The main thing that the “alliance” between state Republicans and Libertarians proves is that both parties currently are run by a bunch of buffoons. The parties parading behind Dan Maes in a furry costume hardly could look more ridiculous.
When last we visited this matter, I noted, “The standards by which Libertarians will judge a Republican candidate sufficiently pro-liberty remain murky.” Since then, the Libertarians released “pledges” for Republican state and federal candidates. If a Republican candidate signs one of these pledges, Libertarians will think about not running a candidate in that race. (What we really need is approval voting.)
The idea is that some votes that otherwise would go to the Libertarian instead would go to the Republican, and this might change the outcome in some races. What the party leaders endorsing this nonsense apparently failed to take into account is that Democrats will use the pledge to destroy any Republican candidate foolish enough to sign it.
The federal pledge
The pledges start in disaster. The first item for the federal pledge states, “I will immediately work to pull funding for Ukrainian aid and push aggressively for peace negotiations with Russia.”
What “peace negotiations” mean in this context, precisely, is rewarding one of the most prolific mass-murderers of our age with territory seized through bloody conquest, something that will only encourage subsequent Russian aggression. The only useful thing about this pledge is that any Republican candidates who sign it thereby clearly signal their moral and intellectual degeneracy.
The second item is little better: “I will oppose a military draft, should the Ukraine-Russia conflict escalate.” Hello? The actual libertarian position (as opposed to the faux “libertarian” position of the people currently leading the party) is to end the draft and draft registration, period. To restrict the position specifically to Putin’s war of conquest, which no serious person thinks will lead to an American draft, is grotesque.
Another item calls on Republican candidates to “work towards . . . abolishing” U.S. intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and CIA. Conceding that both of those agencies have screwed up badly, obviously a modern nation needs robust and accountable intelligence agencies to thwart interstate crime rings and international terrorism.
Yet another item calls on candidates to abolish the 1934 National Firearms Act, which, among other things, heavily regulates fully automatic machine guns. I personally think that law should be amended, but I also think government properly regulates such guns. Regardless, any Republican who signs this pledge is begging to lose. Viable candidates have to be able at least to see some light through Overton’s Window.
Some of the items are okay; for example, foreign aid should be audited and reduced, as the pledge says. Libertarians want Republicans to “abolish the Department of Education,” a controversial position that some Republicans already endorse. But mostly education already is controlled at regional levels, and DOE does some popular things such as administer Pell Grants.
As telling as what makes the list is what does not. What about ending “qualified immunity” that legally protects rights-violating public officers? What about restoring jury trials by curbing threats of overpunishment? What about protecting women’s right to get an abortion? What about ending the drug war? What about expanding legal immigration? A pledge that omits those last couple of items, at least, simply is not a libertarian document.
The state pledge
The pledge for state candidates is not obviously offensive from a libertarian point of view. Most of its provisions are merely ambiguous.
Take the first item: “I will vote against any new restrictions on our Right to Keep and Bear Arms and repeal existing restrictions.” Okay, does that mean someone should legally be able to sell a machine gun to a ten-year-old out of the trunk of a car with no background check? A sensible person recognizes that some restrictions are compatible with our right to bear arms. For example, I favor some version of the “red flag” laws.
Again, we have to peer through Overton’s Window. Is any Republican going to win a competitive race by running on the repeal of background checks and “red flag” laws? No. Hence, Republicans who sign this pledge (if any do, which I doubt) will fall into one of two categories: idiots who will lose, and people running in safe districts who will win regardless.
Democrats could sign several of the items. For example, there’s this one: “I will support an audit of the State Government and its use of tax money.” That’s pretty easy to sign given such auditing already exists. And this one: “I will support increasing government transparency, including the expansion of the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA).” That too is a multipartisan issue.
I very much favor this one (with a few nuances): “I will support ending Civil Asset Forfeiture to ensure that only individuals convicted of a crime should have their property confiscated.” That is, again, a multipartisan issue. Years ago, I worked with the Independence Institute’s Dave Kopel; Democrats Terrance Carroll, Peter Groff, Bill Thiebaut, and Jerry Kopel; Republican Shawn Mitchell; the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition; and others to promote some safeguards. The legislature should pass much stronger protections.
The state pledge again misses some important issues. Notably absent is any comment on zoning reform, one of Jared Polis’s signature efforts. It figures that today’s “libertarian” party is nowhere to be found when it comes to promoting some of the most important libertarian reforms of our era, recognizing the rights of property owners to develop their land as they want.
But, hey, the Libertarian Party endorses raw milk, which almost no one wants and which people already can get by buying “cow shares.” Let’s see how far Republicans get on the “raw milk and machine guns” platform.
Welcome to the laughing stocks
I don’t imagine that any Colorado Democrat can read Ernest Luning’s article on the matter without breaking out into hysterical laughter.
Consider this line: “It’s unclear whether the Libertarian party leadership will be able to prevent candidates who want to run under their banner from winning the party’s nomination.”
Or consider what Jordan Marinovich, the Libertarians communications director, told Luning: “If a candidate does decline to initial by one point, but agrees to all other points, this is an opportunity for the candidate to explain their position. Ultimately, it is up to our delegation whether to step aside for said candidate, and we wanted to give the delegation more nuance vs a yes or no to the entire pledge.” In other words, not even the Libertarian Party takes its pledge seriously.
Luning begins a follow-up: “U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert doesn’t plan to sign a candidate pledge released by the Colorado Libertarian Party. . . . Neither does Boebert’s GOP primary challenger, Grand Junction attorney Jeff Hurd.”
What about the important CD8 race, where Democrat Yadira Caraveo narrowly beat Barb Kirkmeyer? Scott James, the only Republican now running for that seat, told Luning, “We received the pledge from Chairman Dave Williams and very much look forward to the dialogue as the campaign moves forward.” That sounds like a diplomatic way of telling the “Libertarians” to pound sand.
Meanwhile, Dan Ward, who earned more votes as a Libertarian in CD8 than the difference between the major candidates, has since left the party. 9News reports that Ward is “leaving the Libertarian party” and will “run again in the same House district as a Unity party candidate.”
Here is why Ward, the “most successful Libertarian candidate of 2022” (in 9News’ words), said he left the Libertarians: “A couple of us Libertarians spoke out on the welcoming nature of the LP towards white supremacy. The hateful nature towards the LGBTQ+ community. The day I left the party was the day that the national chair announced that she was starting a make-up line for CIS women only.”
To emphasize the point: Today’s Libertarian Party is too crazy for Dan Ward, the sound guy for the heavy metal band Driven By Turmoil, but a good fit for today’s Republican leadership. I’d rather party with Ward. “Driven by turmoil” is a great name for a band, but Colorado Republicans have adopted it as a strategy of self-defeat.
Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.
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