who may be rediscovering the power of choice at the ballot box.

America's political parties are more like colaitions of parties in other countries. Conceptualizing things this way allows us to understand that there are at least two ways to marginalize oneself: (1) Form a third party that does not participate in either coalition, as do the Libertarians, and (2) permanently join a coalition, regardless of whether it serves one's best interests, as individuals who bloc-vote on the basis of race or ethnicity do.

-- CAV

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