Today the Libertarian Party of Texas released its 2009 Legislative Scorecard (PDF). It’s proudly heralded by Texas Libertarian Party Chairman Patrick Dixon who announces:
“Very soon voters will have an opportunity to determine who will occupy these seats in the next session. The only way to ensure that your legislator will work for personal and economic liberty is to vote Libertarian.”
That’s a fine claim, except that according to their own calculations, almost all of the Republican state house incumbents classify as “libertarian” in their rating system, and a number of them have very impressive scores which Libertarian Party candidates would have a hard time matching if elected.
A bit more investigation turns up the fact that despite the high overall libertarian rankings for members of the Texas House (the Senate did much worse), they are running Libertarian Party candidates against many of the highest rated Republicans, including 3 of the 5 most libertarian incumbents and one who scored over 90% in their rankings.
This suggests that despite the claims of many of their adherents that they hate the party loyalty which characterizes the two major parties, the main distinguishing characteristic of Libertarian Party members in Texas is loyalty to their party rather than a desire to actually put libertarians in office.
Libertarian Republicans who the Libertarian Party itself has identified and who have a proven track record, stand far more chance of being elected than any Libertarian Party candidate, yet the Libertarian Party is still doggedly opposing them, condemning them as “statists” and “neocons” and generally ignoring the proven track records of great libertarian Republican legislators like Debbie Riddle, Randy Weber and Charles Anderson. And remember that these are just state legislators. They have no history of associating with the hated Bush administration or supporting foreign wars. They’re just local legislators who are fiscally responsible and support individual liberty — the essence of libertarianism.
They do this because although they rate incumbents, the Libertarian Party makes no effort to determine which incumbents deserve to be opposed and which ones deserve to be supported or to control which races they run candidates in. To some degree this is because most of their candidates are just paper candidates who aren’t even campaigning. They just sign up and get nominated with no oversight or even basic assessment of their qualifications. This is a terribly misconceived strategy which degrades the quality of the Libertarian Party brand and can lead to the defeat of sitting libertarian Republicans in hotly contested races where the 1 or 2 percent vote for a Libertarian Party candidate can do real damage.
It’s actually rather bizarre that the Libertarian Party in Texas would do all the hard work of rating candidates and then release the ratings too late in the election to be much use and without making any effort to use them as the basis of how they target their efforts. If they focused on running just a few well funded candidates against the worst legislators and didn’t waste so much time and money on unelectable challengers to Republicans with libertarian voting records, they might actually win some races and earn some respect.
As things stand now, the release of these ratings just shows what a sad joke and what an obstacle to the advancement of libertarian ideals the Libertarian Party is in Texas. Their misguided efforts are likely to reduce the number of libertarians in office in Texas largely out of an irrational obsession with party labels.