Last year, during the gubernatorial campaign, the GOP unleashed a barrage of false attacks against Robert Sarvis.
Why did the GOP do it? Because the GOP was, and is, running scared! The rise of a candidate like Robert Sarvis showed just how out-of-touch the GOP is, especially with millennial voters, moderates, libertarians, and independents. (And by nominating “Establishment Ed” Gillespie this year, the GOP is showing it’s out-of-touch with fiscal conservatives, too!)
When Robert Sarvis entered the race for Governor, the GOP nominee arrogantly dismissed him as “a one or two percent vote getter.” Oh, how his views changed just a few months later!
As Sarvis climbed in the polls, eventually reaching double digits, the GOP panicked. Unable to appeal to voters honestly, the GOP resorted to politics-as-usual, unleashing false accusations about Sarvis.
But every single accusation was FALSE!
So much for the party that likes to talk about “values”… The smears prove how desperate, morally bankrupt, and intellectually dishonest the Virginia GOP has become.
If you know a GOP partisan loyalist, you’ve probably heard some of the below claims.
- The GOP claimed that Robert Sarvis was a “Democrat plant” put in place to steal the election for Terry McAuliffe last year and Mark Warner this year.
- FALSE – Robert Sarvis was not, and is not, a Democrat plant. That’s an absurd claim.
Sarvis ran for State Senate in 2011 as a (libertarian) Republican against the Democratic Majority Leader Dick Saslaw. Sarvis left the Virginia GOP because he found it to be, in his words, “hypocritical and vacuous on economics and unsound on personal liberty.” But he doesn’t think the Democratic Party is any better.
Indeed, Robert Sarvis, like many other voters, believes the two-party system is broken and has failed to protect liberty or limit government. He rightly points out that both Republicans and Democrats alike are responsible for mass surveillance of citizens, the $17 trillion debt, the failed drug war, the immigration mess, enormously expensive wars of choice, mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders, loss of civil liberties, rampant over-regulation of the economy, the financial crisis and Great Recession, and much more.
In 2012, the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia tried to recruit Sarvis to run for Congress in the 8th district, but Sarvis declined. In early 2013, Sarvis was asked by the Libertarians if he would run for Governor. Seeing the low-quality, illiberal candidates being put forth by the major parties, he agreed, believing that Virginia deserved a better choice. He ran a campaign that inspired many voters in Virginia and many Libertarians around the country.
This year, Robert Sarvis is running for the U.S. Senate to again give voters a better choice.
- The GOP claimed that Robert Sarvis was funded by the Democrats.
- FALSE – Sarvis was the largest contributor to his own gubernatorial campaign, giving close to double the next-highest contributor. That alone suggests the GOP’s claim is unserious, but let’s drill down further.
The next highest contribution was for ~$11k and came from the Libertarian Booster PAC, a PAC founded by the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party to help Libertarians overcome burdensome ballot access rules favored by Republicans and Democrats to stifle competition.
The Libertarian Booster PAC received contributions from long-time libertarian donors, including a Texas entrepreneur who has a long history of supporting Libertarians and is well-known to the Texas Libertarian Party and national Libertarian Party. He has also contributed to various individual Republican and Democrat candidates, as is common with donors to third parties.
The GOP tries to make a great deal of the fact that the Texas entrepreneur’s wife fundraised for Obama, but if contributions to other parties is a sign of ill-dealing, the GOP should look in the mirror. It took less than ten minutes to find on VPAP a group that gave a $25,000 contribution—more than any donation to the Sarvis campaign—to BOTH Cuccinelli AND various Democratic groups, like the Democrats’ Commonwealth Victory Fund, the McAuliffe campaign, and later McAuliffe’s Inauguration Committee. By the GOP’s donation illogic, it seems clear that Cuccinelli was the Democrat plant! That would make a lot more sense, for what better way to undermine free markets than to tie it to wildly unpopular social policies?
In any case, Wes Benedict, the executive director of the Libertarian Party and founder/director of the Libertarian Booster PAC, has himself refuted the GOP claims about a Democratic cabal. Of Rush Limbaugh’s claims that “the Democrats enlisted a ‘fake Libertarian candidate’ who was ‘bought and paid for by an Obama bundler,'” Benedict said flatly, “That’s an outright lie, and Limbaugh should retract his claim.”
