Donald Trump

Why Libertarians (and Other 3rd Parties) Should Thank Donald Trump

On substance and style, he's a dumpster fire on steroids, with a hit of crack. But he's shown how easy it is to destroy a major party.


Todd Krainin, Reason

With just three months to go before the long national nightmare that is Election 2016 transmogrifies into a either a Hillary Clinton or a Donald Trump presidency(!), let's take a late-summer moment to squeeze some lemonade from lemons. Whatever happens in November, all of us who have political perspectives that are routinely discounted or dismissed by the Republican-Democratic duopoly should thank Donald Trump for creating a blueprint to power for us.

Pull yourself out of the news cycle that he has been so expert in dominating with a daily—sometimes hourly—spew of sensational utterings, proclamations, and half-baked policy plans: Extreme vetting! Mexican rapists! Crooked Hillary! When he's not creating outrage himself, he brings it in other people, such as when his supporters get egged at rallies or unflattering naked statues of the billionaire crop up in cities around the country.

The simple fact is, as conservative commentator and Finding Mr. Righteous author Lisa De Pasquale, writes,

There has been much hand-wringing among the right on where Republicans go now that Trump has "destroyed" the party. They complain that the Republican Party has left them, while millions of Trump voters and libertarians believe party leaders and professional pundits left them decades ago. Regardless of whether the #NeverTrump crowd has valid points, it is clear that Trump has done libertarians a favor in busting the Old Guard of Republican kingmakers. The Old Guard isn't mad that Trump doesn't represent their principles, but that they no longer hold any power in picking the top of the ticket. The proof is that rather than get behind Gary Johnson, they'd rather trot out a candidate with zero name recognition or campaign infrastructure.

Beyond revealing the emptiness of the power bases in the existing Republican Party (and party members' absolute lack of interest in moving toward their ostensible principles of limited, smaller government), De Pasquale argues that Trump is the shape of better things to come:

The Trump campaign has been a battering ram for libertarians. In just over a year, Trump has succeeded in what the Libertarian Party hasn't been able to do in the 35 years since it was conceived. Not only has he upset traditional party politics, but he's also paved the way for non-traditional candidates. Who needs stuffy party leaders and pundits when you have social media and 100% name recognition?…

In the current political climate, personality, authenticity, and even celebrity reign. Trump has shown that at least in the primaries, the absence of a traditional ground game and campaign budget can be overcome. Libertarians have an advantage because we already know they're authentic by going against the dominant parties….

Libertarians also have a good celebrity bench that could help them replicate the Trump campaign. I wouldn't necessarily endorse famous libertarian Vince Vaughn for president (though I would endorse myself as First Lady), but I would enthusiastically get on the Peter Thiel Train.

Set aside policy disagreements libertarians have with Trump. They should be thankful that Trump has created a new path for national office. He built libertarian candidates a path to success and he paid for it.

Read the whole piece and start thinking: Who are the agents of libertarian influence that can either transform the existing major parties and bring a bold new "free minds and free markets" sensibility to independent runs at all levels of government? Better yet, who are the crossover figures that might do for the Libertarian Party what athletes such as Joe Namath did for the old AFL by legitimizing an upstart league as a major force?

It's a given that Americans know nothing and care even less about history. That's certainly true when it comes to journalism generally and political journalism specifically. Did you ever wonder just why every election is the most important one in our lives? The answer is only mysterious to dead-enders within those group and to journalists, both of whom have no sense of history and really think that everything is on the line every four years and that whatever happened 10, 20, or 30 years ago is irrelevant to understanding the current moment. For the most part, we have simply been repeating the same play over and over again, but to less-and-less-engaged audiences.

As Matt Welch and I wrote in The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America, all the trends of the past 40 to 50 years show that Americans have weaker and weaker ties to the Republican and Democratic Parties, just as we do with all consumer brands. Whatever post-war coalitions those parties once represented no longer exist. Everything in American life is vastly different than it was in, say 1964, when the current identities of the GOP and Democrats were being formed. These parties are designed to groups of people that either no longer exist in the same numbers as they once did (private-sector union members and socially conservative Christians, say) or who don't link issues the way they used to (what's the necessary connection between before for marriage equality and higer marginal tax rates?).

Yet most party leaders and media ignore the at-or-near-historic lows in voter identification with the Democrats and Republicans. They also act as if the ideologies and policy platforms of parties can't or don't change over time. The result is a conversation about politics that is less and less moored to basic reality. We need a new operating system for politics in the 21st century, but the people most invested in the current one don't want to migrate or upgrade to anything different. We need Windows 10, but they're fine sticking with 3.1, thank you very much.

Trump's rise—and the semi-successful insurgency of Bernie Sanders, too—puts the lie to the idea that the power structure is capable of maintaining a status quo that serves fewer and fewer people. Given his absolute lack of consistent, coherent policies and his radically backward-looking agenda (anti-trade and migration in an increasingly globalized world?!?), he is not the future of anything, but the last gasp of a 20th-century politics that, in one final push, was able to reduce at least one of the major parties to rubble. It's up to those of us who actually want a new operating system for American governance to determine what comes next.