Who Will the Libertarian Party Nominate?

The Libertarian Party National Convention is coming up on Memorial weekend.  Unlike the two major parties, there are no Libertarian primaries.  The presidential nominee is determined at the convention.

I have been a registered Libertarian (capital L) since 2002.  I switched my registration to Republican in late 2007 in order to vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primary in Florida.  The day after the primary election, I switched back to Libertarian.

I have had my criticisms of the LP, but it is not hard to find common ground at an LP meeting.  I was involved in my local chapter until a few years ago when the local chapter decided to take a break.  I probably could have kept it going, but it would have required more time than I was willing to give up.

When I joined the LP, Harry Browne had been the most recent nominee.  I attended the Libertarian Party state convention in 2004 and heard a debate between the 3 major candidates.  The candidates for the nomination were Michael Badnarik, Aaron Russo, and Gary Nolan.

I was able to meet all three candidates and talk to them.  There were a few things about each one of them that I really liked, as well as a few things where I disagreed.  Aaron Russo (RIP) may have been the least libertarian, but also the one with the most connections (from Hollywood).  There is usually a debate between fame vs. principles.  Still, Russo was probably more libertarian than many of the candidates since that time.

Nolan and Russo kind of went at it.  The two of them thought the race was between them.  Badnarik came out of nowhere, standing on principle, to snatch the nomination away from the two of them at the convention.

Since then, it has been mostly a disaster.  Bob Barr was the nominee in 2008.  He was terrible for the party and the movement.  He was nothing more than a Republican who wanted some notoriety.  He may have slightly leaned libertarian on a few issues.

It is too bad, because 2008 was a year for opportunity.  Ron Paul had just drawn the attention of millions of people who did not want to vote for McCain or Obama.  Mary Ruwart ran for the nomination that year and lost to Barr.  She would have been a great spokesperson for the cause of liberty that year and I believe Ron Paul probably would have endorsed her.  I think she would have easily gotten a million votes, but probably far more.

In 2012, Gary Johnson was the nominee.  He did not have much competition.  R. Lee Wrights was in the running.  He was probably the purist of the Libertarians, but he isn’t someone with much name recognition or connections.  It is tough to compete against a former governor.

I like Gary Johnson.  He really seems like a decent guy to me.  Still, he doesn’t impress me all that much on the issues.  He is definitely better than most Republican politicians, but he is not libertarian enough for me.  If someone is going to vote third-party, that person is already a little different.  They are looking for someone different.  You don’t have to be “Republican-lite” when you are running third-party.

Johnson had the highest vote total ever for a Libertarian candidate with nearly 1.3 million votes.  Still, I think this total could have been higher if it had been Ron Paul, or even someone who Ron Paul could enthusiastically endorse.

Johnson is running again now.  He has taken some really bad positions for someone who is supposed to be a libertarian.  He is apparently against the freedom to associate.

He just announced who he wants as a running mate.  It is William Weld, a former governor of Massachusetts.

I am not familiar with Weld, so I looked him up on Wikipedia.  Without doing much research, I already don’t like him, at least for being an LP candidate.  He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  That right there should put up more than a red flag for everyone.

Weld helped George W. Bush prepare for debates in 2004.  If it had been 2000, maybe we could have excused the action.  In 2007, he endorsed Mitt Romney and actively campaigned for Romney.  That should be enough said.

But just think if some state actually ever had a hardcore libertarian governor.  Even with a tough legislature, you would expect some major reforms that would be noticeable.  It would include not just major budget cuts and tax cuts, but also a reform of the criminal code.  If there were ever a hardcore libertarian governor, you would know about it.

I would have considered throwing a vote to Gary Johnson in the general election, but I don’t think I will even consider it now.  I don’t trust him on foreign policy any more than I would trust Donald Trump.  I would trust Trump more to stand up to the special interests and the war lobby than I would trust Johnson at this point, especially with a CFR guy as his running mate.

Scott Lazarowitz recently wrote an article for LewRockwell.com in which he analyzed some of the LP candidates this year.  The only candidate he was able to praise was Darryl Perry.  “Who?”, you say.  That’s the problem.  He is considered one of the minor candidates, but you never know what can happen.

The other major candidates at this point, aside from Johnson, are considered to be Austin Petersen and John McAfee.  Petersen is probably the most libertarian of the “major” candidates at this point, although he apparently only wants to cut 1% per year from the federal budget.

McAfee, if you didn’t figure it out by his name, is the founder of the McAfee virus software program.  The best way to describe him is probably a left-libertarian.  He stresses civil liberties and foreign policy.  If I actually thought he would stand strong on a non-interventionist foreign policy, I might consider voting for him because that is the one issue where the president can really have an impact.

Still, overall, I am not too impressed with the current crop of candidates.  The LP is wasting opportunities, as many Americans are craving something different.  I wish Ron Paul had run on the LP ticket this year.

I live in Florida, and I remember hearing the convention would be in Orlando in 2016 a few years ago.  It would be easy for me to go there, but I am not making the trip.  The problem is that I just can’t get excited over the presidential candidates.

While I don’t hold out hope for an LP victory in the presidential race (or any other major race), I believe it is a great opportunity to spread the message of liberty and to educate others.  That is what Harry Browne did so effectively in 1996 and 2000.  He admitted he had virtually no chance of winning.  But he used the platform to convert others to the libertarian message.  Unfortunately, we are probably not going to have a good educator in 2016.

2 thoughts on “Who Will the Libertarian Party Nominate?”

  1. Hi, Geoff,

    I’ll be voting third party again this year and feeling good about it. I’m under no illusion about any of them winning, but I do believe voting for smaller govt candidates is much better than holding my nose and voting for the lesser of two evils. Why? Because political change happens at the margins. If a third party gets enough votes to determine an election, then the major political parties have to take the issues those voters care about more seriously. If they want to get the third party votes they will have to change their platforms to include things those voters care about. We saw this with the GOP and DNC after Ross Perot got 18% of the vote – we got welfare reform. Further, it is civil society that evolves and then the politicians just jump on a galloping horse. i.e. gay marriage and marijuana legalization. So, I think the liberty minded do well to couple voting third party with supporting groups/organizations that are promoting liberty.

    I’m interested in your thoughts about the most effective way that liberty minded people can change things.

  2. Even though I talk politics quite a bit, I believe that change will mostly come about through non-political means. It is a matter of educating others on the benefits and the morality of liberty.

    I favor political involvement to the extent that it can be used for educational purposes. That is why it is hard for me to get excited over a third party if they are not bringing a solid message. I like Gary Johnson, but I don’t see a lot of people becoming enthusiastic about him. I also don’t see him doing a good job of teaching others, especially when he doesn’t even understand certain libertarian positions himself, such as the freedom of association.

    It is ultimately a personal decision on how to vote. Since the LP nominee is not going to win, it can be seen as a statement of rejection of the status quo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *