Nose. Face. Spite.


Tuesday’s elections here in Colorado did not quite mirror those in the rest of the country.  Yes, we elected Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) to replace Sen. Mark Udall (D-Birth Control).  But we also re-elected Gov. John Hickenlooper, and left the State House of Representatives in Democrat hands, while winning the statewide down-ticket races handily, and narrowly retaking the State Senate.  In fact, I don’t think many people saw the State House of Reps. as a reasonable goal before the election, so coming so close in that was really a surprise week of suspense.

Statewide, Republican House candidates outpolled Democrats by 189,000 votes, but Democrats will hang on, probably 34-31.  There were an unusual number of close races, and in a number of cases, the Libertarian candidate got more votes than the Democrat’s margin of victory.  This has led to the usual back-and-forth between Republicans and Libertarians, with Republicans blaming the Libertarians for running, and Libertarians arguing that their voters were never ever ever getting back together with Republicans.

The events in HD29 make a very strong case for politics as a team sport.  Libertarian-minded Republican Susan Kochevar got into the race late, and ended up losing by about 1500 votes to the Democrat, Tracy Kraft-Tharp. The Libertarian candidate got about 1900 votes.

Kochevar isn’t just about as libertarian as any Republican, she’s about as libertarian as any Libertarian.

In order to defend this, some Libertarians have shown a flexibility worthy of the doowopoly they complain about.  In the course of one FB post, a leading Colorado Libertarian argued that what happened in HD29 wasn’t the fault of:

  1. Susan, who had no control over what the Libertarian Party does – this is true
  2. The Libertarian Party, who nominated a candidate in that race before Susan entered, and were powerless to remove him from the ballot once nominated – this is also true, but with caveats
  3. The Libertarian candidate, who stayed in the race
  4. Those who voted for the Libertarian candidate

Apparently, the fact that 1900 people voted for a particular candidate just…happened.  Nobody was responsible for what they did.  As I understand libertarian philosophy, that conclusion may be in violation of it.

Number 2) is true, as far as it goes.  In fact, the main proponent of this argument points to the Republican party’s impotence in the face of Dan Maes winning the 2010 nomination for governor.  Yes, it’s true that, once nominated, Maes couldn’t be pulled from the ballot.  But the party went through a very public show of trying to persuade him to withdraw, and explaining that he wouldn’t be getting any monetary support at the expense of other who knew how to make fundraising phone calls.  The bulk of the party faithful, unhappy though they were with what appeared to be Tancredo’s opportunism, nevertheless ended up voting for him on the American Constitution Party line, because he seemed the only viable conservative candidate in the race.  The Libertarian Party apparently shrugged and said, “Well, what can we do?”

While it’s a lot to ask of a candidate to step back in favor of a more electable nominee who shares his political philosophy, it’s not unheard of.  People in Kansas may be able to advise us about that.

Even if we just focus on the people who voted for the Libertarian, we’re left with two options, neither of which really exonerates them.  Either: 1) they didn’t know what they were doing, and just voted for the guy with an (L) by his name, in which case they were voting tribally.  I am reliably informed – ad nauseum – by this same Libertarian figure, that only doowopoly voters do that.  So we know that can’t be true.

Which leaves us with option 2):  they knew what they were doing and deliberately chose NOT to vote to have a libertarian voice and vote in the legislature, because that person had an (R) by her name.  If that’s true, it means that the Libertarians came within 216 votes of costing them everything they say they want in the legislature.  That’s the margin that  Joe “Whistles-And-Call-Boxes” Salazar (D-Defenselessness) won re-election by.  Had he lost, Kochevar would have been the potential 33rd member of the Republican caucus.  Along with Justin Everett, they would have been the swing votes on every bill coming through the State House of Representatives. And according to Libertarian electoral strategy – such as it is – that’s exactly what they say they want.

This is exactly the fallacy of “statement voting:” votes aren’t to make a statement, they’re to elect a legislator.  The Libertarian candidate got 5% of the vote, but the Libertarians voters missed out on a chance to get 100% of the swing seat in the State House.

I’m not one of these people who thinks that just because it was a 3-way race in which the Democrat won with less than 50% of the vote, that automatically means that the Libertarian “cost” the Republican the election. Libertarians are pretty orthogonal to the two main parties: liberal on social issues, free-market on economic ones, more or less isolationist on foreign policy.  Historically, most Libertarians voters (if by “voters” we mean, “people who answer pre-election polls”) have ended up abandoning their third-party quixotism to vote Republican, making the ones who don’t look really stubborn.  Instead, maybe they disagree with both parties on enough matters to make them go their own way.  And indeed, Libertarian stalwarts have increasingly been making that case that the only way they can make a difference is by building up their own party’s vote.

But consider this.  Those who voted Libertarian instead of Republican took a major step towards devaluing the only currency they have – their votes.  If you’re a sliver of the electorate, and your entire strategy derives from being the 6% that might add to someone’s 47% to put them over the top, don’t you want to do everything possible to make sure one side doesn’t get to 50% of the electorate?  That’s what HB13-1303 and HB14-1164 (a.k.a. the Vote Fraud Weaponization Acts of 2013 and 2014) were all about, with their same-day registration and all-mail balloting.  In fact, here’s a staffer for none other than the very same Joe Salazar, at 5:30, not seeming disturbed at all by the idea that someone might vote in Oregon and vote in Colorado in the same election.

If there’s one party that’s determined to undermine the election process, and another that’s trying to preserve its integrity, why on earth would you not vote for the party that’s trying to make sure that whatever “statement” you’re trying to make with your ballot remains meaningful?

Consider on other point.  If you spend your time complaining that the doowopoly never nominates anyone libertarian enough for you, and then one party nominates a LIABLE (Libertarian In All But Label), and you continue to split your vote along partisan lines, then you’re setting up a bad incentive system there.  I realize that for some Libertarians, that too is a win, since it encourages a libertarian exodus from the Republican party.  Somewhere down that line, Nirvana may lie, but along the way you’re going to miss a lot of opportunities to make things better.

The irony is that Libertarians may have been saved from their inability to take yes for an answer by’s 216-vote margin in a race where they didn’t even run a candidate, and whose staffer seems determined to make them ever more irrelevant.