Note just how sad the GOP has become, by its own estimation—it got derailed by a donation totaling $11k?! A donation from Libertarians to a Libertarian? A donation that was just 5% of the Libertarian candidate’s spending, and less than 0.1% of the GOP’s spending in the election?
And if the GOP wants to talk money, they should start by addressing the cancer of cronyism and corporate welfare in their own party. (Dems, too.) In 2013, the Rs and Ds brought in millions in cronyist corporate donations, and 70% of their donations from out-of-state.Sarvis took the opposite approach, raising money from individuals across the political spectrum, and 68% of his funds came from in-state.
The truth is simple:
Robert Sarvis wouldn’t be sacrificing his own personal resources or family time to be a “plant” for a party he does not support. Anyone who knows him or who has heard him speak knows this. He also wouldn’t be spending so much time and energy exposing Democrat Mark Warner’s voting record in support of the surveillance state or against reforms to better protect privacy, or Warner’s inaction on issues like sentencing reform and demanding Congressional authorization for military action abroad.
Why is Robert Sarvis running as a Libertarian? Because he believes passionately in freedom and good government and recognizes both Republicans and Democrats are undermining both.
Why is the GOP so scared of Robert Sarvis and the Libertarians? If a Libertarian Party candidate wins over 10 percent of the vote in a statewide election, the Libertarian Party of Virginia will gain major party status. Since 1999, almost 50 percent of Virginia House of Delegate races and over 40 percent of Virginia Senate races have been unopposed. That’s why the Libertarian Party of Virginia has repeatedly recruited Robert Sarvis to run. With major-party status, it will be easier to run candidates on a more level playing field, and there will be more Libertarians running in two-way races. Competitive elections are good for Virginia, and the GOP and Democrats don’t want that.
- The GOP claims Robert Sarvis tipped the election to McAuliffe and will do the same for Warner.
- FALSE – The GOP refuses to accept that it nominated a candidate Virginia voters simply didn’t like. Instead, the GOP blames Sarvis for its 2013 loss, despite the fact that the evidence shows this is absurd.
First, note that there was no third-party candidate running for Lt. Gov or Attorney General, and the GOP lost both those races, too!
Second, go back and look at the polls. Throughout the entire race, polls showed Cuccinelli behind substantially, with Sarvis taking fairly equally from both sides. Not only that, a very telling poll showed that, “among voters who support Sarvis, 62% approve of [Bob] McDonnell, while 75% disapprove of Cuccinelli”! Republican-leaning moderates who supported Sarvis were simply NOT going to be voting for Cuccinelli.
But it gets worse for the GOP meme. Election Day exit polls and precinct analysis clearly demonstrate Sarvis didn’t affect the outcome. Even conservative/Republican blogs admit that fact:
Bearing Drift, in “Sarvis Almost Cost McAuliffe the Election”, noted that an Election Eve poll had close to half of Sarvis voters saying McAuliffe was their second choice and that Election Day exit polls showed it was well over half. Bearing Drift actually went so far as to say:
Cuccinelli’s anti-Sarvis strategy badly backfired. If he had been open to including Sarvis (who was polling anywhere from 8 to 13 percent in October) in the debates, as McAuliffe was, Cuccinelli could have provided an opportunity for Sarvis to highlight his progressive positions supporting gay marriage and legalizing marijuana, drawing even more votes from McAuliffe on Election Day.
The Federalist (which helped spread the smears of Sarvis for weeks) wrote quite clearly, in “No, Robert Sarvis Did Not Cost Ken Cuccinelli The Election,” that
On net, McAuliffe’s margin of victory would have increased by nearly 1.6 percent without Sarvis in the race.
Slate’s Dave Weigel agreed: “The most Cuccinelli-friendly, reality-based revote, if Sarvis was off the ballot, would have been a 52–48 McAuliffe win.”
So Sarvis actually made it a closer result last year!
