By Charlie Gengler | USA
Many libertarians have straddled with this choice for a while in recent years. Which party to choose? There all factors from every corner. Which is more useful for advancing my ideology, for instituting my beliefs and/or desired policies? Which is more consistent? Which is more dominant, more greedy, more influential and successful, showing stability? All these questions play into the choices and voting decisions and donations people make. They’re important.
Certainly, both have their pros and cons. From a pragmatic point of view, the Republican party is on top, as it has a much larger base. It holds the position as one of the top two parties, and the most successful party in history, with nineteen total presidential victories since 1861. This size has its drawbacks, however. The sections and divisions in the party are anything but equal and have radical differences among them. The groups that inhabit the GOP share some common ground, but not always much. There is the religious right, whose only motivation is to protect and/or promote/enforce their personal religion. Another group is the neoconservatives or ‘establishment’, who hold most of the political power and are most likely to get elected. Most libertarians cannot identify with these groups and other more authoritarian and obscure subsects within. There are groups within the party who not only share positions with the LP and most libertarians but are gaining ground in the party. You have the Freedom Caucus, headed by Mark Meadows, and the TEA party. The TEA party gained (and held) a lot of ground in the party during Obama’s presidency. Their platform of lower taxes shares a lot of ground with libertarians and like-minded individuals. Besides all of this, the LP’s major drawback is its minuscule chance of ever winning, due to the inability of third parties to rise in the modern system.
Although the LP has a relatively small base, it still has divisions and several opinionated sides dwelling within. It houses several left-wing caucuses, such as the Libertarian socialist caucus. It also claims home several groups whose sole goal is the legalization of drugs, specifically marijuana. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, I do feel that it detracts from the message. This leads into my larger problem with a large base of the party, most exemplified by the most recent candidates Gary Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld, which is the watering down of the libertarian position and its principles. The standpoint has been simplified into a packaged and marketable ideal, “socially liberal and fiscally conservative.” While not entirely wrong, the idea that this is what libertarians want is not only nebulous but just not entirely true. We want freedom and security for our basic human rights. But more than this, we want the NAP to be the guiding principle in our society, and subsequently, for aggression to be minimized to the lowest possible, or ideal, amount. The idea that all we want is gays to get married and to smoke weed is flat-out ignorant of the libertarian ideology and shows either a lack of understanding or a false and poor pragmatic plan to market our views to a more liberal generation, thus becoming a fusion of both parties. Rather, it could be its own party, different and independent of both parties. This has problems of its own, but before that, there’s more on that phrase often used to describe libertarian perspectives. Socially liberal does not encompass all libertarian views. Libertarians are pro-second amendment, pro getting government out of marriage, not just inclusion of same-sex couples. We are not for the censorship and speech control often used by the left. We are also far more ‘extreme’ in our economic policies than the GOP, wanting much lower taxes on almost all fronts, and proposing more radical changes than the tax cuts seen by the Republican party.
The LP also has major hurdles in front of it if it plans to become independent, more of its own thing. Major players in the party, Weld, Johnson, Petersen, etc. are Republicans. This leads to the party being hugely reliant on the GOP. Almost all of the successful candidates, candidates who win big positions, win not so under the banner of the Libertarian party, but under that of the Republicans. Unless someone runs for Congress or governor or some other likewise position under the libertarian party, the party can not and will not grow. It must differentiate itself from the Republican party to gain disillusioned Democrats and to define itself more. It must also distance itself from the Democratic party, not only to gather Republicans but to purge itself of socialists and other economic authoritarians.
With all of this considered, pros and cons weighed, the choice is muddied. There is certainly up for debate, and both sides have valid arguments. I will put my support behind the Republican party with two contradictory hopes. One is for the LP to absorb itself into the larger GOP, and begin to dominate its politics. This solves the third party problem and also settles grievances I have with both parties, given they abandon each of their views I disagree with. This first solution is unlikely at best, too much wishful thinking and utopian dreaming. The second solution is for the LP to gain steam among the younger generation and for more candidates focused on freedom and rights, rather than appealing to all sides. I feel that if they focus their sights on settling a base ideology that is more consistent and more right-leaning and also more realistic and put together. Right now they have a series of jumbled policies that I agree with but for the wrong reason. The Republican party is certainly the best hope and most likely party to institute change and reform for a smaller government, especially on the economic front, but the Libertarian party is a closer representation of social policies and freedom, and it holds radicals with views of government very ideal.