Written by Aaron Mathis
Follow him on Twitter @The_Real_Mathis
2016 was a year of firsts for the Libertarian Party. Gary Johnson, who secured 3% of the national vote, had pockets well exceeding 5% in some counties across the country. Mark Miller of Texas, who was running for Railroad Commisioner, gained 5.3% of the popular vote in his race, securing Texas ballot access.
Unfortunately while it was a time for firsts, it was also a dismal showing for the Libertarians. Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld didn’t achieve the Libertarian establishment coveted 5% for Federal election funds. Ballot access, howbeit with variable stipulations from state to state, was not secured in many states meaning that time, energy and money has to be spent on sending people to gather signatures in order to gain that access.
Moving past this year, here are seven ways to revitalize the Libertarian Party.
1. Embrace a pro-life stance
I’m not just suggesting an anti-abortion stance. Think broader. As libertarians we seek to preserve the liberty of all people, and understandably, there is some debate what constitutes a human. Some fringes of the Libertarian Party have factions that believe in after birth abortion, meaning until the baby is at a certain age, the primary caretaker can choose to kill the baby.
But rather than focusing just on being anti-abortion, we need to focus on creating a pro-life environment with fewer regulations on adopting, and inexpensive alternatives to abortion.
Libertarians have already embraced a pro-life stance when it comes to the death penalty, but are hesitant to take a step arguing for a full pro-life stance as it applies to babies.
2. Run for local office
It is ludicrous that we expect to make it on the national stage when there are very few of us holding local office. I understand that running for office is not for everyone, and it can be intimidating, but if we expect the cause of liberty to be taken seriously we cannot sit idly by and think we can just take the presidency by storm.
We need to take baby steps to gain relevancy and move up in the ranks. If we prove we can be taken seriously in positions of less responsibility, we will gain the respect and notoriety to hold higher office.
3. Long term planning
This is the one thing I have to hand to Karl Marx and progressives. They set a long term plan, publish it, act on it, and accomplish it. Republicans on the other hand are widely short sighted, focusing on one or two issues solely and fighting year to year for a majority.
In my years of following the Libertarian Party, I have seen very little future planning. Now perhaps this is done behind closed doors, and kept a secret, but the base must be informed. If there is no vision, there is no future.
4. Abandon the “Pot Party” label
Libertarianism is all about freedom to choose for yourself what you do, and to take personal responsibility. But this doesn’t mean flaunting it, or turning it into a flagship issue.
I have had three lengthy conversations about the Libertarian Party during the last week since the election. Within the first 30 seconds someone drops the phrase “weed smoking republicans.”
I don’t smoke, partake, or otherwise use marijuana, and barring a legitimate medical reason I doubt I ever will. And I am fine with erasing the laws on the books as I don’t believe that drugs of any kind should be classified, but when we have major (or minor) players in the party doing live streams while smoking a bowl, or talking about how stoned they get, we lose legitimacy. Freedom is a great thing, but flaunting it is damaging.
This is a major reason it has taken me so long to identify as a Libertarian in my state. As a non-partaker, I didn’t want to be labeled as a pothead.
5. Stop talking about ideologies and start acting on them
Libertarians are known for their debating, and while debate is good, many people only see the infighting and the hatred within the party. Most people who claim to be libertarian know the ins and outs of open borders, the writings of Ayn Rand, the problems with the FED, and how to convince a progressive that “taxation is theft.”
But we can’t expect to be taken seriously when we don’t apply the most simple acts of kindness that truly defines libertarianism. We claim that good will and benevolence can make up for a lack of a welfare state, and that people will volunteer for different opportunities, yet I hear stories about local Libertarian parties trying to set up community service activities and no one wanting to participate.
6. Embrace conservatives
During the Johnson/Weld 2016 campaign, it seemed like every move that was made catered to courting progressives. Yet, conservatives, the ones who are the most likely to join the libertarian ranks due to disenfranchisement, are widely ignored, and in many cases mocked.
As a party of freedom, we should embrace all people with the caveat that you can personally do what you want as long as you don’t advocate the government forcing you to accept it. I don’t have to agree with everyone in the party, and I can tell you I never will, as we are a diverse group, but chastising someone who believes something different will never build the party.
7. Principle over popularity
Understand that this was an odd year. Many of us plugged our nose and voted for the lesser of three evils. It was a calculated move. We all had our reasons, but some people within the Libertarian party are still raising Johnson and Weld as the greatest thing to ever happen to us.
We need to get back to embracing solid principles instead of chasing down donation money. If I were a betting man, I would bet that if we didn’t have Weld on the ticket, we would have hit 4%. If we had picked someone more articulate and less goofy than Johnson, I believe we could have possibly hit 25%. Now this is speculation and guessing, but the point remains. Principles always speak louder than name recognition.
Why did Donald Trump win? The major reason people voted for him wasn’t that they knew him from the apprentice. It is because in addition to being a political outsider, he laid out plans of how to deal with the situations that people were concerned about. Democrats ignored the issues and targeted Trump’sshady past. Bernie Sanders could have won the primary if the Democrats were not clearly paving the way for Hillary. He gained a following because he was issue oriented.
While I am optimistic and hopeful that the Libertarian Party can secure the presidency in 2020, between now and then we must take small steps to direct the course of the movement. If we expect to make major strides in the United States, we must set the example for others and show them how rewarding freedom is by starting small and becoming a solid political movement that cannot be destroyed.