The story of Joe Miller
Of the many controversial moves that Bill Weld made, one that seems particularly confounding was his endorsement of Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska Senate race last October. The Libertarian Candidate, Joe Miller, made history this year as the best Senate Candidate in the party’s history, netting a record 29.1% of the vote and coming second to incumbent Republican, Lisa Murkowski. Critics pointed to this as another example of Weld’s lack of commitment to the movement, but in reality, it was an example of Weld following principle.
Joe Miller is a supporter of a presidential line-item veto amendment, a balanced budget amendment, suspending all new entitlements, suspending earmarks, reducing foreign aid, and abolishing the Department of Education. He is also opposed to federal farm subsidies, the federal minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and the affordable care act. These are all fairly libertarian stances, so on what grounds did Weld oppose Miller?
First, there are the clear reasons – Tea Party does not equal libertarian. While groups like the Niskanen Center and the Property and Environment Research Center discuss free market solutions to climate change, Joe Miller denies it exists. While the Libertarian Party opposes the death penalty, Joe Miller is for it. Libertarians are for the legalization of same-sex marriage, and Joe Miller is opposed to it. Where libertarians are noninterventionist, Joe Miller is a hawk. Where libertarians tend to stand up for the rights of migrants to the United States yearning to be free, Joe Miller opposes any form of amnesty. Miller has said that the totalitarian East Germany of Berlin Wall infamy is a strong example of a country taking action to control the flow of people across its borders – ironic given how Ron Paul said that border fences would ultimately be used to keep citizens *in* the country.
Joe Miller said that he’d caucus as a Republican and months before Weld arrived in Alaska that he’d be voting for Donald Trump and not Gary Johnson – while he may be principled in his own views as a Tea Party conservative, Joe Miller is not a libertarian. The main reason he was the 2016 Libertarian Senate nominee was because the Libertarian candidate chosen by the convention dropped without warning and the state party board replaced her with Joe Miller in such haste that party members had no opportunity to comment or react.
If one looks back to 2010, they’d see a familiar race – Lisa Murkowski came first and Joe Miller came second, but both ran as Republican candidates. In 2010 Joe Miller, running as a Tea Party Republican, won the primary over Lisa Murkowski. But Murkowski wasn’t finished, she went on to become the second Senator in United States history to win via a write-in campaign. Murkowski’s first choice after losing the primary wasn’t to run via write-in. Lisa Murkowski first attempted to run as a Libertarian. In talking with the Party, she said that she’d even form her own Libertarian Caucus in the Senate rather than go back to caucusing with the Republicans.
Unfortunately for the Libertarian Party, the state party chair went so far as to cancel the Libertarian convention, the end result being that the Libertarian Party missed out on an opportunity to not only have a Senator (finally) but have a Senator who is experienced and a well-known figure in Washington. One who’d have considerable fundraising capacity and ability to build party infrastructure. Looking at 2016, Bill Weld put principle first in his endorsement of Murkowski.
So, there you have it, a story of a high-profile potential defector; a tea party opportunist; a party apparatus that continually made detrimental decisions; and an odd circumstance where Bill Weld, of all people, ended up taking the purist route.
If there are two lessons to be learned, it’s that Libertarians shouldn’t simply try to tie themselves to the Tea Party and that Libertarian allies can be found in some unlikely places.
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