Bill Richardson’s Libertarian Fan Club

Bill Richardson might get little attention in the media (except for an ocassional scandal) but he is attracting interest among one group–libertarians. I’ve already seen favorable mention of him at several left-libertarian sites, and now this interest has been noticed by the mainstream media. Liz Mair of The New York Sun reviews the top Democratic candidates from a libertarian perspective and isn’t impressed. She argues that this is a mistake:

This is a surprising oversight on the part of Democrats because, according to the libertarian Cato Institute, Democrats have made real gains in attracting the support of libertarian voters in recent years, partially as the result of good candidate-recruitment out West and partially because the Republican Party has done so much to trash its reputation for fiscal responsibility.

Whereas the roughly 13% of the American electorate that could be described as libertarian supported George W. Bush over Al Gore by 72% to 20% percent in 2000, by 2004, Mr. Bush’s margin among these voters had dropped to just 59% to 38% over Senator Kerry.

More significantly, according to Cato, between the 2002 and 2006 mid-term elections, libertarian voters went from favoring Republicans over Democrats by a margin of 47 percentage points to favoring them by just 23 percentage points. In other words, Democrats are winning in part because they’ve been gaining ground with libertarians.

While Mair isn’t happy with the front runners, there is one candidate that interests her:

With these three topping the bill, it’s hard to see which candidate on the Democratic side has any ability to change the map in 2008 — at least as far as the West is concerned. After all, Sen. Kerry only would have needed 70,000 voters in New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada (folks who, presumably, want to keep both their money and their guns) to flip the electoral college in 2004. Perhaps the Democrats would do well to consider someone with a proven record as a libertarian, and not a liberal, Democrat: someone like Bill Richardson.

Mr. Richardson scored third best of any Democratic governor for overall current-term performance on Cato’s 2006 Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors. He earned a better grade than 37 other Governors, including 20 Republicans, in part because, during his tenure, New Mexico’s top marginal income tax rate has dropped a remarkable 35%.

Mr. Richardson also brings good credentials where immigration, guns, and social issues are concerned. He declared a border emergency in his state in 2005 (so he’s no immigration softie), and he voted against the Brady Bill and other gun control initiatives while in Congress. Yet, Mr. Richardson also has solid, moderate, pro-choice credentials, and is not a proponent of constitutional bans on gay marriage or civil unions.

Mr. Richardson’s record and his views could resonate with libertarian Democrats, and that’s something that should give Democratic Party bigwigs pause for thought.

The Democratic Party has the opportunity to bring the fight to Republicans if they nominate someone like Mr. Richardson, who can compete with a Rudy Giuliani or a John McCain for liberty minded voters. Alternately, by ignoring Mr. Richardson, Democrats will be giving Republicans a free ride with a group they’ve been doing their darndest to alienate for the last seven-plus years.

It’s a gift the Republicans will take. But there’s little reason for the Democrats to give it.

When Mair criticized Democrats from a libertarian perspective it was accompanied by a conservative bias, concentrating on issues such as tax cuts and gun control. If other issues such as the war, abortion rights, separation of church and state, and civil liberties are considered the Democrats look much better compared to Republicans than this article would make it seem (although HillaryCare is a strong argument against the current front runner). A Rudy Giuliani or John McCain would make a horrible choice for “liberty minded voters.” The major Republican candidates lean towards the authoritarian as opposed to the libertarian side in comparison with the Democrats, but some Democrats, such as possibly Bill Richardson, may be preferable over others.

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15 Comments

  1. 1
    Eric Dondero says:

    Libertarians are rallying behind Rudy Giuliani for President. He’s fiscally conservative/socially tolerant and most importantly Pro-War on Islamo-Fascism.

    No Libertarian in their right mind could be soft on Islamo-Fascism. These are the people who want to cloak your girlfriend in an ugly black burqa from head to toe, force you to kneel down to Allah 5 times a day at the point of a gun, stone loose women to death in your town square, outlaw booze and gambling, cut off the genitals of your gay friends, and jail your marijuana-smoking buddy for life.

    How is that Libertarian???

    Rudy gets it! He’s willing to stand up to the Islamo-Fascists.

    Yes, Bill Richardson is a fine Governor. Yes, he has some limited libertarian appeal.

    But Rudy was just rated “Moderate Libertarian” scoring 60/60 by the non-partisan Ontheissues.com, while Richardson was rated “Moderate Liberal” scoring 30/50.

    Rudy’s been called a “libertarian” in the last few weeks by the LA Times, NY Sun, London Times-Herald, National Review, American Spectator, and numerous other periodicals and on-line magazines and blogs.

