Libertarian Party

What Is the Ideal Strategy for the Libertarian Party? A Soho Forum Debate

Dave Smith and Nicholas Sarwark debate the 2016 Libertarian Party ticket, what constitutes success in an election, and how to effectively share libertarian principles.


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"The Libertarian Party should never again put up national candidates whose views are similar to those of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld."

That was the resolution of a public debate hosted by the Soho Forum in New York City at the SubCulture Theater on September 10, 2019. It featured comedian and podcast host Dave Smith and Nicholas Sarwark, the chairman of the Libertarian National Committee. Soho Forum director Gene Epstein moderated.

Arguing for the affirmative was Dave Smith, whose 2017 comedy special Libertas was ranked as the number 1 comedy special on iTunes for three weeks. Smith is the host of the popular libertarian podcast Part of the Problem and a co-host of the comedy podcast Legion of Skanks.

Nicholas Sarwark argued for the negative. Sarwark is currently serving his third term as chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, which is the executive body of the Libertarian Party.

It was an Oxford-style debate: The audience votes on the resolution at the beginning and end of the event, and the side that gains the most ground is victorious. Smith won the night by convincing 20 percent of the audience, while Sarwark convinced 16.8 percent.

The Soho Forum, which is sponsored by the Reason Foundation, is a monthly debate series at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan's East Village.

Produced by John Osterhoudt.

Photo credit: Brett Raney

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  1. Focus solely on stopping the government from initiating force because that’s THE problem.

    1. Yep! That was the problem with Johnson when he called for things like a carbon tax. Talk instead about reducing government interference in the lives of Americans, reducing the debt, ect…

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    2. Then you wouldn’t run any candidates, unless they swore to not cash their government payroll checks or pension checks (in the unlikely event they actually win).

      1. In Libertopia it probably will be done voluntarily because there won’t be much if anything to do.

    3. Not to the GOP and Dems. To them the problem is the LP queering the deal with spoiler votes and introducing uncertainty as to who gets to feed at the trough while coercing at will.

    1. +100

      You don’t see Democrats or Republicans doing that because politics is not a joke to them.

      Libertarians allow Anarchists and Lefties into our ranks as if any of those types of politics are compatible.

      It does feel like Libertarianism gives crazy people a means to voice their craziness and/or some people are seriously trying to sabotage any rise of Libertarianism to overtake the Democrat Party or the GOP.

      1. I see that LovesSocialism1917 still has not managed to learn the first thing about the origin of the Libertarian Party.

    2. The basic problem with the LP is that real libertarians would not be offended or bothered by a naked fat dude, whereas most of the population does not feel this way, as evidenced by laws against public nakedness.

      1. If you are not bothered by fat people running around naked, more power to you.

        1. I am not, John. Feel free.

      2. My point proven.

      3. In general I don’t care. At a libertarian political event? Pretty fucking stupid.

        1. ^ this. There is a difference between these two things.

        2. It offends you when it happens at a political event? Why?

          1. Offend means to annoy. I also thought it annoying and disrespectful and rude and childish.

          2. Did I say it offends me or that I thought it was stupid? Guess I’ll go back and re-read what I said. Extra slow this time (hint hint, you should go back and read what I said, extra slow).

            1. Chipper Morning Wood is trying to win the Little Jeffy Award for missing the point on purpose.

              1. Oh, you are one of those. Ok, then.

                1. So you don’t know the difference between being offended and thinking something is stupid? Gotcha Little Jeffy.

        3. I’d agree with the sockpuppet, but the ugly stripper is not the problem. The problem is that after Weld helped Gary let go of bullying girls into reproducing at gunpoint, our vote count shot up 328% and caused the GOP to bring out the anarchist tarbrushing. Injecting that one infiltrator into the platform committee to weaken our migration plank to allow uninspected border crossing by infected herds of cattle, ebola carriers, banana republic starvelings and saracen suicide vest models, THAT is a problem.

          1. In all seriousness Hank, what recreational drugs do you take?

      4. I would be both offended and bothered but that doesn’t mean I think it should be illegal.

      5. Real libertarians distinguish between “offends or bothers me” and “there ought to be a law”.

  2. The head of the LP getting spanked by a comedian is peak LP

    1. They need to get air time on a 3rd tier network opposite the Presidential debates and just rake in the eyeballs and ad revenues. I didn’t watch the climate change circle jerk, I can’t imagine even 5 min. of it was better than any given 5 min. of this debate.

  3. give up the ghost and just be individual antagonarchists … the Leviathan War isn’t going to go our way

    1. Yeah, pretty much. Just live your life based on libertarian principles, and don’t waste your time on politics.

      1. perpetual summertime, and the livin’s easy.

    2. Worked well for a small group called the Christians.

      1. Until they tasted that sweet, sweet political power.

      2. And it only took 400 years of persecution. Lets see that means we have about 350 years to go. Martyrs for Liberty!

    3. You can either be a thorn-in-the-side ideological party (trying to highlight a few key issues while getting 1 or 2 percent of the vote), or a mainstream centrist party (fiscally very conservative, socially very liberal, trying to get 35 percent of the vote in a 3-way race), but not both.

      1. You can’t be a mainstream centrist party while being very anything. What does centrist mean if not the antithesis of the “veries”? “Fiscally very conservative, socially very liberal” would not be received as “centrist”, just as “different” or “dissident”.

        1. can’t be “fiscally very conservative” and “elected” anymore either, if ever.

    4. When I joined in the 70’s, I knew we’d have to grow fast and achieve major party status quickly, or else the major parties would take advantage of their control over the levers of power to rig the game against us, and success would become impossible.

