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3:07 pm - Thu, Mar 13, 2014

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11:53 am - Mon, Nov 4, 2013
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Virginia’s Libertarian Moment?



Unless just about every polling outfit in the country is wrong, Terry McAuliffe should cruise to victory in Tuesday’s election. If he does, says Tarina Keene, “he will owe his victory to the women of Virginia — women who want to own their own bodies. Who want to be able to make their own reproductive health-care decisions.”

Keene directs NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, so she has a vested interest in this argument: Making McAuliffe’s victory contingent on pro-choice support makes McAuliffe beholden to pro-choice activists. But the vested interest does not make the argument wrong. In fact, given the lopsided gender gap in the gubernatorial contest, it is hard to refute.

The McAuliffe camp has flogged Ken Cuccinelli relentlessly on social issues, particularly abortion — something the Republican candidate opposes in every case except when the mother’s life is at stake. And the flogging has hurt: In August, McAuliffe enjoyed a 12-point lead among women. By October, the spread had increased to 24.

Keene’s remark is interesting not only for its political implications, but also for its philosophical implications. Talk of owning your own body has strong libertarian overtones. Many libertarians start by embracing the concept of individual autonomy or “self-ownership” — a notion that goes back at least to John Locke (“every man has a Property in his own Person. This nobody has a right to, but himself”). Then they adopt policy positions that logically follow from it, such as legalizing drugs and opposing motorcycle-helmet laws. It’s your body, libertarians say, and nobody else can tell you what to do with it.

Granted, pro-choice groups do not apply this concept with any sort of consistency — witness NARAL’s support for Obamacare’s insistence that every individual buy an insurance policy, whether she wants one or not. But their inconsistency does not impeach the broader point that Cuccinelli’s stance on abortion has slammed into a wall of resistance from those who don’t want him imposing his personal views on them as governor.

♦  ♦  ♦

And it’s not just abortion. The Republican’s stance on homosexuality also has scared away potential supporters. Homosexuality “brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of [the] soul,” Cuccinelli said five years ago. The next year, he insisted “homosexual acts … should not be accommodated in government policy.” His views “haven’t changed,” he said earlier this year.

It’s true, as he also says, that many other Virginians share these “sincerely held beliefs.” Yet Cuccinelli has let those beliefs drive policy: Early in his term as attorney general he told state universities they had no authority to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and he has defended with Ahab-like mania a state sodomy law doomed by the Supreme Court a decade ago.

Among those who share Cuccinelli’s beliefs is Virginia’s current governor, Bob McDonnell — whose master’s thesis at Regent University amounted to a socially conservative catechism. Yet McDonnell convinced voters he would eschew social issues and focus on jobs. Once elected, he generally did. (He even countermanded Cuccinelli’s anti-anti-discrimination order.) Cuccinelli talks about jobs too — but the public can see his heart lies elsewhere.

So some who otherwise would have supported Cuccinelli have found refuge in Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian Party nominee. Sarvis has been polling well for a third-party candidate, scoring as much as 10 percent in some polls. If he clears that bar on Election Day, then the party will win automatic ballot access for state and local offices through 2021.

♦  ♦  ♦

A sizable proportion of Sarvis’ support has come from Republicans. Hence, there has been a last-minute effort to bring Republicans who lean libertarian back into the fold. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul recently went to bat for Cuccinelli, saying “a lot of the things” the candidate talks about “are free-market, limited-government, leave-me-alone government.” In The Washington Examiner, columnist Tim Carney has written that if he won, “Cuccinelli would arguably be the most libertarian governor in the United States.” The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis has seconded the motion, asking “Why Are Libertarians Helping Elect Crony Capitalist Terry McAuliffe in Virginia?”

They have a point: McAuliffe is no economic libertarian. On the other hand, he is not about to nationalize the railroads. His deviations from laissez-faire orthodoxy are driven by opportunism and indifference rather than doctrinal hostility. You can’t say the same about Cuccinelli’s views on social issues.

True, Cuccinelli does take the libertarian position on economic questions, property rights and the role of the federal leviathan.

Unlike many other Republicans, he also opposes corporate welfare ladled out under the pretext of economic development. All most excellent. (Not so excellent: Cuccinelli’s hard-right stance on immigration — which contradicts the libertarian idea that people, like goods, should be able to cross borders freely.)

