In the last presidential election, the Libertarian party only garnered about 4% of the national vote. How is that possible when over 60% of people want a third party? How can the Libertarian party become that 3rd party?
An obvious solution is to work with the existing political class from the Republicans and Democrats to get Libertarian issues addressed. After all, republicans believe in lower taxes and democrats believe in civil rights. Surely, Libertarians can find common ground with either side. Yes, we can work with both the left and the right on some issues, but we can’t rely on either party as a reliable ally.
Both parties at their core believe that government is the answer to solve their problems. Democrats want to use legislation and regulation to make sure businesses act in the best interests of society. Republicans use the war on drugs to protect people from themselves in order to ensure our nation’s moral fiber. Whereas all of us can agree with what the societal problems are, we as politicians disagree on the best solutions. As Libertarians, we believe that governments are a burdensome middleman that causes more trouble than they solve. It is difficult to convince either group that free market solutions are the quickest, easiest, and more sustainable path to help ourselves.
Moreover, politics has gotten more caustic in the past twenty years. We have seen blue dog democrats pushed out of the Midwest and South. We have witnessed the extinction of the social liberal Northeast republicans. Every primary in both major parties is a purity test nowadays. Any candidate that is seen as too moderate has a difficult nomination. Too much affiliation with a heretical third party could prevent politicians from even being considered.
So why can’t disaffected republicans and democrats become Libertarians? Surely a socially liberal fiscally conservation republican would be at home in the Libertarian party. Yes they would, but few will make the trek over to switch parties. Switching affiliation means admitting that you were wrong, which is hard for most people to do. Also, if as a republican, you switch to a third party, you are making it easier for the democrats to get elected. Even if unconsciously, this enters one’s thinking when grappled with the choice of switching parties. I can’t help the other side! Despite Trump moving the republican party away from Libertarian values, most republicans that are Libertarian minded would prefer to stay with the GOP where they can potentially influence the administration. Moderation however has not been in style for over twenty years. Disaffected democrats probably correctly feel that there is a 2018 midterm democratic wave coming that will oust or temper Trump. Democrats are unlikely to join the Libertarian party.
Yes, we can still try to convert Republican and Democrats to the Libertarian party, but I believe that it will yield little fruit. Young freedom minded conservatives however may be a goldmine for Libertarian recruitment efforts.
In order to grow the Libertarian party, we need to recruit those people that aren’t democrats or republicans. This is actually a huge group of people. Remember that die hard republicans and die hard democrats only each make up 20% of the total US population. The other 60% of the adults in this country want better from politicians; these are the 60% that are clamoring for a third party. We can be that third party.
Nintendo in the early 2000s found themselves in a similar situation to the Libertarian party now. Nintendo’s market share was declining as hardcore gamers were gravitating towards either the Sony Playstation or the Microsoft X Box. Despite this decline, Nintendo decided to forgo competition for this hardcore gamer demographic. Instead, Nintendo created games that appealed to casual gamers. They created party games to get families to play together. Nintendo marketed the Wii more as an exercise machine than as a gaming console. Nintendo was able to expand the gamer base and tap a market that hadn’t even considered buying a video game before.
We in the Libertarian party need to do the same as Nintendo. We need to advocate for issues that have been left aside by the two major parties. Free trade and Criminal Justice Reform come first to this authors mind. Advocating different types of solutions that don’t involve the government should bring in people who hadn’t considered politics relevant to their lives.
Furthermore, we can approach politics in a more refreshing light. As Libertarians we should be seen as the friend to all and the enemy towards none. Thus, we should be able to work with every other political party on at least one issue. We can work with Communists and the Green Party to eliminate corporate welfare. We can work with Democrats to curb military spending. We can work with the Republicans to cut domestic spending, etc. If we can show that we are willing to work with any group when they are correct, then that will increase the Libertarian party base.
Libertarians are out there, but they don’t know that they are Libertarians yet!