Lies, Libertarians, and the Future: The Virginia Election is a Bellwether for the Nation

VOTE

It’s Election Day in Virginia. With polls putting the unlikable Terry McAuliffe ahead by six points at the eleventh hour, it’s anyone’s guess how this is going to turn out, but it’s not looking good for lovers of life and liberty.

In the mix is no small amount of misinformation. My 16-year-old daughter was assigned a research project for her American Government class, in which she was to write one page on all the candidates seeking office during this election. She came to me with a question: “Why are they saying that Ken Cuccinelli suports abortion?”

I told her that she must have been misreading something, but she insisted she’d seen reports in several places. Then, yesterday, I saw a report in the Washington Free Beacon that confirmed the the existence of these lies:

Virginia Democrats are allegedly misrepresenting the positions held by Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli in an attempt to depress conservative turnout and using peer pressure to boost voter turnout among Democratic constituencies in the final days of that state’s gubernatorial race.

Del. Scott Lingamfelter, a Republican, said he received a robo-call on Sunday evening claiming that Cuccinelli supports the Affordable Care Act and taxpayer financing for abortions.

Cuccinelli vehemently opposes Obamacare, as the law is commonly known. He was the first state attorney general to challenge the law in court. He is also strongly opposed to abortion.

The recording said the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) paid for it, Lingamfelter wrote in a post on his Facebook page.

“They are shameless in their lies,” he wrote. “I guess they are trying to suppress GOP voters” in the governor’s race.

Of course, Terry McAuliffe is no stranger to corruption. In 2009, when he lost his previous bid to become governor of Virginia, The Daily Kos described his “folly”:

Terry McAuliffe was an extraordinarily effective political fundraiser, but that would prove to be the undoing of the candidates who took the huge amounts of money he raised.  Before TM lost his bid to become a Democratic Governor of Virginia last night, he had already contributed enormously to the poisoning of the reputations of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The Daily Kos went on to cite at length a retrospective assessment from Counterpunch, detailing McAuliffe’s no scruples approach to fundraising as head of the DNC:

No enterprise was off-limits, no matter how tarnished the reputation of the company: weapons-makers, oil companies, chemical manufacturers, banks, sweatshop tycoons. Indeed, McAuliffe made his mark by targeting corporations with festering problems, ranging from liability suits to environmental and worker safety restraints to bothersome federal regulators. The more desperate these enterprises were for political intervention, the more money McAuliffe knew he could seduce into DNC coffers. What about environmental groups? Big labor? The traditional core of the Democratic Party? Not only didn’t their objections (assuming they voiced any) matter, they actually made McAuliffe’s pitch more appealing to the corporadoes. After all, the Republicans didn’t have any sway over these organizations. Triangulation, the backstabbing political playbook of Clintontime, originated as a fundraising gimmick. A very lucrative one.

And as The Daily Kos noted, the 300-plus million McAuliffe raised came with “strings attached”. Insinuations of everything from insider trading in exchange for political favors to getting into bed with the Chinese intelligence followed.

At the time, The Daily Kos reached this conclusion: “Terry McAuliffe was damaged goods, and he wasn’t going anywhere in political office where these facts might again arise to haunt him. ”

And yet here we are. And new allegations of corruption — everything from “green crony capitalism” to investing in an insurance scheme that preyed on the dying – have continued to dog his campaign. Still, he finds himself ahead.

Which brings me to Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis.

I believe Sarvis is siphoning off the votes that Ken Cuccinelli needs to win. I believe that Ken Cuccinelli, as Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner wrote, “would arguably be the most libertarian governor in the United States if he wins”.

Says Carney:

Cuccinelli trails Democrat Terry McAuliffe in all polls, while Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis is pulling 10 percent of the vote. One national libertarian group is spending big to back Sarvis and attack Cuccinelli.

But Cuccinelli has libertarian bona fides: As attorney general he led the states aiming to kill Obamacare, with all its mandates, taxes, regulations, subsidies and intrusions. He wants to cut the state income tax rate by 15 percent for individuals and 33 percent for corporations.

Cuccinelli has an A rating from the NRA — earned while representing Fairfax County in the state Senate. He opposed smoking bans as a senator.

To a libertarian, all of the above looks good, but not extraordinary for a Republican. But there’s more.

Republican governors who sing paeans to the free market almost always make exceptions in order to be more “pro-business.” Cuccinelli, meanwhile, has angered much of his state’s business lobby by running against corporate welfare, opposing the tax hikes that Northern Virginia developers are seeking to pay for roads and public services and pledging to put special-interest tax credits on the chopping block.

Cuccinelli also often chooses government restraint over “law and order.”

When Virginia’s GOP tried to expand the death penalty in 2009, Cuccinelli was the only Republican to vote no — during a competitive GOP primary for attorney general.

Although not ready to support drug legalization like Sarvis, Cuccinelli has criticized the drug war as overzealous, and he said jailing marijuana dealers is a waste of taxpayer money. He told me he’s open to legalizing pot in Virginia if things go well in Colorado and Washington.

