My social media feed has lit up with cyber-angst and the digital rending of robes in response to comments made by Ann Coulter in her most recent column. “Ann Coulter Wants to Drown Libertarian Voters” reads the headline over at Before It’s News. “Ann Coulter just told libertarian voters that she wants to drown them,” echos the libertarian publication Rare. Reason piles on as well. Even some lefty publications have jumped on the bandwagon.
The problem with these headlines, and some of the writing which follows them, is the attention they deflect from the vital point she made. If you take time to soberly read Coulter’s column, it becomes clear her comments were benign and even in libertarians’ best interest. She wasn’t addressing libertarians as such, but voters who throw their vote away on third party candidates. The relevant excerpt:
The biggest current danger for Republicans is that idiots will vote for Libertarian candidates in do-or-die Senate elections, including Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and Colorado. (That’s in addition to the “Independent” in Kansas who’s a Democrat.) Democratic candidates don’t have to put up with this crap — they’re even trying to dump the official Democrat in Kansas to give the stealth Democrat a better shot.
When we’re all dying from lack of health care across the United States of Mexico, we’ll be deeply impressed with your integrity, libertarians.
Which brings me to my final assignment this week: If you are considering voting for the Libertarian candidate in any Senate election, please send me your name and address so I can track you down and drown you.
I won’t waste time defending Coulter’s rhetorical choices. Suffice it to say, she’s read widely due in large part to her antagonistic style. But when you push past that to the substance of her argument, where is she wrong?
Indeed, a few cycles back, the Democrats did a fair job of browbeating their third party competitors into towing the line for the sake of “the greater good.” Remember Michael Moore and Bill Maher getting on their knees to beg Ralph Nader not to run for president in 2004?
Why would they do that? Why would they care if Ralph Nader did or did not run? Aren’t they principled? Don’t they believe in the ideals which Nader professes?
A good related question might be: why do leftist publications like Salon and Talking Points Memo revel in repeating Coulter’s rhetoric? Is it possible that they hope to wedge the vote on the Right?
We have a deadly serious problem within the liberty movement, the Tea Party, and similar factions. Too many of our activists regard their vote as a wedding band, as if filling in the bubble next to someone’s name on a ballot were declaring undying love for everything they’ve said or done. It’s a mentality which has certainly contributed to Republican losses, and in turn contributed to radical Democratic policy.
Senator Al Franken of Minnesota was the 60th vote for Obamacare, elected after a controversial recount process which never would have been necessary had many “principled” voters thought beyond their flawed sense of integrity.
In too many circles, having the audacity to make this point (even without drowning rhetoric) makes you a “sellout” to “the establishment” (whatever that is). Nevermind the plain inescapable reality that any given political contest has a victor. “None of the above” has never been elected. Thus the “lesser of two evils” is actually the best of available options, a fact which will always be true no matter who is on the ballot.
The irrational stubbornness with which too many activists reject that point can be maddening, particularly as we suffer under increasingly radical policies which have a real effect on our lives and futures. It’s like sharing a lifeboat with people objecting to its color. In the absence of a better viable choice, you have to make do with the means of survival you have.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 20:00 minutes long; 19.26 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)