Still looking for Trump/Clinton alternative?
On May 29, 2016, the Libertarian Party of America, nominated two former Republican governors, Gary Johnson of New Mexico and William Weld of Massachusetts, as their presidential and vice presidential candidates. (Disclosure: I was a registered Libertarian from 1988-2008.)
The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in America and the only third party that is on the ballot in all 50 States and D.C. nearly every presidential election.
Mainstream and social media provided extensive coverage to this year’s LP national convention. Two major polls had Johnson at 10 percent national popularity. #LegalizeFreedom trended very hot. Why this sudden attention to the Libertarian Party?
The first reason is that both the Democrats and Republicans are bleeding memberships. Each are down to around 25-30 percent of voters. Both parties are nominating candidates with very poor approval ratings among voters, plus the neocon wing of the Republican Party establishment is still trying to find a third party candidate to run against Donald Trump. The Libertarian Party is the only party showing consistent membership growth.
Is this the bizzaro world election year when the LP will finally become a major party, able to contest for partisan public offices? Well, oddsmakers say the Cubs may actually win the World Series. Is anything possible?
The Libertarian Party—formed in Denver in 1972—believes that liberty is not simply a means to a higher end. It is itself the highest political end. The means to achieve liberty is through implementing the non-aggression principle (NAP), i.e. my liberty to swing my fist ends at your nose.
Libertarians assert that the NAP should be applied to government as well as to private citizens and enterprises. Libertarians have faith that if we remove government initiated violence and coercion, there will arise a spontaneous order from the people that will be more just than the order imposed by the state. If government is bound by the NAP just as the people are, then it would be confined to doing very little compared to what it does today.
Libertarians’ belief in liberty across the board confuses liberals and conservatives. The party has recognized gay rights and has been majority pro-choice since its inception. It’s an immigration-friendly and free trade party. It’s an antiwar party, especially when foreign wars of choice are at issue. It’s anti-tax and anti-regulation and pro-gun rights. It opposes the war on drugs as well as the war on poverty. Libertarians alone believe liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order.
An ideological party is constantly torn between its pragmatists and ideologues. The pragmatist former Republican governors Johnson and Weld, both with heavily scrutinized blemishes on real political records, were booed at times during the convention. Weld in particular was disliked because of suspicions about his Second Amendment beliefs, and because he reneged on a pledge to run as a Libertarian candidate in an earlier New York governor’s race. The delegates nominated him only because Johnson pleaded for them to.
The party is forced to spend almost half its income on ballot access, leaving its candidates poorly funded. Barriers to entry, like ballot access laws, lack of presence in national polls, and lack of access to televised debates have to be overcome for the LP to become a force.
Now that Johnson has his “dream ticket” of two politicians who have held high office, he has to raise at least $50 million and fight the major party political and media gatekeepers to have a chance in 2016.