The Forgotten Libertarian Party: A Response to Election 2018

Whether we like it or not, we libertarians are associated with the Libertarian Party. In fact, many people assume that being “a libertarian” is the same as being “a Democrat” or “a Republican.” In other words, that it is primarily a party label that is only loosely tied to a philosophy, if at all.

But the reality is quite different on our end of the spectrum.¹ The LP, in fact, is probably the least interesting thing going on in the liberty movement since at least Ron Paul’s first presidential run in 2008.

In fact, the LP nowadays really reflects those libertarians who haven’t gotten the memo that the US political system is built to quash third parties.

Fortunately, many of us have gotten the memo. And while the LP licks its wounds from another humiliating election season – in which Gary Johnson lost in the state he used to govern and the NH State Reps who had switched to the LP were trounced in their districts – the liberty movement is doing better than ever. Even politically!

Whereas we used to have one libertarian congressman in Ron Paul, now we have two and they were both just re-elected: Justin Amash and Thomas Massie. Amash leads the actual libertarian party in Congress, which is called the Liberty Caucus and consists of 10 liberty-leaning Representatives. One of them – the only Democrat in the Caucus – just gave up his seat in Congress to be elected Governor of Colorado. Meanwhile, Rand Paul remains in the Senate and is reported to have the President’s ear on many issues.

Together, these politicians and many others across the states make up a Forgotten Libertarian Party. They are quietly accomplishing what the Official Libertarian Party loudly promises it would do – if only it weren’t for the unfair electoral system.

This Forgotten LP is obviously not a “party” in the sense of a registered faction that competes in elections. Rather, its members have yielded to reality and picked a side in the regime’s contrived (and effectively compulsory) color wars – red or blue. In doing so, they can speak on the big debate stages, get elected, and vote as libertarian as any LP candidate would. Unlike the Official LP, the Forgotten LP does not need to waste millions of dollars on ballot access, does not need to settle for laughable candidates, and does not give the US public a biannual demonstration that liberty equals failure.

The Forgotten LP goes beyond the high reaches of elective office. It extends to policies too. What are the hallmarks of libertarianism? Guns and weed! If you support legalizing both of those, there’s a good chance you’re a libertarian. Well, those causes are sweeping the union over the past several cycles. Constitutional carry is now the law in 13 states. Recreational cannabis is legal in 10 states as of Tuesday’s victory in Michigan; decriminalization in another 13 states; and medical marijuana is legal in 33 states! Add one more and the states themselves could call a constitutional convention to override federal drug prohibition.

It is fair to say that the supporters of the guns and the weed may not always be the same people. But the trend is moving in tandem for both of these quintessential libertarian causes. With no real help from the Official LP, the Forgotten LP has used state nullification² to make progress in spite of Congress. (Excuse the pun.)

But this political success isn’t even the most impressive result of the 21st century liberty movement. No thanks to the Official LP, thousands of libertarians have moved to New Hampshire and formed a social movement of liberty. Elsewhere, more and more people are awakening to the ideas of Austrian economics through institutions like the various Mises Institutes around the world³ and the Foundation for Economic Education. Disruptive tech like cryptocurrencies and ridesharing are showing – rather than just telling – people that markets are better than monopolies.

This is all part of the Forgotten LP. It won some big victories this past Tuesday, but that’s not so unusual. It’s winning all the time. Quietly.

NHLA > LPNH

In New Hampshire, we have a great group called the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance (NHLA). One of the services they provide is a publication called the Liberty Rating, which ranks state legislators based on how pro-liberty their voting record has been. It’s a quick and easy reference to find the Forgotten LP hidden within the two-party system.

As it turns out, there are about 47 libertarian NH Legislators – both Ds and Rs. Many were elected or re-elected on Tuesday. You know who wasn’t? Any Rep that decided to put an “L” next to their name – regardless of their voting record or whether they were incumbents.

So, I suggest that the national LP fold and re-launch as something more like the NHLA. Lobby for pro-liberty causes and put out a report card so we can see how big the Forgotten LP is in Congress.

Believe it or not, nothing like this exists! There isn’t a place to go and see, objectively based on their votes, how libertarian members of Congress are. FreedomWorks puts one out that measures only “economic liberty” – and dubiously at best.

Listen, LPers, I do honestly applaud your enthusiasm and relentlessness… but here’s a straightforward way to put it to better use! It’s been half a century of the same approach and the same result. Do consider that your time is valuable and your cause is my cause (me causa es su causa?). I want us all to be as effective as possible.

If You Must Third Party…

If you really want to do the third party thing, then for Pete’s sake, do it this way:

1. Spend no more time on running candidates or gathering signatures for ballot access!

2. Spend all your time on passing electoral reform, specifically Approval Voting but also anything else that levels the playing field for all parties.

3. Then, once that’s done, you can get back to having a Libertarian Party and maybe actually attracting good candidates and winning from time to time. (Though I really still would prefer if you called the party something else so you didn’t tarnish the ideology with whatever political compromises you will inevitably make to get or retain power.)

Thank You, Libertarian Party!

A final ironic endnote here… the Libertarian Party did actually introduce me to this philosophy. And the LP meetings were my only libertarian social outlet for many years. So for that, I’m grateful.

However, it was only through sheer political geekery that I found the LP and continued to participate in it. For any normal person, if they didn’t dismiss the party for its obvious marginality, they would have dismissed it once they saw what the group had to offer them in terms of social connection or activism opportunities.

Ultimately, it was Ron Paul, the Mises Institute, and the rest of the Forgotten LP that gave me hope for our cause and helped guide me to more effective and satisfying methods of putting liberty into practice. So thank you to them even moreso!

 

Notes:

¹ Our end of the spectrum being neither right nor left, but “up”: https://www.theadvocates.org/quiz/

² More on nullification: https://tenthamendmentcenter.com/

³ Yes, Mises has gone global: https://wiki.mises.org/wiki/Mises_global

 

Updates/Corrections:

• Nov 11th, 2018 – 4th paragraph originally referred to three Libertarian NH State Reps who were trounced in their districts – but one of them stood down from his seat to resume his academic career. Thanks to Brian McQuade for the correction.

• Nov 11th, 2018 – Added the following line under “NHLA > LPNH” section: “It’s been half a century of the same approach and the same result.”


Author: Mike Vine
Published on: November 8th, 2018

May be republished in full or excerpted with proper attribution and a link back to this post.

Comments 2

  1. Basically, the LP (or the FLP) should start acting more like the DSA. With the advantage that we hypothetically have both parties to choose from. Though realistically probably not.

    I think the LP is good to have around for a protest vote though. If there are no good choice between R and D, give them the analytics they need to correct course. I would have voted for Larry Sharpe in NY. But for NH, Sununu deserved to be rewarded for his record.

    1. Post
      Author

      Agree with your first point, though I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss FLP Democrats in the future. Party coalitions are constantly changing and Jared Polis could inspire a wave of Freedom Democrats.

      Re: second point, the protest vote doesn’t work so well in the current election system. Critics rightly point out that you are likely to have some slight preference between D and R, and voting L will make it more likely that your less-favored candidate wins.

      Of course, that doesn’t take into account the fact that no one’s vote actually counts because math. Which is such a big caveat that it renders all discussion of voting strategy moot.

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