The Case for Voting Libertarian for President

 

Libertarian_Party_Porcupine_(USA).svgOur own James of England wrote an excellent article — and, I can only imagine, the first of many — for NRO. In it, he details why voting for Gary Johnson would be a mistake and he lists a variety of sins Johnson committed while governor of New Mexico. In increasing severity, James’s list included Johnson using state money to hobnob with celebrities, the state’s budget explosion under his watch, and the debacle that is Johnson’s stated position on forced cake baking.

To put it mildly, this is not a libertarian record or evidence of libertarian positions. The only one I might try to defend is for spending increases, since someone had to send him those bills. But either way, I’m not really here to defend Johnson. These are obvious sins and argue strongly against him. But at the end of the day, they don’t hold a candle to the anti-liberty positions of the two major party candidates. This brings me to what I believe is the biggest motivation behind James’s piece: The potential for Libertarian Party to do well enough this year to earn public financing in future elections.

Not only does Johnson’s faction seek the anti-libertarian objective of public campaign funding, but it tilts elections to Democrats. The potential negative impact of the Libertarian party can be clearly seen in the election for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota in 2008. Al Franken beat Norm Coleman by 215 votes, with the Libertarian party netting 13,916 votes for a candidate focused on economic issues, particularly drilling. A little more than a year later, Obamacare passed with 60 votes, Franken providing the 60th. With public funds and a professional ground game diverting votes, who knows what Congress might pass?

James is right that seeking public financing is un-libertarian and that Johnson has apparently admitted this as a goal. But when you really get down to it, there’s something un-libertarian about seeking office in the first place, and purity tests can be the enemy of the good, especially when there’s a chance of major positive consequences. We now have the chance to put a relatively strong — albeit, flawed — voice for liberty on the stage next to two criminally statist celebrities. And while a strong, well-financed Libertarian party could shave-off enough votes to cause Democratic wins in otherwise Republican-leaning races, the potential upside could make the risk worthwhile.

Additionally, the Libertarian party candidate is the best alternative for those who are in both the #NeverClinton and #NeverTrump camps. Whichever of the major-party disasters wins will likely go into office with an abysmally low portion of the vote, robbing them of a reasonable claim to a mandate. Often, the best kind of president is a neutered (or spayed?) president.

And yet, it’s still not certain who the Libertarian candidate will be. While Johnson is the favorite, there are those who could be more palatable to Conservatives, such as Austin Petersen:

Whoever wins in November will have a myriad of flaws, but flawless people cannot win the presidency. We don’t know what the future holds, but the possibility that a more liberty-focused candidate could catch fire and give the two-party monolith a run for their money is just too juicy to pass up. It might be too soon — as a matter of history — for Libertarians to exploit a strong showing, but this is the best opportunity in a generation to throw a wrench into the status quo.

I, for one, am excited to root (and vote) for this.

There are 58 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Yudansha Member
    Yudansha
    @Yudansha

    Sold!

    • #1
  2. Cyrano Inactive
    Cyrano
    @Cyrano

    I don’t believe the Libertarian nominee will do well, at least for reasons having to do with the party’s platform. They may better Gary Johnson’s record 1% vote in 2012, yes. But, that’s not the same as doing well.

    It’s a matter of doing well for the right reason.

    I’m thinking of Ron Paul 2012. Rockstar quality, fawning attention from the young ‘uns, moneybombs. He – ostensibly – made it hip to embrace the L-word, even if it came packaged with a few decidedly ripe positions on a few issues. All this talk about the Libertarian Moment.  “It’s happening!”

    Never happened.

    All of this was supposed to propel Rand Paul 2016. Paul the son was going to make Paul the father’s libertarianism respectable to grownups while preserving the excitable youth. Didn’t quite work out that way.

    The young ‘uns went to Bernie. He offered them Free Stuff!!!

    Sadly, there never was a Libertarian Moment, but only an anti-establishment impetus. It found Ron then and Bernie now. After Sanders fades some of those votes may go to the Libertarian candidate, enough to fuel more futile dreams about Libertarian Moments.

    Then, in 2020, they’ll disappear again. Kind of like Charlie Brown and Lucy’s football. If the Libertarian Party do well in 2016, it won’t be for the right reason.

    That makes me very sad, but I’m a realist first and foremost.