    Libertarians for Rudy Giuliani at http://www.mainstreamlibertarian.com

    Eric Dondero, Fmr. Senior Aide
    US Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX)
    1997-2003

  2. 2
    Eric Dondero says:

    Oh, one other thing. That’s Liz Mair, not Liz Mar. Liz is a friend of mine. She’s leaning heavily towards Rudy or McCain at the moment. As Editor/Publisher of http://www.gopprogress.com, I don’t think we’ll be seeing an endorsment from Liz for any Democrat any time soon. Some nice words perhaps; but an endorsement as your article implies, hardly.

    Eric Dondero, CEO
    http://www.mainstreamlibertarian.com

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Giuliani’s support for the war, which has nothing to do with fighting “Islamo-Facism” is the main reason that true libertarians cannot support him. The war, beyond being a violation of libertarian principles, has acted to strengthen al Qaeda and Iran while undermining the ability of the United States to fight Muslim fundamentalists.

    Rudy has been called libertarian to the distress of many libertarians who regret how the term has been used by right wingers who are not libertarian.While more moderate than other Republicans on social issues, he is hardly a libertarian. Incidentally, your name came up just a couple of days ago in a libertarian discussion group about the problem of the libertarian name being discredited by right wingers using the label. It’s interesting that you continue to use Ron Paul’s name in your sig in comments backing the war, considering Paul’s opposition to the war.

    Sorry for the error on Mair’s name which I fixed. I am not in any wayimplying that Mair is personally endorsing Richardson as I quoted from her column. While not a libertarian, Richardson has attracted the interest of many libertarians.

  4. 4
    Eric Dondero says:

    You are dead wrong Sir! Many Libertarians are backing Rudy. And we are proud of his support for the aptly-named War on Islamo-Fascism.

    This isn’t a War about Iraq, or Afghanistan. This is a Global War against a civilization of people stuck in the 11th Century who want to destroy Western Culture, Capitalism and most especially the United States of America.

    Most of the so-called Libertarians who are opposing the War are actually Leftwingers in disguise who’ve infiltrated our libertarian movement.

    They care little for the social liberties agenda, of protecting Pro-Choice, legalizing Marijuana, prostitution, gambling, booze, ect… Thus, they have no problems with aligning themselves with Islamo-Fascists and making apologies for them.

    I’ve got a Libertarian resume that would make your head spin buddy. 22+ years of hardcore Libertarian activism for the Libertarian Party, and Libertarian Repubilcans at every level imagaginable, from lonley street corner petitioners to top Senior Aide to US Congressman Ron Paul. Don’t try to tell me “what is and what is not libertarian.”

  5. 5
    Eric Dondero says:

    I left Ron Paul’s employ, resigned my post after 12 years of service to him as his top Personal Aide because of his opposititon to the War in Iraq. Ron campaigned here in our South Texas District as a Pro-America, Pro-Troops, Pro-Defense, Red, White and Blue guy. And then after 9/11 he turned Leftist on foreign policy. Many of us were shocked by his turn around. I couldn’t take it any more. And I resigned my cushy Congressional job with him.

    So, you’re accusing me of being a “Right-winger” huh?

    The reason I despise Islamo-Fascism and support the War on Islamo-Fascism is PRECISELY because I am Pro-Choice, Pro-Drug Legalization, Pro-Prostitution, Pro-Gambling, Pro-Topless Beaches, Pro-Swingers Rights, Pro-Adult Pornography, Pro-Tolerance for my Gay friends, ect…

    That’s hardly a “Right-wing view.”

    Look what the Radical Muslims are doing across Europe. They are out to destroy all those rights.

    They even killed Theo van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn for standing up to them.

    Like I said, the reason Leftys are aligned with Islamo-Fascists and continually make excuses for them, is because they are not true Civil Libertarians. Leftys care very little for the issues I raised above outside of Pro-Choice on abortion. In fact, many Leftys these days have become fierce drug warriors, and oppose prostitution and gambling and such.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Eric,

    The war has nothing to do with fighting the poorly named “Islamo Fascism.” Saddam was a brutal dictator, but he had a secular dictatorship which was considered the enemy by radical islamists. The war has strengthened the radicals.

    It is Giuliani and the Republicans who have been weak on terrorism. During the Clinton years Republicans opposed efforts to fight al Qaeda. During the first months of the Bush administration, Bush ignored plans for fighting al Qaeda passed down by the Clinton administration, most likely as they didn’t believe a non-government group could be such a thread. After 9/11 they took advantage of the situation to push their pre-9/11 policies, including elements of the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq. By playing politics rather than going after al Qaeda, they strentgthened al Qaeda (including by turning moderate Muslims against the US) and even allowed bin Laded to escape when he was surrounded at Tora Bora.

    “Lefty’s” are hardly alligned with “Islamo-Fascists.” We object that you are playing into their hands and are weakening the ability of the US to fight the fundamentalists.

    While libertarianism is used in many ways, the views you express are outside of any meaningful definition of libertarianism. While I appreciate your libertarian-leanings on some issues, and would prefer to see those views dominate on the right, I, and many libertarinans, would not consider groups such as yours to be libertarian.

