One of the most common criticisms of Libertarians is that trying to build a Third party is both futile and counterproductive. For one, there are simply too many obstacles built into American electoral law for any alternative party to gain enough support to have any impact on government. And even if the party begins to win a significant number of votes, that may end up electing candidates even less libertarian than before.
I have discussed electoral reform in some detail in this blog. Some changes are realistic and some are likely pipe dreams. The single biggest reform that is needed is simply to remove all the legal obstacles that prevent the formation of new parties and their access to the ballot. In addition, laws which institutionalize and subsidize the Democrat and Republican parties (and there are many) need to be abolished. If the established parties, with all their advantages, can’t compete on a level legal playing field, they don’t deserve to maintain their grip on power.
But, until we can get to that level playing field, there is likely some truth to what the critics say. While no vote is truly “wasted” (or, for that matter, meaningful,) the effort expended in creating a new party may not be the best way to expand liberty. Or at least that would be true if the American party spectrum was arranged from most to least libertarian. Sadly, that is not the case…yet.
And there lies the dilemma for even the most moderate and reasonable libertarian. In most cases, there is not a clear libertarian alternative between the two major party candidates. While one may be better on some issues important to the liberty voter, they are likely worse on many others, sometimes much worse. It is one thing to accept a more moderate candidate than one might prefer. It is another to vote for a candidate with a large number of reprehensible views. I can support candidates as diverse as Ron or Rand Paul, Bob Barr and Gary Johnson. None of them are perfect libertarians. All of them advocated a more libertarian position on most every issue. If those kinds of imperfect candidates were being consistently nominated by one of the major parties, it might be worthwhile to invest energy in reforming that party. Sadly, that is the exception and not the rule.
And that is why I believe it is worthwhile to pursue the third party option. That, at least, provides a consistent libertarian voice and, hopefully, attracts new people to the liberty movement. The reality is that we are not losing elections because we are choosing the wrong party as a vehicle. It is because there are not yet enough libertarians in the electorate. That will only change if more people hear the libertarian message and come to embrace it. This blog is my small contribution to that effort. But, honestly, if each of us could motivate one or two people, that would make a huge difference. The Libertarian Party is one valuable tool to reach out to sympathetic minds. And that alone makes it worth the effort.
Didn’t plan on quite such a lengthy “vacation column” but sometimes it happens. Back on Friday with more ideas sure to confuse and outrage the establishment. Until then, have a great week and thanks for following along!