    • #2
  3. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Cyrano:I don’t believe the Libertarian nominee will do well, at least for reasons having to do with the party’s platform. They may better Gary Johnson’s record 1% vote in 2012, yes. But, that’s not the same as doing well.

    It’s a matter of doing well for the right reason.

    I’m thinking of Ron Paul 2012. Rockstar quality, fawning attention from the young ‘uns, moneybombs. He – ostensibly – made it hip to embrace the L-word, even if it came packaged with a few decidedly ripe positions on a few issues. All this talk about the Libertarian Moment. “It’s happening!”

    Never happened.

    All of this was supposed to propel Rand Paul 2016. Paul the son was going to make Paul the father’s libertarianism respectable to grownups while preserving the excitable youth. Didn’t quite work out that way.

    The young ‘uns went to Bernie. He offered them Free Stuff!!!

    Sadly, there never was a Libertarian Moment, but only an anti-establishment impetus. It found Ron then and Bernie now. After Sanders fades some of those votes may go to the Libertarian candidate, enough to fuel more futile dreams about Libertarian Moments.

    Then, in 2020, they’ll disappear again. Kind of like Charlie Brown and Lucy’s football. If the Libertarian Party do well in 2016, it won’t be for the right reason.

    That makes me very sad, but I’m a realist first and foremost.

    The obvious outcome is obvious… until it’s not.

    I’ve always despised Ron Paul. I don’t even care much for Johnson, or the Libertarian party in general (speaking as a radical libertarian).

    This time, it’s not so much about Libertarians doing things right, or there being a “Libertarian Moment” as it is potentially about how much the major parties royally screwed up on their nominations.

    • #3
  4. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    I don’t know if there’s a chance that the Libertarian Party will ever elect a president.  But if there’s ever been a year when the two major parties deserve to be told “No, thank you” in the presidential race, this is it.  I know, I know, wasted votes and all that.  But I’ve been voting straight or almost straight Republican ticket my whole life and every single candidate I’ve voted for in the last 6 years has lost.  So I’m used to voting for losing candidates.

    • #4
  5. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Randy Weivoda:I don’t know if there’s a chance that the Libertarian Party will ever elect a president. But if there’s ever been a year when the two major parties deserve to be told “No, thank you” in the presidential race, this is it. I know, I know, wasted votes and all that. But I’ve been voting straight or almost straight Republican ticket my whole life and every single candidate I’ve voted for in the last 6 years has lost. So I’m used to voting for losing candidates.

    The only time I’ve voted for a winning president was 2000, about three days after I turned 18, and I’ve always voted for a major party.

    • #5
  6. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Randy Weivoda:I don’t know if there’s a chance that the Libertarian Party will ever elect a president. But if there’s ever been a year when the two major parties deserve to be told “No, thank you” in the presidential race, this is it. I know, I know, wasted votes and all that.

    Bad idea.   All the signs point to a close race.

    This is not about preventing future Libertarian prospects.   This is about stopping Corrupt Hillary.

    If the Libertarian Party gains any traction, they will be pulling more from Trump than from Hillary.

    However much you may want to send a message to the GOP Establishment, I think that message already got sent by the success of Trump.   It is time to put the interests of America ahead of the interests in either the GOP or the Libertarian Party.

    Vote for awful Trump.

    Stop Corrupt Hillary.

    • #6
  7. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    MJBubba:

    Randy Weivoda:I don’t know if there’s a chance that the Libertarian Party will ever elect a president. But if there’s ever been a year when the two major parties deserve to be told “No, thank you” in the presidential race, this is it. I know, I know, wasted votes and all that.

    Bad idea. All the signs point to a close race.

    However much you may want to send a message to the GOP Establishment, I think that message already got sent by the success of Trump.

    Forgive me, but I think the wrong message has been sent.

    • #7
  8. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    MJBubba: If the Libertarian Party gains any traction, they will be pulling more from Trump than from Hillary.

    I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. The data I’m seeing indicates the opposite.

    • #8
  9. Fern Inactive
    Fern
    @Fern

    I know of at least two former Ron Paul-supporting libertarians who are now enthusiastically pro-Trump.  It mystified me, but I guess it comes down to isolationism, which they value more highly than liberty.

    • #9
  10. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Fred Cole:

    MJBubba: If the Libertarian Party gains any traction, they will be pulling more from Trump than from Hillary.

