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Posted Oct 11, 2012, 11:06 am
The Libertarian Party was created in response to a growing "big government" influence in the Republican Party. And, indeed, there was a time when the Libertarian Party really meant something; Ronald Reagan once called libertarianism "the heart of conservatism."
The Green Party grew after many of the 1990s "New Democrats" moved away from environmental issues in an effort to redefine their party as more business- and job-friendly. And while the Green Party never really developed into the political force it's founders hoped for, the sentiment was certainly more than valid. Who wants to drink contaminated water or breathe polluted air?
As a campaign manager, I've seen a lot of Libertarian and Green Party candidates over the years. Some are even honest in their beliefs—people who care deeply about small government or green energy, for instance.
But most "Green" and "Libertarian" candidates these days have nothing whatsoever to do with the party they supposedly represent; far more often they're just tools of the establishment.
A Libertarian candidate on the ballot can generally be counted on to pull one to as much as four percent of the vote away from the Republican nominee. A Green on the ballot often has a similar effect on the Democratic nominee. And both major parties know it.
Instead of honest, passionate crusaders making a valuable point at debates, more often than not what we get these days are "plants"—candidates who are quietly recruited and supported by the Democrat or Republican parties for the sole purpose of drawing votes from their legitimate rivals. It's not only dishonest, it's damaging to the integrity of our electoral process.
Now, this wouldn't really be a problem if people paid actual attention to politics. The sad fact, though, is most people would rather have a lengthy discussion about the strength of Ceelo Green's team on "The Voice" than learn about who's on their ballot and what they really stand for.
This year we have two rather perfect examples right here in Southern Arizona. Blanca Guerra is the so-called "Libertarian" running in the CD3 race between Raul Grijalva and Gabriela Saucedo Mercer. In CD1, the race between Jonathan Paton and Ann Kirkpatrick also has a Libertarian imposter, Kim Allen.
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At least Guerra has been honest about the fact that she's only in the race to take votes away from Mercer. Allen is still pretending to actually be a Libertarian, which is particularly silly after he professed support during a recent debate for a single-payer healthcare system, and the denial of permits for the Keystone Pipeline.
I know an awful lot of actual Libertarians, but I never met one who supported socialized medicine or opposed development of our natural resources. Both candidates' positions are manifestly left of center. Either would be a reasonable choice to run as a Green, frankly. But the only reason either of them is on the ballot is because it's easy (only a handful of signatures are needed to get on the ballot as a Green or Libertarian) and they can siphon votes away from Mercer and Paton.
If Guerra and Allen want a few tips, they should check out Marc Victor's website. Victor, who is running for the Senate seat left open by the retiring Jon Kyl, is an actual Libertarian—you know; stop the drug war, no federal interference on local issues, self-reliance over government handouts, audit the fed, abolish the IRS.
Of course, I'd strongly urge even my Libertarian friends to ignore him and make sure their vote counts in what is sure to be a close race between Jeff Flake and Richard Carmona. But that's beside the point. Victor is Libertarian, and has every right to be on the ballot and present his view to the public. It's hard to argue the same for pretenders like Allen and Guerra.
Now, don't get me wrong. This year, both third-party candidates in Southern Arizona's congressional races are leftists pretending to be something they are not. But this phenomenon isn't limited to the left or right. Both parties plant third-party candidates on the field from time to time. That's neither good politics, nor civics, and it needs to stop.
If either the Libertarian or Green Parties ever have any intentions of making an impact on our national debates, they need to take the lead in vetting and choosing candidates who represent their party's values, rather than allowing their spot on the ballot to be usurped by people who are nothing more than establishment tools.
Sam Stone is state director for FreedomWorks for America, a super PAC backing Jeff Flake’s U.S. Senate campaign.
Sam Stone is a Republican political consultant in Southern Arizona.