Election Results Show Third Parties Are a Dead End For Liberty Activists

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While the world spins off of its axis in lieu of a Trump victory, some libertarians are celebrating a different kind of victory. The Libertarian Party had its best showing ever with the Gary Johnson and Bill Weld ticket. As of Nov. 10, they had racked up 4,083,280 accounting for 3.23 percent of the vote. This smashed any previous vote totals several times over.

These results have fostered some optimism, but fell way short of the lofty expectations that were floated at the nominating conference. Libertarians believed that with two experienced governors that they could really capitalize on historically unpopular major party candidates. At first, the goal was 15 percent. After many lackluster press appearances, the goal was reduced to 5 percent. They ended up with three percent, and not on the national radar in any tangible manner.

The Libertarian Party needed to reach the 5 percent threshold to qualify for federal funding. They missed that goal, but certain states did beat the 5 percent threshold which will open up ballot access and potentially increase funds in those particular states. This can be helpful for Libertarian Party candidates who want to run for office. They would be smart to capitalize on this increased success by targeting local races and elections, where they could influence some minds and really make an impact.

In spite of this growth, there is another option for libertarians that may seem more desirable. Rather than taking a minor party and trying to build it into something against the odds, they could simply go to the GOP and set up shop there. Trump was able to waltz into the Republican Party and take it over immediately because it is so moribund and listless. Understandably, libertarians are not jazzed to join a political party that looks like a mixture of the plot to They Live and a funeral procession. However, the nature of the fractured destitute party gives a major opportunity to libertarians. It is so wide open that literally anyone can throw their hat in a race and immediately win.

While Republicans are not necessarily always liberty minded, they have been willing to get behind and support liberty candidates time and again. Liberty-minded folks are already representing the GOP at every level of the party, from local to state to federal. We aren’t a majority yet but we are a bustling minority with a great deal of intellectual heft to offer. Our intellectual heft partnered with Trump’s “lightning in a bottle” populist frenzy of support could make a pretty formidable alliance if we can make it work.

This bizarre alliance can work too because Trump is such a deal-maker. Although it is definitely disconcerting that authoritarian wash-outs like Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich have slithered into Trump’s inner circle, that is not the entire story. Trump has borrowed a lot of rhetoric from paleoconservative conspiracist Alex Jones on the campaign trail while colluding with Great Britain’s triumphant nationalist Nigel Farage and full-fledged libertarian tech whiz Peter Thiel. He has even warmed up to Rand Paul in recent weeks after a bitter feud during the primary season, and the two are now expected to work on rapidly privatizing government services. For his many faults, Trump can be worked with and that opportunity should not be squandered.

After all, Ron Paul did not leave a GOP that was dominated entirely by Neocons. In fact, he was virtually the only liberty-minded person in the entire party after 9/11 but stuck around when times got tough. He learned from his own mistake, having bailed from the GOP for the Libertarian Party in the 1980’s with nothing to show for it. He toiled in obscurity for many decades waiting for the right opportunity. On the big stage, he seized that opportunity. He wouldn’t have had the platform to deliver the message of liberty if he hadn’t been in the Republican Party.

Is the situation ideal? Of course not. It will never be ideal or fair for the liberty-minded in politics. In a just and sane world, we wouldn’t have to deal with these political gangs lording over us like subjects. However, one of these gangs is ripe to be co-opted for our own purposes. As much as hipster libertarians like to post snarky memes about the inanity of “changing the party from the inside” to masquerade their own laziness and lack of tenacity, it is in fact the only thing that has advanced the cause of liberty in real terms. The Ron Paul Revolution was launched through the Republican Party, and everything that has followed in the liberty movement has been a direct result of that initial spark.

Right now, Libertarian Party supporters are patting themselves over the back for getting 3.2 percent of the vote while Trumpsters celebrate the sweetest victory in history against one of the worst government criminals imaginable. Which cause is really throwing a wrench in the government’s tyrannical aims? We can wax poetic about a future where the Libertarian Party is relevant, but this year was their best shot and they don’t have much to show for it. It’s time for libertarians to go where the action is, and make their impact there. Otherwise, we will continue to falter while ascendant movements such as Trumpism make us irrelevant for good.

Shane has been an activist for liberty-related causes for over 10 years. He is the Media Relations Director of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Michigan, State Director of the Michigan Tenth Amendment Center, and County Coordinator for Michigan Campaign for Liberty.

  • Third parties? There is only one 3rd party; The rest are 4th, 5th, 6th and so on.

    • its really too bad you didn’t take the article to heart and made a sniveling comment instead. petty libertarians like you are why the movement doesn’t have success, FYI

    • Shane G Trejo Libertarians have had more success this election year than any other!FYI

  • 3RD parties dead to me that 3.2% is proof the Libertarian Movement is growing and will only get bigger!Especially after Big Guvment Lying Donald does his damage.

  • You’ve argued that since Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but Donald J. Trump won the electoral vote, “The people elected Hillary, the system elected Donald.” Given the corrupt, rigged system you’ve supported during the last decades, It’s hard to take that as anything but hypocrisy.
    You must know that the Commission on Presidential Debates exists only to keep out everyone besides the Democrats and Republicans (before the CPD, the League of Women Voters ran open debates). You must know that the cutoff was raised from 5% to 15% after Ross Perot actually made it to 5%, threatening the status quo. You must know that millions of Americans were denied their right to full knowledge of their electoral choices. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, both anti-war candidates with millions of followers, were hidden from the American people.
    Where was your outrage then? When the American people were tricked into believing they had to choose between two pro-war, pro drug war candidates in a rigged debate, where was your moral opposition? When Gary Johnson, a candidate whose foreign policy literally embodies the Prime Directive, was kept hidden, why was your Twitter account silent?
    Do you only stand on principle when it favors your candidate? Do you only notice a rigged system when it hurts your team?
    Even Terry Michael, who wrote the original press release announcing the creation of the Commission on Presidential Debates has found the moral courage to oppose that rigged system. Where is yours?
    True courage involves standing up to all unfair parts of the rigged election and debate system. “Standing up” to the one part that hurt your candidate AFTER the fact just doesn’t cut it. Something tells me that if the situation were reversed, you would have found a way to argue that the electoral college was a good thing after all.
    To learn about one party you seem to think Americans do not have the right to know about, please visit LP.org.
    In Liberty,
    Arvin Vohra
    Vice Chair
    Libertarian National Committee

  • It’s a shame they use the (rigged) polls to determine who is in the debates.

    • guess it’s easier to make sad excuses than to admit how pathetic your failure was, eh?

  • Only when the GOP candidate is more Libertarian than the LP candidates.

  • Robert Enders

    After this election, anyone who is technically qualified has the potential to win. If an openly promiscuous billionaire can get church ladies to vote for him, then pretty much any demographic group can be won over by anybody. I could go out and get a bunch of purple-haired genderfluid socialists to vote for a straight-edge free market Libertarian. All of the old rules are gone.

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