Libertarianism

A New Libertarian Moment?

Gary Johnson gets mainstream attention

|

"Has the Libertarian Moment Finally Arrived?" asked The New York Times two years ago. The standard-bearer for the cause then was Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who did his best to keep the moment brief.

Now the question is back, and getting scrutiny from outlets such as The Wall Street Journal ("The Libertarian Alternative"), FiveThirtyEight ("Pay Attention to Libertarian Gary Johnson"), Politico ("Does the Libertarian Party Finally Have a Chance?"), Forbes ("Do Not Dismiss Gary Johnson and the Libertarians") and others. The Libertarian party convention, held in Florida over the weekend, drew vastly more media attention than ever before (which, given the antics of some party stalwarts, turned out to be a mixed blessing).

The reason for the sudden attention, of course, is the exospheric level of distaste most voters have for the two presumptive major-party candidates, whose negative ratings have set historic records. Most voters are deeply unhappy with their current choices.

Moreover, this year's Libertarian ticket has genuine gravitas: The presidential nominee, Johnson, was twice elected governor of New Mexico as a Republican and his running mate, William Weld, was the Republican governor of Massachusetts back in the '90s. (The Cato Institute's David Boaz notes that this makes the first time since 1948's Thomas Dewey-Earl Warren matchup that that two governors have graced a ticket.)

The question for futurists is whether this particular libertarian moment represents a fundamental realignment among the political parties, or whether it will turn out like the last one: a flash in the pan, soon forgotten.

The answer might depend on what happens in November. For a while it looked as if the GOP was heading for a historic drubbing. If Trump loses by McGovernite proportions, the Republican Party might regain its senses and regroup. But recent polls show Donald Trump roughly even with Hillary Clinton. Political professionals are starting to think he might actually win—and a lot of Republican officials who put party loyalty above all else have begun to welcome their new wingnut overlord.

If Trump wins, or even comes reasonably close, at least some of the Never-Trump crowd will leave the GOP—and might find a home in the Libertarian Party, which aligns with conservatives on issues such as economics, trade, affirmative action, and gun rights. (The party aligns with liberals on other issues such as war, immigration and LGBTQ rights.)

Libertarians understandably hope the dynamics will favor them. But they ought to temper their enthusiasm with the memory of Virginia's 2013 contest for governor.

Like this year's presidential race, that election featured a Libertarian, Robert Sarvis, running against two major-party candidates whom the voters deeply disliked: Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

A September 2013 Quinnipiac poll found that voter perceptions of McAuliffe were evenly split, with 38 percent viewing him favorably and 38 percent viewing him unfavorably. Cuccinelli, meanwhile, was underwater: 34 percent of likely voters viewed him favorably but 51 percent viewed him unfavorably.

This roughly tracks the current race: Slightly more voters view Hillary Clinton unfavorably than favorably (52 percent to 46 percent) while far more voters view Trump unfavorably than favorably (67 percent to 31 percent). Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics notes that lately the gap has shrunk: "Trump's average rating (now) runs 35.2 percent favorable and 58 percent favorable. Clinton's are 36.3 percent favorable and 56.3 percent unfavorable."

At present, Johnson is polling about 10 percent—outstanding by third-party standards, and double his polling high from when he ran four years ago. And contrary to conventional wisdom, Johnson would take votes from Clinton and Trump in roughly equal measure.

That also carries echoes from Virginia's 2013 race. Some conservatives accused the Libertarian, Sarvis, of blowing a close election for Cuccinelli. But exit polls actually showed that liberals voted for Sarvis at more than twice the rate that conservatives did. Unfortunately for Sarvis, neither rate was particularly high. He got about 146,000 votes out of the more than 2.4 million cast.

For that poor showing, he can blame—at least partly—the third-party candidates' Catch-22: They are shut out of news coverage, polls and debates because they are marginal candidates who can't win… and they are marginal candidates largely because they are shut out of coverage, polls and debates. Johnson is getting lots of press just now, but unless he gains another five percentage points he will be shut out of the autumn debates.

