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Libertarian Party’s Future is at Fork in Road

William L. Kovacs

March 2021

Libertarian Party’s Future is at Fork in Road

After the 2020 election, there were several articles on the future of the Libertarian Party (“LP”) fighting to be heard in a duopoly, (“Democrats and Republicans”), a controlled political system. In “Guerrilla Politics” the author argues the LP should admit it cannot win significant elections, that ballot access is a “vanity project” and the party needs to focus on a few states and high-level races so it can be a “spoiler” to incumbents and at times, support the incumbent if it agrees with a few of LP principles. Another article in  LP.org discussed how the duopoly uses constant litigation to drain the resources of the LP.

While both articles provide interesting perspectives, both avoid the central question – does the LP want a future as a major political party?

While the duopoly controls politics there are bright spots for LP

This question is asked against the stark reality that the duopoly controls 99.92% of all elected offices in the U.S., spent in the 2020 presidential race almost $3 billion dollars vs $2.9 million by the LP candidate; and obtained over 98% of the national vote. Even more humiliating to the LP is that out of 328 million citizens, the duopoly elected “sleepy” Joe Biden, a gaffe-prone, plagiarist who has difficulty with sentence structure and avoids answering questions on issues.

There are several very bright spots for the LP. It is the only minor party on the ballot of all 50 states, an impressive achievement. Moreover, a very recent Gallup poll finds 62 % of Americans stated a third party was needed, the highest level ever.

What is the goal of the LP?

The difficulty in commenting on the future of the LP is while its slogan is “The Party of Principle,” there is no discussion of how these principles translate into practical policies that improve life in the U.S. A statement of principles is merely a statement of surface-level belief. Fighting to transform principles into reality, is costly. It involves a tremendous amount of hard work, action, communications with people outside of the party circle, coalition building, education, recruitment, and an openness to others who might support many of the LP principles, but not all. In short, the LP must recognize political success is achieved by addition, not by principles.

Professor Devine, in his book on minor political parties, writes that for America’s third-largest political party, “there is growing disconnect between the party’s radical platform and the more mainstream, “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” policy preferences of its rank-and-file supporters.”

To be successful the LP must decide if it wants to be a political party that leads the nation or be a social club discussing political issues. With freedom under attack and censorship viewed as “truth-telling,” it is the perfect time for the LP to decide its fate. If the LP decides it wants to win elections it needs to continue its very effective ballot access litigation and its minimal efforts at candidate recruitment and education. But it must go well beyond the minimum.

A few modest suggestions for the LP.

  • Explain how LP principles can be implemented to help the American people. This is essential since most Americans have little knowledge of the LP. 44% of Americans don’t even “know the correct definition of the party,” let alone its platform. Without knowing what it stands for, it is hard to vote for it. LP’s primary issues are individual freedom, free markets, freedom in personal relationships e.g., drug legalization, and a foreign policy used for defense rather than as the policeman of the world. LP has an opportunity to explain to a public locked in homes, under massive government surveillance, suffering assaults on privacy, paying for massive corporate bailouts and $5- 6 trillion spent on wars and nation-building, how its policies will make for a better U.S. Explaining its positions to the public will win significant additional support.
  • Develop coalitions with groups on specific issues of agreement. An excellent example is the decriminalization of drugs and prison reform. While there are many social organizations involved in this issue, there are also many minority organizations that have an interest in it. Reach out to the minority community, especially its business community, that has a strong history of entrepreneurship and is very understanding of the stigma of incarceration. Also, reach out to anti-war groups, they need allies as much as the LP does.
  • Consider the joint establishment of a litigation center with other minor parties to keep costs reasonable. Since all minor parties have similar concerns with the duopoly harassment on ballot access, having a cadre of experienced lawyers able to take on the cases nationwide is essential. Research how the many non -profit litigation centers have dramatically influenced the courts and national policy at a very reasonable cost.
  • Expand the legal theories beyond obtaining ballot access. Use the Civil Rights and Anti-trust laws to put an end to the constant harassment of litigation, and election law changes to deny ballot access to minor parties. Put the duopoly at financial risk by seeking damages for all the harm caused by a century-long conspiracy by the duopoly to deny civil rights and restrain trade.
  • Start this second to get on the debate stage for the presidential debates. Yes, the LP and Level the Playing Field, in June 2020, lost another case seeking to include minor parties in the debates. It is essential to grasp that judicial appointees are not dispensing justice; they were appointed to do the duopoly’s work. There are two options that have strong possibilities to put the LP message on stage.:
      1. Pass a law. Develop and have introduced legislation that has reasonable and achievable standards for participation by minor parties in the debates. Involve all minor parties in recruiting citizen lobbyists in every congressional district in the nation. Have them lobby their members of Congress and Senators in their home offices. Make the campaign local and public with visits and press releases. Make the campaign national by starting a social media campaign to raise awareness and support.
      2. Petition the IRS to deny non – profit status of the Commission on Presidential Debates (“CPD”). The CPD is merely a front organization for the two political parties. It uses tax-exempt status to raise money to host a debate that only provides exposure to the duopoly. In essence, corporations receive a tax deduction for making a political contribution. The IRS can investigate and change its status if it finds its goal is political, not educational. If big business loses the tax-deductibility of its “lobbying” contributions, the contributions evaporate. If the petition is denied sue the IRS.
  • Seriously think about this “wild and crazy option”. There is a large section of the electorate that would like to vote against Trump and Biden-type candidates, but it needs someone to vote for. If the LP wants a sizable part of those votes, it must nominate a candidate that has some name recognition, an ability to speak to the voters, a concise message that explains how libertarian policies would help Americans and can raise money. A few names come to mind: Rand Paul, Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Massie, Jim Justice, or Justin Amash. Each of these candidates are proven vote-getters and can raise money. Each of them has the ability to secure over 15% of the vote. If that happens LP will be recognized as a major party and will have a massive impact on the 2024 election and future elections.

The LP is at a fork in the road. Its current path leads to irrelevancy under duopoly domination.  Taking the less traveled path has the chance to break the duopoly and start implementing libertarian principles. Shock the political system! It deserves it!