Update: See end of post for update.
An odd-year election in Virginia wouldn’t normally hold my interest, but this year there’s an interesting subplot for the rest of us. Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe battles Republican Ken Cuccinelli and they’re neck and neck. In third place is Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis, amazingly polling around 10%. Is this a glimmer of third-party glory cutting through the dust of the two-party sand storm? A good showing would help remind American voters that a third way exists.
As a resident of Oregon (not voting), I don’t know much about these three candidates in Virginia, but I had hoped Libertarian Sarvis would do well and finish with double digits on election night to bring attention to Libertarian Party. But then Ron Paul threw his support behind Republican Cuccinelli! Why would Ron Paul snub an exciting Libertarian challenge to the two-party statists? There must be less to Robert Sarvis than meets the eye, since Ron Paul doesn’t always feel like endorsing someone and could have easily continued his home schooling interview schedule. Then again, Ron Paul is a Republican and didn’t endorse 2012 Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson, so they’re not exactly blood brothers.
It turns out Libertarian Sarvis may not be so libertarian after all if you start comparing him to other folks who call themselves incidental libertarians. And Cuccinelli isn’t really all that Republican if you start comparing him to the business as usual over at the Grand Old Party where he’s seen as a libertarian. The quest for the Holy Grail of Virginia has become a race run by Big-L Libertarian vs. small-l libertarian vs. not libertarian.
Terry McAuliffe is the “not libertarian,” so I don’t have much to say about him. But Robert Sarvis now finds his ideological and party credentials called into question. Is he a Big-L or a small-l? Charles C.W. Cooke makes a good point that, “a politician (who) is not a Democrat but is nonetheless critical of the social policies of a Republican hardly makes him Murray Rothbard.” Read his well-reasoned problems with Libertarian Sarvis at the National Review Online.
Meanwhile amid the confusion, the entrenched powers of the two-party statists typically complain about the Libertarians taking votes from the Republicans. It should be noted, however, that Sarvis is a much more progressive libertarian than some, and is pulling a fair share of attention away from McAuliffe. He seems at odds with libertarian values in both social and economic issues, though he has landed the endorsement of Gary Johnson.
In conclusion, the Republican looks like a libertarian and the Libertarian looks like a progressive and the Democrat is the only one who isn’t confusing me. He’s buddies with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Ken Cuccinelli, while perhaps more libertarian in some ways than Robert Sarvis, isn’t really all that libertarian, identifying most clearly as a conservative. What is the libertarian voter to do? I expect in-fighting and intrigue on minor points, but this is most likely to occur within a single party.
Despite nay-saying by some, Robert Sarvis certainly is a Libertarian. Ken Cuccinelli is too socially conservative to be confused as a Libertarian. It’s all very exciting and we’re paying attention to this election – so there’s that. Don’t judge a book by its cover – it may have been misshelved.
November 5th Update: The results are in. A majority of Virginians (52%) did NOT vote for winner Terry McAuliffe, and third place Robert Sarvis failed to break the 10% threshold which would have put the Libertarian party on the ballot. Ken Cuccinelli didn’t win either. Libertarian FAIL.