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Massachusetts special election has implications for Libertarians in November

With the Senate race in Massachusetts heating up under the national spotlight, voters in the state have become torn between two ideologies, neither of which the state’s electorate can completely subscribe to. The seat held by the late Edward M. Kennedy for nearly half a century, and by his older brother John F. Kennedy before that, is now looking like it may swing into Republican hands in tomorrow’s special election. The GOP candidate, Scott Brown, unlike many other successful Republicans in the state, has not run as a centrist, but rather as mainstream conservative. His Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley, has pledged to uphold the legacy that Sen. Kennedy has left for Massachusetts and America. And thus, Massachusetts voters must make a tough decision; the same decision the rest of the country will have to make this November.

On one side you have Brown, the conservative who has pledged to be the 41st vote in the Senate to oppose the Democrats’ plan for healthcare reform. His record on taxes and spending is that of a mainstream Republican. He opposes a progressive tax and an increase of federal funding for health coverage. However, Brown is on the wrong side of many of the social and cultural issues that have come to define Massachusetts as the blue state that it is. Brown vigorously opposes a woman’s right to an abortion in almost all cases, he strongly opposes any benefits for same-sex couples, he supports President Bush’s Patriot Act, and opposes any withdrawal plans from Iraq or Afghanistan.

On the other side you have the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley. While she may be in favor of individual liberties in regard to most social issues, Coakley has lost considerable ground in the race largely for her support of the massive spending projects of Congress, none the least of which is healthcare reform.

The voters in Massachusetts are divided between two meager choices. Coakley, who has run by all accounts an abysmal campaign, represents the traditional left, and her attitude of inevitability has left her trailing her Republican opponent. Brown represents the frustration of the American voter. More than any specific issue, cultural or economic, Brown’s success is due to the people’s lack of faith in government to succeed in improving the economy. His opposition to increased federal spending has taken his candidacy further than anyone could have imagined only months ago.

This will prove to be a familiar situation come November. As voters are asked to sacrifice their values of individual liberty for candidates that oppose large scale government spending, there is strong chance that an opening will be created for principled Libertarian candidates to step in and begin to garner real support. Reaching that opening, however, will be an uphill battle for the party. In Massachusetts the Libertarian Party is running a candidate, Joe Kennedy, for the Senate seat. Ironically, the one Kennedy running for the seat has pole numbers that are virtually non-existent (Mr. Kennedy has no relation to the family of the former President). Though the fight may be hard, it is not impossible. Campaign strategy in Virginia has shown that voter targeting can work for Libertarians, but it is organization that will be key for the party. Current economic circumstances have created an opening for the party to cash in on political sentiment.  If Libertarians can find a way to effectively sell their values, 2010 may very well be a breakout year for the party and the movement.


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