On the bright side, Sarvis did best among young voters. More recent polls also show young people inclined toward libertarianism. While Pew reported two years ago that about 10 percent of Americans consider themselves libertarian and know what that means, this year a YouGov poll showed twice that many millennials identifying as libertarian (another 42 percent thought maybe but weren't sure).

Libertarians can hope that such numbers reflect the increasing appeal of their perspective—and not merely youthful idealism that will wither with age. Either way, however, Virginia's experience three years ago offers them a sobering reminder that even hating the two major-party candidates is not reason enough for most voters to support somebody else. That's not rational, but it's life.

This column originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

NEXT: Supreme Court Rules 8-0 for Landowners Fighting Clean Water Act Regulations

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. There was no libertarian moment. It was just gas.

    1. *farts loudly*

  2. “Exospheric”. You’re my hero.

  3. Again with the moments.

  4. Hello, Pollyanna.

  5. Shit guys we’re already at Libertarian Moment 2.0, these updates just keep flying by.

    1. It’s the Libertarian Moment of Things.

      1. You win all the internets, @Jerry

  6. “Could Gary Johnson’s Libertarian candidacy signal a new libertarian moment?”

    How is a warmed over Republican cast off going to spark the Libertarian moment?

    1. Because he combines pushes for reductions in spending, taxes, entitlement reform with reduced military spending and pro-choice/gay marriage stuff.

      1. He’s proposed 2 new taxes thus far, and his compelled-association and environmental-regulatory state will require substantial spending on enforcement. So, nope, not really at all actually. Also, he’s not pro-choice.

        1. Also, he’s not pro-choice.

          Bullshit. He’s pro-choice until viability.
          What’s your alternative, since the fetal child’s unalienable right to Life is precisely equal to the woman’s unaienable right to Liberty. (learn what unalienable means) It’s called conflicting rights, like no Free Speech right to yell fire in a crowded theater

          Thus, BOTH extremes, pro-life and pro-choice, want to impose their own (unconstitutional) views by government force,

  7. There was an OLD moment?? If so, then wow, these “moments” are unimpressive.

  8. Again? Really?

  9. Aren’t the #NeverTrumps mostly neocon foreign explosionists? Why wouldn’t they just head on over to Team Blue and drink the curdled whey of Hillary’s shriveled bosom while she rains death on terrified brown people half a world away?

    1. curdled whey

      Sigh. No, Hugh, curds or whey but not “curdled whey.” The whey is the part of the mild that remains in liguid form once the milk curdles. Remember Little Miss Muffet sitting on her tuffet eating her curds AND whey.

      1. You’re right of course. Would ‘bilious whey’ work better?

        1. Jeezuz fuck, Hugh.

          One SF is more than enough.

    2. That’s what a lot of the prominent media coverage tries to boil is down to, largely due how blogs and news sites on the Right have been infighting over who supports Trump and who does not. That someone like Bill Kristol has become probably the most single most prominent #NeverTrump figure (and the one publicly seeking an alternate independent candidate) feeds the “#NeverTrump = NeoCon” image. I’m reminded of how someone like Sarah Palin became the face of the Tea Party late in the game (even as she didn’t represent any of the original 2010 Santelli TP ideas) because it made for an easy shorthand and many could ‘market’ for and against that.

      I see three main groups of the Right deeply opposed to Trump…

      1. The three #NeverTrump groups:

        1. The Neo-cons like Kristol, opposing him on foreign policy (not just Israel) and the military. These are the ones most likely to possibly end up voting for Hillary.
        2. The New Religious Right (not softened evangelicals like Falwell Jr; guys like Glenn Beck and Erick Erickson), who’ve been on the losing side of the Culture Wars and don’t trust Trump’s half-stated views because of his own lifestyle and personality (as well as his Will to Power campaigning). These guys might well sit things out.
        3. Classical Liberals like many of the ‘conservatarian’ NRO writers (I see myself here) who fear an acceleration of the Bush-Obama executive overreach and are horrified by comments about libel law, torture, abusing regulatory powers, and others that show a deep lack of understanding (or any care to understand) constitutional limits or philosophy. Given that Hillary is a felon and more, we’re the ones looking very strongly at the LP ticket and should be courted.