      Well, we didn’t grow fast enough, they did rig the game, and electoral success for the LP is now impossible. During the second Jon Coon campaign in Michigan I finally figured out that not only had the party become largely irrelevant, but that it was being taken over by hucksters. And I dropped out of the LP, to work within the Republican party.

      The Democrats are now openly dreaming of making America a one party state, with freedom of political speech abolished, and no opposition party worthy of the name permitted. They’re losing their capacity to tolerate anybody but themselves having any power.

      I expect that at some point, maybe not next year, but eventually, they’re going to get control of the Presidency and both chambers of Congress at the same time. They’ll then pack the Supreme court, naturalize all the illegal aliens, turn the territories into states, abolish freedom of political speech by overturning the CU decision, and move to make real their dream of America as a one party socialist state.

      And then we’ll be in a shooting war, and after that, maybe our politics will be free enough for something to take the already corrupted LP’s place.

      1. your being @the forefront and recounting it here adds the history i never would have known …

  4. When you ask what the strategy of the LP should be and then debate what sort of national candidate they should put up, somebody doesn’t know the difference between strategy and tactics. Before you start trying to figure out how you’re going to accomplish something, you first need to figure out what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

    1. Haven’t finished watching but so far, Dave misses a huge gaffe on Nick’s part.

      Nick says the Libertarian Party’s job is to get votes. This isn’t correct. The libertarian party’s job is to pick and back candidates who can win elections. G. W. Bush got fewer votes. DJT got fewer votes. In 2016, Ron Paul got fewer votes than Gary Johnson and came closer to winning and he wasn’t even running. That Nick thinks the LP’s job is to get votes makes it pretty clear that he’s all about playing the game and not about winning.

      Smith accurately notes that Ron Paul’s votes transfer to Gary Johnson, he fails to point out that this is in no way true or reasonable to assume in any way that matters when winning elections.

      1. Nick says the Libertarian Party’s job is to get votes. This isn’t correct. The libertarian party’s job is to pick and back candidates who can win elections.

        Right on the first. Maybe wrong on the second. It comes down to goals and methodology. I’d argue that the point of the Libertarian Party is to advance libertarianism/liberty. The LP is one of the methods of achieving this greater libertarian goal. If the goal were properly stated as just winning elections, it sure seems to be the same goal as the Ds & Rs, and then what’s the point for us?

        If goal is advancing liberty is and method is the party, then winning elections is one potential method in the party’s toolbox for achieving the overall goal. If for some reason we find that there is a better expected payoff using another means, there’s no reason, a priori, to favor “winning” over the other alternative.

        Organizations have a tendency to adopt procedures that increasingly tend to making the organizational goal perpetuation of the organization, rather than advancing the cause that motivated the formation of the organization in the first place. Sometimes perpetuation is aligned with that original cause and sometimes it is not, but it is rarely precisely aligned outside of profit-and-loss incentive structures for businesses in a market.

        A concern many [L|l]ibertarians have these days is that the LP is poorly prioritizing its use of different tools for achieving the true goal – advancing liberty – and that perhaps it has confused its purpose with the methods, instead making “party success” the goal, and thereby excusing the elevation of intolerable statists like Bill Weld.

        1. I’d argue that the point of the Libertarian Party is to advance libertarianism/liberty.

          I was attempting to take Nick’s point in good faith; that he and the libertarian party aren’t there to win hearts and minds but elections and policy battles. While Dave and yourself are arguing that they should be winning hearts and minds, and I don’t disagree, there’s a very big point to be made that the LP isn’t winning elections and, to a degree, it is because they’re trying to win votes. Trump was an outsider who spent the least money, got the fewest votes, and still won the election. Taking Sarwark at his word, that the LP is trying to win elections and influence policy, he needs to drop his “We’re here to win votes.” playbook in the shredder. Dave rightly points out that winning votes doesn’t win people to the libertarian party permanently but, more importantly IMO, winning votes doesn’t intrinsically win elections let alone policy battles.

          If the goal were properly stated as just winning elections, it sure seems to be the same goal as the Ds & Rs, and then what’s the point for us?

          This cuts more to the point. For the Ds and the Rs the goal is not just winning elections. It’s getting state and local officials elected to their office(s), it’s getting judges on benches, it’s getting cabinet and administration officials into their posts. I certainly agree that lots of it is making sausage and some of it may run afoul of libertarian purity tests but I think most all liberterians and at least some non-libertarians will agree that if Thomas Massie’s bill to terminate the DOE doesn’t pass, then having someone like (or even more liberty-aligned than) Betsy DeVos is still an exceedingly good proposition and better than the alternative.

        2. The goal of the LP should be to advance liberty by means of “politics”, because if it doesn’t do politics, it shouldn’t exist as a political party, and if it doesn’t advance liberty, how is it libertarian?

          I think LP has pretty well by now proven that this is impossible in almost all, or all, of the USA for the foreseeable future (maybe ever), largely because the party attracts radicals, and radicals are poison in American politics, and especially poison to each other. United we fall, divided we stand and can prosper. The Democrats are slowly proceeding to destroy themselves the same as the Libertarians, though the Democrats may arrest their self destruction before it goes that far; they have a lot to fall back on in the big city machines, and so will take time to consume themselves even if they continue to proceed apace.