To Cuccinelli’s conservative defenders, his economic libertarianism ought to suffice. Ed Crane, former president of the libertarian Cato Institute, heads a PAC spending $300,000 on Sarvis’ behalf. According to Carney, “Crane’s only critique of Cuccinelli” was that the Republican “ ‘is a socially intolerant, hard-right conservative with little respect for civil liberties.’ ”

“Only”? To conservatives, economic freedom is paramount, the rest no big deal. But to libertarians, personal and civil liberties are no less vital: Big government has no place in either the boardroom or the bedroom.

If Cuccinelli shared that view, then he would have a better chance of participating in the gubernatorial inauguration Jan. 8 — rather than merely watching it.

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4:09 pm - Fri, Sep 27, 2013
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Game Theory and Beltway Gamesmanship

James Taranto makes a nice point about the budgetary stare-down in D.C.:

What we have here is not a hostage situation but a classic Prisoner’s Dilemma. If both sides cooperate, the result is unsatisfactory. if both sides defect, the result is catastrophic. An unsatisfactory result is far preferable to a catastrophic one. But the optimal result for each side is if it defects while the other side cooperates. Both sides therefore have an incentive to defect, so that the catastrophic outcome is a real possibility.

Explanation of the Prisoner’s Dilemma here.

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9:00 am - Wed, Sep 25, 2013
2 notes

GOP Plants Its Flag on the Wrong Hill

To grasp just how big a belly-flop the congressional Defund-Obamacare Caucus has taken into the lake of lunacy, consider this: Karl Rove thinks they are being unrealistic.

Karl Rove.

Rove is the man who — you might recall — was arguing, late into Election Night, that Mitt Romney had the presidency in the bag. Rumor has it Rove still sneaks down into his basement now and then to re-check the numbers.

But on the folly of tea party efforts to defund Obamacare, Rove has not the slightest doubt. As he noted recently, in order to prevail the defunders first would have to convince some Democrat or Democrats in the Senate majority to join their quixotic quest. That won’t happen. Supposing for argument’s sake that it did, the president would simply veto the measure. Overturning the veto would require turning many more Democrats: 54 in the House and 21 in the Senate. “No sentient being,” Rove says, “believes that will happen.”

And yet the defunders press on — even after Sen. Ted Cruz admitted the votes weren’t there, even after defunding’s principal cheerleader, Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, all but admitted it is just a P.R. stunt. Last week the defunders staged something close to a palace coup when they steamrollered House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, who had been trying to talk some tactical sense into them. The House leadership had proposed a plan that would have required the Senate to vote on defunding Obamacare yet still allow it to pass a spending measure. Outraged, the defunders started sharpening their pitchforks and lighting their torches. Boehner backed down.

With the federal bank account empty, this sets the stage for a government shutdown — and not just a halfhearted, kinda-sorta shutdown like the one that took place in 1995, when a number of appropriations measures already had passed. The shutdown looming now would bring just about all federal activity to a full stop. Everyone knows how the story would then play out: Public fury would rain down upon the GOP like an acid monsoon, and flayed Republicans would quickly accede to the president’s demands. Just like they did the last time.

This doesn’t mean Democrats have virtue and honor on their side — just the votes. As Oscar Wilde said, “It would take a heart of stone not to laugh out loud” at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s complaint that “bipartisanship is a thing of the past.” Reid would not recognize bipartisanship if it wore a blinking neon sign. Democratic intransigence is central to this showdown, too. You can’t have a stalemate if one side is willing to give. And as The New York Times has noted, “The health law is not negotiable for President Obama and the Democrats.”

The president also insists he will not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling — another fiscal debate that will follow the appropriations fight in short order. Obama’s defenders insist congressional conservatives have taken the debt ceiling hostage, and with it the country’s credit rating and fragile economic recovery. They implore Obama to stand firm. But if the hostage analogy is right, then their advice is wrong — at least according to every Hollywood climax since the invention of film.

You know the scene: The hero is about to prevail when the wicked villain sticks a gun in the ear of an innocent child. “Drop your weapon,” the villain snarls, “or I blow her head off!” With blazing eyes the hero slowly lowers his gun to the ground and shoves it away with his foot.

That’s how the scene is supposed to play, anyhow. In this instance, though, the presumptive hero — Obama — doesn’t stand down. Instead, he’s willing to let conservatives shoot the innocent bystander in the head, just so he can shoot them in the foot. Not very noble.

