As we contemplate the results of the November election we can consider them from two perspectives. We can look forward gloomily to four or eight years of accelerated inflation and statism under President Carter, finding little solace from the repeated assurance that he "feels our pain." Or we can celebrate with a high heart the remarkable achievements of the Libertarian Party in this campaign.
First, while the detailed figures are only fragmentary at this writing, we know enough to proclaim that the fledgling LP, waging only its first nationwide campaign, is now the nation's largest "third party!" Despite the lack of media coverage on Election Day or afterward, reflecting the media decision that Lester Maddox and the American Independent Party was the ticket to watch, the LP managed to beat Maddox and the AIP with no trouble at all. Despite meager financial resources and a dearth of full-time party professionals, Roger MacBride and the Libertarian Party managed to trounce such older and better-financed third parties as the AIP, Tom Anderson and the American Party, Peter Camejo and the Socialist Workers Party, and all the others. It now looks as if the MacBride total will exceed 200,000 votes nationwide, with over 55,000 in California alone.
Due to the tireless dedication and superior abilities of MacBride, Bergland, the national office, and many people in the state parties, the campaign reached over 70 million people by personal campaigning and through articles in press and magazines and expertly produced national TV spots. All this was accomplished without any compromising or watering down of the pure libertarian message. Tens of millions of people are now familiar with the name libertarian and what it stands for, and countless numbers of them have become influenced by the libertarian message. MacBride's campaign book, A New Dawn for America, and the excellent, thoughtful, and hard-hitting LP platform and position papers have been spread throughout the country. The accomplishment is all the more remarkable when we realize that the MacBride-LP campaign was the most explicitly libertarian campaign in over a century, and probably in all of human history! It is a time to stand and cheer.
The large number of votes and the media attention both reinforce the impact and the respect that is being and will be granted to the libertarian message of the LP. More than that: the 1976 campaign builds a firm foundation for the future, for it means that in future campaigns the media and the public will already know that we are here, and here to stay. The Libertarian Party is off the launching pad, and it is destined to make an increasingly mighty impact on American politics and American society.
Everyone active in the MacBride campaign has good reason to feel proud, but the greatest of the accolades must be accorded to Roger MacBride. With virtually superhuman stamina, MacBride campaigned tirelessly and continuously from August 1975 until election day, bringing the message of liberty to every nook and cranny of the 50 states. Giving time and energy without surcease, he managed to overcome all of the scarcity of resources, personal and financial, that inevitably plague every new movement; he managed, too, to retain his unflagging optimism in the face of initial general indifference and of petty and mean-spirited sniping from within some libertarian ranks. How he could do all this I do not know; those of us who played far lesser roles in this illustrious campaign can only stand and applaud.
For now, after this long and grueling campaign, the snipers and gripers within libertarian ranks have faded away; and we are left with the enormous achievement of a strong, vibrant, national Libertarian Party which is destined to grow and accelerate in strength in the years ahead. And, in the midst of the depressing murk of the two major parties, emerging from this election is our very own national political leader, our paladin of liberty: Roger Lea MacBride.
Murray Rothbard is professor of economics at the Polytechnic Institute of New York. Dr. Rothbard's Viewpoint appears every third month in this column.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Viewpoint: The Achievement of the LP".