By Josh Hughes | United States
In 2018 alone, a sizable 833 Libertarian candidates ran for various offices in the election. From school board seats to national races, the party had many solid chances to grow this year. However, they only managed 27 victories. Depending on one’s perspective, that may be a success, especially including prosperous losses such as Larry Sharpe’s in New York.
On the pessimistic side, however, 3.4% of candidates winning their respective elections, with the overwhelming majority of the spots being relatively non-partisan such as “Soil Conservation Board” and “School District Board,” isn’t exactly a huge accomplishment for the liberty movement. 2018 was a prime opportunity for the Libertarian Party to make gains. But with this defeat, they will likely now have to wait until at least 2022, as voters are more likely to vote for the two major parties during the presidential election.
With all of this being said, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the status of the LP. Since its conception in 1971, the party has yet to consistently be a factor in any meaningful elections. While this isn’t entirely the party’s fault, it is certainly startling.
Unfortunately, the two party system has periled the fringe third party for its entirety. While their platform is certainly appealing to many on the right and left, many do not know about it. The sad reality is that the Libertarian Party simply doesn’t have the funding to advertise on the same scale as the Republicans or Democrats. From not being able to debate during the presidential election, to not being able to fund commercials for races, the party will frankly never be a contender if they don’t get access to more money.
People who know just a little about the party usually know one thing: “Didn’t their presidential candidate not know what Aleppo was?” The inept leadership and not-so-great candidates they choose to run usually shed a terrible image of what the party really stands for. What’s more, the party has moved more to the left recently. Taking the stance of open immigration and a very noisy anti-Trump policy certainly will not help draw in right-wing voters on the fence.
Another reason voters will be apprehensive is an unfortunate byproduct of America’s voting system. Unlike in a system of alternative voting, where voters can rank candidates without fear of wasting a vote, the U.S. only allows one vote. Suppose a Democratic candidate has 45% of support in a race, a Republican has 40%, and a Libertarian has 15%. Hypothetically, a majority of the 15% of LP voters, if given the choice between the two, would rather a Republican win than a Democrat.
Knowing the Libertarian candidate won’t win with only 15% of the vote, the voters often compromise their beliefs and vote for the Republican rather than let the Democrat win. In this instance, the Republican wins. However, the Libertarian supporters still aren’t satisfied because neither party matches their views. This idea of “choose the lesser of two evils or waste your vote, possibly helping a worse candidate win” is a horrible flaw in America’s system, and largely contributes to the unpopularity of third parties.
The Unfortunate Reality
As good of an idea as the Libertarian Party is, it frankly can’t win. The system makes it virtually impossible for any third party to be a major contender. Voters see (R) or (D) next to a candidates name and will make their choices based on that. “Libertarian” simply doesn’t have the name recognition or funding to compete. The best course of action for liberty-minded individuals, at least for now, would be to run as independents or liberty-minded Republicans, such as Austin Petersen of Missouri. Running on the Republican ticket without compromising one’s values is the best way to start winning major elections for the liberty movement.
Get awesome merchandise. Help 71 Republic end the media oligarchy. Donate today to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!