    3. Why is there a membership check to #NeverTrump?

      I’ll admit many of the editorials I read that talk #NeverTrump are often from Evangelical Right wingers on Neocons, but I guess I’d consider my self a #NeverTrump, but l am moist definitely not Neocon or Evangelical. I will say when I mention Gary Johnson or L.P. on NRO I tend to get hit back by Trump supports that feel betrayed and Neocon Evangelicals that don’t view L.P. as an acceptable alternative, but I also see others that are hoping the L.P. can seize the moment.

    4. No, we’re mostly…sane people. Not fascist. That type of thing.

    5. I’m saving this comment for posterity.

  10. Ah yes, the great libertarian Gary “73% of what Bernie says, I agree with” Johnson. The more this guy opens his mouth, the more likely I am to just stay home in November.

    Rand was such an apostate that no one wanted to support him, but this guy is the LP’s big gun? Everything truly does suck.

    1. Rand was just shilling to the establishment and SoCons. But he has a stellar voting record in congress and stood up for liberty more than any other single congress critter. Rand is for real. I don’t know about Johnson, but his VP pick was enough to convince me to sit out this election. The voters of this country deserve either Hillary or Trump and I don’t want to disappoint them. I won’t help them, but they can have their cake.

      1. stood up for liberty more than any other single congress critter.

        Tied with Amash?

    2. GJ will once again claim libertarianism=socially liberal, fiscally conservative. No, it isn’t. It’s about not using force on consenting adults.

      1. Libertarianism is about the right to force consenting adults to accept your definition of Libertarianism.

      2. You are of course completely correct that that is not the definition of libertarianism (although, ask 10 libertarians and get 10 different answers, only ~7 of which will refer in some way to the NAP). But it’s a pretty reasonable definition of Libertarianism – that is, the party.

        1. It’s big tent libertarianism.

    3. I always assumed he was lying his ass off about that exact number, since I agree 92% with Gary and only 57% (foreign policy/drugs/NSA) with Bernie based on the quiz he was citing.

      Anecdotally, it looks a lot more like 50% based on the line-items available for viewing.

  11. What a steaming pile of crap this passage is:

    the Libertarian Party, which aligns with conservatives on issues such as economics, trade, affirmative action, and gun rights. (The party aligns with liberals on other issues such as war, immigration and LGBTQ rights.)

    Libertarians are believers in free trade. Conservatives are generally mercantilists, the very economic philosophy Adam Smith was attempting to rebut when he wrote the Wealth of Nations.

    On gun rights, conservatives have historically been quite comfortable with members of “dangerous” groups being disarmed. When the black panthers marched with firearms through the california state house, guess which group fell over themselves to pass laws that made such displays illegal?

    And, what the fuck is this business calling progressives “liberal”?!? They are utterly illiberal and don’t deserve such a title!

    We don’t agree with them on LBGTQEIEIO rights, because they believe that members of those groups have the right to force people to do business with them and we believe in the freedom of association. On immigration, we favor free movement of people. Progressives oppose free migration; they oppose people moving out of their jurisdictions and strongly desire to dictate who gets to live where.

    Lastly, libertarianism is opposed to wars for reasons other than self defense. Where do the proggies stand on war? Looks to me like they love war, especially when its a bunch of wogs getting killed.

    1. Nope, you’re wrong on every count. Your mistake is that you assume what the leaders of the repubs and democrats do is reflective of what the party wants. It’s not. They are just good at saying what they think their members want to hear to get elected. That’s where the libertarians come in – they are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. And they mean it.