What about this year? Well, first note that Warner is consistently beating Gillespie by 15 to 25%. It’s not even close. But not only that, Warner is over 50% in every single head-to-head poll against Gillespie! The only two polls that have Warner under 50% are polls that include Sarvis.
Big-government, cronyist/lobbyist “Establishment Ed” Gillespie is going to lose. And it’s not like there’s much difference between him and Warner anyway. Voting for either major-party candidate is a wasted vote.
Voting for Sarvis is the only way to make your vote count. Getting the Libertarian Party major-party status can change Virginia politics for the better. 50% of House of Delegate seats and 40% of State Senate seats generally go uncontested; you can see Libertarians in two-way races throughout Virginia. Competitive elections are a good thing!
- The GOP claimed Robert Sarvis is a “phony” or “fake” Libertarian, a Libertarian-in-name-only (“LINO”).
FALSE – This set of claims actually proves how ignorant many GOP loyalists have become. The GOP doesn’t know what liberty or libertarianism IS, which is why they got it so comically wrong about Robert Sarvis.
Before getting to the substantive claims, let’s take a look at some of Robert Sarvis‘s libertarian bona fides:
- In law school, Sarvis founded a libertarian and classical liberal law journal, the NYU Journal of Law & Liberty.
- Sarvis has a Master’s degree in economics from George Mason University, known for its free-market, libertarian bent.
- Sarvis spent almost two years as a graduate student fellow at the free-market-oriented Mercatus Center, where he co-authored papers with libertarians Jeff Miron, Todd Zywicki, and others.
- Sarvis authored a paper for the free-market-oriented Competitive Enterprise Institute on public pension debt (which threatens state finances and is the fault of both Republicans and Democrats alike).
- In 2011, running for State Senate as a (libertarian) Republican, Sarvis gave an interview in which he cited Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek as his favorite economists and lambasted the cronyism of his Democrat opponent. He also stood before hundreds of Fairfax County Republicans and said the Republican Party in Virginia shared blame for cronyism.
- In 2012, Sarvis was recruited by officers and members of the Libertarian Party of Virginia to run for Congress in Virginia’s Eighth district. The LPVA had been impressed with how libertarian Sarvis‘s 2011 Republican campaign for State Senate was. Sarvis, however, declined to run.
- In 2013, Sarvis was again recruited by the LPVA, not to mention the current Executive Director of the (national) Libertarian Party, this time to run for Governor of Virginia.
- This year, Sarvis again received the nomination from the Libertarian Party, a party known for its principled stands on the issues.
We could go on, but you can see how absurd the GOP claims are from the get-go. Let’s turn to the substantive claims:
- The GOP claimed Robert Sarvis isn’t a true libertarian because he doesn’t believe in the “Austrian School” of economics.
FALSE – The GOP so clearly misunderstands libertarianism—and economics—that they apparently think there is but one economic school of thought that serves as the litmus test for being a libertarian.
But that is obviously wrong. Milton Friedman was not an Austrian but was clearly a libertarian. As Friedman said (paraphrasing) “There are no schools of economics, only good economics and bad economics.”
Read the Reason magazine interview that touched off the GOP self-embarrassment. Sarvis sounds decidedly libertarian throughout the interview.
Sarvis actually responded at length to an emailed question about his comments on Austrian economics. Find a link to the reply here.
Moreover, while GMU’s economics department is definitely libertarian, many of its libertarian professors are not Austrians—e.g., Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok, Russ Roberts (now at the Hoover Institution), and many others.
This claim actually shows how ignorant the GOP is of both libertarianism and economics. Indeed, every single one of Sarvis‘s policy proposals and stances had the support of numerous libertarian economists and legal scholars.
- The GOP claimed Robert Sarvis doesn’t oppose Obamacare and supported Medicaid expansion in Virginia.
- FALSE – Robert Sarvis opposes government-run healthcare and overregulation of healthcare. That includes Obamacare but also includes a century of bad policies from both Republicans and Democrats. Obamacare is merely the latest incarnation of a fundamentally flawed approach to healthcare policy.
