10.29.2013 0

Sarvis: A third party cautionary tale

RobertSarvisBy Rick Manning

The Virginia Governor’s race may be decided by how many votes Robert Sarvis, who is listed as the Libertarian candidate, attracts.

In a state that does not have political party registration, candidates have a lot flexibility on issues, and many of Sarvis’ views might surprise those who associate the Libertarian Party with limited government/liberty principles.

For instance, one would expect that a libertarian would support lower taxes on both the argument against government confiscating wealth at the point of a gun, and as a practical means to starve the ever growing government beast.

Astonishingly, Sarvis actually favors higher taxes including an increase in gasoline taxes and the latest fad, a mile-driven tax.  In Oregon, this tax is being enacted by putting tracking devices in vehicles that the government monitors and bills your credit card, much like the EZPass system, only using satellite technology.

The Sarvis support for this type of mileage tax with its resultant government monitoring of individual drivers is difficult to reconcile with traditional Libertarian Party concerns for privacy with a particular emphasis on stopping government intrusion into every aspect of our lives.  Yet, Sarvis doesn’t seem to mind having the government authorized to track every time you drive to the dump, Grandma’s house or even to work.

Incredibly, Sarvis also agrees with Democrat candidate Terry on expanding Medicaid in Virginia under Obamacare, adding 400,000 more people to the dependency state.  In his own words, he just wants more state flexibility on how to administer the program.

Sarvis is perhaps the first Libertarian Party candidate in history who has advocated a dramatic expansion of the size and scope of government.

The Commonwealth’s Libertarian Party candidate’s willingness to increase the cost of Medicaid services by as much as $1.8 billion a year is perhaps best explained by his statement to Reason Magazine, “I’m not into the whole Austrian type, strongly libertarian economics, I like more mainstream economics and would have been happy to go elsewhere” [meaning, other than George Mason University’s economics program.]

For those unfamiliar with what the term “more mainstream economics” means, Sarvis is telling a libertarian magazine that he is in fact a follower of Keynesian economics.  This admission to an economic belief system that, at its core, justifies government as an integral part of determining winners and losers in the economy is stunning.

It is impossible to reconcile Sarvis’ words and the policy proscriptions supported by Sarvis with the first three paragraphs of the Libertarian Party platform:

“We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.

“We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.

“Governments throughout history have regularly operated on the opposite principle, that the State has the right to dispose of the lives of individuals and the fruits of their labor. Even within the United States, all political parties other than our own grant to government the right to regulate the lives of individuals and seize the fruits of their labor without their consent.”

The Sarvis candidacy should serve as a warning for every third party effort to protect your brand.  By his own admission, Sarvis is getting a lot of attention as the “none of the above” candidate, but what good does it do to have a candidate in the spotlight if he or she does not reflect core values to the electorate?

Of course, maybe the Libertarian Party has changed over the years, and now supports putting monitoring mechanisms in our vehicles that allows the already overly snoopy government to track our every move so they can be taxed.

Maybe the Libertarians have suddenly become the political party supporting expanded government entitlements, paid for by the dwindling number of producers in our society.

And perhaps the Libertarian Party has rejected the economic philosophy of Frederick Hayek and Ayn Rand in favor of the one favored by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Barack Obama.

But if they have, should they be required to put a warning label next to their political party designation – Libertarian in Name Only?

Across the nation, third party groups will be looking for candidates, whether they are called Tea Party, Green or Libertarian.

The Sarvis lesson is simple.  Before giving your good name to a candidate, it is wise to conduct enough vetting to ensure that the person who will carry your banner agrees with your fundamental principles.

Otherwise, the hard work, brand and legitimacy of these philosophically driven movements can be subsumed to a personality who doesn’t represent the basic ideals that make these political party’s unique, destroying the entire reason people were attracted to them in the first place.

 Rick Manning is the vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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