My piece on Friday outlining my concerns with Virginia Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis’s policy positions has received plenty of reaction. Many Virginia libertarians wrote to me expressing shared concerns about his views on fiscal and health care issues, and it appears that his comments on taxes and Medicaid expansion to Chuck Todd earlier this year were a red flag for many in the liberty movement.
One of the more interesting responses came from representatives of Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty. According to the Campaign for Liberty staff, Sarvis never even bothered to fill out their candidate survey form, despite receiving it multiple times, via both mail and email. When this issue cropped up on their Facebook page, Sarvis’s press office (which still has not responded to my queries regarding Sarvis’s positions) apparently claimed his survey was “lost”.
Chris Younce, C4L’s Senior Consultant for Federal Affairs, disputes that. He says they never received anything from Sarvis or his campaign in response to their questions on policy positions.
“Despite multiple attempts to have Rob Sarvis tell the people of Virginia his views on the vital liberty issues facing the Commonwealth, he has refused,” Younce told me. “Of course, given his anti-liberty views on Medicaid expansion, taxes, and other issues, I am not surprised at all.”
Both Ron Paul and Senator Rand Paul endorsed Ken Cuccinelli over Sarvis last month, an endorsement Sarvis dismissed as a move focused on “positioning himself for a race in the future.” (Sen. Paul is campaigning with Cuccinelli today in Virginia.)
But the Campaign For Liberty is not alone – according to staffers for Freedomworks and the Virginia chapter of Americans for Prosperity, Sarvis never met with, reached out to, or responded to candidate policy evaluations with them, either. All three groups said they typically pose questions to prospective candidates about Obamacare and taxes.
Whatever the reasons for Sarvis’s skipping the policy questions offered by pro-liberty organizations, his unwillingness to explain his positions to them is concerning. Whenever a candidate describes his belief that we don’t need to prioritize tax cuts, that he would favor raising gas taxes, or that a trade of permanent Medicaid expansion for vaguely-defined temporary waivers from the federal government as “ideal”, it’s a concern – whatever their party or philosophy (on that last point, Nick Gillespie has more).
Voters have different priorities. If your priority is drug policy, gay marriage, or any other of a number of issues where Sarvis now takes more libertarian policy positions, that’s absolutely fine. But my own policy priorities are health care, taxes, and abortion – and in each of those issue areas, Sarvis has taken positions at odds with either the pro-liberty movement or based on dubious principles (my own issue with Sarvis’s position on Virginia’s abortion regulations isn’t that it’s anti-libertarian, it’s that it is either purposefully fraudulent or unintentionally idiotic). This is not to suggest a candidate has to match up perfectly with purist libertarian views to be a libertarian – but when there are so many red flags around a candidate with no policy history in public office, you have to ask why he won’t explain how his positions aren’t at odds with everything he claims to stand for.
In my view, it’s incumbent upon Sarvis to lay out the pro-liberty case for why he holds these views – particularly why he effectively has the same views as John Kasich and Chris Christie on the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, the most important policy issue the next governor of Virginia will decide. It’s a shame he hasn’t answered questions from organizations that would’ve gotten us a fuller view of why he thinks what he does.
One last point: in a sense, Sarvis represents the worst of all worlds for libertarians. The historical norm for libertarian candidates is losing, but remaining pure – sacrificing political victories for being right about policy. Sure, we’re going to lose the election, but at least voting for us won’t make you hate yourself in the morning… and eventually, being right will be rewarded by voters. Sarvis, on the other hand, is not only going to get crushed at the polls in November… he hasn’t even offered an ideologically coherent policy agenda, let alone a pure libertarian one. He’s going to lose, and he doesn’t seem all that concerned with fighting for liberty from the state. How exactly is that a good deal for libertarians?
Update: Sarvis campaign spokesman John Vaught LaBeaume writes via email (and a Tweet) in response to this piece: “We never received a C4L survey. And the organization endorsed Cuccinelli early on. So sending out surveys is pointless”.
According to Campaign for Liberty staffers, the Sarvis campaign was sent their candidate survey multiple times earlier this year. While Ron Paul endorsed Cuccinelli earlier this month, the organization has not endorsed Cuccinelli, “early on” or ever… as Campaign for Liberty does not endorse candidates.