        3. The LP is one of the methods of achieving this greater libertarian goal.

          Disagree. LP is SPECIFICALLY a political party and can only exist to achieve the goals that a political party can achieve. Nick is exactly right about that. Those who don’t get what a political party is – or who think that politics itself is inherently evil and sullied and can’t possibly be reformed but who remain active in LP – do a huge disservice to liberty by remaining active in the LP. The LP’s goal is small not big. It is to be the best political party that it can be. Period. Not the best church or think tank or debating society or happy hour. And not the be-all or end-all for advancing liberty.

          There may be many alternative ways that the LP can become a more effective political party and in so doing advance liberty. Personally I like a revised 19c version of a combo ‘political machine’ and ‘fraternal organization’ – where the LP itself can seek to provide benefits to dues-paying members (eg job networking, charity networking, etc) outside the narrow window of elections and vote-counting. So there is a reason for people to join and stay members outside that window – and learn that those things usually sought thru electoral victory don’t need to be sought that way. But the laser focus of the org itself must be on those elections/votes/candidates/etc and the occasionally very ugly world we live in with others when we must also interact with them rather than drop out.

          Any attempt to turn LP into something other than a political party in a quixotic or random quest to ‘do something/anything for liberty’ will fail and will ensure the LP fails too. Trying to turn a floor wax into a dessert topping will fail AND is fundamentally dishonest too.

          1. I think the evidence shows pretty clearly that it’s using the party as a political party that is quixotic. It’s an utter failure on basically all relevant metrics related to party qua party success.

            1. No I think what has ‘failed’ is the notion that simply getting ballot access will ensure success as a political party. Nor do I really think any reasonable person could have ever asserted that that’s the only thing needed. I empathize with the sheer difficulty – literally the worst ballot access hurdles of any democracy on Earth – of that first step of getting ballot access in the US.

              But that doesn’t mean a political party should a)learn nothing from that (like make reforming all that hideous ‘process’ stuff – and I could include a ton more process reforms – part of a political platform as well – and put DeRps feet to the fire on that) or b)move beyond that to do the nuts-and-bolts stuff that political parties still have to do beyond ballot access.

              What is definitely worse is just to give up and go do something easier instead merely because it is easier or gives the appearance of ‘doing something’. Or to sabotage the very idea of a political party from within a political party. Like it or not, parties exist in the US and every other country on Earth at every level of governance above city/muni.

              LP needs to figure out its role/function – as a political party – from that muni level up. Hell – that may be more important than national ballot access. Maybe LP should look at ballot access as a Pareto problem – go for the easier 80% of states using 20% of the current effort and use the remaining 80% of current effort to really build a political party in those states.

            2. Well it is hard getting people who don’t believe government should exist to vote.

              1. My entirely serious response is that while it might be hard, you should find a better method of persuasion.

                Anyone who doesn’t vote because he doesn’t believe the government should exist has an actual reason for not voting. The key is to persuade him of a better reason to do so.

                Anarchists are split on the issue. Rothbard, a founder of the party, True Enemy of the state, thought the political process was worth using.

                I myself gave up voting for a time for specific, well-considered reasons. I eventually took it back up when I weighed them against others that I came up with on my own.

                I persuaded myself with an argument I thought was pretty good. The conventional arguments most voting libertarians use against non-voting libertarians are not very good.

          2. LP is SPECIFICALLY a political party and can only exist to achieve the goals that a political party can achieve.

            Don’t ever let me catch you using a cigarette lighter to open a beer!


            1. Or, to use the psychology term, functional fixedness

              1. Well – why not use the IRS ‘fixedness’. That is the actual constraint here.

                Political parties (and PAC’s) are section 527 corporations. Pretending that they are 501c’s does not make them so. It just indicates that someone is either not competent or too lazy to understand the difference.

                There is no restriction on creating a libertarian 501c if you want to do that instead. More power to you – but stop freaking pretending that LP can just move back and forth at whim between the two types of orgs with no consequence.

                Hell – even in my first comment, I made the point that the LP could offer ‘fraternal association’ type benefits to dues-paying members. LEGALLY, that would still have to be a separate 501c8 providing those – which is why the LP itself would still need to remain entirely focused on being a political party – but at least I pointed out how the two might provide cross-benefits to the other outside the election season.

                Throwing shit around merely because it seems to have matched some brain fart is not the sign of considered reasonableness but of impulsive petulance.

                1. This comment is just bizarre. It’s like you’re stating that to achieve some end it’s important to utilize the right tax category the state has creating. It’s a total non sequitur.

                  1. You can petulantly brain fart your way into ancap/libertopia/Somalia heaven. And at the end of your life, you will have accomplished not one damn thing to advance liberty here on planet Earth.

                    Or you can realize that here on planet Earth, to make changes to what IS you actually have to understand what IS. I’m stating a FUCKING FACT you dickwad. LP is a sec527 organization. No amount of stamping your feet or implying that I’m some statist changes that FACT.

                    There is no restriction on your freedom here. As I said – you are perfectly free to start a 501c (or your own 527) to advance liberty or to do even more without incorporating and claiming incorporation benefits from the state. You don’t want to do that because that involves actual work and no one else will do that work for you. Instead you just want someone else to do the actual work of advancing liberty while you merely give bad advice and snipe from the sidelines.

                    Not only are you petulant – you’re basically a leech.

                    1. You need some meds, buddy.

    2. The goal should be to move the government in the direction of freedom — lower spending, lower taxes, fewer regulations, more freedom. The tactics can be anything that works. LP candidates don’t have to be NAP-pure anarchists, but they should only compromise in the direction of smaller government — no new programs, no new taxes, no higher taxes or spending for government, ever. If they even achieved a 10 percent reduction in government it would be a million times better than the Republicans or Democrats. 75 percent less and then we could start talking about night watchman state vs. competing private insurance agencies.

