Wednesday, May 28, 2008

An e-mail from Texas

A retired Army colonel in Texas sent me the following e-mail:
I strongly disagree with Bob Barr running for President. A third party candidate has NEVER won the White House. Every third party candidate in history has simply become the SPOILER, putting the other party in the White House. Barr could make his points better by working closely with the Republicans to ensure at least some of his points are included in the platform.
I can only assume that Bob Barr’s ultimate intent is to ensure a Democrat sits in the White House for that will be the outcome of his candidacy.
I responded:
Thank you for writing, sir. I've heard Barr address the "spoiler" question at length several times. He has said that voters who vote for him probably wouldn't vote for McCain or Obama anyway, and if it weren't for his candidacy, these disaffected voters would just stay home.
The problems facing the Republicans in the coming election -- as indicated by the party's lackluster fundraising and polls showing strong disapproval of the Bush administration -- are, after all, the Republicans' problem. That Bob Barr could take advantage of those problems may be worrisome to Republicans, but they should have thought of that possibility when they were nominating the co-author the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill.
In point of fact, a third-party candidate has won a presidential election. His name was Abraham Lincoln, a former Whig congressman.
I have many friends who, like my Texas correspondent, are inclined to support Crazy Cousin John because of fear that a Democrat will win the White House. Their essential argument -- that conservatives must automatically vote for any Republican candidate -- gives license to the Beltway GOP Establishment types who think they can pursue unconservative policies without electoral consequences. Conservative voters have got "nowhere else to go," the Beltway cynics say.

For six years, I lived in a Maryland district represented by Connie Morella, a liberal Republican. I voted for Morella because I understood that (a) this was a liberal district, and it would be difficult or perhaps impossible for a conservative Republican to be elected there, and (b) as Newt Gingrich once said, the only vote of Morella's that really mattered was her vote to caucus with the Republicans, thus to establish their power as the majority.

Eventually, of course, Morella was defeated by a liberal Democrat -- the inevitable fate of all liberal Republicans.

If John McCain were a conservative running as a conservative, he would have no concern about a third-party challenge from the right. However, as his American Conservative Union ratings clearly demonstrate, McCain has spent the past 12 years distancing himself from conservatives.

As recently as 1996, McCain scored 95 from the ACU; since then, however, his ACU rating has never been higher than 81, and has three times fallen below 70 -- 68 in 1998 and 2001, 65 in 2006.

That McCain's ACU ratings are much higher than Barack Obama's or Hillary Clinton's, there can be no doubt. But those who urge conservatives to vote to elect one of the most liberal Republicans in Congress to the White House are in effect endorsing a leftward drift of the GOP.

BTW, Barr's lifetime ACU rating: 98.


  1. I understand his point - and sympathize with him. He's not entirely wrong. On the other hand, he's not entirely right. What good does it do to put in a person you feel doesn't represent you just because you don't want someone else who doesn't represent you? What are your choices? vote or don't vote. No vote doesn't say anything...I can hear the news reports now "For some unexplained reason, voter turnout this year was very low..."
    So now people have a choice again. A way to let the Repubs know that Conservatives are unhappy with their positions. Now conservatives can vote _against_ republicans instead of just not voting _for_ them.
    I don't know what Barr's platform is going to be - whether I can support it or not. And if I lived in a state where my vote would be critical, I'm not sure I'd vote for him, because I _don't_ think he can win, and I think either Dem would be worse than McCain...BUT....I'm in a state where my vote won't count. It'll go Democrat. Repubs are simply in the minority and are overwhelmed by the Dems. So...I have a choice...and I may just decide to vote for Barr - because I'm as unhappy with the Rinos as anybody, and as unhappy with McCain as conservatives generally are.
    This may be a good time for a third party to begin to build. I don't really think it's going to be the Libertarian Party unless conservatives take it over from the inside, but there really needs to be a conservative option.

  2. Uh. The real problem is the leftward drift in the electorate.

    Got a fix for that one?

    Oh yeah. I know. Push it farther to the left by letting the Communist win.

    Hate the war? Well yeah. It started when Jimmy Carter decided the Shah was not sufficiently into self government. That worked out well.

    But yeah. I can see how Jimmy Squared will improve things a lot. For our soldiers. For Israel. And for the practice of medicine in America. I see all kinds of economic improvements as well.

    And once he is done with us the recovery will be quick and relatively painless.

    BTW why did the Libertarians stop running real Libertarians for office? Probably tired of winning elections.

  3. In your email response, you state, "In point of fact, a third-party candidate has won a presidential election. His name was Abraham Lincoln, a former Whig congressman."

    This is factually wrong -- and you should know better. The Republican Party was the result of the Whig Party's disintegration and was the dominant party left after the Democrat Party's split.

    The election of 1860 was not a normal "two party" election. If anything, there was only one strong party as we know them today, Lincoln's Republican Party, far from the third party type that you suggest. The campaign consisted of the "northern Democrats" who nominated Stephen Douglas. The "southern Democrats" nominated John C. Breckenridge. The disaffected remnants of the Whigs that did not go with the Republicans formed the Constitution Union party and nominated John Bell.

    If anything, the Libertarians in this election cycle compare to Bell's Constitution Union party -- and would be pleased as punch to do so well. To stretch the comparison, the Democrat party would have to split with Clinton leading one faction and Obama the other, and McCain reprising the role of Lincoln. Barr would be John Bell -- still irrelevant through his separatism.

    Your assertion that Lincoln ran as a third party candidate is wrong on the facts and wrong in the spirit in which you meant it. You should apologize.