A month ago, a former Maryland Libertarian Party candidate called to let me know that he is going to run for the same race in 2020 as a Republican.
I thanked him for having the courtesy to let me know and asked him why he was planning on running as a Republican. He replied that he wanted to win.
I asked him why not run as a Democrat for that seat.
He sputtered incredulously, “Why would I do that?”
I said, “Because a Democrat has won that seat the last three elections, the last two by double digits.”
After a pause, he replied, “Well, I have a better chance of getting elected to the seat as a Republican than as a Libertarian”.
“True, but you still have much better shot getting elected as a Democrat”. Nonetheless, he still couldn’t fathom running as a Democrat.
The supposed affinity with the Republican Party is a problem the Libertarian Party has had for most of its history.
Part of the fault is on the Libertarian Party. For decades, the party has reached out mostly to disaffected conservatives, particularly on the issues of spending and gun rights. There has been a theme going around for years that the LP is a bunch of conservatives who like to smoke pot. In 2016, many Libertarians tried to position the party as one for “Never Trumpers.” Well, the Republican Party has sucked for a long time prior to Donald Trump getting elected president. The LP has done a poor job of reaching out to those who are anti-war, for civil liberties, against corporate welfare and for immigration. Further, former Libertarians running as Republicans give the GOP libertarians credibility they don’t deserve.
The other part of the problem is that Republican candidates love using libertarian rhetoric when running for office. Never mind that they never deliver. In 2000, Bill Clinton’s last year as president, the budget was $2 trillion and the debt around $5.5 trillion. The budget is now $4.4 trillion and the debt reaching $23 trillion, with a majority of the spending since the Clinton Administration written and passed by Republican-controlled US House members. They have been fully behind our aggressive foreign policy, where we have been mired in the Middle East for 16 years with no end in sight — a war that has cost over a trillion dollars, thousands of deaths and massive environmental destruction. Going back to Nixon, they have enforced the War on Drugs which has locked up countless nonviolent people and ruined their lives.
Some libertarian-ish people have been elected to Congress as Republicans, such as Rand Paul, Thomas Massie and Justin Amash. Rand Paul has come out and said he isn’t a libertarian, rather a “constitutional conservative.” While he has tried to push the Republican Party to limit our presence in our foreign wars and pushed for some changes to civil liberties, he is a full supporter of Donald Trump and has backed some of Trump’s un-libertarian legislation and appointments, such as Mike Pompeo. He recently tried to get the Republicans in Congress to pass a budget that would cut a whopping two percent in spending. He got no takers. And Amash was run out of the Republican Party for speaking out about Trump. Paul, Massie and Amash have had to fight their own party as much as they have the Democrats, and they haven’t made the Republican Party any more libertarian than it was prior to their getting elected.
When Rand’s father, Ron Paul, decided to run for Congress again in 1996 after being away for eight years, the GOP did everything they could to prevent him from getting reelected. They backed former Democrat-turned-Republican Greg Laughlin against Dr. Paul since the district was strongly Republican and the winner of the Republican primary would most likely win the general election. Then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, along with his father, former President George H. W. Bush, both campaigned against Dr. Paul, as did then-Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Fortunately, Dr. Paul still won.
In 2006, also in Texas, then-Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay resigned after winning the primary, due to ethics violations. It was too late for the Republicans to place another candidate on the ballot, thus there were only a Democrat and Bob Smither, a Libertarian appearing in the general election for that seat. Did the Republicans back the Libertarian? Of course not. They chose to get behind a write-in campaign for a Republican candidate. It didn’t work, and the Democrat won.
The Republican establishment would rather a Democrat win than a Libertarian.
The national GOP has made it extremely difficult for Libertarians to get on the ballot in partisan races in Arizona, has spent over a decade trying to keep us off of the ballot in Ohio, and recently the Republican-led Texas legislature passed a law requiring minor party candidates, such as ours, to pay expensive filing fees to get on the ballot — fees which will cost in the thousands to run for statewide office, and which few of our candidates can afford. Republicans (and Democrats) will do anything to prevent candidates who want to shrink government from winning elections.
Libertarianism isn’t conservative nor liberal, in the current sense of that term. To be a Libertarian means you are against the initiation of force or fraud to get what you want or feel needs to be done. Period.
Working for freedom can be a long, slow grind. It is quite possible that I won’t see a free society, or any significant shrinkage in government by the time I pass on. My time and efforts working for the cause through the Libertarian Party may not come to fruition. But I also know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I will never get a free society working through the Republican or Democrat parties.
Are you a Republican, or are you a Libertarian?