A couple of weeks ago, Brian Doherty over at Reason published an article about the recent gubernatorial election in Virginia. He included a few links to Virginia political blogs, and interviewed Chuck Moulton, the chair of the Libertarian Party of Virginia (and someone I consider a friend), Chris Stearns, the pro-liberty chair of the Republican Party of Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District Committee, Rob Sarvis, the Libertarian gubernatorial candidate, and Arthur DiBianca, co-founder of Libertarian Booster PAC.
Libertarian Booster PAC is the PAC that assisted Sarvis’ campaign and has taken donations from Joe Liemandt, a major Democratic donor. This led a lot of pro-liberty Republicans to accuse Rob Sarvis of being a Democratic plant, a somewhat ridiculous allegation given his previous membership in the Fairfax Young Republicans (he signed up to be a delegate at the 2013 Young Republican Federation of Virginia convention) and ties to the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia (he came and spoke to our 2011 state convention about his race against Dick Saslaw for the Senate of Virginia that year), but by that point many Republicans were unfortunately susceptible to this sort of thing. I can personally tell you this PAC also assisted Laura Delhomme’s campaign here in the 47th HoD race, and they supported LP candidates in 2012. So allegations that this PAC came into being to support Sarvis are patently ridiculous. Having said that, I will take serious issue with Mr. DiBianca’s quote to Brian Doherty:
…it also helped Sarvis that the Virginia race was one of the only big political shows of the year and he was the most interesting thing about that race, which got him big free press coverage, very unusual for a Libertarian. He was also helped by the fact that McAuliffe and Cuccinelli were both assholes.
Oh, really? I’ve been critical of the horrible campaign that Dave Rexrode and Chris LaCivita ran for Ken Cuccinelli; they should never work in Virginia politics again. That said, what does THIS guy know about Ken Cuccinelli, or Virginia politics? NOTHING. That much is obvious by his characterization of Ken. I’ve met Ken around 8-10 times at events since 2005 or so. I’m just an activist, just a guy. not trying to get into politicians’ good graces or anything like that, or build a career through my activism. I’m simply one guy motivated by ideology, working within the Republican party, to advance my ideals, and I just happened to end up the chair of RLCVA. There’s no reason he’d remember who I am, but the man has never blown me off, always actually listened what I had to say (I encounter a LOT of politicians and I can tell when they’re not), and is generally a good guy. Nobody I know that actually KNOWS him thinks anything less. Mr. DiBianca is typical of the LP types who think EVERYONE in politics not associated with the LP is evil. Ed Crane, who long ago publicly renounced support for the LP, funneled a lot of money into the race through his Purple PAC, specifically to oppose Ken Cuccinelli. All of this is because purist libertarians have a narrow set of social issues that they disagree with Ken on, namely abortion, marriage equality, and the existence of the state’s sodomy law (which Ken has little to do with either way, the General Assembly tried to replace that law a few years ago, but couldn’t come to an agreement), so they recruited a gubernatorial candidate to run against him, and oriented their messaging and campaign to reflect that. To assert anything else is dishonest.
I spoke with Rob Sarvis himself, in early April, after I heard he was running. Despite having been complimentary of Ken in 2011, he told me directly that his run was motivated by Ken’s social conservatism, and that the LPVA had recruited him, not the reverse. As Nicki pointed out earlier, no candidate or party is entitled to the votes of pro-liberty activists or anyone else. So Rob didn’t ‘take’ votes away from either Ken or McAuliffe. That said, he, his supporters, and LPVA all jumped right onto the same dishonest message that Ken wanted to require transvaginal ultrasounds for every abortion (that was McDonnell’s bright idea; Ken opposed it), that he was not only looking to use the sodomy statute to regulate the sexual behavior of consenting adults, but that he was responsible for the law’s existence (both blatant lies), and that he would somehow use the office of the governor to move against legal abortion (something Ken directly addressed and denied). This was repeated by Rob’s campaign manager and volunteers every chance they got on social media and everywhere else. The secretary of LPVA actually (seemingly) seriously posited several times on social media and blogs that Ken was ‘taking’ votes from Rob because the LPVA convention happened a month before the RPV convention! Considering Ken had been in the race for close to a year before Rob even considered getting in, that’s utterly ridiculous and speaks to the level that LPVA was operating at.
Chuck Moulton had a few things to say about RLCVA, as it turns out In addition to a few comments he made on social media, Brian Doherty quoted him:
Moulton remembers attending meetings of the state’s Republican Liberty Caucus back then and “my impression was that they are misnamed; they are more like the Republican Fiscally Conservative Caucus, because they didn’t seem to care so much about social issues. I asked each candidate in a Q and A about those issues and Sarvis stood out as the only truly libertarian candidate there.”
No, Chuck, you are quite wrong. The difference between RLCVA and LPVA (and the LP in a broader sense) is that we understand that we have to ally with people we mostly agree with to achieve anything at all politically. You basically helped scupper a largely pro-liberty candidate in Ken Cuccinelli because of abortion and marriage issues. The LP is like the Goth children from South Park… if you’re not EXACTLY like them, they won’t hang out with you. This is why the LP is simply not serious about politics, and perhaps not even about policy. What about gun rights? Property rights? Marijuana legalization, where Ken has come our way significantly over the past four years? Plenty of other issues other than fiscal issues where Ken is great. The guy who’s with you 80% of the time is your ally, not your enemy.
Since this fight has been picked, let me address the LP in general. It is a WASTE OF TIME. LP activists are actually celebrating the fact they got 6.6% in a statewide election. I’m not kidding. In the American political system, from the local level on up to how Presidents are elected, it’s set up for two major parties, whoever they might be. The last time a major party collapsed was in the mid-19th century, when the Whig party collapsed. The American, Free Soil, and Republican parties struggled to the be the replacement; the Republicans won that struggle. The other two disappeared shortly thereafter. The LP has won some local races, and has even elected some state legislators in a few states. Good for them. But they cannot be taken seriously in Virginia until they at least elect ONE member of the House of Delegates, and their statewide candidates have no chance of winning. In U.S. politics, minor parties do nothing except help the major party they are further away from ideologically. In the case of the Libertarian Party, despite some agreement on social issues, that party is the Democratic Party. That is all the LP accomplishes, and both the genesis and tactics of the Sarvis campaign bear out that they understand that, despite their protestations to the contrary.
If pro-liberty activists in Virginia want to be effective politically, their best course of action is join the Republican Party and help us advance liberty within it. They can join local unit committees, and they can join the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia.