Election: Victory or defeat for Libertarians?

The results are in.
In a landslide, bigger than anyone expected, Arnold won the governorship.
No recount or legal challenge will take away his victory.
Arnold fought fair and successfully rose above the dirty politics of his opponents.

On three out of four questions on the ballot, a positive result was achieved.
With the only outright loss the Racial Privacy initiative, we should all be able
to agree that this was a huge success for freedom and for Libertarians.

Libertarians deserve another pat on the back for being the ones
to first endorse and support the recall campaign. Had they not been there
to get the ball rolling, there would likely have been no support from others.
In fact, the Republican Party clearly recognized this, inviting them to address
their convention, thanking them for their efforts in starting off this first ever
recall campaign.

That alone is a victory worth being proud of and bragging about.
We have more to be happy about, too. Not only did California get
the recall on the ballot and have the vote be a resounding 54-46 to
recall Gray Davis, but his replacement is clearly a huge incremental
move in the direction of freedom. Arnold is a 70-70 Libertarian on the
Political Personality or 'Nolan' Chart. This compared to a 40-20
Socialist/Marxist in the person of Cruz Bustamonte.
And that, my friends, may be generous.

Cruz losing 48 to 33 to Arnold is a good thing. Heck, it's wonderful.
But that's not the whole story. If we tally up Arnold's votes with Tom
McClintock's we have 61% versus 36% for the combined total of
Cruz, Peter and Arianna. We have a resounding victory here. The
protest against waste, corruption and bloated government was huge.
This is really what this election was a referendum on. This is a huge
move in the Libertarian direction of limited government. This isn't a
Republican - Democrat thing, but a fiscal responsibility, anti-waste,
anti-corruption one. All things freedom lovers stand for. Especially
in a state that's predominantly Democratic in both registration
and votes, it's a sea change. And that change, my freedom loving and
Libertarian allies, is one in the correct (I'm avoiding the word "Right") direction.

That's two victories. The third is the unwillingness of Californians to add any
more mandates to the already difficult budget, hobbling legislators in
balancing the budget. This was a huge victory, with the winning side
being dramatically outspent by the dark forces of statism.

The only loss for the side of freedom was the Racial Privacy Initiative.
Disappointing, but not a huge loss. We made our point and an informed
and energized populace heard what we had to say. We were dramatically
outspent and campaigned. We also had to face lies about the wording
and effect of the initiative, unable to counter it at the end for lack of funds.

Now, the more interesting news...

The Democratic pundits, as well as the 'reporters' on CBS, NBC, ABC and
CNN, in anticipation of a loss by Bustamonte to Arnold were making the
case that if Arnold's votes didn't beat the 'No' on recall, he would not
have a mandate. Clearly, they thought this would be the case.
Now, the Democratically controlled State Legislature is on notice
that they could be pink slipped by their constituents too. The bully
pulpit of celebrity and a successful Gubernatorial campaign
will not be trumped by an imaginary 'anti-mandate' dreamed up at
the last minute by Democratic spinmeisters.

More interesting news...

The Statewide map of election results by county are fascinating.
The website at http://vote2003.ss.ca.gov/Returns/alpha/00.htm
shows the results color coded by County. Los Angeles and the San Francisco
Bay area voted the most anti-freedom, with the rest of the State voting
quite in a manner more reflective of freedom loving, informed people.
Orange County voted especially strongly in line with what we might have hoped
for, short of supporting Ned Roscoe, the endorsed Libertarian Candidate or
Jack Hickey, the non-endorsed Libertarian.

Which brings us to the disappointing news.
In this short election, without a primary, Libertarians had an amazingly low vote tally.
As of the writing of this article, at 2:35 AM, the official website has Libertarian
totals being dramatically low, lower than I've ever seen. In fact, there were a total
of 1766 votes for Ned, coming in 34th place or so. This with over 90% of the votes
tallied. Libertarians were beaten by the likes of Larry Flynt, Angelyne and Gary Coleman.
With only .025% of the vote or so, this is not a number to be proud of.

What's to blame? There are those that would blame the State Organization
and there are others that will find their favorite conspiracy theory. (In the interest
of full disclosure, I'm elected to the State LP organization.) I don't think it was any
one thing that resulted in the poor showing. The number one thing that cost them
was the exceedingly short election cycle. For a party that depends on grass
roots activism and word of mouth, they just didn't have the numbers or the organization
to mobilize in that amount of time. Secondly, and this is just my opinion folks, was the
lack of Libertarian 'coattails'. Just as the other two relevant parties have seen, the
synergistic effect of successful candidates, up and down the ticket make a huge difference.
I expect them to make a nice showing in the upcoming election, having a chance to
engage their activists and properly raise the money needed to make a credible showing.

Other factors were their lack of inclusion in the big debate, which was not a totally
unfair decision on the part of the organizers, Libertarians polling far under 1%.
In fact, our horrible election results are partly a result of the self-fulfilling prophecy
made by the pollsters and debate organizers.

Another thing that clearly worked against Libertarians was the wasted vote theory.
In fact, the mudslinging at the end by the Los Angeles Times in support of
the Davis/Bustamonte gang, hurt the Democrats and the Times, and didn't help
them at all, as they planned. It hurt McClintock's numbers a bit, but it really
decimated the Libertarians. As in the Bush versus Gore contest, Even hard core
Libertarians will often vote for the lesser of two evils, given a close race.
This is clearly shown by the vote totals both Statewide and in
the County tallies. In no County did the Libertarian total reach even the level of
party members, much less come close to the registered voter totals.

As far as the Times, they were deluged with calls to cancel subscriptions, totaling
thousands of angry customers, clearly incensed with their biased and dishonest
coverage, going far beyond honest intellectual support or endorsement. I suppose
they will mostly watch Fox for their news, with Orange County folks picking up more
subscriptions to the Register.

In Orange County, I counted 41 votes for Libertarian Ned Roscoe, again with over 90%
of the votes in. This in a county with almost ten times that number of dues paying
LP party members.

The lessons are many. First of all, we have to take our victories where we can get them.
Incremental victories, such as trading in Governor Davis for Governor Arnold is something
we can be very happy about. Also, Libertarians can't expect to get many votes in an election
that's perceived as being very close. Sometimes yes, but usually no.

Secondly, Libertarians have to have an exciting and compelling message.
For Ned Roscoe to drive up and down the state, and making quite an effort
to get so very few votes clearly underlines the importance of organization.
Ned asked a tremendous amount of people to vote Libertarian and to vote
for him.

Additionally, the primary system is vastly in the favor of third parties and Libertarians.
It narrows the field and gives a greater focus to their message. They were most certainly
lost in the field this time. Certainly, when there is one candidate from each party,
the Libertarian will get quite a bit more support, especially with an organized
and professional candidate.

Copyright October 2003, Bruce Cohen