All analogies are inexact, and this one breaks down partly because Republicans are actually asking not for something wicked but for something good: spending reductions. Last week the Congressional Budget Office reported (as if it needed further reporting) that the nation’s long-term fiscal trajectory is unsustainable. Without real and deep cuts to entitlements that should have started a couple decades ago, the national debt will ruin the country.

That’s the hill upon which Republicans should plant their flag. Obamacare might be execrable, but it also is untouchable so long as we have a president named Obama. Moreover, compared to the three gargantuan entitlements its outlays are almost trivial. Obamacare will cost $1.8 trillion over 10 years — no small sum. But by 2023 Medicare alone will cost $1 trillion every year. Adding Medicaid and Social Security will bring the annual tab to $3 trillion. Add interest on the debt, and by 2025 those programs will consume every last federal dollar.

On defunding Obamacare, conservative Republicans are trying to deny mathematical reality. But on the far graver question of the national debt, the whole country is.

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1:59 pm - Sun, Sep 15, 2013

The Third-Party Blackout in Virginia

According to the conservative Media Research Center’s analysis of this year’s race for governor, coverage of Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli has been “viciously negative,” with 24 critical stories for every uncritical one. Coverage of the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, hasn’t exactly been glowing: By the MRC’s estimate, negative stories about him outnumber positive stories three to one.

But Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate, probably would switch places with either of them in a heartbeat. He barely gets mentioned at all — garnering only about 2 percent of all coverage — even though his name will appear on the ballot alongside the other two.

Take a recent piece in Politico. “Terry McAuliffe, Ken Cuccinelli Tax Plan Sparks Local Revolts” explains how the candidates’ desire to lower or eliminate three unpopular businesses taxes is causing heartburn among local government leaders. It begins by noting that “in one of the nastiest political battles of 2013, there’s one thing Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates agree on.” Sarvis agrees with the other two candidates about those taxes, too. Yet the Politico story never mentions him.

Ditto The Washington Post, which recently editorialized about “Virginia’s Dispiriting Election.” The newspaper thinks it would be “nice if the candidates for governor, who have devoted prodigious amounts of time and energy to tearing each other to pieces, expended equal effort in defining the issues that should matter to Virginians.” Alas, “the two candidates … have expended so much time and energy impugning each other’s qualifications that voters would be excused for having no sense of the stakes in the election.” The two candidates? What about the third one, who is running a campaign based on issues rather than attacks? Nary a word.

You could argue there is no point in covering Sarvis because, after all, he has never held elective office. But neither has McAuliffe. You could argue Sarvis scarcely registers in the polls. But that just sets up a vicious circle: Sarvis gets so little coverage because he polls poorly – and he polls poorly because he gets so little coverage.

Besides, in order for Sarvis to poll well, the pollsters actually have to ask about him. But they often don’t.

Last month Quinnipiac put McAuliffe ahead of Cuccinelli by six points. The poll omitted Sarvis entirely. The same goes for a Rasmussen poll several days ago, which asked: “If the election for governor of Virginia were held today, would you vote for Republican Ken Cuccinelli or Democrat Terry McAuliffe?” It also asked if the two candidates’ campaigns were positive or negative, and which one of them was the more ethical of the two. And: “Which candidate do you trust more to deal with government spending: Ken Cuccinelli or Terry McAuliffe?”

Rasmussen claims a margin of error of only 3 percentage points. That might be accurate from a methodological standpoint, but it seems hard to swallow in a broader sense when it omits a third option who has garnered from 7 percent to 10 percent in other polls. Asking people whether they buy Coke or Pepsi is not going to reflect the actual shopping habits of people who buy 7-Up.

The blackout of third-party candidates by pollsters and the media (to which, by the way, The Times-Dispatch has been an exception) has other consequences as well. For instance, it can keep them out of debates. Sarvis already has been absent from the first gubernatorial debate, held in late July in Hot Springs. He also would have been excluded from a debate hosted by the AARP and the League of Women voters, which set participation at 15 percent. Cuccinelli declined to participate, so that event was canceled.

Later this month, the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce will hold another debate. A spokesman says it will exclude Sarvis for “no other reason other than our tradition to provide a forum for the two major-party candidates.”

That leaves just one last debate, to be held Oct. 24. It will be sponsored by Virginia Tech and WDBJ-7, a Roanoke television station. The threshold for that debate is, or at least was, 10 percent.

