Balance of Power
1. Like some, but surely not all, libertarians, I was hoping that the Democrats would get control of at least one house, and so was glad that they did. Gridlock is your friend.
2. A single senate seat made the difference between a Democratic majority and a Republican majority. In Montana, the Democratic candidate got 49% of the vote, the Republican 48%, and the libertarian candidate 3%; while one cannot be sure what would have happened if there had been no LP candidate, that at least suggests that, absent the LP, the Republicans would still hold the Senate. I have not looked at the House races to see if there is a similar pattern there.
3. The Democrats' hair thin majority depends on two independents, Bernie Sanders and Joseph Lieberman. On the face of it, that ought to give each of them enormous leverage. My guess is that, in the current political situation, supporting the Republicans is not a practical option for either, however, so I’m not sure how that potential leverage will affect actual committee assignments and the like. It should be interesting.
4. A recent publication from the Cato Institute analyzes the libertarian role in American electoral politics, using a much broader category than LP voters. Defining a libertarian as someone who responds like a liberal to poll questions on social issues and like a conservative to poll questions on economic issues, the authors find that libertarians make up about ten to twenty percent of the electorate. That’s far from a majority, but still a big voting bloc—probably bigger, for instance, than the black vote.
Most interesting, they find that that bloc is shifting its vote. In 2000, Bush got 72% of the libertarian vote. In 2004, he was down to 59%, while the Democrats almost doubled their share. If they had done a little better, they would have won.
This supports the argument I made almost a year ago, suggesting that the Democrats ought to be trying to pull libertarians, broadly defined, out of the Republican coalition. I will take this opportunity to repeat the suggestion I made there, that the Democrats should come out in support of medical marijuana, either in the form of a change in federal law or of a policy of deference to state law. It would be a clear symbolic signal to libertarians, broadly defined, and I don’t think it would alienate much of the present Democratic base.