    2. LBGTQEIEIO rights

      +1: legalize bestiality

      1. Once again, the Twin Spirits and Genderfucks are left out of the alphabet soup.

        1. What are Otherkins, chopped liver?

    3. The message needs to fit in half a tweet. Write a John Galt speech length treatise and you’ve lost everybody but the converted by the third sentence. That’s why you stick with fiscally conservative, socially liberal or keep the government out of my pocket and out of my bedroom. Or maybe define it as like being a Republican, but with pot, ass sex and Mexicans.

    4. “Libertarians align with conservatives and liberals on those issues where they call for more freedom, more liberty, and less government control over your life.”

    5. People complained similarly about Ed Clark’s “low-tax liberals” label for libertarians.

      1. At least back then the “low tax” part was accurate.

        1. At least back then the “low tax” part was accurate.

          Is that based on your wacko claim that Johnson would propose the Fair Tax (on consumption) ON TOP OF the current income tax? Are you also a Birther? Flat Earther?

    6. Libertarians are believers in free trade. Conservatives are generally mercantilists

      Pat Buchanan is not an influential voice in the modern conservative movement in either a philosophical or partisan context. It’s hardly homogeneous, but probably a bare majority of conservatives support free trade. It wasn’t primarily Republican constituencies who were shitting their pants when NAFTA was ratified.

      On gun rights, conservatives have historically been quite comfortable with members of “dangerous” groups being disarmed.

      As opposed to the LP candidate who is comfortable with everybody being disarmed.

      We don’t agree with them on LBGTQEIEIO rights, because they believe that members of those groups have the right to force people to do business with them and we believe in the freedom of association

      You got a mouse in your pocket? The Libertarian party candidates enthusiastically support the right of LGBTQ people to compel others to do business with them.

      1. SHAME ON THEM for failing to propose a totally free society, in a single step, next year.
        Thank GOD you’re here as The Enforcer.

  12. It’ll be interesting to see whether neocon scumbag Bill Kristol follows through with his third party candidate threat. If he does, he’ll manage to screw both Trump and the Libertarian Party because the Trump averse Republicans are likely to vote for his guy. The guy really could fuck up a wet dream.

    1. Which is exactly why Kristol wants to run a no-hope conservative independent. Trump and Johnson aren’t big enough neocons for him, and he wants ensure a Clinton victory.

      1. You’re correct, plus he gets to pretend he’s doing this for some sort of moral and ethical imperative. He’s a preening, self-righteous cunt.

      2. Johnson’s got some neocon creds they might like, e.g. advocacy for ‘humanitarian interventionism’:

        https://is.gd/J3T7Wv

        And regularly shills for Israel:

        http://original.antiwar.com/ju…..at-emptor/
        http://archive.is/HsUBZ

    2. Didn’t the Repubs outlaw having wet dreams?

      1. They only outlawed gay wet dreams. Hetero wet dreams are OK but require a permit and a five day waiting period.

  13. Johnson just needs to exorcise his inner goofball. He’ll be fine. (Famous last words?)

  14. It’s not a libertarian moment at all. It is a mainstream centrist experienced governor claiming a ballot access line in 50 states against the two most hated D/R presidential candidates in ages. On a level playing field with voters considering each candidate equally, it wouldn’t be close.

    The Libertarian ticket had gravitas last time too, but got one percent of the vote. But the hardcore Libertarian vote is a rounding error. What matters this time is if Johnson crosses the credibility threshold with voters and the media. Starting at 10 percent in the polls is a good sign.

  15. So the Libertarian Party aligns with the liberals on waging humanitarian wars ( as long as the US has no obvious national interest), expanding the welfare state’s client base, and valuing dubious equality over liberty?

    1. Liberals are like children. They say they just want to eat candy all day, and they probably will. But ultimately they prefer a strict parent who wants what’s best for them. Now, if only Johnson could get in touch with his inner disciplinarian.

