By now, some readers are familiar with the peculiar news that came out close to election day that the Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis in Virginia was apparently been a stalking horse for supporters Democratic Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe to try to draw votes from Ken Cuccinelli. Nevertheless, he captured about 6.5% of the vote, potentially enough to have made the difference in the race (although this exit poll says that Sarvis hurt McAuliffe more than Cuccinelli, which is plausible but certainly contrary to conventional wisdom–and presumably contrary to the objective of the Democratic bundlers funding Sarvis’s campaign).
But my point here isn’t to rehash that issue or to think about the possible implications for future elections.
I want to focus on a different question which was raised by Peter Ferrara in his analysis of that election: should the Libertarian Party begin to follow the practice of the Conservative Party in New York and consider in some elections co-nominating the candidate of one of the established parties (usually the Republicans, one would expect)? Based on the chatter I heard from my friends in Virginia, I am not as convinced as Ferrara that libertarians would have agreed with him that Cuccinelli would have been an appropriate Libertarian standard-bearer (I sensed a stronger than usual resistance to Cuccinelli’s views on social issues, even though much of it seemed somewhat overwrought–no, Ken Cuccinelli wasn’t going to ban contraceptives, seriously?). But leaving aside the specifics of Cuccinelli, Ferrara’s idea of the LP co-nominating candidates of an established party strikes me as something worth considering as a productive way of doing what I think the LP must really be wanting to accomplish, which is to “send a signal” that there is a libertarian constituency, but without engaging in the somewhat self-defeating strategy of undermining relatively smaller-government candidates. As Ferrara observes, this strategy seems to have been a productive one for the Conservative Party in New York, and it strikes me as at least being worthy of consideration by the Libertarian Party as well.
Living in Virginia, I will add one other thought–it strikes me that the complaints of the Tea Party about the Republican establishment are actually well-grounded. A dynamic does seem to be emerging where the establishment refuses to support Tea Party-type candidates when they are nominated, while criticizing Tea Party people who refuse to support establishment candidates. It is hard to escape the conclusion that had the Republican establishment supported Cuccinelli, he would have won. Instead, it appears that the establishment’s real goal was for Cuccinelli to lose, so that they can say “I told you so.” Not only did establishment Republicans refuse to support Cuccinelli, they actively campaigned against him, even echoing and amplifying the crudest Democratic talking points.
Well, it turns out that the answer was easier than I thought. My colleague David Schleicher, writes to tell me that the reason why this doesn’t happen elsewhere is that “fusion” candidacies (running on more than one line) is illegal in must states and is only done regularly in New York. David writes about it here.
Which I guess raises the second question as to whether Libertarians (or other third parties) should try to change state laws to allow it. One would think that the natural inclination of the duopoly parties would be to oppose that, but if the LP does become an important force in purple states, I wonder if Republicans might eventually decide to permit fusion candidates.