Did the Libertarian Party Cost Donald Trump the Election?
By David Henderson
No, but it might have cost him Georgia’s electoral votes.
My friend and fellow economist Walter Block has an op/ed in the Wall Street Journal (November 8 and November 9 print edition) titled “Libertarians Spoil the Election.”
Here’s his argument:
Did the Libertarian Party throw the election to Joe Biden? Maybe. At this writing nominee Jo Jorgensen’s vote total exceeds Mr. Biden’s margin over President Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, enough to change the outcome.
First, he’s wrong about Pennsylvania and Nevada. Jorgenson’s vote doesn’t cover the spread.
He has a better case for Arizona and Georgia.
But even there, here’s the problem: Walter is assuming implicitly that the vast majority of votes that went to Jo Jorgenson would have gone to Trump. I think that’s wrong for two reasons.
First, I would bet that about 20 percent of the people who voted for Jorgenson would not have bothered voting had they not been offered that alternative. (What’s my evidence? I admit that it’s gut feel.)
Second, consider the remaining 80 percent. I would bet that at most 2/3 of this remaining 80 percent would have voted for Trump had Jorgenson not run. Why as much as 2/3? Because what I have observed is that young libertarianish people would have preferred Biden over Trump and older libertarianish people would have preferred Trump over Biden, and a much higher percent of older people than of younger people vote.
If I’m right, that means that we would have to take the difference between 2/3 of 80% and 1/3 of 80%, which is, of course 1/3 of 80% and apply that to the Jorgenson totals in each state.
Do that and Walter’s point might work for Arizona and Georgia but it’s not a slam dunk.
Arizona: Biden gets 1,645,277 votes, Trump gets 1,629,845 votes, and Jorgenson gets 50, 121 votes.
80% of the Jorgenson vote = 40,097 votes.
1/3 of that = 13,366 votes.
Biden minus Trump = 15,432.
So even there, not clear that Trump would have won Arizona.
Georgia: Biden gets 2,467,870 votes, Trump gets 2,456,275 votes, and Jorgenson gets 61,951 votes.
80% of the Jorgenson vote = 49,561 votes.
1/3 of that = 16,520 votes.
Biden minus Trump = 11,595 votes.
So there there’s a much better shot at Walter’s point.
In his op/ed, Walter makes a strong case for Trump over Biden, most of which I agree with. Walter is critical of Trump on protectionism, as he should be. But he does leave out a major issue, one on which Biden is head and shoulders above Trump: immigration.