The Right Wing Liberal argues that Bob Barr’s run as a Libertarian would, contrary to conventional wisdom, help the Republicans:
[T]he people who assume Barr will take votes from McCain are basing it on Ron Paul’s performance in the GOP primaries – and even more strangely, their assuming Barr can do better. However, Dr. Paul himself was getting absolutely nowhere until he made his opposition to the liberation of Iraq the be-all and end-all of his campaign. Those Paul supporters were never going to vote for John McCain. So, if Barr manages to cobble them all together, it won’t be at McCain’s expense.
Lest anyone think Barr will try to soft-pedal Iraq; he can’t. If he does, the Libertarians won’t nominate him. Don’t forget, ex-Democrat Mike Gravel is also an LP presidential candidate, and his anti-war history goes back to Vietnam. Barr, by contrast, has to explain his vote in favor of the use of force in Iraq in 2002 (roll call vote). Therefore, Barr has to be much louder in opposition to the Iraq mission, or he will not win the LP nomination. That loud opposition will also shut the door on any attempt to raid McCain voters.
The Democrats are an entirely different matter. Obama will be pulled left to keep more dovish voters from moving over to Barr. Given Barr’s 2002 vote, that won’t be too hard. What will be a problem are the paleo-conservatives who are so alienated from the Bush Administration that they’re willing to consider the Democrats (already, the folks at the Buchanan-inspired American Conservative are talking up Barack Obama). A Barr candidacy will suck up those Obamacan/Obamacon voters like a sponge. Senator Clinton will be in an even bigger pickle because of her 2002 Iraq vote. She’ll have much more trouble hanging on to the anti-war left in her own party.
At least as far as the anti-war voters are concerned, I think he’s got it right, but there are other elements of the Republican coalition where McCain is far from popular that Barr could potentially suck away.
And I speak from no small degree of knowledge, because I’m one of them.
I am a fiscally conservative, socially liberal, small-government libertarian Republican. Yes, I opposed the Iraq War and find the Bush Administration’s assertion of virtually unfettered Executive Department authority extremely troubling, but those aren’t necessarily the things that will motivate my vote in 2008.
If there’s anything about the last seven years that I find troubling, it’s the extent to which the Republicans have, under the leadership of George W. Bush, abandoned any semblance of believing in limited government. Instead we’ve gotten the No Child Left Behind Act, which increased the involvement of the Federal Government in a traditionally local function, the McCain-Feingold Act, which infringes on the First Amendment rights of people during the election process, the Medicare prescription drug plan, which increased the involvement of the Federal Government in health care, and warrentless wiretaps and all the other vestiges of the Patriot Act.
Yes, there are still Republicans who believe in limited government. A few of them, like John Shaddegg, are in leadership positions that may allow them to move the party back to it’s roots. For now, however, the Republican Party is clearly not a party of limited government —- and it’s nomination of John McCain proves that.
I’ve said before that there is no way I will vote for John McCain. It doesn’t matter who his Vice-Presidential nominee is, either, because the idea that a Vice-President has any influence over policy is, unless your name is Dick Cheney, absurd.
At least on the Presidential level, the Republicans have lost my vote this year, and if Barr is the LP nominee, he’ll have not only my vote but also my enthusiastic support. I suspect that there are other limited-government Republicans out there who feel the same way.