  7. 7
    JB says:

    I lived in NYC when Rudy was mayor. He was a big proponent of the “broken window theory” and accordingly cracked down on “quality of life” issues like squee-gee men, etc.

    A few of the things he did included banning dancing in nightclubs, forming squads of police officers charged with monitoring bars (they shut down a friend’s bar for a week due to improperly stored ice scoops), ticketing jay-walkers, etc.

    He also siezed buildings from squatters, even though they were private property under “adverse possesion” and New York State law because they had been occupied for over ten years. These buildings were demolished and replaced with luxury condos.

    That’s why most of Rudy’s libertarian supporters are not New Yorkers. Those who experiened Rudy as a mayor know that he may be a libertarian in his views, but he’s an authoritarian at heart.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    “That’s why most of Rudy’s libertarian supporters are not New Yorkers.”

    Thanks for more examples, which are consistent with what I’ve heard about Giuliani from others.

    Not only are most of Rudy’s “libertarian” supporters not New Yorkers, most are not even true libertarians. For example the Mainstream Libertarian group which commented above is a conservative Repubican group which has taken and distorted the libertarian name, to the distress of many libertarians. While they are more libertarian than the average Republican, and may be preferable to the average Republican, they are still conservative Republicans so their support for Giuliani is neither surprising nor libertarian.

    In the responses to another post, Dondero even listed Brownback as the second most libertarian candidate and his possible VP choice. If Brownback is considered libertarian leaning, this hardly has the meaning which most would attribute to libertarian. Dondero is also widely mocked on libertarian boards for, among other things, claiming that Dana Rohrabacher is the founder of the libertarian movement–further showing that he is a conservative Republican who is outside the actual libertarian movement.

  9. 9
    Chris in NJ says:

    ignore Dondero. Ron Paul fired him and he has an axe to grind.

    He spams all sorts of libertarian blogs with his support for Benito Giuliani.

    Behind Ron Paul, Bill Richardson is the best choice for libertarians. And he’s probably electable.

    I am still a Ron Paul guy, but Richardson is clearly the best Democrat.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    Chris,

    Dondero has made a number of off the wall comments here. He’s amusing, but otherwise has not had anything meaningful to say.

    One thing I’m curious about. I believe he said he quit working for Paul due to his opposition to the war. Do you know for certain that Ron Paul actually fired Dondero?

    Richardson may be the best Democrat from a libertarian perspective, and in theory may be electable, but he is blowing his chances. He needs to do much better than he did on Meet The Press and in the first debate, especially considering how far behind he is. It is promising for him, however, that he did break into double digits in the last poll in Iowa.

  11. 11
    Chris in NJ says:

    That’s what Ron Paul said (in a recent interview), and Ron Paul is probably the only politician in America whose word I accept at face value – he’s earned it.

    It’s no secret that Paul opposed the war. He’s been speaking out against foreign interventionism in the middle east since the mid 1990’s, when he was re-elected to congress after his long hiatus. Why this would have come as a surprise to any of his staffers – enough of a surprise that they would quit – is beyond comprehension.

    Anyway, I don’t think Richardson will win the Dem nomination, but he very well could be the VP candidate for the Dems. That would mean he’d be president of the Senate and would cast the deciding vote in close votes. In a closely divided senate, that could be a good thing.

    He’s also be first in the line of succession. He’s also young and could very well run for president in 2016.

    I think that’s the best scenario libertarians can hope for in the near future. I’m going to work my butt off for Ron Paul, but I think we ought to hedge our bets and send some love (and perhaps cash) to Richardson, as well.

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    Ron Paul actually said in an interview that he fired Dondero? Is this available on line anywhere?

    Agree that Richardson could wind up as a VP candidate. I’m not sure if this will matter in the Senate (as opposed to a different Democrat). If there is a 50:50 Senate vote primarily along party lines, I’m not sure if Richardson would vote any different from other Democrats or if he would vote along party lines.

  13. 13
    Chris in NJ says:

    from reason magazine:

    http://www.reason.com/blog/show/120338.html

    Reason: Your former staffer Eric Dondero is challenging you for your House seat in 2008.

    Paul: He’s a disgruntled former employee who was fired.

  14. 14
    Chris in NJ says:

    oh, and on Richardson’s party line voting – I think on fiscal matters, he may buck the party line, especially if he really wants to run for president in 2016. That’s good enough for me, especially considering the other alternatives.

  15. 15
    Ron Chusid says:

    Thanks for the link. We have no way to know for sure who is telling the truth, but I would trust Ron Paul over Eric Dondero.

    It will be interesting to see what will happen if Ricardson is VP. I don’t envision many votes where it will be split 50;50 with Richardson going with the Republicans but it could happen.

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