Monday, March 03, 2008

Single issues and Libertarian candidates

Over the course of Steve Kubby's presidential campaign, a number of opponents have tried to peg him as a "single issue" candidate -- the single issue, of course, being medical marijuana. And, while he's certainly talked about all the other issues that presidential candidates need to address, Kubby has stressed his background of political success in that policy area.

Over the course of Wayne Allyn Root's presidential campaign, most of the "single issue" pegging has been done by Root himself. Although he talks about other issues, a good part of his campaign rhetoric has been focused on stressing his background in the gambling industry and on his purported ability to reach the high percentage of Americans who are offended by the online gambling ban.

Time to run some numbers.

Harris Interactive on gambling:

Ninety-five (95%) percent of U.S. adults who are online say they have never spent money playing at an online casino, 94 percent say they have never spent money playing online multi-player poker, and even more (97%) say they have never spent money betting on sports online. ... U.S. adults who are online are also divided over a ban on gambling over the Internet in the United States. One-third (34%) say they are in support of banning it, another third (32%) would oppose it, yet another third (34%) would neither support nor oppose it.

Various polls on medical marijuana, on the other hand, bottom out at 60% public support, and top out at 30% opposition. The Harris poll in this collection shows 80% of Americans in support of medical marijuana, only 17% opposed. And while 3% of Americans have ever bet on sports online, 47% have smoked marijuana.

Of course, there's more to these issues than just raw support:

- There's the question of whether the potential constituencies need to look to a third party for support, or whether they are already represented by the major parties.

- There's the question of the character and reputation of those who seek the LP's presidential nomination in order to represent those constituencies.

On the first question, it could go either way -- US Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) got 11 co-sponsors for his bill to repeal the online gambling ban last year, and will continue to make it an issue. The Democrats are angling for repeal of the ban, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is probably going to weigh in favor of repeal. American gamblers and their supporters have strong major party representation and a strong likelihood of prevailing without any help from the Libertarian Party.

Medical marijuana advocates enjoy less powerful representation. The Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment failed 262-165 in the US House last year -- and that failure was the fifth in a row. It's damn near impossible to get a Democratic or Republican politician to go on record in favor of medical marijuana. Medical marijuana patients and their supporters have weak major party representation and no likelihood of prevailing except under the auspices of a third party.

There's no real comparison on character and reputation:

Steve Kubby has a long record of fighting for the rights of all Americans. That fight has often been concentrated on the issue of medical marijuana, but his rhetoric has been strongly and broadly pro-freedom. He has gone to prison and into exile fighting for liberty. He has negotiated as an equal with US Attorneys General on behalf of patients' rights. He has played a key role in the passage of pro-freedom legislation, he has assisted pro-freedom candidates in actually getting elected to office, and he has successfully faced down local and county governments in order to protect the medical marijuana movement's gains.

Wayne Root, on the other hand, has no substantial record of political success or of fighting for freedom prior to his presidential candidacy. On the contrary, his political background is in hosting Republican Party fundraisers, contributing to Joe Lieberman's authoritarian US Senate campaign in 2006, and endorsing an anti-freedom McCain-Lieberman presidential ticket for 2008. On the business end, Root represents the armpit of the gambling industry and the far-out infomercial/telemarketing fringe of American enterprise. Even if some substantial portion of the 3% of Americans who bet on sports online might be moved to seek third party representation, it seems unlikely that Root is the ideal candidate to approach that constituency with.

If we're going to go "single issue," medical marijuana far outpolls, and draws in far more likely supportive voters, than online gambling. If we're going to pin "single issue" on our candidates, Steve Kubby is clearly a superior standard bearer as compared to Wayne Allyn Root.

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