Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Libertarian swing vote backs Chuck Hagel for President

Oops. My bad. That title was supposed to say "Libertarian swing voter backs Chuck Hagel for President." That voter being ummm - me. Simple mistake. Unfortunately, the Blogger service behaves badly when I change titles, so I guess I'll just have to leave it that way. Darn. Rather than change the title, we will instead strive to shape reality to the title as it stands. Think of it as telling the truth in the future tense.

To make it so, we must first posit the existence of a "libertarian swing vote". The Cato Institute recently published a policy analysis by David Boaz and Divid Kirby that not only documents the existence of the libertarian swing vote, but (as long as we are little fuzzy about the definition of "libertarian voter") also quantifies its size at 9-13% of the vote. The study (published shortly before the election) showed that the libertarian vote did indeed "swing" between the parties. Moreover since 2000 it had been swinging toward the Democrats starting in 2002 and swinging even further left in 2004, prompting this prediction:
"If that trend continues into 2006 and 2008, Republicans will lose elections they would otherwise win."
On November 7th, that prediction was realized: Ross Kaminsky at RCP finds explicit evidence of "The Libertarian Effect" in at least two senate races; Texas district 47 going blue was attributed to the libertarian vote; the LA Times asserts that California is not a "liberal state, but a libertarian state"; and there is much more anecdotal evidence that the libertarian effect is real and changing the political landscape. Given the structural disadvantages facing the Republicans in 2008, they would be well served to work diligently to get that libertarian vote swinging back to the right.

Logan Ferree at Freedom Democrat has also been thinking about the libertarian vote, and blogging about moving the Democratic party in a more libertarian friendly direction. I applaud his ambition, will support that effort, but tilting at that windmill looks like a very rough joust to me. I am more inclined to continue to lobby for the practical benefits of a divided government in 2008, and work to get the most libertarian-like candidate to carry the Republican standard into the oval office. A "two-fer" if you will, divided government and a libertarian leaning president. Chuck Hagel looks like that candidate.

Libertartian bloggers have begun to look at the Hagel candidacy, including David Beito and Keith Halderman at the History News Network:
"A Vietnam veteran and pioneer in the cellular phone industry, Hagel has long been a thoughtful Iraq War skeptic. His free market credentials are pretty solid (for a Republican), especially when compared to Giuliani, McCain, and Mitt "government mandated insurance" Romney... The more I learn about Hagel the more I like him.....though he is no libertarian."
This is not about Hagel being a libertarian. It is about him being more libertarian than any of the other26 mainstream candidate from either party.

Chuck does seem to know where to start looking for his base. Topic of his speech at the Cato Institute today "Whatever Happened to Small Government Republicans?". I'll post the speech here if and when I find a transcript or link.

A libertarian swing vote backing Hagel in the 2008 general election could easily determine which party wins the presidency. With a polarized partisan electorate, it is not only feasible, it is a probable outcome. But before we get to that point, we have a bigger challenge. First we must deal with the elephant in the room. Not just any elephant, but the wounded, clinically depressed, angry, bipolar, borderline psychotic elephant that is the GOP today. For Hagel to get in position for the libertarian swing vote to put him in the White House, he first must ride that elephant to the election.

Godspeed Chuck Hagel.

The animus against Chuck Hagel in the ragged right of the Republican party is real and significant. I don't get it. Look at his record, and you see a bona fide fiscal conservative, a social conservative, a successful entrepreneur, a limited government Republican in the Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater tradition and a decorated Vietnam war combat veteran. He is tough on crime, strong on defense, pro-gun with an "A" rating from the NRA, supports low taxes and limited spending, was rated a "Taxpayers Friend" by the NTU, is pro-business with an 87% rating from the US Chamber of Commerce, and even secured a 0% rating from NARAL indicating a perfect pro-life voting record.