Sarvis reached that threshold in late August, in a poll by the Emerson College Polling Society. (If you’re skeptical of Emerson, note that its results are in line with those from the better-known Public Policy Polling, which gave Sarvis 9 percent.)

Does this mean he will be invited to the October event? A spokesman for Virginia Tech said the “details of the debate in terms of format, participants, etc.” are in the hands of WDBJ-7’s news director, Kelly Zuber.

Zuber has ignored repeated inquiries.

Others, commendably, have not. Rasmussen says that it is seeing “a shift to a named third-party candidate, in this case Mr. Sarvis, so we will be including his name in our subsequent surveys of this race.”

According to the conservative Media Research Center’s analysis of this year’s race for governor, coverage of Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli has been “viciously negative,” with 24 critical stories for every uncritical one. Coverage of the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, hasn’t exactly been glowing: By the MRC’s estimate, negative stories about him outnumber positive stories three to one.

But Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate, probably would switch places with either of them in a heartbeat. He barely gets mentioned at all — garnering only about 2 percent of all coverage — even though his name will appear on the ballot alongside the other two.

Take a recent piece in Politico. “Terry McAuliffe, Ken Cuccinelli Tax Plan Sparks Local Revolts” explains how the candidates’ desire to lower or eliminate three unpopular businesses taxes is causing heartburn among local government leaders. It begins by noting that “in one of the nastiest political battles of 2013, there’s one thing Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates agree on.” Sarvis agrees with the other two candidates about those taxes, too. Yet the Politico story never mentions him.

Ditto The Washington Post, which recently editorialized about “Virginia’s Dispiriting Election.” The newspaper thinks it would be “nice if the candidates for governor, who have devoted prodigious amounts of time and energy to tearing each other to pieces, expended equal effort in defining the issues that should matter to Virginians.” Alas, “the two candidates … have expended so much time and energy impugning each other’s qualifications that voters would be excused for having no sense of the stakes in the election.” The two candidates? What about the third one, who is running a campaign based on issues rather than attacks? Nary a word.

You could argue there is no point in covering Sarvis because, after all, he has never held elective office. But neither has McAuliffe. You could argue Sarvis scarcely registers in the polls. But that just sets up a vicious circle: Sarvis gets so little coverage because he polls poorly – and he polls poorly because he gets so little coverage.

Besides, in order for Sarvis to poll well, the pollsters actually have to ask about him. But they often don’t.

Last month Quinnipiac put McAuliffe ahead of Cuccinelli by six points. The poll omitted Sarvis entirely. The same goes for a Rasmussen poll several days ago, which asked: “If the election for governor of Virginia were held today, would you vote for Republican Ken Cuccinelli or Democrat Terry McAuliffe?” It also asked if the two candidates’ campaigns were positive or negative, and which one of them was the more ethical of the two. And: “Which candidate do you trust more to deal with government spending: Ken Cuccinelli or Terry McAuliffe?”

Rasmussen claims a margin of error of only 3 percentage points. That might be accurate from a methodological standpoint, but it seems hard to swallow in a broader sense when it omits a third option who has garnered from 7 percent to 10 percent in other polls. Asking people whether they buy Coke or Pepsi is not going to reflect the actual shopping habits of people who buy 7-Up.

The blackout of third-party candidates by pollsters and the media (to which, by the way, The Times-Dispatch has been an exception) has other consequences as well. For instance, it can keep them out of debates. Sarvis already has been absent from the first gubernatorial debate, held in late July in Hot Springs. He also would have been excluded from a debate hosted by the AARP and the League of Women voters, which set participation at 15 percent. Cuccinelli declined to participate, so that event was canceled.

Later this month, the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce will hold another debate. A spokesman says it will exclude Sarvis for “no other reason other than our tradition to provide a forum for the two major-party candidates.”

That leaves just one last debate, to be held Oct. 24. It will be sponsored by Virginia Tech and WDBJ-7, a Roanoke television station. The threshold for that debate is, or at least was, 10 percent.

Sarvis reached that threshold in late August, in a poll by the Emerson College Polling Society. (If you’re skeptical of Emerson, note that its results are in line with those from the better-known Public Policy Polling, which gave Sarvis 9 percent.)

Does this mean he will be invited to the October event? A spokesman for Virginia Tech said the “details of the debate in terms of format, participants, etc.” are in the hands of WDBJ-7’s news director, Kelly Zuber.

Zuber has ignored repeated inquiries.

