The Libertarian Party is racking up impressive results in its campaign to get its presidential candidate, Roger MacBride, on the ballot in about 35 states, including the biggies New York and California. The LP's prospects as a serious third party have been improved immensely by recent events: the failure of Ronald Reagan's drive for the Republican nomination and his withdrawal from active politicking, the collapse of National Review publisher William Rusher's plan for a broad-based conservative third party (which collapsed when the American Independent Party nominated segregationist Lester Maddox), and the ineptness of the poorly organized independent candidacy of Eugene McCarthy.
Thus, disillusioned American voters are left with only one real alternative (other than far-left fringe groups like the Communist and Socialist Worker Parties): the Libertarian Party and its attractive, straight-talking candidates, MacBride and Bergland. Here at last we have a presidential ticket that stands for the free market, civil liberties, an anti-interventionist foreign policy, and a rebirth of the spirit of individual responsibility that's been nearly obliterated by our Big Mother government. REASON heartily endorses the 1976 LP ticket and urges our readers to work for and vote for MacBride/Bergland.
Indeed, the 1976 election may well represent a watershed in American political history. After decades of compromise and lack of principles, the GOP now holds the allegiance of only 22 percent of the electorate (compared with 45 percent for the Democrats). As political scientist Nelson Polsby sees it, we now have a "1½ party system" in America. House minority leader John Rhodes puts it this way: "If the GOP does not experience a significant change in political fortunes by 1978, it is likely to go the way of the Whigs."
Thus, there is a chance—a real chance—for the LP to step into the vacuum created by the GOP's impending demise, becoming a serious third force as a result of this year's election and potentially displacing the GOP altogether in subsequent years. Consequently, the importance of this year's vote total in building the LP into a serious contender—or at least influencing the programs of other parties—can hardly be overemphasized.
Having said this, there remains one issue that must be raised. Suppose it turns out to be a very close election, one in which the votes of potential LP supporters could make the difference between a Ford and a Carter victory on November 2? Some will argue that it makes no difference which one wins, since both are statists, differing only in minor detail. Others will even want the worse statist to win, so as to hasten the "inevitable" day of reckoning due to the failure of Keynesian economics, and further bury the dying GOP.
We can't accept these arguments. There are more than minor differences between Ford and Carter, as Gary Allen's new book, Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter, documents in detail. Media imagery notwithstanding, Carter can only be viewed as an all-out statist, and a tremendous threat to liberty.
One need only compare the Republican and Democratic platforms to appreciate the magnitude of the differences. True, the Democrats favor amnesty for draft resisters and reduction of the bloated defense budget (which the Republicans plan to increase), but they also favor (and the Republicans specifically oppose) the horrendous Humphrey-Hawkins bill which would lead to massive new inflation, wage/price controls, and national economic planning; national health insurance; forced busing; further gun controls; and additional controls on the energy industry. And can anyone imagine a Carter administration containing such free-market advocates as Alan Greenspan, Lewis Engman, and Thomas Sowell in key government posts?
On the other hand, despite his willingness to veto many costly measures passed by the Democratic Congress, Ford has signed or supported legislation calling for billions of dollars of expenditures for domestic and military programs, and he continues to support the One Hundred Billion Dollar energy program which was originally inspired by Nelson Rockefeller. It is clear that of the major candidates, Ford is, at best, the lesser of the evils.
Although we are convinced that between Carter and Ford the latter is preferable, we urge the fullest possible support for the MacBride/Bergland ticket. The toughest question is what to do if you know that your own vote were to decide the election. But it is difficult to tell whether one's vote will matter, and practically speaking, it is highly unlikely that the votes of our readers could provide the margin of victory in the electoral college for Ford. Obviously, if the race is not a close one in your state, or if your state's electoral votes will not affect the outcome, it makes absolutely no sense to vote for anybody other than MacBride. And even if you live in one of the few states where the race will be too close to call on the eve of the election, and your state's electoral vote could be decisive, we believe the best general strategy is to vote for MacBride—and to turn others away from Carter. The case against Carter is so strong that it should not be difficult for libertarians to switch Carter voters over to MacBride, or at least to persuade them to abstain. (Try talking to a Carter supporter and see how easy it can be.)
It should be emphasized that any one citizen's vote in a national election is virtually negligible, except to the extent that a sufficient number of ideologically oriented voters support a minor party. We believe that the goal of building the LP into a major force is vitally important. To cast one's vote for Ford as the lesser of two evils when a third and excellent alternative exists is to court moral compromise.
We recognize that the LP candidates have virtually no chance of being elected in 1976. Some may contend that if everyone took our advice and voted for MacBride instead of Ford, it might lead to a Carter victory. Here it is important to stress that the practical impact of merely one vote is insignificant, and the essential reason to vote for any particular candidate is to feel comfortable with your selection, to be satisfied that you have done the proper thing. It is obviously foolish to think that everyone would take our advice and vote for MacBride—but assuming this were to happen, rather than assuring a Carter victory, this would mean that MacBride himself would win the Presidency and the course of American history would be dramatically changed.
We urge all those interested in the cause of liberty to cast your vote proudly for MacBride/Bergland and do all you can to convince others to do likewise.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "MacBride for President!".