21 January 2010

Fourteen Percent Libertarian: Stick To Your Guns, Or Infiltrate?

Excerpt from Volokh Conspiracy: The Libertarian Vote

David Kirby and David Boaz have published a new Cato Institute study estimating the size of the “libertarian vote.” They conclude that about 14% of American voters are libertarian in the sense of broadly opposing government regulation in both the economic and social realms.

Kirby and Boaz point out that libertarian voters generally lack a strong sense of identification with either party, and therefore are often a swing vote in elections. Obviously, very few of these voters identify with the tiny Libertarian Party either. It is true, of course, that most of them voters may not think of themselves as “libertarian” and many of them probably don’t even know the word. They are like the proverbial man who has been speaking prose all his life without knowing it. Several decades of studies going back to Converse’s classic work also show that most voters don’t have a good understanding of the meaning of “liberal” and “conservative” either.

Finally, I should reiterate my earlier view that the Libertarian Party is not a good vehicle for mobilizing the libertarian vote (see here and here), as proven by its dismal failures over more than 35 years. Rather, libertarians should work to increase their influence over the two major parties by mobilizing their constituency more effectively. With its substantial libertarian component, the Tea Party movement is an interesting start. But much more remains to be done.

I find it interesting to note that the post above ends with an admonition for libertarian voters to infiltrate the two major parties. But as d.eris at Poli-Tea is fond of pointing out, this infiltration strategy is a dead end, and is not effective. For example, Against Infiltration: Fool me once, shame on you. I won't get fooled again.

As to the larger question as to why the Libertarian party is not more effective -- well, that discussion can be found at the many sites devoted to just that question. There are several reasons that quickly come to mind. Some have to do with the internal workings of the libertarian party itself. To be more successful, they have to broaden their message. But that creates an internal conflict, as many libertarians get involved in the Libertarian Party out of a desire to not compromise their beliefs, making a broadening of the message problematic.

My only thought is that they should concentrate on a few Congressional districts instead of running for president. The counter-argument is that the presidential campaign generates publicity, new members and donations.

All I know is, "infiltration" won't work.


d.eris said...

Numbers like this 14% figure can be deceptive. There are obviously districts across the country where the number is much higher.

I agree that a strategic focus on campaigns for local, state and congressional office in districts with a higher concentration of libertarian leaning voters it key. Ideally, the Greens and Constitution Party folks would be following a similar strategy. And hence all these groups would be chipping away at the duopoly from different places and different angles all at once.

I don't know if you caught the news, but the Libertarian Party in Texas is running well over 100 candidates for office this year. We'll see how that strategy pans out. I think it's promising.

And thanks for the shout out!

Septimus said...

Yes, I did see that. The Libertarian Party in Texas is very active. If they had some more money, and nominated the right candidates, they could probably win a couple of legislative seats.