  5. I maintain that libertarian goals–like marijuana legalization–are achieved by influencing the voters rather than by winning elections.

    The reasons various states legalized recreational marijuana echoed the arguments libertarians had been making for decades. It’s easy to forget that as recently as 2012, the Obama administration had raided medical marijuana dispensaries in California hundreds of times and there was no end in sight. Fast forward several years, and not only has California managed to legalize recreational marijuana, the Trump administration has elected to respect recreational dispensaries so long as they comply with state laws.

    Notice, this libertarian outcome did not occur because the Libertarian Party elected Libertarians to Congress or put a Libertarian in the White House. This happened because libertarian ideas permeated the electorate. To whatever extent the Libertarian Party helps to spread the libertarian gospel, it’s doing a great service to the libertarian cause. To the extent that the Libertarian Party is distracting libertarians, causing them to imagine that the solution to our problems has something to do with electing the right politicians, the Libertarian Party is hurting the libertarian cause.

    1. Just for the record, . . .

      “A June 2013 report issued by Americans for Safe Access found that the DEA had carried out some 270 medical marijuana raids under Obama—twelve more than had been conducted in the previous twelve years combined.”

      —-The Nation, October 30, 2013

      Our memories are faulty. People forget that life under the stewardship of a progressive president wasn’t all about freedom and joy.

      1. Hope and change.

        The more we saw Obama, the more we hoped for change.

    2. It would appear Ken was familiar with David Nolan’s original call to form a Libertarian Party. Nolan believed using the political soapbox would give libertarian ideas one more outlet to reach the citizens. Perhaps what he overlooked was the tremendous amount of money that would be needed to publicize that one had a soapbox.

      1. I agree and disagree. What is really needed is pragmatic imagination. That almost never actually originates in a campaign or a party itself – though it could.

        Ron Paul is lauded by Dave Smith in this debate – but the fact is that Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign was near incompetent and nepotistic in the extreme. What happened was a ton of youtubers and young tech-savvy independents found ways to connect sparked by some idea in his speeches and, alone, they created the ‘surprise’. The RP campaign was not even able to get most of them to register Republican which is why the campaign went nowhere – and RP himself showed enough intellectual arrogance/narrowmindedness to not take the next step and support his own supporters by leaving the R and trying to make the changes from outside the system.

        Within DeRp, there’s no question money rules. Outside – you just gotta have more energy/creativity among the demographics/psychographics that ‘want a real change’. Obviously money can then leverage that – but in politics money usually follows the prospect of success. It doesn’t lead it. DeRps get money cuz DeRps win not vice-versa.

        Same dynamic really with Sanders in 2016 – and like RP before he will find that window of supporting his supporters by FOLLOWING them outside the duopoly is closed. And he will fail big time.

        1. “and RP himself showed enough intellectual arrogance/narrowmindedness to not take the next step and support his own supporters by leaving the R and trying to make the changes from outside the system.”

          He had already tried that. He ran for President as the Libertarian candidate in ’88. What you’re characterizing as narrowness is his decision to not try again something he’d already tried and failed back when the system was less rigged against 3rd parties.

          1. I understand that. But he did endorse third parties anyway in both 2008 and 2012 which is certainly principled but also leaves his supporters who did join the R tent twisting in the wind. All of the grassroots efforts to change the R’s from the precinct level up – the core of building a political party whether R or D or L or C – gutted as everyone knew it would be once it became clear that the intent wasn’t honest (building a party) but cynical (taking over a party).

            There is no more ‘Ron Paul movement’. Not inside the R’s – and because they chose to work entirely inside the R tent, not outside the R’s either. That parrot is dead. It has passed on. It has ceased to be. Bereft of life, it rests in peace.

            1. Look, I was part of that grassroots effort to change the Republican party from within. Let me tell you how that worked out: Noticing that most of the nominally elected GOP delegate positions were empty on the ballot year after year, and almost all the remainder uncontested, we hatched this plan to run candidates for all those positions, registering on the day of the deadline, so that most of our candidates would win by default. (I was in a district which was actually contested, I lost, narrowly.)

              It worked, sort of. We elected a lot of our people to precinct delegate positions, fair and square. Nowhere near a majority, but enough to have a voice.

              Come the Republican state convention, they showed up at the convention. The party bosses then refused to seat them, had them escorted out by police, and filled the already elected positions with their choices anyway.

              It was educational, anyway. The GOP is run by a self-perpetuating clique, who generally allow only a shallow illusion of democracy within the party. (The Democratic party is run the same way.) The system is rigged.

              Trump had the resources to bull through anyway, and even so he’s had a hard fight with them feeding him moles who sabotaged his administration from within. Libertarians? Aren’t enough of us to do that.

              1. I personally think American democracy is in its end game, barring some really dramatic development. The self-designated “elites” have learned too well how to game the system and entrench themselves.

                Our job today isn’t to implement our ideas. It’s to keep them alive, so that on the day things fall apart, (Things ALWAYS fall apart eventually.) the people around then have some theoretical basis for putting things back together in a way that works better.

                Hey, maybe in a few decades space colonization will give political minorities like libertarians the chance to just leave, and try out their ideas by themselves, without having to persuade huge numbers of people to agree with them. It’s something to hope for, anyway.