Others, commendably, have not. Rasmussen says that it is seeing “a shift to a named third-party candidate, in this case Mr. Sarvis, so we will be including his name in our subsequent surveys of this race.”

Perhaps the press could trouble itself to do the same.

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1:26 pm - Tue, Sep 3, 2013
3 notes

Peace and justice are really important.

But supporting your political party apparently is even more important.

Groupthink on the international level? Bad.

Groupthink on the national level, though… .

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2:50 pm - Fri, Aug 9, 2013
32 notes
True story.

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2:11 pm - Thu, Aug 1, 2013
1 note

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1:28 pm

Those Dang Republicans and Their Dang Obstructionism

Liberals are hopping mad that Republicans are trying to “sabotage government" by threatening to defund Obamacare. This is just wrong, they say. Congress passed it, the President signed it, and the Supreme Court signed off on it.

Besides, remember when Democrats consistently supported George W. Bush’s major policy initiatives? That’s how the loyal opposition party is supposed to behave!

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3:57 pm - Wed, Jul 10, 2013
6 notes

GOP Can’t Make Up Its Mind About Mandates

For health insurance, no — but for immigration? Different story:

When the White House announced last week that it was delaying Obamacare’s employer insurance mandate by a year, Republicans pounced. For the past four years they have argued the mandate is a disaster waiting to happen, and last week they took the delay as proof they had been right all along.

“The president’s health care law is already raising costs and costing jobs,” said House Speaker John Boehner. Sen. Orrin Hatch denounced “this job-killing requirement on employers.” Virginia’s Eric Cantor warned that “the added costs and regulations to businesses across our nation mean less jobs and less economic growth,” so nothing less than full repeal would suffice.

Critics have been making the same points since before the law was passed. In their Jan. 2011 report calling Obamacare “A Budget-Busting, Job-Killing Health-Care Law,” House Republicans cited a 2009 study by the National Federation of Independent Business to warn that “an employer mandate alone could lead to the elimination of 1.6 million jobs … with 66 percent of those coming from small businesses.”

And since the law took effect, Republicans have gleefully drawn attention to one of its unintended consequences. Because the employer mandate applies only to full-time workers, many companies are shifting to part-time help. So “Americans are seeing their hours cut and their paychecks reduced as a result of the employer mandate,” said Indiana Rep Todd Young earlier this month.

Clearly, Republicans hate imposing federal mandates on job-creating American businesses, right?

Wrong. In fact, many insist on a federal employer mandate with just as much passion — as soon as the subject turns to immigration, the subject of a closed-door meeting among House Republicans today.

The immigration bill passed by the Senate would require nearly all U.S. employers to check job applicants against an electronic eligibility verification system known as E-Verify. The use of E-Verify is one of the hard triggers Republicans insist must be pulled before unlawful resident aliens can apply for provisional status. Late last month the House Judiciary Committee approved, along partisan lines, a similar proposal. Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte says the measure “balances the need of the American people regarding immigration enforcement with the need of the business community regarding a fair and workable … verification system.”

Tell that to employers like Davis Boris. Boris runs a catering business; his payroll of 25 workers more than triples during busy periods, which means a lot of paperwork even if everything goes right. Yet there’s a good chance that under E-Verify everything wouldn’t. A Homeland Security report predicts a national E-Verify system would create a bureaucratic nightmare so bad “almost 770,000 genuinely legal workers would lose their jobs.” Many more would have to jump through numerous bureaucratic hoops to demonstrate they are who they claim to be. Business such as his, Boris told The New York Times, “don’t have the resources to be catching up with bureaucratic snafus.”

What’s more, this employer mandate is, equally, an individual mandate. The employer has to verify that you have the government’s permission to work. But if any questions come up, the burden of proof falls on you.

Conservatives might respond that once the kinks are worked out, E-Verify will not prove terribly arduous. Setting aside this argument’s touching faith in federal efficiency, it raises other questions: Does that mean their objection to Obamacare’s insurance mandate is strictly utilitarian? Would they accept it gladly if it cost a little less? Do they believe the government can impose as many mandates as it chooses, so long as none of them is too onerous by itself?

Of course not. Republican orthodoxy holds that government should not endlessly dictate the terms by which private enterprise goes about its business, even when those dictates ostensibly serve “the common good.” It doesn’t matter how many people might benefit from a mandate forcing Cathy’s Cupcakes to provide health insurance; whether to provide it should be up to Cathy. Business decisions are best left to those who have the most knowledge and the most right to make them: business owners.

