Ken Moellman is the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Kentucky (LPKY). He was a candidate for Kentucky state treasurer in 2011, a race in which he came in third place with 37,261 votes, or 4.6% of the vote.
About Vote Splitting – Political Analysis
Published June 11, 2013
By Ken Moellman
I often hear people lament that Libertarians split the vote and cause their candidate to lose. I hear this more often from Republicans, but I also hear it from Democrats, as well. And you hear all sorts of silly accusations, as well.
As seen on facebook: “Seems to me….that when an independent runs…it splits the Rep. vote and the Dem wins….Can’t help but wonder if the Dems are funding the independent candidates.”
My political analysis on this is pretty straight-forward. As one who’s personally been accused of costing a Republican to lose, and who currently leads the 3rd largest party in the state, I have done quite a bit of analysis on this.
Generally, the Republicans run as “not Democrats”, rather than “for” something. Certainly, there are exceptions, but look at the races of the past few years: “We need to stop the Democrat agenda,” “We need to stop Obama.” These are not campaigns built on a promising future, but built on stopping a dystopian one.
By contrast, independents and other parties run on a platform to somehow improve things. When I ran my race, I ran to eliminate what I believe is an outdated office. Others, like Gatewood Galbraith (I), ran on a number of issues, a few of which resonated, and at least one of which has been implemented; industrial hemp.
And this is a healthy and long-standing tradition of 3rd and 4th candidates in any particular race. Even when they don’t win, they help move the discourse in a positive direction. Gatewood never won an election, but we now have an industrial hemp framework. I didn’t win, but the once-lost proposal to eliminate the treasurer’s office resurfaced.
On a national scale, Ross Perot is generally considered to have made Bush I and Dole lose, despite there being clear evidence to the contrary. Despite losing in 1992 and 1996, he was successful in pushing for NAFTA reform, which came in the mid-90s, and forcing the public debate on balancing the budget leading to an attempt to do so in the late 90s. These are good things.
Since ballot access rules became so draconian (they weren’t always that way), and since the districts have become so much larger (our state house districts of 45,000 people each are larger than the original US Congressional Districts of 33,000 people each), it’s been harder for independent and non-D/R candidates to win races.
In the past, the bigger parties would absorb like-causes into their own platform, once hey hit a certain popularity. The Prohibition Party, for instance, was absorbed in the Republican Party. Likewise, many progressive/socialist/workers parties were absorbed by the Democratic Party. In Minnesota, the state affiliate of the Democratic Party is still known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
Republicans (the primary complainers) could do well to adapt some of these causes under their roof. They could take fiscal responsibility seriously. They could take liberty seriously. However, when the Tea Party rose up, the Republican establishment initially rejected them, and sought to exclude them (and in some cases they were successful, both in Kentucky and elsewhere). I believe that this action alone is what helped cause the Republicans to lose a good opportunity to win nationally, in 2012. Kicking your energized base to the curb is stupid.
The Republicans had geared up their talking machines to blame Libertarians for Romney’s loss, weeks ahead of the election. They’d done such a thorough job, that even after the numbers came out and proved it wasn’t the case, that Libertarians were blamed by the GOP-faithful anyway. There’s nothing like making your hardcore supporters look stupid to hurt your movement, as well.
If political organizations are to grow and to be successful, they need to incorporate and include more people, more voices, and more ideas. I believe that is one factor in the growth of the Libertarian Party, and specifically here in Kentucky. We understand that people won’t be 100%ers, and that’s okay. We’re working together, for liberty, and we welcome new people into the fold.
If Republicans want to succeed as a party, they need to be “for” something. They need to stop excluding people. They need to use the resources they have at their fingertips. And I can say this because, for the most part, the Republican establishment doesn’t care; either out of arrogance that they know better than I do, or because they have power, even in being #2. Either way, it’s the future of their party. I don’t really care.
The problems the Democrats face, especially in Kentucky, are menacing as well, but they have more to do with what’s happening nationally. And that’s another topic, for another day.
Oh, and at least on my side of the fence, while all donations are greatly appreciated, we aren’t funded by anyone except our friends and family, generally. For some reason, the political insiders don’t want to fund people who won’t give them a leg-up on the rest of society. Huh.