The Libertarian Party's 2016 Presidential Chances: Reason's Brian Doherty Writes at Politico


It's a banner year for voter dissatisfaction with major party choices, and after this weekend the Libertarian Party will have officially chosen who it is sending into the field to joust with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.


In an article that appeared this morning at Politico, I discuss the Party and its chances. Excerpts:

The core Libertarian Party message matches the post-Reagan Republican self-image in large respects: small government, low taxes, trusting the American people or the states to mostly manage their own affairs. That has attracted tea party defectors as well: Another attendee in Orlando will be Matt Kibbe, the former chief at FreedomWorks (a grass-roots small-government outfit that aligned itself with the tea party) who runs a super PAC, Concerned American Voters, that supported Paul. Kibbe knows many "tea partiers, constitutional conservatives who had been supporting Ted Cruz and liberty Republicans that were standing with Rand," he says, "and they are all looking for a place to land."

Johnson, who likes to sum up his version of the Libertarian message as simply "fiscally conservative and socially liberal," also says his New Mexico experience has him prepared, if he wins, for governing as a Libertarian nationally with a possibly hostile Congress…

….the Libertarians say this year is as good a chance as they've had to make their way into the national spotlight. Asked about specific strategies to attract Republicans this cycle, Johnson said defiantly: "If you believe we should deport 11 million illegal immigrants and build a fence across the border and believe we should kill the families of Muslim terrorists and bring back waterboarding or worse, if you believe free trade is about applying tariffs to incoming goods and services—then I'm not your guy."

The Libertarians have broken a 550,000 national vote total for president only once before in their history, in 1980, before Johnson came along. Because of the congruence of small-government rhetoric in both parties, Republicans often assume any Libertarian vote "really belonged" to them and if a Libertarian beats the spread between a winning Democrat and a losing Republican, the Libertarians will be accused of "spoiling" it for the GOP. This has happened more than a handful of times in federal Senate and House races, but never close to happening with the presidency. Johnson points out that in one of the rare national polls he's been included in this year, a March Monmouth University poll, when added to the mix he pulled more from Clinton's support (6 percent) than Trump's (4)….

Libertarian political director Howell sees an electorate that "wants to stir the pot, wants to change things, and we offer them a cohesive vision of that." Against the promise of government giveaways at the expense of the rich as Bernie Sanders promises, or a tough boss to protect their jobs and keep out strangers as Trump does, Howell believes her party can succeed with a positive vision.

"Libertarians want less government so you can keep the money you earn and save for retirement," she says. "We want to stabilize dollar prices so they don't keep going up and you can afford to retire. You want to take care of your family, so we'll end the war on drugs so streets are safer and people who have never harmed someone else go home to their families, so their kids grow up with a mom and dad; Libertarians want to create a system of justice that doesn't hurt people who haven't hurt anyone else. We want to get government off the back of small businesses so they can expand and hire and not get bogged down in permits and license fees and trouble from regulations."

Read the whole thing, if you care to.