              2. I had much the same experience as you in 2008. Ran over the precincts, thru county, got to state (we were seated and stayed the whole convention) but found out there that libertarians had no future in the GOP. Biggest enemies of libertarian ideas are everyone else in the GOP. Not the guy on the street. Fighting battles and getting stabbed in the back to achieve nothing – while THEY would get the megaphone to define what ‘libertarian’ means to the public (isolationists who deal drugs to kids and want black gay poodles to marry your daughter). And to top it off, the ethics of what we did do to get there was a bit sleazy. I quit R soon after.

                But all of that nuts-and-bolts stuff of organizing precincts, strategizing conventions, going to campuses, GOTV, etc is how you build a political party. That was a transferable skill of those RP grassroots not of RP or his campaign. The opportunity was there then – and is no longer. Anyone who says those RP supporters did not know how to then do the next step of getting attention – or raising money – was clearly not paying attention.

                Missed opportunities are shameful. They waste the one thing you can never get back – energy at a point in time. Spinning wheels in R is exhibit A for missed opportunity. I can understand why RP himself never really understood the tiger he was riding – generation gap and such. But he damn well did understand the impossibility of changing the R’s from the inside. Failure to even get co-sponsors over an entire career. That’s not success.

                If ‘history of libertarianism’ is ever written, RP will go down as the biggest pisser away of opportunity.

      2. “It would appear Ken was familiar with David Nolan’s original call to form a Libertarian Party. Nolan believed using the political soapbox would give libertarian ideas one more outlet to reach the citizens.”

        Selling libertarian ideas to voters while they’re thinking about politics, like they are during an election campaign, is like selling them ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day. Makes perfect sense.

        Don’t get caught up on who wins how many votes.

        The Democratic candidates have picked up the Green New Deal as a central plank in their platforms this campaign. If that translates into more voters supporting the Democrat nominee rather than the Green Party this year, does that mean the environmentalists have failed to influence the public?

        No! Quite the opposite.

        1. P.S. The idea of seizing the reigns of power through elections and inflicting libertarian solutions on the unwilling using the coercive power of government is antithetical to libertarianism.

          Persuasion is the only libertarian means to power. Good thing it’s also the most effective means to power.

          We need to work on our powers of persuasion. This is one of the reasons I get so upset about seeing people abandon their credibility in libertarianism’s name.

          Anyone who goes after Trump personally, rather than target his policies, anyone who, in supporting immigration, can’t stop themselves from from denigrating democracy–even in its proper purview, . . .

          Anyone who sells their credibility short with average people in the name of libertarianism is hurting the movement. If you can’t advocate for libertarian solutions without denigrating average people and advocating for elitists to inflict your solutions on them, then do libertarians a favor and tell everyone you’re a progressive instead. Using the coercive power of government to inflict policies on average people–over their objections and against their will–is what being a progressive is all about.

          1. Seizing the reins of power and implementing libertarian ideas by Executive Order isn’t anathema to libertarians. All that would be needed is for a libertarian president to repeal all the previous unconstitutional executive orders, order all the unauthorized foreign troops brought home, and start vetoing everything Congress passes. Heck yeah I would sign up for that, even if only 20 percent of the nation agreed with me (probably the minimum to win: 40 percent of the 50 percent who vote).

            1. He or she could even sic the Justice Department on any government official who violates the Constitutional rights of American citizens. The possibilities are endless.

            2. “All that would be needed is for a libertarian president to repeal all the previous unconstitutional executive orders, order all the unauthorized foreign troops brought home, and start vetoing everything Congress passes.”

              You’re missing a crucial element.

              What is also needed is a voter population that would elect such a president–and then reelect him and other presidents like him.

              If the Green New Deal were actually implemented, it would cause a lot of pain–so much pain, that chances are the American voter would throw whomever implemented it out of office at the next election. (That’s what happened when they implemented a carbon tax in Australia.) Some vestiges of the Green New Deal would linger on, but for the most part, the Green New Deal is unlikely survive more than a couple of election cycles–like what happened to ObamaCare. The climate change alarmists cannot implement and maintain sweeping policies to eliminate carbon emissions from the U.S. economy without the support of the American voter–unless they go full authoritarian.

              Libertarians are in the same boat. If the people don’t want what we want, they’ll simply undo it. The libertarian revolution must happen with the support of the American voter; otherwise, even if our platform were implemented, it would be quickly abandoned.

            3. By electoral math, you can win the presidential election with only 22% of the popular vote (typical election turnout makes this say, 14-15% of the national population, not including illegal immigrants). It requires you to carry all the smallest states, but theoretically it’s possible.

          2. “inflicting libertarian solutions on the unwilling using the coercive power of government”

            Like legalizing drugs? Prostitution? All gun sales?

            I’m not sure how libertarian solutions can be inflicted?

            1. “I’m not sure how libertarian solutions can be inflicted?”

              One example: DACA is a step towards open borders.

              It’s also an unconstitutional overreach of executive power inflicted on the American people without any input from Congress–in fact, over Congress’ objections. That’s especially problematic since the Constitution doesn’t only enumerate the power to set the rules of naturalization to Congress. It’s also a problem because setting the rules of naturalization would be well within the proper purview of democracy–regardless of whether the Constitution said so.

              That’s just one example.

              It’s necessary to understand that democracy has a proper purview, and within that purview the American people’s choices should be respected–even if their choices are not libertarian. Questions about matters like freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association are not within the proper purview of democracy, but questions like treaties, wars, and naturalization rules are within the proper purview of democracy–and if the voters vote against libertarians on those issues, then the only appropriate course of action for libertarians is to suck it up and redouble our efforts to persuade our fellow Americans to see things our way.

              1. I agree in principle, though I’ll point out that some of our recent treaties, most of our recent immigration “law” and all our our recent wars have had no meaningful input from the democratic body that is supposed to be responsible for them.

