In the run up to last Tuesday’s election, some prominent libertarians wrote about why libertarians should abandon the Libertarian Party and work within one of the old parties (but really, they mean the Republican Party).
Libertarian activists should choose whichever party they feel more comfortable working within. That’s what Ron Paul did. Likewise, Rand Paul has brought his libertarianism inside the GOP tent. The small-“l” libertarians in the tea party movement identified the Republican Party as the coalition closest to their concerns about fiscal responsibility and the growth of government power, and they have gone about making the GOP more libertarian from the grass-roots up. They have moved the party in a libertarian direction, as has the Republican Liberty Caucus.
Professor Barnett’s argument is a familiar refrain among those who have dabbled in the Libertarian Party, then are wooed away by the siren song of the Republicans. Because the Libertarians “can’t win,” they settle for a party that offends them somewhat less than the other one.
Nick Gillespie of Reason makes a strong counter-argument to Professor Barnett that voting for the Libertarian Party matters:
Voting LP thus may serve as the spur to change in a GOP that should be looking not just at this election (which like every election is the most important election EVER!) but down the road a bit, to a country in which nobody cares about sexual orientation and an always-more-globalized economy means we’re all immigrants and mongrels and that businesses of all sizes and shapes benefit not from politically connected tax breaks and subsidies but from honest-to-god free markets and drugs aren’t a big deal and spending 4 percent of GDP on military contracts is self-evidently idiotic and on and on.
Now that the results are in and Mitt Romney got thoroughly crushed (332-206 electoral votes) by an Obama who broke all of his promises on the drug war, civil liberties, and continues to drone murder people on a daily basis, it’s obvious that the GOP needs a wake up call.
The Rove years had the GOP winning elections by firing up a socially conservative base, with hot button cultural issues like gay marriage and keeping “illegals” out of the country, with a does of vague promises about jobs and the economy (that never materialized). 2012 showed that that strategy will never work again. The social conservatives have lost on gay marriage and immigration. The GOP can always count on turning out a base of old white men angry about gays and brown people and liberals, but it’s not enough votes to win.
Young voters won’t vote for jerks, even if they are promising jobs. Not that Romney was a jerk, but he got lumped in with Mourdock, Akin, and the rest of the GOP crazy caucus. Young voters are liberal on social issues while still being concerned about the future of the economy. Just like the Libertarian Party.
Ilya Somin, one of those arguing that libertarians should stop wasting their time with the LP, recaps just how well Gary Johnson did, but takes the wrong lessons away:
Although we don’t yet have absolutely final totals, it looks like Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, the former Republican Governor of New Mexico, got just under 1% of the popular vote. This is the best total for a libertarian candidate since 1980, when the party’s nominee got only slightly more than Johnson. I was wrong to predict that he would do only a little better than Bob Barr in 2008. In fact, Johnson more than doubled Barr’s percentage of the vote. That’s a testament to Johnson’s public appeal. That said, I still think I was right in my broader critique of Johnson’s candidacy and the Libertarian Party in general: that it isn’t an effective way to promote the libertarian cause.
Gary Johnson broke the million vote mark, a first for a Libertarian Presidential candidate. The Libertarian Party did well enough in this election that we start with ballot access in 30 states and DC. If you’ve been working in Libertarian politics for any period of time, you know that ballot access is a huge issue. I don’t think the party has ever been in that good of a ballot position. This is not the time to give up, this is the time to redouble our efforts.
In short, the GOP is dying. There is no will for them to change to stop appealing to old, white, and often bigoted voters. But those voters are also dying. Young voters care about social freedom and worry about economic freedom. The Libertarian Party is the only party that offers solutions and candidates that they can wholeheartedly support.
As Gary Johnson said on the trail, when he was in the Republican Party, he had to cringe whenever other Republicans would take a distasteful position on an issue; in the Libertarian Party, he doesn’t have that same experience. He’s home. It’s time for more people to come home to liberty, to realize that the GOP is a rotten foundation to try to build a free country upon.