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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Are Liberty-Loving Virginians Really This Foolish?

Democrats seem to have come upon a very successful tactic for winning seemingly unwinnbale elections: Sit back and let the opposition defeat itself. The latest example of this could be the Virginia gubernatorial election, if the race turns out the way polls are indicating it will. The Democratic candidate, former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, leads his Republican opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, by nearly eight percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average of recent public polls. Cuccinelli hasn't run a terrible campaign, nor has he made any Akin-esque gaffes to speak of. Rather, his biggest problem is actually another candidate named Robert Sarvis, a lawyer and businessman who's running as the Libertarian candidate for Governor.
The latest polls of the race show Sarvis, who ran unsuccessfully for the Virginia State Senate in 2011 but has never held public office, garnering anywhere from 3% to 13% support among "likely" Virginia voters. All those polls also show McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli, but in most of them, the Democrat registers less support than Cucinelli and Sarvis combined, and the poll results that break down voter preferences by party identification show Sarvis drawing more support from Republicans than Democrats. It is hard to believe that Sarvis's candidacy isn't benifitting McAuliffe and hurting Cuccinelli.
Virginia's official motto is, "Sic semper tyrannis" ("Thus always to tyrants."), and Virginians have a long history of preferring liberty to tyranny. The conclusive battle of the Revolutionary War was fought and won by the Americans at Yorktown. In the nineteenth century, Virginia resisted federal encroachment on its sovereignty and, along with ten other states, seceded from the Union to form the Confederacy (though fighting to keep slavery legal didn't exactly put them on the side of liberty, either).

History also is replete with examples of how Virginans (like so many others) have seen their liberty eroded when the wrong people have been put in charge. Even after the Civil War, Democrats enacted and implemented segregation and other Jim Crow laws that deprived Negroes of their rights and made it clear to all other Virginians that they weren't living in a free society but rather a society in which the government decided which rights people ought to have. (Sound familiar?)

In recent years, the voting patterns of Virginians have made it difficult to figure out where the voters' sympathies lie. Since the turn of the last century, changing demographics and the growth of the federal government have fueled a Democratic shift at the state, and then the federal, level, particularly in northern Virginia, where a lot of residents are either on the federal payroll or work in industries that depend on government largesse to stay alive. Virginians elected Democratic governors in 2001 and 2005 and traded Republican Sen. George Allen for Democrat Jim Webb in 2006; Democrats won control of the State Senate in 2007; and, in 2008, Barack Obama became the first Democrat to carry Virginia in a presidential election since 1964. (He won the state again, albeit by a narrower margin, in 2012.) Between Obama's election and re-election, however, Virginians appeared to be turning back toward the GOP. Republicans won all three statewide races--for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general--in 2009, ousted three Democratic incumbents in the U.S. House in 2010, and flipped two State Senate seats in 2011 to regain control of that chamber.

Since then, however, it's been mostly bad news for Virginians who favor liberty over big government. In 2012, 51% of voters in Old Dominion supported Obama's re-election, and 53% voted for Democrat Tim Kaine in the U.S. Senate race. Popular Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell is dragging his feet on entering the race for U.S. Senate next year, when Sen. Mark Warner (D), elected in the Democratic wave of 2008, will be up for re-election. As previously mentioned, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is trailing Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the race for governor.

Whatever the overall mood of the Virginia electorate is at the moment, the fact that the pro-freedom candidates are registering more support in the polls than the anti-freedom candidate suggests that a majority, or at least a plurality, of Virginia voters value liberty more than whatever redeeming qualities big-government hucksters like Terry McAuliffe have to offer, which only worsens the prospective travesty of McAuliffe being elected governor because of his opposition splitting the vote.

Surely Virginians who are smart enough to know better than to vote for Terry McAuliffe are cognizant of the reality that Sarvis is not going to win, but why then would they vote for him instead of Cuccinelli, thereby handing the election to McAuliffe? It doesn't make sense. Maybe it would if Cuccinelli and Sarvis were worlds apart on major issues, but Cuccinelli's record is more in line with the libertarian-leaning wing of the GOP than the hard-line "conservative" wing; he has worked hard fighting Obamacare in court and enjoyed at least one success when the Supreme Court ruled the Medicaid exapnsion mandated by the law unconstitutionally coercive; he has rolled out a fiscally responsible tax plan that slashes the Commonwealth's income tax rates and a sensible energy plan that calls for removing bureaucratic red tape and burdensome regulations to expand energy exploration and production; and he "wants to outmaneuver [school] voucher opponents by giving tax credits to those who donate money to provide private- and parochial-school tuition to poor, middle-class, and disabled students," thus allowing parents greater choice in education. He has also pledged to protect Virginians' 2nd Amendment rights and has criticized his own party for big-government boondoggles such as Medicare Part D, the No Child Left Behind Act and the Wall Street bailouts. His libertarian bona fides were sufficient to secure the endorsement of former Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul (R) and a host of liberty-focused advocacy groups. Indeed, one wonders what makes Sarvis so much more appealing to voters who supposedly cherish their liberty than Cuccinelli. Whatever it is, it's enough to make them willing to aid and abet the election of a big-government Democrat while wasting their vote on a candidate sure to finish a distant third. Oh, well. Sic semper fatuis.