    3. This happened because libertarian ideas permeated the electorate.

      Yes. And how we knew this was by how well Johnson did compared to any Libertarian in the past. It doesn’t mean the LP is a threat to the duopoly, it means that if a major party pol needs to pick up a couple of percentage points on the margin, that margin is now libertarian.

      In 2000 that margin was Green, and look what happened in the wake of it.

      1. Other third parties also did better than they ever had in the past. I’d say it’s because the two party candidates were that distasteful to so many voters.

        1. I’d say it’s because the two party candidates were that distasteful to so many voters.

          Definitely, but where those dissatisfied votes land tell the pols where they need to be making their appeals.

          The Greens also did relatively well in 2016, but for a lot of the same reasons that the LP did, and they didn’t do nearly as well as the LP.

          My main angle is to advocate continuing to vote LP, which Ken has been advocating against lately, since if you live in a state (like both Ken and I do) that is a foregone conclusion, the only way to send a message with your vote is to vote 3rd party.

        2. Trump won’t be as “distasteful” as he was in 2016.

          Not only do I predict that Trump will win reelection but the LP will do worse than it did in 2016.

          1. The LP and Dems will do worse in 2016 because so far they don’t have any candidates who are anywhere close to as good as the ones they ran last time.

            1. Lizzy will be a bitch to beat.

        3. No they didn’t. Greens didn’t hit the 2000 threshold (and imo only did better than 2012 cuz Sanders mobilized younger non-Dems who went Green instead). Constitution didn’t hit the 2008 threshold (when they basically got the semi-endorsement of RP). McMullin was a protest vote among Mormons but was a one-time thing. All the others were irrelevant before and remain even more so now.

          The idea that distasteful DeRp candidates will tend to lead to more third-party votes is a colossal error in understanding how/why people actually vote. Creating ‘distastefulness’ is the very objective of lesser-evil strategy and negative campaigning. To have an election where the DeRps don’t need to spend a dime CREATING that distastefulness from scratch is like utopia for them.

        4. Not really. 2016 was the first time the LP ever ran a presidential ticket that was MORE qualified than the D or R options, instead of a joke candidate. But the D and R options were so distasteful that people stuck with their D or R voting habit, to block the other mainstream candidate.

    4. Ken, technically current marijuana decriminalization in some state still dont mirror Libertarian positions. Weed is not really legal in those states. Its mostly decriminalized but heavily taxed and still heavily regulated. In Commifornia, it’s so bad that black market marijuana is still preferable to legalized weed.

      The trend of backing off the Drug War is good but without repealing the Controlled Substances Act or taking marijuana off it, this is just a band-aid. Plus, many Americans think weed is legal in those states when it’s legal status is nothing like 100% legal milk shakes.

      1. The smaller point is that the extent to which marijuana is legal, both at the state and federal level, it is legal despite the fact that no Libertarian Party candidates have been elected at the state level or the federal level.

        The larger point is that effectuating libertarian change doesn’t happen from winning elections. Effectuating libertarian change happens because we change the minds of our friends, families, and coworkers. This is always the case.

        Jesus of Nazareth didn’t come to dominate the thinking of the Roman Empire by getting himself elected to the Senate. Enough people’s minds were changed, one at a time, and eventually critical mass meant that you couldn’t hold the position of Emperor for long unless the people thought you were sufficiently Christian.

        Martin Luther King didn’t start marching in the streets because Congress and the president passed the Civil Right Act. Congress passed laws like the Civil Rights Act and the president signed them because Martin Luther King and others persuaded enough people that segregation was completely unacceptable. And let’s not forget other things happening at the grass roots level to break those barriers down–like white girls shaking their tail feathers to black music.

        The politicians we need to effectuate libertarian change are already in Congress. The same Alabama politicians who said, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” changed his mind completely and became a positive political force for integration shortly after he said that. The reason he changed is because public opinion changed under his feet. Public opinion is the horse. Politicians and laws are the cart. One follows the other.

        What you say to the people who know you is more important than how you vote. Once we persuade the American people to embrace libertarianism, the politicians we already have will be falling all over themselves to be more libertarian than each other–like the Democrats are falling all over themselves to be more socialist than each other today.

        1. Did Christianity come to dominate the Roman Empire because Constantine chose it?
          The CRA made slaves of us all.
          You think the Democrats have gotten America to embrace socialism?

          1. “Did Christianity come to dominate the Roman Empire because Constantine chose it?”

            Constantine chose Christianity because Christianity grew to the point that it was dominating the Roman Empire.

            If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

          2. “You think the Democrats have gotten America to embrace socialism?”

            I think it’s important for the American people to reject the Democratic candidates for president in 2020–because they’ve embraced socialism.

            If the Democrats fail to beat Trump in 2020, it may well be because the voters reject socialism. The socialists are dealing with the same problems we are–we can only enact and maintain policies that the electorate will tolerate and reelect.

      2. Weed is being legalized because Bush faith-based forfeiture fanaticism did the same as Bert Hoover’s War on Beer: wrecked the economy. Foot-dragging legalization is the only way for the Kleptocracy to back away and save face while lying about the real causes. If you send SWAT teams to raid banks, depositors make withdrawals and the fractional reserve currency and banking system collapses. Coercive superstition and banking do not mix.

        1. How far do you want to go back in terms of the beginning of the drug war–1968, 1972, 1980, 1988?

          Pick any year you want, and we suffered numerous recessions without seeing support for the legalization of recreational marijuana materialize in policy since then.