    2. Well it was either that or support the half-crazed genius/possible murderer or Naked Thong Guy. The party decided to go with the two ex-governors who at least have some possibility of luring dissatisfied elephants and donkeys into the tent.

      At some point the LP has to decide if it wants to be an actual political force or just a place for political misfits. I’m OK with Johnson not because he passes any sort of purity test but because he’s the best shot of injecting some libertarian ideas into the mainstream political conversation.

      1. I was more commenting on the assertion the libertarians actually align with liberals on anything, though the idea that Johnson is not a misfit is entertaining.

      2. he’s the best shot of injecting some libertarian ideas into the mainstream political conversation.

        More taxes, more environmental regulations, humanitarian military interventions, gun control, compelled labor and speech. Yeah, what a breath of fresh air! It’ll be good to have those ideas finally represented in the political arena after years of neglect.

        1. Take a deep breath, troll.

  16. If Trump loses by McGovernite proportions, the Republican Party might regain its senses and regroup.

    IOW, go back to being Dem Lite?

    For reference, McGovern lost 60% to 37%. I believe our electorate is too polarized now to deliver that kind of result, regardless.

  17. RE: A New Libertarian Moment?
    Gary Johnson gets mainstream attention

    The impression I get is that most people in Amerika like the idea of being enslaved by their obvious betters.
    Only the sane and the well informed would want liberty here in our beloved country.
    Unfortunately, the evidence indicatesthere are more people willing to be slaves to Big Government than those of us choosing freedom.
    How sad is that?

  18. All useless with no policy platform.. On anything.

  19. Dude I never thought about it liek that before.

    http://www.Complete-Privacy.tk

  20. We need a real freedom party, and it will not be lead by former establishment types!
    robertsrevolution.net

  21. The party aligns with liberals on other issues such as war, immigration and LGBTQ rights

    Historically that may be true. Sadly, it seems increasingly true that libertarians align with no one on these issues, except maybe immigration, to a degree.

    1. To the extent that the current LP nominees don’t align with “liberals” (to the extent that’s a well-defined term) on immigration and LGBTQ rights, it’s because they are appreciably further to the left – no immigration restrictions of any kind plus taxpayer-paid relocation, and compelled speech and labor in accommodating LGBTQ people with no religious/conscience exceptions.

      Liberals don’t give a flying fuck about war except in a partisan context, so there’s that.

      1. Do you have any shame at all?
        Or do you enjoy fomenting hysteria?

  22. you know the comment section is going to be good, whenever “libertarian moment” is in the title.

  23. Libertarian Moment?

    How about Libertarian Moment of Inertia?

    That when libertarians imagine that the country is beginning to turn around because of them.

    According to the polls Johnson is getting about 10% which means that 90% of voters want a tyrant who’ll make “those people” pay, whomever “those people” may be. Immigrants, the rich, welfare recipients, abortionists, corporate cronies, it doesn’t matter just as long as a scapegoat can be sacrificed Americans are all for it.

  24. That was not a flattering picture of GJ on the thumbnail, Reason.

  25. Johnson a libertarian moment? NO, not even close. Fuck you LP, I was going to vote LP this year but you have given me the choice of a obviously criminal incompetent statist, a statist who appears to want to be Great Leader, and a statist who is a Republican reject.

  26. It’s not necessarily a “libertarian moment”, but it is a realignment moment. In a year when hardcore conservatives at The National Review refuse to support the Republican nominee, hardcore progressives refuse to support the Democratic nominee, blue-collar union members support Trump, and Chamber of Commerce voters like Hillary, all of the alliances are going to end up scrambled.

    Where the libertarians end up after this chaos, who knows?

    The left-right axis could be replaced by an authoritarian-vs-libertarian axis with the Trumpkins and the Bernie Bros on one side, and economically conservative/socially liberal voters on the other.

    Or we could end with a nationalist-vs-globalist axis, and the yokeltarians and cosmotarians could end up on opposite teams, with the yokels aligning with white nationalists and cosmos aligning with Wall Street.