By the same reasoning, it doesn’t matter how many people might benefit from a mandate telling Cathy whom she can hire; if she would prefer Juan over John, that ought to be her business and nobody else’s. And yet the 2012 GOP platform declared that Republicans “insist upon (immigration) enforcement at the workplace through verification systems. … Use of the E-Verify system … must be made mandatory nationwide.” Why? Because “Americans need jobs.”

Well, yes. They do. They also need health insurance. But someone’s needing something does not give government legitimate grounds to make somebody else provide it.

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10:21 am - Sun, Jun 23, 2013
4 notes

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Door No. 3

Virginians don’t have to choose between the lesser of two evils in this year’s gubernatorial race.

____________

 

Virginia voters confronting their choices for governor this year feel much as Woody Allen once did: “”More than at any other time in history,” Allen wrote, “mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

 

The Democrats have nominated the only man in their party to step up: Terry McAuliffe. Denounced – by liberals, no less – as a soulless political hack, McAuliffe is running on the strength of his business acumen, even though his more recent ventures look less like Steve Jobs than Harold Hill. The Republicans have nominated Ken Cuccinelli, who is denounced – by conservatives, no less – as a strident extremist whose views on social issues make Cotton Mather look like Caligula.

 

This might be the only race in recent history where the candidates’ approval ratings go down as their name recognition goes up. The consensus among those who know something about political horse racing holds that most Virginians will be voting against a candidate rather than for one. So some voters may take solace in knowing there is a Door No. 3: Robert Sarvis.

 

The 36-year-old Sarvis has some things going for him: He has submitted 17,000 petititon signatures, or 7,000 more than required to get on the ballot. He is, to put it mildly, smart – having earned degrees in math from Harvard and Cambridge, then a law degree from NYU, then a master’s in economics from GMU. He is a native Virginian. Half-Asian, with an African-American wife, he is bulletproof on diversity grounds. He is wonkish: As a fellow at GMU’s Mercatus Center, he co-authored, among other things, a paper on America’s historical experience with fiscal stimuli. And he is a technological innovator: He was a winner of Google’s 2008 Android Developer challenge for mobile apps.

 

But Sarvis also has some things working against him. He is running on the Libertarian ticket, which almost always is a ticket to oblivion. He has never held public office. This is a major shortcoming for a gubernatorial candidate and could be an even greater one for any governor not named Schwarzenegger. (Sarvis disagrees: He says elective experience does not equal managerial ability.) Granted, Sarvis shares that shortcoming with Terry McAuliffe. Some consolation.

 

At least McAuliffe would have the institutional backing of the Democratic Party. This would help him advance his agenda (which is not necessarily a good thing) while thwarting the GOP (which could be). As a third-party officeholder, Sarvis would have occasional sympathizers in both parties, but allies in neither. Then again, he points out that “each of my opponents is held in such low esteem by members of the opposite party that their ‘effectiveness’ may well be extremely circumscribed.” Besides, he says, effectiveness is overrated: Who wants “a governor who can easily ram through a few dozen hyper-partisan bills”?

 

Still, Sarvis could wind up a caretaker. A caretaker governor might actually benefit Virginia – which is well-managed, has a generally good tax and regulatory climate, and confronts no immediate crisis. Should a crisis arise, though, little benefit would come from having a noob at the helm.

 

Not that anyone has to worry. The last candidate to make an independent bid for governor in Virginia – Republican Russ Potts – won 2 percent of the vote. The last Libertarian to do so, William Redpath, won 0.8 percent.

 

Sarvis might do better. The nation is having a bit of a libertarian moment just now. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is a rising star, which has earned him notice from The Washington Post and brickbats from The New Republic, which portrays him as a dangerous radical. Radicals without influence are objects of mirth, not fear.

 

Given the widespread dismay over Virginia’s two major-party candidates, Sarvis could rack up a larger protest vote, percentage-wise, than any independent since Ross Perot. To do so, he first will have to convince the public it need not choose between despair and extinction in order to choose correctly.

 

 

 


 

_________________________________________________________

 

Sarvis on the Issues

 

 

Abortion

 

The absolutism on the issue is ruining our political discourse. I think most voters would like some relief from the demonization and over-the-top rhetoric coming from both sides.

