May 24, 2004

JACOB T. LEVY writes on the libertarian threat to Bush and suggests that Bush’s people are in denial. I agree with this. Bush’s positions on stem cell research, abortion, etc., are damaging there, and the war’s pretty much a wash, with libertarians divided.

I’ve gotten some emails asking why I like Bush so much. I don’t really — I support him on the war, but if Lieberman or Gephardt had gotten the Democratic nomination, I wouldn’t have a strong preference. (They’re not my faves on other issues, but neither is Bush, whose policies on stem cells, abortion, etc., differ from mine rather sharply). Despite the claims of some writers that Bush and Kerry will have more in common than we think on foreign policy and the war (which may be true) I don’t have the same confidence in Kerry. I suppose he could change my mind on that, but I don’t really expect that he will.

But my support for Bush has more to do with the character of his opposition, really, than with Bush himself. (You don’t see a lot of Bush hagiography here). And I think libertarians who feel differently about the war have no real reason to support Bush — he’s been wishy-washy on gun control, big on spending, and generally a big-government kind of guy, not a government-off-your-back kind of guy. (And don’t get me started on Homeland Security).

Would Kerry be worse for libertarian principles than Bush? He’d probably like to be. But in reality, it’s not likely to matter a lot.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan says the slide in Bush’s approval ratings is due to the loss of Republican and libertarian support.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon observes: “There ain’t no libertarianism in Tehran or Riyadh–small or large ‘L.’ Hardly anyone even dreams of such things. What there is is a lot of Medievalism. I’m putting some of my stuff on hold for a few years. They can too.”

MORE: Bainbridge doesn’t think libertarians matter, while Brendan Loy thinks that libertarians will get some votes from unhappy Republicans, but then adds:

Of course, this notion of possible Bush weakness among libertarians and Republicans only serves to underscore what a truly terrible choice John Kerry was, and is, for the Democratic nomination. Either Edwards or Lieberman could have realistically won these people’s votes; Kerry’s best hope is that they’ll vote Libertarian or stay home.

It’s a damn shame we picked such a bad candidate when it turns out our opponent was going to be so vulnerable.

As I’ve said all along, Bush has always been vulnerable. But the Democrats have a constitutional problem with doing what it takes to capitalize on it.

Meanwhile Libertarian Dr. Kate is “rock solid” for Bush, and reports: “all the registered Libs I know are planning to vote for Bush. In Massachusetts, that’s saying something.” Stay tuned.