Personally, I am not happy with that last position, but even libertarians will disagree on abortion. With a Democratic Congress in place, I can live with Hagel's pro-life stance, in order to get his intelligence, integrity, and independent thinking in the Oval Office. Problem being, it is exactly that independent thinking that is an issue, at least to the vocal minority on the right. This GOPBloggers Straw Poll ( image below is a snapshot of the poll in progress) pegs Hagel as apparently the most unacceptable of the Republican presidential candidates:

Snapshot of GOP Bloggers Straw Poll 11-14

I am mystified by these results. Looking to understand Hagel's big negatives on the right, I could only find comments like these:

DOCJIM commenting on a Captains Quarter's post:
"Hagel - YECH! Anybody quoted by the f***ing libs as much as he is CAN'T be a good candidate for us."
California Conservative post "Moving Forward Part II"
"We must be a team again. That means relegating John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Chuck Hagel to the back bench. If you aren’t with us on the important stuff, you’re out of there."
Just two more examples of the new Intellectual Bankruptcy of the Right.

This is my question for conservatives and the "Republicans blogging for the minority" that are particpating in this poll: On exactly what issues do you disagree with Chuck Hagel's positions? Excluding the fact that you will not find his lip prints on GWB's butt, he is a perfect conservative candidate. For all except the 31% of the electorate that still thinks Bush is doing a good job, Hagel's demonstrated independence from this administration makes him more electable in '08. If Bush had been listening to Chuck Hagel over the last four years, as opposed to Cheney and Rumsfeld, we would probably have a successful policy in Iraq, and the Republicans would still have a majority in Congress.

Net net - We have a candidate here who is a bona fide, high integrity conservative, who can retrieve the libertarian swing vote, might even pull in Democrats like Reagan did, and would certainly retain the White House for Republicans. And what is the only objection from the right? He is not a team player with the most unpopular President of the last 70 years. Good strategic thinking. Just the kind of thinking that will elect a Democrat for president in 2008.

Corrected some spelling and typos in the post, and did a little housecleaning on the side columns. Since we have now moved from leaning libertarian left to leaning libertarian right in the service of our 2008 divided government goals, we dropped the ACT BLUE contribution bug, and removed the caveats from the Hagel political action committee. We left the DCCC banner flying, as we prefer and expect to see the House stay Democrat. With our explicit support of the Hagel candidacy, we also hoisted our Raging RINO colors up the mast. On that topic, check out the RINO Sightings hosted at enrevanche, where Barry Campbell is "on ur blog, linking ur posts" - among them our Disunity06 vs. Unity08 slugfest. Also, The Boring Made Dull, hosted The Carnival of Economics and Social Policy XX, and included our election predictions six days after the election - we missed it by that much. Finally, a reminder - Our first first post election Carnival of Divided Government (Turkey Edition) will be hosted here one week from today. Submit your post here.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.


Charlie said...

Great post!

Eric Dondero said...

I think you'll find most libertarians lining up behind Giuliani. He's already been labeled "libertarian" by the national media. And he has libertarian credentials to back it up. He slashed welfare and public housing as Mayor. He's fiercely opposed to tax increases.

Plus Hagel has no pizzaz nor celebrity. He's quite boring.

Eric at

mw said...

Thanks for the comment. I like Giuliani, and think he did a hell of job in NYC as mayor. As I posted in "Check Your Assumptions", he is my 2nd choice as a Republican contender. He is showing impressive support among Republicans right now, but once his campaign sets sail in the primaries, he is going to be taking a lot of torpedoes below the waterline from the ragged right wing, and I expect his campaign to capsize quickly. I hope to be wrong about this.

Yes Hagel is boring. I still prefer him as president. It is clear that this administration is hell-bent on "surging" our involvement in Iraq, which ensures that this mess will be left to the next president to solve. I am no longer sanguine about our military adventures being run by men with no combat experience. Chuck Hagel was tested in Vietnam, and understands the Powell Doctrine better than Colin Powell. He is the only major presidential prospect that called the Iraq war correctly before we went in. Check out this Landon Lecture speech at Kansas State University in February of 2003 (warning it is long - some 50 minutes). Filmed a few weeks before we went into Iraq, Hagel warns about almost every single thing that has happened as a consequence over the last three years. Not hindsight, real foresight. It's scary how on-target he was - He sounds like a friggin' prophet now. It makes you want to cry to watch it. Nobody was listening to him. Not in the administration. Not the American people. He was just a voice lost in the winds of war fever. I include myself among the deaf, as I was as gung-ho as every other yahoo at the time.

He has the intellect, the military experience, and showed the courage of his convictions by bucking his party and the administration when it was political suicide to do so. I'll take boring as part of that package.

I understand that his candidacy is a long shot. But it is still worth a shot.