The Libertarian Party — What Is It Good For ?by Doug Mataconis
As I noted earlier, the Libertarian Party is making an open appeal to Ron Paul’s supporters to come back to the party:
The Libertarian Party is the last remaining stronghold for liberty in American politics.
Unfortunately, the Ron Paul campaign has unintentionally taken a toll on our party. Many of our members have changed their voter registration to vote for Ron Paul in a primary while others have allowed their support to lapse as they gave all that they could for a candidate that represented their values.
Early on, I made the decision to not interfere or discourage this activity. I felt it was wrong for me to place our party above such an incredible opportunity for liberty that existed with Dr. Paul’s run for the White House.
But today, it’s time to come home.
If you have switched your party registration, allowed your membership to lapse or have put off your decision to join the LP, I now ask that you reverse course and renew your support for our principled party.
Over at QandO Jon Henke asks whether the Libertarian Party is worth the time:
I’m not sure I understand the argument he makes. If you want to feel good about yourself for supporting a somewhat more principled Party, have at and enjoy the warm feelings you might get from it. But bear in mind….
- The LP has no chance in the short or the long term; libertarians simply are not an electorally viable majority. If that changes, the dominant parties will adjust and the Libertarian Party will be irrelevant; if it doesn’t change, the Libertarian Party will remain irrelevant.
- Don’t flatter yourself about how principled you are. Unless you agree with every Libertarian Party position (and nobody agrees with other people on every particular), you’re still compromising. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s not pretend that participation in a political Party doesn’t involve compromise – or that unwillingness to compromise is a viable strategy in a contested political system.
On the whole, I think that Jon is right. Outside of the 1980 Presidential Campaign, financed to the tune of several million dollars by the Koch family, the Libertarian Party has never even gotten media notice during it’s campaigns. More importantly, I think he’s right that libertarians, by themselves, are not a large enough portion of the electorate to make a difference — a fact that is borne out by the relative lack of electoral success that Ron Paul has had this year.
In hindsight, I think that the creation of the Libertarian Party has been very detrimental to the political influence of libertarians. Some voters (not many lately) and, more importantly, those libertarians who are interested in engaging in political activism (which does not include me) have been drained from both political parties, rendering both parties less libertarian at the margin
While some libertarian political activists are certainly Republicans and Democrats, the existence of the Libertarian Party ensures that there are fewer activists and fewer voters in each major party coalition than would otherwise exist. Therefore, each party’s coalition becomes less libertarian. I do not mean to exaggerate the extent of this effect. But even a handful of political activists in local and state party organizations can make a big difference. Whatever one thinks of the initial creation of the Libertarian Party, its continued existence seems to be a mistake for libertarians.
Barnett is, I think, largely correct. Perhaps the Ron Paul phenomenon will rejuvenate the Republican Party’s libertarian wing, and, if it does, then it will have at least accomplished something. If those Ron Paul supporters go to the LP, though, they’re going to find themselves getting even less accomplished than they did in this campaign.