Libertarian Party should be embarrassed by reaction to state election

Christopher Harris I CJ

I am a registered Libertarian in Kentucky, and today I am ashamed of my party.

Not because of how they voted, but because of how they reacted to it.

While Republican Matt Bevin and and Democrat Andy Beshear had the big names everyone was watching in Tuesday night's race for the office of governor, a man named John Hicks was also running as the Libertarian candidate. Most people probably didn't know who he was and didn't care, and he only earned a hair under 2 percent of the total overall vote.

But still, he got over 28,000 votes. Which, in a race between Bevin and Beshear that was decided for the latter by only about 5,000 or so votes, could have made a difference.

Could have. Not "would have."

On Tuesday night, after the results of the election were more or less clear, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky posted an embarrassing, demeaning response on their Facebook page. Included in it was the following text:

"In an ideal world, we elect Libertarian candidates and advance liberty. Failing that, we push mainstream candidates towards liberty to advance the cause.

"But if we can't do those things, we are always happy to split the vote in a way that causes delicious tears. Tonight there are plenty of delicious tears from Bevin supporters.

"Had Matt Bevin not ditched his liberty Lt Governor for a Mitch McConnell picked anti liberty, corrupt running mate who has tried to eliminate Kentuckians jury trial rights, had Matt Bevin not presided over a huge sales tax increase, had Matt Bevin supported any of our key issues on criminal justice reform, marijuana legalization, expanded gaming, cutting taxes, or acted with the least bit of civility, we probably would not have run a candidate. Of course, he did the opposite. And here we are.

"We split the vote. And we could not be more thrilled. If our friends in the major parties do not want this to happen again, they should think about passing ranked choice voting. And supporting our issues."


"Delicious tears"?

What are we, in high school?

This post is so troubling for multiple reasons, but simply that wording is egregious enough. One of the most bothersome aspects of the political process is the nastiness is brings out in people, which has been frightfully exacerbated in the social media age. Mudslinging ads are bad enough, but neighbors and friends do it to each other; the flood of Facebook memes late Tuesday night thumbing the nose at Bevin displayed more hostility than I cared to see on my social media feed. It saddens me that we are so tribalistic and feel compelled to act this way toward one another.

But on the other hand, those are just memes shared by ordinary people. We all have our opinions. And I like my share of snarky memes too.

Coming from the Libertarian Party's Facebook page, however -- or any party's mouthpiece -- these kind of comments are completely out of place. As a party, we should be above that. Show some class. Show some humanity. Enjoying the misery of others, the sentiment implied in the phrase "delicious tears," is the absolute worst of human nature, and if the Libertarians want to be taken seriously as an organization focused on leadership, they cannot say stuff like that. They just can't.

I'm embarrassed to be associated with that party right now, and based on the comments underneath that post, many others feel the same way. You can blow a lot of good will by taunting others. Just ask Bevin.

The other big problem with the post is the implication that the Libertarians played spoiler at all. One of the biggest challenges third-parties have is overcoming the idea that they're just some weird off-shoot of one of the titans in the two-party duopoly. Inevitably, when one party loses a tight race, they blame the interloper for sucking up votes that could have been theirs. Since Libertarians tend to align more closely with conservatives, it's usually the Republicans kvetching about it, and given the razor-thin margin Tuesday, that's happening again now.

Here's the thing: No one is entitled to my vote, or anyone else's. If I vote for a Libertarian, that is a vote for that candidate and that candidate only, not against someone else. It's not a vote "for a Democrat" because it's "taking one away from a Republican"; it was never the Republican's to begin with. I am not a Republican-lite; I am a Libertarian, which is its own unique, individual entity. We spend a lot of time having this discussion, and trying to assert that we're not just the political pee in the pool. It's exhausting.

So why, then, does the party's own Facebook page suggest that's what we did? That we spoiled the election for the Republican, as if we might have voted for him otherwise? Hogwash. Frustratingly, that same page also posted a meme with Mr. Rogers teaching election math of sorts, that a vote for a Libertarian tallies one for the Libertarian, not for the Republican or Democrat. This is true. So why then turn around and act like we're just a sidecar on Bevin's motorcycle that broke off and went in another direction? That's insulting and inaccurate.

I wasn't crazy about Bevin. I disagreed with him on a number of things. I objected to much about Beshear too. I really wasn't even excited about Hicks; by virtue of them being in the race, all of these men were effectively saying, "I want to have political power over you," and that rubs me the wrong way. As Daniel Webster said, "There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."

It kind of reminds me of the bit in "Ghostbusters" when the demon Gozer tells the heroes to choose the form of their destructor. Yeah, you get to choose, but no matter what, you're ending up with some variation on a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man who's going to tear up the city stomping around. But most of us tend to think it's better to choose the destructor ourselves than to let Gozer do it. So we go to the polls and hope we're not the ones who end up getting stepped on by a sticky marshmallow foot this time.

So with that in mind, we should choose with the most reason and compassion possible toward those who think differently than us. That's what we should aim for, anyway; we'll miss the mark. But if the Libertarian Party wants to lead, that's what they should be promoting and encouraging. They should be setting a good example. They should be showing the way. And they should be figuring out ways to work with the politicians who are more likely to win to advance Libertarian ideas and policy, whether that means working with Republicans or Democrats or whatever. Let's extend the hand of cooperation and fellowship -- it's the only chance we've got right now, practically speaking.

Instead, they're acting like they're everything their detractors say they are, and being a petulant teenager about it in the process.

Shame on you, Libertarian Party of Kentucky. You need to do better. Signed, one of your own members.

Recommended for you