Robert Sarvis has actually studied healthcare economics and proposed numerous specific deregulatory reforms at the federal and state level that will increase competition, lower costs, and liberate healthcare providers and professionals. We can have affordable and accessible healthcare in every community throughout the United States.
Sarvis opposed Medicaid expansion because it would “lead inexorably to future state-level spending increases and tax increases and the crowding out of other spending priorities.” But he has also provided numerous solutions that can help make affordable healthcare available to all! Tellingly, the Virginia GOP’s legislators did not propose a single bill in the 0214 legislative session enacting any of Sarvis‘s myriad deregulatory proposals.)
Of course, Mark Warner voted for ObamaCare, but Ed Gillespie isn’t much better—he was a core advisor in the Bush administration, which expanded the fiscally unsustainable entitlement system to include a new, unfunded prescription drug benefit (at the time, the largest entitlement program created since LBJ). Gillespie also endorsed the individual mandate, and his economic plan tacitly admits he would leave most of ObamaCare in place.
- The GOP claimed Robert Sarvis supported putting GPS/black-box devices in cars.
FALSE – Running for governor last year, Robert Sarvis advocated for intelligent transportation solutions supported by libertarian and conservative transportation economists—solutions like congestion pricing and user-pays financing to replace the existing tax burden.
A commentator at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute wrote a lengthy blog post, “Memo to Road Socialists”, showing how ignorant the GOP’s claims about Sarvis were. The post concluded:
Robert Sarvis offered the most libertarian and sensible transportation platform this election (or any election I can recall).
The GOP shamelessly (and ignorantly) attacked the very libertarian and conservative idea that the users of roads should be the ones paying for them. Sarvis did not endorse any particular model of user-pays, but the GOP claimed that he supported government putting black boxes in your car. How did they make that seem even remotely plausible? They made it up! They falsely claimed that Sarvis endorsed a mileage tax, that such a tax could only be enacted via a GPS device, and that such a device would have to be owned by the state. Voila!
All of it was utter nonsense. To begin with, Sarvis never endorsed a mileage tax. He included it as one among several policy alternatives that fit under the “user-pays” rubric. Even if he had favored a mileage tax, a mileage tax does not require a GPS device. Even if such a device were used, it could be privately operated and managed. But all of that is irrelevant because Sarvis never endorsed a mileage tax and would certainly not support the government putting tracking devices in cars.
Indeed, in this year’s U.S. Senate race, Robert Sarvis is the only candidate arguing against government surveillance and in favor of civil liberties, Constitutional rights, and privacy. And it’s Mark Warner and Ed Gillespie who are supporting government surveillance, police militarization, and other instruments of intrusive government.
As a U.S. Senator, Robert Sarvis would support legislation devolving transportation funding back to the states.
- The GOP claimed Robert Sarvis didn’t support cutting taxes, or even supported increasing them.
FALSE – Robert Sarvis had the most far-reaching tax-reform plan in the 2013 race and does again in the 2014 race for U.S. Senate. Sarvis is also the only candidate willing to engage in an intellectually honest discussion of tax policy.
GOP shills in the media wrote that Sarvis didn’t support tax cuts and even supported tax increases, despite the fact that Sarvis never said anything that would remotely support such a claim.
In fact, Sarvis proposed eliminating the income tax or vastly reducing it, eliminating local business taxes, replacing gas taxes with road-usage fees, eliminating tax deductions and credits that narrow the tax base, removing other preferential tax treatments for favored corporate interests, and more.
But you didn’t hear that from the GOP. Sarvis‘s sin was to speak the truth about GOP hypocrisy—that spending, not taxation, is what determines the size of government, and that it’s irresponsible to try to cut taxes without cutting spending, which is the GOP’s modus operandi. Sarvis‘s proposals, therefore, emphasized spending reforms that would enable tax cuts.
Sarvis‘s tax reform proposals were far superior and far more specific than anything offered by the major party candidates.
And they are again this year. But that’s not hard at all. Ed Gillespie is a big-spending Republican who shares responsibility for the Bush-era deficits that doubled the debt (from $5.5 trillion to $11 trillion)! And Mark Warner is a big-spending Democrat who voted for every spending increase as a U.S. Senator and wants to increase taxes once again).