Joseph Albaugh- Citizens Journal Contributor
The Presidential Election of 2020 was one of the most conflicted elections in recent U.S. History. Coming into the year with almost starting a war with Iran, the Head of State almost impeached, an economy collapsing due to a pandemic, and the riots covering almost every part of the country, the Pew Research Center has noted that only 22% of the population still have high trust in the government. The United States of America is in need of desperate change, starting with the two-party political system. Partly due to how the electoral college works, the Democrats and Republicans have competed for federal supremacy almost since the inception of the country.
These two parties constantly try to fight for a broader appeal to garner more voters yet do so in disingenuous ways that sacrifice their values for moderate policy. However, recently there has been an interest in finding alternatives to the status quo. Looking back at the elections from 2012 and 2016 there has been a dramatic increase in a third party’s popular votes, going from 1.2 million in 2012 to 4 million in 2016. Americans are looking for a change, and that change can be found in the Libertarian Party.
The Libertarian Party stands for a collectively smaller government. As such, the party’s political compass works as a compromise between Republican and Democratic values. This can exhibit a change to the options voters have when electing politicians to represent them.
The Libertarian political philosophy represents the economically conservative with the socially liberal. Through their website, they have specifically laid out their positions on many of the topics commonly debated on the political stage.
Libertarians combine left-wing social issues such as being pro-immigration, more rights towards the LGBTQ+ community, criminal justice reform, and pulling out of foreign wars while combining right-wing policies such as decreased federal government power, transitioning more power being given to the states, and a free-market economy, and getting away from socialist government involvement, such as welfare and social security, in a capitalist economy.
It is no secret the United States of America has increasingly felt strife within its people due to partisan issues. In recent polls, identifying as an independent voter has consistently been the response for many people within the past year. People are tired of both the Democrats and Republicans not representing them and a compelling argument can be made that the Libertarians can instill a new hope within the American people. By combining the side of leftist social issues such as LBTQ+ freedom and protection alongside the right-leaning de-escalation of government involvement in foreign affairs and decreased taxes, the Libertarian Party can seize a large majority of American voters.
The philosophical thinking of the Libertarian Party can be traced back to the early civilizations of mankind. There is an inherent desire for mankind to rule themselves, which can be backed by the writings of Lao Tzu, to the early ideas of Stoic and Christian thought. The Libertarian philosophy is also shared by contemporary political thinkers who are inherently opposed to big government, such as Franz Oppenheimer, who claims the state’s political means of acquiring wealth and power as forceful and economic means as cooperative, thus touting big government as the enemy.
There is a central adherence to many of the classical political philosophers which teach that while it is the duty of the government to protect the people, it is up to the people’s individuality to improve themselves and their society. While it is regarded as a radical thought in the face of realism, it reinforces the essential motivation for the creation of the United States of America, that we the people are guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Libertarian Party is relatively new to the political world of the United States. During the 50s and 60s, there was a push against state control with America’s enemy being the Soviet Union, a totalitarian communist government, as well as the birth of second-wave feminism within the country. This spawned many political writings in the magazine such as The Freeman which was published by the Foundation for Economic Education. The magazine published many articles from economists, political scientists, and freelance writers critiquing the illiberal ideals of the welfare state, collectivism, and interventionism.
These were considered the early works of Libertarian Ideology, touting less government, and less American involvement in foreign affairs as described by Holmes in the Digital Archeology of the Modern American Libertarian Movement .
It was not until 11 December 1971 that the formation of the Libertarian Party was formed in large part due to the outrages experienced in the 60s with Civil Rights, Vietnam War, and imposed wage and price controls. Formed by David Nolan, as well as 83 other members, the party grew to now having over 30,000 contributing members, thousands of candidates, hundreds of officeholders, and almost a quarter-million registered voter. They are now the 3rd largest party in the United States and have submitted a presidential candidate in every election since 1972.
While they are the 3rd largest political party in the United States, their influence on policy and positions of power are minuscule to the larger Democratic and Republican Parties, while their website affirms around 233 political positions this year are registered Libertarians, most of those seats are in minor elected positions such as city councils and school boards. There is only one Libertarian in the House of Representatives, who at the time of the election was initially a Republican.
While they have run for president in every election since their inception, they have yet to secure any electoral votes at this time . The process of gaining political power in the country must start from the ground up. They do not have the funds to take on the other two parties. Opensecrets.org, a campaign funding watchdog, has reported Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate in 2020, to have raised around $3 million in campaign funding, while the Democrats and Republicans were each able to raise over $1 billion towards their campaigns .
By starting to gain influence in lower levels of government such as State Governor up to more seats in Congress, then there is a bigger possibility for gaining a bigger influence in elections. While this can be slow and methodical, a faster strategy could also be focusing on campaigning in one state with a large majority of votes such as California or Texas. If the Libertarian candidate can disrupt the other parties from gaining the popular vote, then the decision to pick the next president could be afforded to the House of Representatives.
There is a need to address some criticisms of the Libertarian Party, however. Their ideology can clash with realism, and many of the Libertarians themselves can see that. While their platform argues for minimal (if any) taxation, only 12% of Libertarian Party voters agree that taxation should never be raised. Critics of the party claim that letting the market free will let corporations monopolize, that societal necessities (like the environment) are not in the best interest of making money and that the philosophy of humankind governing themselves is, in fact, not true.
Critics argue that humans are not hardwired for the minimal amount of government required to maintain a nation-state. Pure Libertarianism is awfully close on the political spectrum to anarchy, or a state without government. This vacuum of government leadership can allow for a different type of ruling class such as corporations to seize control of the people.
These criticisms are valid, and there is a need for Libertarians to address how far they will take their values in the policies that they make, yet there is little cause for concern. The party represents an ideology to move towards in this current political climate. It presents an ideal of releasing so many government controls on issues such as gun rights and taxation to allow the individual more freedom.
Taking a monopoly on the American Government, and being a pure Libertarian State, would be detrimental to the lives of the people as unchecked corporations and markets could present a risk to the lower and middle-class workers. Rather, a larger voice in American policy, alongside the cooperation of Republican and Democratic Parties, can assist in progressive and forward movement in the American government.
The government and its people are rapidly facing a crisis of trust and identity in the United States of America. The amount of distrust in government and division between the American people has forced us to reconsider new possibilities for our way of life. While relatively new to the political sphere, the Libertarian Party presents the people with our inherent desire to be free. While not perfect, they can institute a true change to the status quo and can provide an opportunity to a large majority of those who do not feel like their voices are heard to be afforded some representation in the government and policy.
A substantial amount of the beliefs in Libertarianism hinge on the trust of the American people. While people can be emotional and selfish, the government being able to put more trust into their people may prove to have a benefit for the entire country. The whole American government can also benefit from having more than two parties in policymaking, which allows for cooperation to pass political and economic policy. However, they still have a long way to go in terms of securing enough political power to exhibit change.
Through slow and conscious effort to maintain alliances and gather rapport with the American people, the Libertarian party will be able to stand with the Democratic and Republican titans of politics. The good news for them is that they are on the right track, and more of their party is being elected in positions of state and federal power in the 2020 election, creating hope for change in America.
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