    I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. The data I’m seeing indicates the opposite.

    I would like to hear more about that if you have time Fred. It seems many of Sanders’ supporters are not naturally aligned with Clinton and embrace individual liberty, ending drug prohibition, and emphasizing personal privacy.

    • #10
  11. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Fern:I know of at least two former Ron Paul-supporting libertarians who are now enthusiastically pro-Trump. It mystified me, but I guess it comes down to isolationism, which they value more highly than liberty.

    I know some people that fit that profile: formerly for Ron Paul, now voting Trump.

    They are not isolationists and I think their support for Trump has as much to do with telling the Republican Party they have failed.

    • #11
  12. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    I will be voting Libertarian or some other third party for President. I would be much happier with Peterson than Johnson.

    • #12
  13. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Considering that Johnson has zero chance of actually winning, I don’t see how his policy sins should disqualify him from getting folks’ protest votes.

    For non-LPers, voting LP in this election cycle isn’t about winning. It’s about conscientious objection.

    • #13
  14. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    BrentB67:

    Fred Cole:

    MJBubba: If the Libertarian Party gains any traction, they will be pulling more from Trump than from Hillary.

    I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. The data I’m seeing indicates the opposite.

    I would like to hear more about that if you have time Fred. It seems many of Sanders’ supporters are not naturally aligned with Clinton and embrace individual liberty, ending drug prohibition, and emphasizing personal privacy.

    Nobody who enthusiastically supports massive government intervention in the economic decisions of ordinary Americans can possibly claim to be champions of individual liberty.

    Weed + Welfare ≠ Libertarian

    Weed + Welfare = Libertinism

    • #14
  15. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Misthiocracy: Considering that Johnson has zero chance of actually winning

    I realize people seem to think this is a given, but just repeating it over and over doesn’t make it so.

    • #15
  16. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    BrentB67:

    Fred Cole:

    MJBubba: If the Libertarian Party gains any traction, they will be pulling more from Trump than from Hillary.

    I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. The data I’m seeing indicates the opposite.

    I would like to hear more about that if you have time Fred. It seems many of Sanders’ supporters are not naturally aligned with Clinton and embrace individual liberty, ending drug prohibition, and emphasizing personal privacy.

    I expect many Bernie supporters to actually go to Trump. There’s more overlap there than people on either side want to admit. I know a silicon valley Bernie supporter who is going to flip to Libertarian in the general who’s echoed the same sentiment.

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Oh good. Another hold-your-nose candidate. I will certainly be reviewing the Libertarian candidates to see if I’m able to do that. I’m putting it off for now hoping for a miracle.

    • #17
  18. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Gary Johnson calls himself a Libertarian. But he isn’t.

    • #18
  19. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Fred Cole:

    Misthiocracy: Considering that Johnson has zero chance of actually winning

    I realize people seem to think this is a given, but just repeating it over and over doesn’t make it so.

    Repeating might not make it so but every single election in our history gives a pretty reasonable baseline. Has a Libertarian candidate ever gotten a two electoral college votes (of the 270 needed) in the same election? Only once has the Libertarian nominee gotten 1% of the vote and only once has the candidate  gotten 1 million votes.

    The Libertarians may likely have their best performance ever, that still does not given them a reasonable or statistically significant chance of winning the election.

    • #19
  20. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    BrentB67:

    Fred Cole:

    MJBubba: If the Libertarian Party gains any traction, they will be pulling more from Trump than from Hillary.

    I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. The data I’m seeing indicates the opposite.

    I would like to hear more about that if you have time Fred. It seems many of Sanders’ supporters are not naturally aligned with Clinton and embrace individual liberty, ending drug prohibition, and emphasizing personal privacy.

    I wish I could remember where I read this but when the polls showed Trump ahead or close to Clinton there was some reporting that looked into the numbers and showed Johnson pulling more voters from Clinton than from Trump.

    This all may change when the Clinton -Sanders fight is over.

    • #20
  21. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    For anyone interested in my cause for Johnson’s plausibility, that can be found here:

    http://ricochet.com/does-gary-johnson-have-a-chance/

    • #21
  22. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Fred Cole:

    Misthiocracy: Considering that Johnson has zero chance of actually winning

    I realize people seem to think this is a given, but just repeating it over and over doesn’t make it so.

