The Libertarian Party is in a unique position in history right now. Their ticket has two former Governors, one a left-leaning libertarian with appeal to multiple spots on the spectrum. His running mate is a career neoconservative who found his libertarian streak just in time to get nominated and according to former New Mexico Gary Johnson himself, William Weld is an excellent fundraiser. Philosophical debates aside, this team looks viable on paper.
The Republican Party is setup to nominate a candidate arguably less qualified in Donald Trump. Trump, while scoring record turnout among party voters, remains extremely divisive. Moderate, conservative and libertarian wings of the party all have their own varying concerns. For this reason, they’re looking elsewhere.
The Democratic Party is throwing its favor behind a candidate that is not only polling with low favorability ratings among registered voters, but unpopular with the party’s grassroots as well. The Associated Press-nominated Hillary Clinton is driving away supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders and otherwise more progressive or harder left liberals. For this reason, many are looking elsewhere.
While Green Party candidate Jill Stein is making her case for the third party voters and disaffected Republicans and Democrats, the more viable ticket remains Johnson/Weld. For this reason, the Libertarian Party has a solid opportunity to attract new supporters.
But the trick is the Libertarian Party needs to understand why it is people are turning away from their respective political parties and also grasp what it is libertarians want out of them. Whether or not the arguments about purists being impossible is true or not, responding negatively to critics isn’t going to attract anyone.
Johnson/Weld is not a favorite among libertarians or conservatives, with Weld being more unpopular than Johnson. The result has been an ongoing combative philosophical debate since the nomination.
Those supporting the Libertarian Party ticket and otherwise enrolled in the Libertarian Party are telling potential supporters they need to put aside their concerns for the good of the party. Get them over electoral thresholds and at least they’re better than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
Essentially, the Libertarian Party is utilizing large party tactics to force people in against their conscience.
It’s not going to work, because this is exactly why people are turning on their own parties. Liberal and progressive voters turning away from the Democratic Party are doing so because they won’t just fall in line to stop the other person. They have principles, regardless of what they are, and they aren’t going to compromise on them.
The same goes for Republicans, who won’t fall in line just to stop Hillary Clinton. Moderates, conservatives and even libertarians refuse to compromise their personal principles for the good of the party just to stop Clinton.
So why would these people set aside their principles for a party they essentially don’t have any previous loyalties to, just to stop Clinton or Trump?
The Libertarian Party needs to understand why people are leaving what they’ve always stood by and appeal to that. Arrogance is not a winning electoral strategy. Why should anyone care about electoral thresholds? The good of the party argument hasn’t worked with any party so far, it’s not going to with the Libertarian Party. If the Johnson/Weld ticket is strong, give it time for those uncomfortable to come around. People will see how Johnson and Weld handles the media and their opponents.
Until then, Libertarians need to rethink their strategy in dealing with all groups of people, if they are to be a serious campaign going into November.