Attorney General Cuccinelli crusaded to exonerate Thomas Haynesworth, a black man wrongly convicted and jailed for 27 years. Cuccinelli argued successfully in court to get Haynseworth a rare “writ of actual innocence” — a feat only possible because state Sen. Cuccinelli had championed a law to make such exoneration easier.

Rand Paul and Ron Paul have endorsed Cuccinelli, as has the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia — the libertarian platoon within the state’s GOP.

And despite his big six-figure media buy from the mysterious “Purple PAC” (founded by this guy), Robert Sarvis appears to be no libertarian. Charles Cook at National Review brings to light his deviations from the liberty doctrine:

I can only imagine, therefore, that the better-informed voters in Virginia have been somewhat perplexed by Robert Sarvis, for in recent weeks he appears to have been doing his level best to give the impression that his party label is incidental. In a recent Reason interview, Sarvis explained that he was “not into the whole Austrian type, strongly libertarian economics,” preferring “more mainstream economics” instead. The candidate expanded on this during an oddly defensive interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, in which he seemed put off not so much by “strongly libertarian economics” as by libertarian economics per se. As governor, Sarvis told Todd, he would be hesitant to cut taxes, unsure as to how he might “reduce spending,” and open to indulging the largest piece of federal social policy since 1965 by expanding Virginia’s Medicaid program. I am generally a critic of the tendency of small-government types to try to purge their ranks of those deemed sufficiently impure, but I must confess that this interview left even me wondering whether Sarvis is in need of a dictionary.

Worse yet was Sarvis’s rambling interview with the Virginia Prosperity Project, in which the candidate expressed his enthusiasm for increasing gas levies, and for establishing a “vehicle-miles-driven tax.” It strikes me that it is almost impossible to square such a measure with any remotely coherent “libertarian” position on that most sacred of rights: privacy. Virginia’s mooted VMT plan requires the installation of government GPS systems in private cars — an astonishingly invasive proposal. Even if this isn’t what Sarvis has in mind, the fact remains that there is simply no way of determining how far an individual has driven without the government’s checking. On Twitter, an amusing fellow with a username not fit for print in this column responded to this idea by contending: “I’m no extremist, but if you put a black box in my vehicle and tax me per mile I will burn down everything you’ve ever loved.” What sort of “libertarian” doesn’t feel this way?

Looking through his platform, one is left with the impression that what Sarvis really means to say is that he is a social liberal. He is in favor of gay marriage, is (radically) pro-choice, and supports the legalization of marijuana. In this regard, he stands in stark contrast to the Republican candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, who is campaigning for a state marriage amendment, is staunchly pro-life, and, although critical of the War on Drugs and of the current sentencing rules, seems to be broadly against the legalization of pot.

The question, then, for anyone interested in taxonomy, is, Do Sarvis’s social positions make him a “libertarian” in any meaningful way? In my view they do not. Whatever America’s media class would have you believe, social liberalism does not equal libertarianism — and it never has. Social liberalism equals social liberalism.

So who stands to benefit from Sarvis’s double-digit polling numbers? Well, everyone Catholic voters should feel uneasy with.

First, the Democrats will benefit if Terry McAuliffe wins. If someone so stigmatized, so arrogant, so lacking in charisma can carry a state that until recently has gone red more often than blue, it signals a significant change. And if Terry McAuliffe wins, the abortion lobby wins. The pro-Obamacare crowd wins. The tax-and-spend liberals win, and Virginians will start paying thousands more per household in taxes in the very near future.

But establishment Republicans also win. The John McCains and Lindsey Grahams of this world who want nothing more than to crush those of libertarian instinct within their party, to exorcise the Tea Party caucus from its bowels. And they will get to have their cake and eat it too: first, Cuccinelli, so strongly supported by the Tea Party, will lose, which will strike a blow to the morale of Tea Party voters everywhere. Second, they will be able to blame the libertarians for Cuccinelli’s loss. After all, he was the GOP-sanctioned guy, and if it weren’t for Sarvis, he might have prevailed. On the same token, they’ll wring their hands about how Cuccinelli was probably not the right guy, because he was too hard right, too sympathetic to Tea Party radicals. Anyone flying a gadsden flag or thinking of voting libertarian should recognize they need to fall back in line and back the guy who can win next time. The compassionate conservative. The moderate with nice hair and teeth. No more pipe dreams. No more third party votes.

A Cuccinelli loss will become a rhetorical cudgel for years to come, in every race that matters. And with Chris Christie, the Democrat in Republican’s clothing holding his own double-digit lead in New Jersey, his will be the victory that leads the GOP in a new ideological direction.

As one libertarian to those others of you who might be reading, please, don’t vote for Sarvis. The stakes are too high, and the difference between Cuccinelli and McAuliffe too stark. Let’s give them a surprise upset.

Let’s win a victory for liberty and elect Ken Cuccinelli.

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