          Once enough of various state electorates and the national electorate were persuaded that recreational marijuana was acceptable, it became policy in those states and tolerating that policy in those states became policy at the national level.

          As recently as 2012, it was politically unacceptable for Obama to tolerate medical marijuana in California. His opponents might have torn him apart at the polls for doing so. It was still unacceptable for state representatives in California to support recreational marijuana–which is why California had to legalize it through a referendum rather than pass a bill through the legislature.

          The policy change may have lagged the changes in public opinion, but the policy changes don’t come and stay until there are changes in public opinion.

    5. and for decades a large portion of LP backers advised the LP to stop focusing on drugs….

    6. But a political party, especially the LP, is nowhere near the most efficient vehicle for spreading such gospels.

      We got to where we are with recreational marijuana by a complicated socio-political process that turned out not to have that much to do with an increase in libertarian ideas in the electorate even in the narrow field of drugs. If it did, how would you explain simultaneous with this the current repression of vaping and the increased stringency of narcotics prescribing?

      What medical marijuana did was provide the final conviction in the populace that marijuana was safe. After all, doctors were prescribing it and lots of level-headed people were using it. Meanwhile enough old people who constituted a disproportionate share of the opposition died for recreational marijuana to finally pass by voter initiative. It was legal recreational marijuana that got the feds to stop the medical marijuana raids. The reason the Obama administration was doing so was to throw the hippies under the bus to seem more respectable.

      1. “But a political party, especially the LP, is nowhere near the most efficient vehicle for spreading such gospels.”

        I agree, but there’s no need to choose just one vehicle.

        “If it did, how would you explain simultaneous with this the current repression of vaping and the increased stringency of narcotics prescribing?”

        I’m not saying that the electorate has become chock full of principled libertarians.

        Legalizing marijuana was a libertarian issue. Once the electorate accepted that issue, recreational marijuana became legal. They did not become principled libertarians–and isn’t it great that we can influence policy without even necessarily turning a majority of the electorate into principled libertarians?

        The more effective our persuasion, the more issues we can influence and the bigger our influence will be. Dictators obsess over what their people are saying to each other for good reason.

  6. I’d like to see Soho Forum in other cities. There’s something massively annoying and arrogant about even a crowd of ‘libertarians’ in NYC (and CA too). And the libertarian equivalent of let’s-ignore-flyover-country does not seem to me to be the way of getting libertarian votes in states that actually matter.

    Trying to sell libertarian ideas in NY or CA is a complete fool’s errand. People yap ‘voter tactics’ in big states where an individual vote will never matter – but the fact is those states usually also will never get much libertarian vote cuz all voters in those states are already ‘lost’ – they are manipulated by the wholesale mass-media lesser-evil paradigm and almost without exception they don’t even realize that.

    Libertarianism’s best chance of taking the next step forward is in smaller states (still a retail politics culture not a wholesale politics culture) and purple states where people care about their vote precisely because it does matter. And those are exactly the places where Soho-type forums and real debates (not just among libertarians but between libertarians and others) should take place. Because the issues and tone will be different there.

    1. it’s way easier to vote LP in California (in the general anyway), since nobody’s vote matters, the Dem candidate is winning regardless.

      1. That may be. But the fact remains that in 2016, only 3.37% in CA voted L so however ‘easy’ it might have been to vote that way, people didn’t. People almost never decide to vote third-party in big states absent some big-money ad campaign by a third-party that forces attention/awareness. They will not ‘look’ for an alternative on their own. More bluntly, people in big states tend to be stupid voters and are as manipulated as sheep. It’s not their fault. Nor do they even realize it. That is just a direct result of how politics works there at the wholesale level. In the 12 largest states, LP got a lower % than their nationwide average in 9 of them and six of those states were the among the 12 lowest LP turnout.

        That is sometimes a tad bit different when the big state is purple cuz in ways that peeps who live in bright red/blue cannot remotely comprehend, purple states get bombarded with media and negatives. Sometimes to the point where people simply turn off their TV for the last month – and talk to neighbors instead. IOW – it turns from wholesale to retail which is precisely where LP could, in theory, become a very viable alternative. But even that is becoming less common.

        Something as simple as yard signs. In a big bright red/blue state, those are useless since everything ‘retail’ in those states is just a form of virtue signalling. In purple or small states, the same thing can be hugely effective.

        IDK why this is even a surprise. Libertarianism is about the individual. The individual doesn’t matter in big states and those who care about the individual tend to leave those states.

        1. people in big states tend to be stupid voters and are as manipulated as sheep


          1. people in big states tend to be stupid voters and are as manipulated as sheep


          2. It’s true and don’t see why you think that is a surprising assertion. How could you possibly assert that wholesale politics produces either a better informed voter or a less-manipulated one? You do understand how mass advertising works on the brain correct?

            1. How could you possibly assert that wholesale politics produces either a better informed voter or a less-manipulated one?

              I didn’t. You asserted that voters in big states are stupid and don’t look for alternatives on their own.

              only 3.37% in CA voted L

              Yet, “Gary Johnson received 4,489,233 total votes and 3.27% of the national vote

              So California actually trended above the national average of people voting for Johnson.

              Google “how many people voted for Jill Stein in California” and you’ll get this:

              “Dr. Stein won 1.4 million votes across the country of which more than 278 thousand came from California.

              By contrast, Clinton won only 13.3 percent of her votes in California (8.7 of 65.7 million).”

              I’ll grant you that your reasoning is impressive. But your fundamental premise is wrong.

