While the Coleman announcement fell flat, the following months into Coleman's tenure offered opportunities for the Marion County Libertarian Party to make news as the loyal opposition to big government, a position that the Republicans had abdicated in favor of supporting Mayor Greg Ballard who, post-election, fell in love with corporate welfare and tax increases. Libertarians like Marion County Chairman Timothy Maguire skillfully used the media to make the case for less government. The media which is always looking for conflict, took the Libertarians up on their efforts to fill in for the MIA Council Republicans who were too busy defending the Mayor's big government ideas to notice that the Libertarians were stealing their philosophical souls.
Libertarians pointed out the unenforceability of the pan handling ordinance and how, as written, it could be used to go after political speech. Republicans ignored the problems with the ordinance and lock-step voted for it. Then you had the Libertarian Party's opposition to the comprehensive smoking ban proposal, which nanny-state measure was unbelievably introduced by a Republican, Councilor Ben Hunter. If there was ever an issue that cried out for conservative, pro-liberty political opposition it was a proposal that government tell private business owners they can't allow smoking in their places of business. While many Republicans opposed the ban, especially when extended to places like bars which are only patronized by adults, few were willing to speak out against it.
Then you had the most recent flareup on the Council. Libertarian Coleman introduced a measure to allowing guns to be taken into city parks, just as guns are allowed into state and national parks. Mayor Ballard blew a gasket and immediately threatened a veto. With one stroke, Coleman had successfully made known to Indianapolis what those of us who have dealt with the Mayor's Office on gun issues have known for some time - Mayor Ballard treats the Second Amendment like he does a door mat. He wipes his feet on it.
Again, while many Republican councilors behind the scenes laud Coleman for being right on the gun issue and quietly express support, few are willing to make the case forcefully that the Mayor is wrong and Coleman is right. Once more,Republicans cede the conservative philosophical turf to the Libertarians.
In addition to the aforementioned issues that have played themselves out on the front page of the newspaper and on the evening news, Coleman has also introduced successful measures putting city contracts on-line and providing spaces for motorcycle parking downtown. It's been a good year for Coleman and the Libertarians.
Can Maguire and Coleman turn this new-found media attention on the Libertarian Party into votes? That will be an extraordinarily steep mountain to climb. Election results indicate that voters still see politics through a two party lens. They don't punish Republicans who betray their philosophical roots by electing Libertarians. Voters punish Republicans by electing Democrats, even if many times that is a result of angry Republican voters casting a ballot for Libertarian candidates as a protest vote and thus giving the Democrat candidate a plurality of the vote.
We shall see what the next year brings Ed Coleman and the Marion County Libertarian Party. Although armed with only a fraction of the vote, Libertarians have drawn considerable attention of the media which is looking for individuals who will offer the small government, fiscally conservative arguments local Republicans used to make, although not always sincerely so. At worst, Libertarians may end up forcing Republicans to live up to their campaign promises about small government and the role of government. As a Republican, I think that would indeed be a very good thing.