Kevin D’Amato | United States
After a lackluster performance in the contentious 2018 midterms, the Libertarian Party is refocusing. Local races, not federal ones, seem to be the future for the third-largest party in American politics.
Besides winning ballot access for a few states, it seems like 2018 is another year in history libertarians would rather forget. Crushing defeats in all types of positions took place, including incumbent state legislators Laura Ebke and Brandon Phinney, who secured 43% and 10% in their races, respectively.
As founder of the Mises Caucus Michael Heise put it on Election Day: “We need to accept that federal office is not realistic right now. If we’re lucky we make the ballot, but even then we are kept out of the polls, excluded from the debates, and blacked out by the media.” Heise went on to say that the way to victory is through running “local initiatives” and by pursuing “winnable state-level races”.
Michael’s advice is sound and logical. In fact, looking at previous elections, localized candidates performed much better on average. The federal libertarian candidate who did the best by far was Gary Johnson in the New Mexico Senate race. Despite polling as high as 22%, which was second place, prior to the election, the former governor only managed to get 15%. This is even more disappointing after realizing how much money and time he poured into the run. Artie Buxton of South Carolina, on the other hand, won a bid for school board with 68% of the vote. Without a doubt, that victory was won with much less than the nearly $400,000 that Johnson used.
The New Libertarian Way to Victory
Local and state races are not only more successful historically, but also more strategic. Without endless supplies of money like the Republicans and Democrats, the Libertarians need to be inventive:
- Low profile races add up over time, building a strong grassroots base.
- Local races create experienced candidates who can work their way up the political ladder.
- Proven records of victory provide a defense to arguments against the lack of “winnability”
The largest lesson for any Libertarian is that the real upcoming race is 2019, not 2020. Local races are the future of the Libertarian Party. The long game is the path to change.
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