  27. the Libertarian Party, which aligns with conservatives on issues such as economics, trade, affirmative action, and gun rights.

    I’m not sure the working definition of “conservative” in this statement, but I think many of the people who self-identify as such would probably not be in favor of carbon taxes, a new national sales tax independent of and in addition to the income tax, stringent regulations and outright bans on gun sales, and compelled hiring based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which comprise the current LP lineup’s views on economics, affirmative action and gun rights. I guess there’s always trade.

    1. a new national sales tax independent of and in addition to the income tax

      Mindless ranting, without a grain of truth.

  28. My Best friend makes $96/hour on the internet. She has been laid off for six months but last month her paycheck was $12800 just working on the internet for a few hours. you have nothing to lose…
    Read more on this web site..
    Go to tech tab for work detail.——————– http://www.earnmore9.com

  29. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.

    Click This Link inYour Browser

    ========== http://www.path50.com

  30. I like Gary Johnson and this election will be the 2nd time he gets my vote in spite of Weld as his running mate.
    Realistically we know a 3rd party will not win but after getting 1 million votes last time and the dissatisfaction with the alternatives there is no reason not to believe a Libertarian can get 5 million votes. At that level Libertarians at least get an invited to the table for policy because it is enough to sway elections. In time maybe more. I’m hoping Churchill was correct when he said “American’s will do the right thing after they have tried everything else”

  31. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.

    ????? http://www.Reportmax90.com

  32. I am making $95/hour working from home. I never thought that it was legitimate but my best friend is earning $12 thousand a month by working online, that was really surprising for me, she recommended me to try it. just try it out on the following website…
    —————————————>>>> http://www.earnmore9.com

  33. Libertarians nominate a Collectivist Big Government wimp… – yep! sure to make some headway with that….

  34. Start making more money weekly. This is a valuable part time work for everyone. The best part work from comfort of your house and get paid from $100-$2k each week.Start today and have your first cash at the end of this week. For more details Check this link??

    Clik This Link inYour Browser?

    ???? http://www.selfCash10.com

  35. before I saw the bank draft which had said $9426 , I didnt believe that…my… brother woz like actualy earning money part-time at there labtop. . there uncles cousin has done this 4 less than fifteen months and by now repaid the dept on there place and got a great new Mini Cooper . read the full info here …

    Clik This Link inYour Browser??

    ? ? ? ? http://www.SelfCash10.com

  36. Start making more money weekly. This is a valuable part time work for everyone. The best part work from comfort of your house and get paid from $100-$2k each week.Start today and have your first cash at the end of this week. For more details Check this link??

    Clik This Link inYour Browser?

    ???? http://www.selfCash10.com

  37. 2″My friend just told me about this easiest method of freelancing. I’ve just tried it and now II am getting paid 15000usd monthly without spending too much time.You can also do this.

    >>>>>>> https://www.Cashpay60.tk

  38. I am making $89/hour working from home. I never thought that it was legitimate but my best friend is earning $10 thousand a month by working online, that was really surprising for me, she recommended me to try it. just try it out on the following website.

    ??? http://www.selfcash10.com

  39. I’ve made $76,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student.I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money.It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it.

    Open This LinkFor More InFormation..

    ??????? http://www.Reportmax20.com

  40. Commence your Home Business right now. Hang out with your Family and Earn. Start bringing $75/hr just over a computer. Very easy way to choose your Life Happy and Earning continuously. Begin here..

    Copy This Link…

    ===== http://www.maxincome20.com

  41. my friend’s mom makes $73 hourly on the laptop . She has been out of a job for 6 months but last month her pay was $18731 just working on the laptop for a few hours…..

    Open This LinkFor More InFormation..

    ???????

    http://www.Reportmax20.com

  42. my roomate’s step-mother makes 60 each hour on the internet and she has been out of work for seven months but last month her check was 14489 just working on the internet for 5 hours a day, look at ..
    Read more on this web site..

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> http://www.maxincome20.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.