… Unsatisfying though it may be to the one-issue voters out there, I prefer to see no decisive legislation in either direction… . I will, however, take a position on the two recent Republican bills that were passed mandating ultrasounds and applying hospital regulations to abortion clinics. These were bad laws, on rule-of-law and scope-of-government grounds, and even pro-life people should have objected to them.

 

 

“Tebow” Bills

 

I support allowing home-schooled students to participate in government-subsidized athletic (and other extracurricular) programs that are tied to local-area schools. Isn’t it so ironic that liberals who express such great concern about monopolists in the marketplace and their harmful practices of “bundling” services together are so quick to re-create and defend identical behavior in the public sector?

 

Voter ID

 

It intuitively makes sense to have people show identification to vote. The arguments of both Democrats and Republicans are probably overstated, though. The rate of in-person voter identity fraud is probably very low, but suggestions that voter-ID laws have the effect, and even the purpose, of broad racial disenfranchisement just strikes me as absurd demagoguery.

 

 

Climate Change

 

 

I accept that the scientific consensus on climate change is that the Earth is warming and that human activity plays a role. Accepting the scientific consensus, however, only goes so far. The appropriate policy response, all things considered, is far from clear. Most policies … aimed at combating climate change are wrong-headed, counter-productive, and wasteful. Federal ethanol subsidies are an obvious example… Approaches that put a price on carbon-dioxide/methane/etc. emissions make more sense, so that markets can determine how to economize most efficiently.

 

Right-to-Work

 

I support right-to-work laws, given the existence of various misguided federal laws that over-regulate labor markets. I would prefer the federal government get out of the business of micromanaging labor relations, especially because the existing federal regulations often harm the poorest and least skilled members of the workforce. But as long as the current federal regime exists, right-to-work laws are a good thing.

 

Medicaid Expansion

 

Federal policy is the major reason the health-care system is so screwed up. And federal policy, which we can’t much control at the state level, is moving in the wrong direction. We should reject any further federal influence over our state policies in health-care and elsewhere. Moreover, the Medicaid expansion comes with diminishing federal subsidies over time, meaning expansion now will lead inexorably to future state-level spending increases and tax increases and the crowding out of other spending priorities.

 

The Transportation Deal

 

The transportation bill was a mistake and should be redone properly. I fully recognize the transportation needs of the state, and emphasize that being against a particular bill does not mean ignoring our transportation needs… . We should have moved closer to a system in which users pay for the transportation infrastructure they use. Instead, we moved in the OPPOSITE direction. The gas tax wasn’t perfect, but it was better than the tax increases and new taxes we got, which have no relation to road usage and pay into the general fund, with no security that the revenue will actually go toward transportation.

 

Comments

2:34 pm - Fri, Jun 21, 2013

The GOP’s Immigration Problem

Will Wilkinson:

The energetic ideological base of the Republican Party is a nationalist, identity-politics movement for relatively well-to-do older white Americans known as the “tea party”. The tea party is interested in bald eagles, American flags, the founding fathers, Jesus Christ, fighter jets, empty libertarian rhetoric, and other markers of “authentic” American identity and supremacy. That America is “a nation of immigrants” is a stock piece of American identity politics, but the immigrants that made America America were, well, not Mexican, and spoke English, or at least Pennsylvania Dutch. Sorry Mexicans! Even if each element of immigration reform, taken in isolation, is agreed to be a good idea by a solid majority of Republican voters, Republican politicians must nevertheless avoid too-enthusiastically supporting this package of good ideas, lest they fail to project sufficient appreciation for the importance of keeping America American and putting Americans first…

[T]he demands of tea-party political correctness places the GOP in a perverse and harrowing collective action problem. Given the demographic composition of the American electorate and its outlook, the GOP courts collective political annihilation by further alienating non-white voters. Yet it remains individually rational for most Republican politicians to partake in precisely the sort of posturing identity politics that most alienates immigration-friendly voters.

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1:00 pm - Tue, Jun 18, 2013
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Today in “Too Stupid for Words” …

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1:04 pm - Mon, Jun 17, 2013
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12:25 pm - Thu, Jun 13, 2013
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ccindecision:

Our thoughts are with Rep. Steve King (R-IA) in this difficult hour. Having your office visited by college kids holding menacing an umbrella looks utterly terrifying.

Photo via @maricelaguilar

If only the NSA had a program to monitor the communications of potential future enemy combatants, tragic events like this could be avoided…

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