Are Carl Paladino and Christine O’Donnell Too Much for Libertarians to Stomach?
It’s easy for a libertarian to wish for all-around Republican victories in the midterms. What’s more delicate is supporting political aberrations like Angle, Paladino, and O’Donnell. By Tunku Varadarajan.
It’s easy for a libertarian to wish for all-around Republican victories in the midterms. What’s more delicate is supporting political aberrations like Angle, Paladino, and O’Donnell. Plus, stay up to the minute on the midterms at Election Oracle.
As the midterm elections approach, many libertarians are asking what outcome they should wish for.
My first instinct as a libertarian is, of course, for Republican victories everywhere, particularly for candidates running specifically on a small-government platform. The big-government Bush Republicans have already been punished; now it's time to get rid of the big-government Democrats—i.e., all of them.
If one were to look for anything more intricate or strategic, one could wish for a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, on the grounds that divided government means fewer new laws and regulations. But given that there's a Democrat in the White House, I'd say we've got enough division already, and that we'd be better off with Republicans in charge of both houses—as well as in the state houses and governors' mansions, since they're slightly less beholden to the public-employee unions than are the Democrats. And the Republicans, this time, have been chastened by the emergence of the Tea Party, which should greatly dampen any residual GOP ardor for big government.
But there is a delicate, almost aesthetic question that remains: Do we back candidates like Carl Paladino and Christine O’Donnell—people we wouldn’t ask home to dinner, except in a Dinner for Schmucks sense? Put another way: Is our thirst for a resounding defeat for the statist Democrats so great that some of us would be prepared to swallow a mouthful of “Paladonnell” rotgut along with the premier cru of a GOP victory in the House, the Senate, and elsewhere?
Personally, I would love to see Paladino and O’Donnell lose, since they've distracted attention from the small-government message by adding in their own social conservatism and cultural weirdness. Republican primary voters need to be reminded to be more grownup, and practical. But there are, of course, many libertarians who would tend to think that anything is better—yes, even Paladino and O’Donnell—than Democrats endorsed by public-employee unions.
• Benjamin Sarlin: No Knockout Punch for ReidOne may think of Paladino as the revealed face of the beast of ignorance that resides deep within America, or as an earthy corrective to extreme flights of liberal fantasy. Either way, what is true is that Paladino represents the split within New York state (one that is representative of a split within the country at large). Clearly, he appeals to the conservative (western) part of New York, a region that likes the Tea Party agenda and does not like the David Brooksian style of accommodative conservatism. As for O’Donnell, she is clearly a political aberration, elected in the Delaware primary because she was in the right place at the right time, the Tea Partier who would take on the candidate of the Republican establishment. As things stand, she, like Paladino, has little chance of being elected, and that is entirely for the best (however unpalatable one may find their Democratic opponents).
Nevada’s Sharron Angle raises similar issues: She, too, is an unconventional Republican candidate, easily typified as “extreme” by the media. There is no doubt that, objectively, some of her positions are, indeed, hard-line. But there are no libertarians, I would wager, who’d like to see her lose to Harry Reid. However distasteful she may be, the political and symbolic importance of defeating Reid is so great that its imperative trumps all distaste. Reid, to libertarian eyes, is the incarnation of our big-government malaise. If he survives, all our hearts will sink and the world will go dark.
Is our thirst for a resounding defeat for the statist Democrats so great that some of us would be prepared to swallow a mouthful of “Paladonnell” rotgut along with the premier cru of a GOP victory in the House, the Senate, and elsewhere?
My other libertarian wish this election is to see the mainstream media thoroughly miserable with the results. I've never been so appalled at the MSM as in reading their hysterically biased coverage of the Tea Party, and of libertarians like the Koch brothers. The MSM is so threatened by any challenge to its closed, statist mind-set that it is ever ready to demonize dissenters.
This time, with any luck, we’ll all get to demonize the demonizers.
Tunku Varadarajan is a national affairs correspondent and writer at large for The Daily Beast. He is also the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Fellow in Journalism at Stanford's Hoover Institution and a professor at NYU's Stern Business School. He is a former assistant managing editor at The Wall Street Journal. (Follow him on Twitter here.)