Tag Archives: Jim Webb

Spoiled Rotten: Who Owns Your Vote?

RGBStock.com Vote Pencil

There’s a word that sets my teeth on edge, bubbling up among the commentariat every other year as election campaigns heat up. In this cycle I’m starting to hear it earlier than usual, mainly because prominent candidates — first Donald Trump, now Jim Webb — are rumored to be considering independent bids for the presidency.

Since the word is out there early, signifying a bad idea, I’m coming out early to combat that bad idea.

The word I’m referring to is “spoiler.”

You’ve heard the arguments, I’m sure: If everyone in Florida who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 had voted for Al Gore instead, we wouldn’t have ended up with George W. Bush (as a side note, if everyone who had voted for Harry Browne in 2000 in New Mexico had voted for Dubya instead, Florida wouldn’t have mattered).

“A vote for the Libertarian is a vote for the Democrat.” “A vote for the Green is a vote for the Republican.” “A vote for anyone but the candidate I support is a vote for the candidate I fear.”


First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Your vote is yours and yours alone. It doesn’t belong to a candidate until you cast it for that candidate, and you don’t owe it to any candidate until he or she has — in your opinion and your opinion only — EARNED it. You have no obligation whatsoever to vote for someone else’s hypothetical “lesser evil” instead of for your own carefully considered greater good.

Secondly, the “spoiler” phenomenon is largely a myth. As a partisan Libertarian, I often hear the claim that people who vote Libertarian would instead vote Republican if they didn’t have a Libertarian option. That’s sometimes true, but decades of exit polling says that Libertarians “take votes from” Democrats in about the same ratio as “from” Republicans on average, and sometimes more so (for example, in the 2013 election for governor of Virginia, Libertarian Robert Sarvis’s voters said, by a two to one margin, that their second choice was Democrat Terry McAuliffe, not Republican Ken Cuccinelli).

Finally, even if “spoiling” is a real phenomenon, so what? If the candidate who wanted your vote didn’t get it, maybe that candidate should have worked harder to deserve it. If there’s any chance to bring one or both of the major parties around to the views of third party voters, that chance is represented by the “spoiler” factor: “What do we have to do to get back that 3%  we lost by last time?”

As you watch the 2016 campaigns unfold, keep these three things in mind. Vote your own priorities and let the chips fall where they may.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Socialism: National Review Should Talk

English: President George W. Bush shakes hands...
President George W. Bush shakes hands with William F. Buckley, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes partisan reactions to political event prove more informational than the events themselves. The first Democratic presidential debate was a yawner. We learned little that we didn’t already know about the five participating candidates. But we learned something important from conservative columnist Jim Geraghty of National Review: “America Now Has an Openly Socialist Party.”

Well, it’s about time ONE of the two parties came out and admitted the nature of its program, don’t you think?

Sure, the forms of socialism offered by the Democrats and Republicans differ in style. Democrats attack “the 1%.” Republicans offer to “save Social Security.” Democrats emphasize the welfare state. Republicans talk up the warfare state. But both parties are state socialist in substance, with very little daylight between them on the real issues.

Old style socialism supposedly operated on the prescription “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

21st century American state socialism tweaks that a bit: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his lobbyist’s talent at wangling sweetheart government contracts to build weapons or hand out condoms.”

But really, I’m surprised that anyone from National Review wants to talk about socialism, given that publication’s role in shaping the modern American Republican Party into the nation’s most successful and enduring socialist institution.

National Review was founded by William F. Buckley, Jr. in 1955. Among its co-founders was James Burnham, Buckley’s mentor and the former head of America’s Trotskyites, who were firebrand advocates of worldwide communism (as opposed to the  “socialism in one country” of their bete noire, Stalin).

As early as 1952, in The Commonweal (an American Catholic magazine, not the better-known British socialist newspaper), Buckley had called upon the Republican Party to support “a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores. …. large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington …” He founded National Review to bring that vision to life.

Sixty-odd years later, behold the mutant form of Trotsky’s “war communism” imposed by Buckley’s disciples on an American politics and economy harnessed to pursuit of “global democratic revolution” (yes, they dumped the s-word to make it more warm and fuzzy).

There’s not enough facepalm in the world to encompass the silliness of National Review whining about “socialism.” The puny proposals of the debating Democrats pale in comparison to the actual accomplishments of Buckley’s commissars.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.