There are those of a libertarian bent who want to believe that the current bitch-slapping that Congressional Republicans are being handed right at this moment portends well for libertarians: I beg to differ. Don't get me wrong, the Republicans deserve what they get. But this election should not be taken as a sign that the electorate is going all libertarian. Forget exit polls and what the news says about why people are voting the way they are -- that stuff is always garbage. Look past the people races and look to the ballot initiatives.
All over America, I don't think voters are punishing Congress for wielding too much power over their lives. Because when the voters themselves are being offered legislative power via propositions to use the full coercive power of government to compel their neighbors to do the majority's bidding, they are jumping on the statist bandwagon gleefully. Minimum wage hikes, smoking bans, new regulations, bans on gay marriage, restrictions on immigrants; heck, we even have ballot initiatives with micro-regulations for animal cage sizes. They are all passing in Arizona and across the country.
Currently 77% of Arizonans have voted to make Arizona prisons mini-Gitmo's for illegal immigrants, denying them bail for any crime. 75% want to make sure no Spanish is spoken in the statehouse. 66% want to interfere in employer/employee wage negotiations. 55% want to give bar owners no choice in whether they allow smoking in their own private establishment.
Note that there is no consistent theme of conservatism or liberalism in these issues. The first two might be seen as "conservative" issues and the second two as "liberal" issues. But the same 2/3 are voting for each. This is not a victory for the left or the right, but for big government populism. The voters are getting a taste of bending their fellow citizens to their whims via the government, and they seem to like it.
Update: I am trying not to get mad, but 75% - 3/4 of the people in this state - are voting to not allow illegal immigrants to collect punitive damage awards. I'm sorry, I understand that people are frustrated with the immigration topic, but there are certain things that strike me as basic under any notion of equal protection, that should apply irregardless of citizenship status. Protections we should offer to any human being that happens to be in our borders. And the ability to seek redress for damages in court should be one of them.
In addition, 57% are currently supporting the initiative to ban probation for meth users, so that even minor meth possession charges will lead to a jail term. This means that the hugely enlightened and highly successful policy of filling up jails with marijuana users is going to be emulated and applied to meth use.
On the positive side, so far the gay marriage amendment is not passing, and the proposition to put limits on Kelo-type eminent domain takings looks like it will pass.
There just seems to be a huge philosophical muddle behind the voting here. The electorate votes to limit kelo-type government takings and to require compensation in zoning cases where private land values are reduced, but at the same time votes strongly to ban smoking in bars and to raise the minimum wage, both of which are effectively government actions that takes value away arbitrarily from certain private individuals and businesses.
For years I have lamented tthat the average American has no philosophy -- he or she only has a hodge-podge of inconsistent political views stitched together from his/her parents, from peer pressure of their social group, and from random encounters with the media. Never have I felt this as strongly as I do tonight.