Marc Victor’s Arizona Senate Run: A Lesson for Future Libertarian Party Strategy?
The Libertarian Partyhas long been controversial among libertarians, since its founding in 1971. Should it have a broad tent or a purist message? Minarchist or anarchist—or both? Should it try to elect candidates, and water down its radical principles to do so, or run purist, principled candidates to use their platform to get the message out?
One problem the LP in the United States has always faced is that unlike the parliamentary systems in European and other countries, in which minority parties can form coalitions with others, the US system tends to be a binary winner-take-all system (see: Duverger’s law). In this system even libertarian-sympathetic voters know that the LP candidate cannot win so and they don’t want to “waste their vote”. So the LP candidates rarely get a significant percentage of the votes cast.
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After the Reno Reset last May, where the Mises Caucus took over the party’s leadership positions following dissatisfaction with its tepid response to the fascist Covid lockdowns and mandates and its fielding, in recent election cycles, of unexciting (think Jo Jorgensen) and moderate or outright non-libertarian candidates like Gary Johnson and Bill Weld,the LP has pivoted to the strategy of fielding principled candidates on the national stage, for messaging purposes, and on actually winning in the more winnable local races.
But there has been a recent interesting development in the Senate race in Arizona that has me wondering if there might be another tactic the LP can start to use to influence policy in a meaningful way.
As readers no doubt know, the mid-term elections next week have the chance to give Republicans control of the House and possibly the Senate. Most libertarians I know are in favor of this since a Republican-controlled Congress is (a) better than a Democrat-controlled one, and (b) can help check the socialist ambitions of the Biden White House. A Republican Senate could also help block Biden from replacing any Supreme Court seats that open up during his term. So in my view, as a libertarian, it’s important for the Republicans to take over control of Congress in the upcoming election.
For this reason I had been a bit nervous about the campaign of my friend Marc Victor, who was running as a Libertarian in the Arizona Senate Race against the incumbent, Democrat Mark Kelly, and the Republican challenger Blake Masters—I am a supporter of Victor (and endorsed him)and his Live and Let Live movement. Obviously either Kelly or Masters is going to win, but the margins were close and Victor was siphoning votes away that would otherwise go mostly to Masters (let’s face it—most people smart enough to vote Libertarian would never be dumb enough to ever vote for a Democrat). I was worried Victor might help cause Masters to lose. So I was heartened when Victor made the offer to drop out of the race and endorse one of the other two candidates if only they would have an open, public conversation with him and persuade him that he should.
Masters finally agreed and after talking to Masters and being assured that he is mostly libertarian-leaning, Victor this morning, true to his word, dropped out of the race and endorsed Masters. See, for instance, Arizona’s Libertarian Senate candidate dropping out of race, endorsing Masters, Libertarian Marc Victor is withdrawing from the Arizona Senate race — and throwing his support behind Republican Blake Masters, and Marc’s appearance on a local radio program; and this video, from Marc’s Live and Let Live Revolution site:
Marc’s focus was not on personal self-aggrandizement or power; it was on getting results in the direction of liberty. He used his potential spoiler status to extract something from Masters: a candid, public conversation where he actually answered substantive questions about liberty. Now as it turns out, Masters happens to be very libertarian-oriented already. So in this case, the concession mostly resulted in assurances and information.
But imagine another race, where the Republican and Democrat candidates are not that libertarian. Still, if you could get one of them to publicly commit to, say, legalizing marijuana at the federal level, this could be seen as a positive move in the direction of liberty. Or to include the Libertarian candidate in the debates. Or keep a hotline open to libertarian constituents when in office. Something.
My point is this. Given our “winner takes all” system, the LP candidates usually get around 1% of the vote, or less. Perhaps if LP candidates explicitly endorse a tactic modeled after what Victor did, they could in effect simulate the parliamentary systems of Europe where minority parties get non-trivial amounts of the vote and use this as leverage to form coalitions to advance their goals.
Imagine the LP candidate for Congress is polling at 10% and pledges to drop out and endorse the other major party candidate if they simply pledge to abolish the drug war, or patent law, or whatever. In this case potential LP voters would be more motivated to support the LP candidate because they would know their vote might not actually be wasted. It might be leveraged to use to make the Republican (or maybe Democrat, though for me that’s hard to imagine) candidate be better.
Maybe, over time, this would induce the Republicans to field more libertarian-leaning candidates, so as to get the last-minute LP candidate endorsement. And in races where both candidates are horrible and the Libertarian candidate decides to stay in the race, then libertarian-leaning voters might be more willing to “waste” their vote on the LP candidate since (a) they know that in this particular race, it really doesn’t matter whether the R or D wins since there really isn’t a “dime’s worth of difference” between them, and (b) the LP candidate getting a significant number of votes will send a signal for future races.
So—perhaps we should consider the Victor strategy for long-term victory.
Disclosure: I serve on the Judicial Committee. See LP Committees; and Aggression and Property Rights Plank in the Libertarian Party Platform. [Update: See Walter Block, Why the GOP Should Be Nicer to the LP and Jeffrey Tucker, Third Parties Can Be Both Principled and Influential Third Parties Can Be Both Principled and Influential (12ft); Eric Boehm, “Will Pennsylvania's Libertarian Senate Candidate Drop Out? 'That's a Hard No.',” Reason.com (Nov. 2, 2022); Brian Doherty, “Arizona Libertarian Senate Candidate Marc Victor Drops Out, Endorses GOP's Blake Masters,” Reason.com (Nov. 1, 2022). And some libertarians obviously disagree; see this Mises Caucus retweet of a Caryn Ann Harlos tweet.]
See, e.g., the Mises Caucus Platform.
See Endorsements and this youtube video.
Interesting perspective. Thank you.
"As readers no doubt know, the mid-term elections next week have the chance to give Republicans control of the House and possibly the Senate. Most libertarians I know are in favor of this since an authoritarian-controlled Congress is (a) better than a an authoritarian-controlled one, ... So in my view, as a libertarian, it’s important for the authoritarians to take over control of Congress in the upcoming election."
Fixed, no charge.