    He’s currently polling at 10%.

    At this point in the 1992 election, Ross Perot was polling at 37%. He won zero states.

    Not conclusive evidence, I concede, but anecdotally illustrative.

    • #22
  23. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Libertarians won’t become an important party, they should help us pull the Republican party in their direction. Does voting for them this cycle help?

    • #23
  24. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Jager:

    Fred Cole:

    Misthiocracy: Considering that Johnson has zero chance of actually winning

    I realize people seem to think this is a given, but just repeating it over and over doesn’t make it so.

    Repeating might not make it so but every single election in our history gives a pretty reasonable baseline. Has a Libertarian candidate ever gotten a two electoral college votes (of the 270 needed) in the same election? Only once has the Libertarian nominee gotten 1% of the vote and only once has the candidate gotten 1 million votes.

    The Libertarians may likely have their best performance ever, that still does not given them a reasonable or statistically significant chance of winning the election.

    My opinion has nothing to do with the LP specifically. Is there any precedent for a president being selected from a party that has zero seats in Congress?

    Once the LP gets a few sitting members of Congress to defect to their banner, that’s when I’ll give them a snowball’s chance of winning the White House.

    That’s how the Republican Party was founded and killed off the Whigs.

    • #24
  25. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    As far as I’m concerned, the first hurdle a party must clear to get my support is put up a candidate that is worth voting for. The idea that you support a party that puts up a garbage candidate that contradicts the very values the party claims to stand for in order to strengthen the party and do better in the future is foolishness on a stick. When you reward bad behavior, you get more of the same. When you reward bad politicians, you get more of the same. The Libertarian party would walk away from Johnson as it’s leader after he just earned the most votes and status for the party it has ever had? Think again.

    • #25
  26. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    I Walton:Libertarians won’t become an important party, they should help us pull the Republican party in their direction. Does voting for them this cycle help?

    I think the argument could be made that this is true. Who was it who recently said 3rd parties are good for keeping the two major parties from going too far off the reservation? I can’t think of a time where this was more plausible.

    • #26
  27. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Fern:I know of at least two former Ron Paul-supporting libertarians who are now enthusiastically pro-Trump. It mystified me, but I guess it comes down to isolationism, which they value more highly than liberty.

    I was going to make a similar claim. I think a large part of both Ron Paul’s and Donald Trump’s most ardent support comes from people who like to trade in conspiracy theories.

    • #27
  28. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Mike H:To put it mildly, this is not a libertarian record or evidence of libertarian positions. The only one I might try to defend is for spending increases, since someone had to send him those bills.

    I’m not suggesting that Johnson was a dictator, but I think he bears some responsibility for his preferences for making strong claims and looking good to CATO over actually engaging in acts of leadership. It’s true that his immediate successor had an easier time because he was a Democrat, but for how many other people would you hear the excuse being made “of course he cut taxes and extended gun rights! He was a Democrat!”? Martinez also did much better when she had a Democratic legislature because she didn’t wait till a bill hit her desk to act.

    If I were a liberal, I’d have the same complaints about Obama; he could have gotten a lot more done if he’d shown any talent for working with Congress.

    But either way, I’m not really here to defend Johnson. These are obvious sins and argue strongly against him. But at the end of the day, they don’t hold a candle to the anti-liberty positions of the two major party candidates.

    Did you follow his suggestion that we should ban burqas because women could hide their bruises under them? Johnson has plenty of anti-liberty offenses that rival Trump’s and outrank Clinton’s.

    This brings me to what I believe is the biggest motivation behind James’s piece: The potential for Libertarian party to do well enough this year to earn public financing in future elections.

    This is my chief concern, yes.

    James is right that seeking public financing is un-libertarian and that Johnson has apparently admitted this as a goal. But when you really get down to it, there’s something un-libertarian about seeking office in the first place, and purity tests can be the enemy of the good, especially when there’s a chance of major positive consequences.

    I don’t believe that it is inconsistent to run for office as a libertarian to attempt to free people from the burdens of government. When John Sunnunu Jr. (not his father) ran for the NH Senate, for instance, that seemed entirely in keeping with his libertarian values. Friedman, Bastiat, Hayek, Rothbard; almost all libertarian leaders attempted to influence government policy.

    That said, although it does also point to Johnson being unprincipled, the problem with financing is not that it shows Johnson is a bad guy, but that the money would be spent on increasing the size of government by getting Democrats elected.

