Predictably, some of the grumbling from the aftermath of the Virginia governor’s race this week blamed those who voted for libertarian Robert Sarvis. Leading up to the election, there was a clear advertising strategy telling certain voters that supporting Sarvis was tacit support for Terry McAuliffe.
Sarvis probably did not cost Cuccinelli the governor’s mansion. This tweet from Townhall’s Kevin Glass quoted an important lesson about Republican and conservative candidates who want to reach out to libertarians:
When reaching out to any segment of the population, a campaign has to forge a real connection. Demanding libertarian support with buzzwords or a rudimentary understanding of their values works only slightly better than a Latino outreach strategy based on a plateful of Taco Bell gorditas. (That sounds like something Mitt Romney would have come up with, doesn’t it?)
One could make a libertarian case for Ken Cuccinelli, but not by asking someone to support the lesser of two evils. There are libertarians who believe in putting principles aside occasionally to support an imperfect candidate with the best chance of winning; those people are known more colloquially as Republicans. If libertarians are driven by principal, then they must be persuaded based on principle, not policy.
It’s a subtle shift. In the example Glass tweet’s out above, he mentions taxes, which is a good example. Most Republicans will bang the drum for lower taxes, but they aren’t always sure why. The reality is that lower taxes leave money in the economy, which allows for efficient allocation of society’s resources. Lower taxes mean more free markets, and we have seen for hundreds of years that when left to their own devices through free markets, people tend to make correct choices.
Maybe that’s not to convince all libertarians to support a candidate who also believes in mandatory prison terms for first time smokers, jokers, and midnight tokers. But without a nuanced message like that, messaging to libertarians would be a wasted effort.
Being able to articulate the “why” – the principle behind the policy – makes a difference.