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.