    [my iPad formatting gave up here; sorry for the lack of proper quotes]

    “We now have the chance to put a relatively strong — albeit, flawed — voice for liberty on the stage next to two criminally statist celebrities.”

    If, as below, you mean Petersen, then sure. If you mean McAffee, then, again, I agree; also, a McAffee/ Trump/ Clinton debate would be some of the greatest political TV in history. In Russia, it would get more views than the Olympics. In Germany, the World Cup would be the second most highly rated entertainment of the four year cycle. In Switzerland, for a few glorious hours, the cantons would all be doing the same thing. If you mean Johnson, though, then, no, you’d just have three criminally statist celebrities.

    “And while a strong, well-financed Libertarian party could shave-off enough votes to cause Democratic wins in otherwise Republican-leaning races, the potential upside could make the risk worthwhile.”

    Could you definite the upside? Specifically? So far as I’m aware, Johnson has never contributed anything to a national debate that was not about pot.

    “Additionally, the Libertarian party candidate is the best alternative for those who are in both the #NeverClinton and #NeverTrump camps.”

    This is the very definition of begging the question.

    “Whichever of the major-party disasters wins will likely go into office with an abysmally low portion of the vote, robbing them of a reasonable claim to a mandate. Often, the best kind of president is a neutered (or spayed?) president.”

    This is why I advocated writing in a candidate.

    “And yet, it’s still not certain who the Libertarian candidate will be. While Johnson is the favorite, there are those who could be more palatable to Conservatives, such as Austin Peterson:

    I, for one, am excited to root (and vote) for this.”

    I’m excited to root for Petersen (spelling), too. Indeed, I’d lay money on your doing less to root for Petersen than I am. If the LP nominee is Petersen or McAffee, we’re likely to have an LP that is focused on promoting libertarian values rather than simply serving as a patronage machine for Johnson. I think that our efforts to support Petersen are likely to fail, for precisely that reason; Petersen talks about principle, while Johnson is the Jeb!/ Clinton of the race. Since the LP nomination process is almost entirely super delegate based, the degree to which “pork” and “Johnson” are synonymous is quite likely to be an insurmountable hurdle.

    • #28
  29. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Randy Weivoda:I don’t know if there’s a chance that the Libertarian Party will ever elect a president. But if there’s ever been a year when the two major parties deserve to be told “No, thank you” in the presidential race, this is it. I know, I know, wasted votes and all that. But I’ve been voting straight or almost straight Republican ticket my whole life and every single candidate I’ve voted for in the last 6 years has lost. So I’m used to voting for losing candidates.

    I agree that you shouldn’t sweat about your vote not going to win the Presidency. That doesn’t mean that you should feel comfortable about your vote going to support the Democratic candidate in 2020 through public financing for their campaign.

    Mike H:

    MJBubba:

    Randy Weivoda:

    Bad idea. All the signs point to a close race.

    However much you may want to send a message to the GOP Establishment, I think that message already got sent by the success of Trump.

    Forgive me, but I think the wrong message has been sent.

    If you think the wrong message was “we’re angry and we don’t care about policy; we’ll vote for a statist jerk in order to send a message”, I’m not sure you have the best corrective to hand.

    • #29
  30. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Fred Cole:

    MJBubba: If the Libertarian Party gains any traction, they will be pulling more from Trump than from Hillary.

    I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. The data I’m seeing indicates the opposite.

    This is always the case. Search the Internet and you’ll find vast numbers of arguments that the ex-Republican running for the LP is (or, in the later Paul cases of third party hopes, would be) more appealing to Democrats than to Republicans. People said this of Bob Barr. They said it of Ron Paul. They said it of Johnson and of the Koch brothers.

    On the left, you have the same argument being made; Nader/ McKinney appeals plenty to Republicans, and wasn’t responsible for Bush. It’s an argument that is more or less exclusively made by supporters of the candidates; you won’t find many Republicans angry at Nader for making 2000 so close, or a lot of Democrats who think that Ron Paul is the answer (note how few Democrats supported him in the 2012 primaries, despite having no primaries themselves).

    It’s never been the case. The liberaltarian movement and its ilk and the various conservative green movements all die swift and ignominious deaths or retain consistent trivial levels of membership.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.