              1. CA was one of the three big states that voted above the L average – and has voted slightly above the L average in every election since the L’s came into existence. Which really is not a surprise since if you were to ask people ‘which are the 5 most libertarian states’ most Americans (incl CA) would prob put CA as one of them and there is nothing in the L platform that is an obvious vote-killer there. L’s themselves have likely always believed that CA is one of their ‘best chance’ type states – the first four L tickets had a CA on it.

                ‘Consistently slightly ahead of the middle of the pack’ is actually a rather poor result compared to what would be a reasonable expectation if all politics was retail (eg ask man-on-the-street his opinion). It’s like a poll of countries where people are asked ‘how important is freedom to you’ and the US consistently finishes in 80th place.

                But all politics is NOT retail. Big states are wholesale – and in all prob one of the major reasons why third parties always decline in ‘national’ polls is cuz polling itself is ‘retail’ (even tho it is used to determine wholesale strategy/tactics). Once the election moves into the wholesale phase (after conventions), then residents in wholesale states move into wholesale mindset and 3rd party support there drops thru the floor. Big states drive that drop – which only later tends to bandwagon elsewhere. People in big states cease to even consider 3rd party as lesser-evil and the other ‘tactical’ wholesale crap takes over their heads. But in truth they were never actually going to vote 3rd party. They just gave a different answer in ‘retail’ mode (irrelevant to them) than they exercised in ‘wholesale’ mode (what matters there).

              2. LP really does need to understand why wholesale and mass communication and all the theories of that from Lippmann/Bernays/Gallup to today – works so well for the DeRps and why it can never work as well for the L’s. It is all inherently collectivist and anti-rational (don’t mean that as a pejorative). The individual becomes merely a demographic or a psychographic. It does work – but it also goes against everything L.

                One of the reasons I’m saying L’s have to focus more on small states and purple ones only is because those are the areas where retail/individual is what matters at the margin. In big states, it is entirely wholesale with no chance of changing that and little awareness by anyone there of how wholesale it all is

  7. Change your name to the Progressive Party.

  8. Who watches this garbage?

    I will pass.

    reason has not even discussed a single person running Libertarian for Election 2020. reason is a joke.

    1. Who watches this garbage?

      CNN averaged 1.1M viewers every hour of the 7-hour climate town hall. I’d rather lend my eyeballs to CNN to watch the above back-to-back ~5X than not watch the climate town hall. I’d rather 1.1M people per hour watched the above back-to-back ~5X than the climate town hall.

      1. Those viewing numbers are bullshit.

        CNN is played at airports and other public places where nobody watches, yet they get the numbers.

        Nielsen said 98.2 million people watched Superbowl 2019. Those numbers are bullshit too but a wide range of Americans watch sports, so those numbers are likely closer.

        1. Those viewing numbers are bullshit.

          CNN is played at airports and other public places where nobody watches, yet they get the numbers.

          Be that as it may, I’d rather have Dave Smith and Nick Sarwark debating on screens that nobody watches in airports all over the country rather than Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, and Wolf Blitzer regurgitating establishment talking points on screens nobody watches at airports all over the country.

          1. How is Don Lemon still on the air?

  9. First they need to decide what they are trying to do. Are they trying to be a real political party to get people elected to office? If so, they will need to compromise on principle a lot, pissing off a lot of more doctrinaire libertarians.
    Or should they just be a ideologically pure advocacy organization?

    1. There are 0.5% doctrinaire libertarians. Ditch them and go after the 35% centrist independents who want smaller government and somewhat more freedom. Gary Johnson tried this, but not very effectively.

      1. i’m not sure he really tried this. I think that was the hope of LP in nominating him – but imo his 2016 campaign was simply lazy. Maybe that’s too harsh but he pinned everything on what was never gonna happen (getting into the debate) and never addressed the plan B of getting attention. And LP sure doesn’t help that much since the party really doesn’t have a step 2 as a political party beyond ballot access.

        A candidate with no plan B and a political party with no step 2 – you know maybe the outcome ain’t so bad really.

  10. Yep! That was the problem with Johnson when he called for things like a carbon tax. Talk instead about reducing government interference in the lives of Americans, reducing the debt, ect…

  11. Here’s some suggestions for the LP:
    Legalize all drugs.
    Eliminate the Marxist inspired progressive income tax and replace it with a national sales tax.
    Abolish all speech codes and other forms of censorship of opinions.
    Terminate licensing and permit fees.
    Stop gun control measures that disallow law-abiding citizens to own firearms.
    Have Congress meet only one month of the year.
    Have all judges elected and be held for their legal decisions.
    Allow healthcare insurers to compete across state lines.
    Have financial transparency in government transactions so the public can find out exactly where their hard earned money went.
    This is a sure way to ensure the LP candidate won’t win because most Americans are happy to live in the misery the ruling elitist turds offer us.
    “It is hard to free fools from the chains they so revere.”

    1. -1 Sunset clauses
      -1 Term limits

      I’m not too keen on all elected judges and Congress meeting once a year. It undercuts checks and balances and pushes the Executive towards monarchy.

    2. A 100-year moratorium on new laws would be a good start. Congress could still meet to pass the budget and to repeal old laws we don’t want any more.

      1. Congress could still meet to pass the budget

        Fuck you, cut spending.

    3. Or just prohibit government from initiating force.

  12. The best strategy would be to refuse to talk about libertarian principles.

    When people identify your flaws, just blurt out “FAKE NEWS” and mumble something derogatory about your opponent or the media.

    It worked for Trump.

  13. My libertarian strategy involves very low expectations.

  14. Someone would have to convince me first that the Libertarian Party should continue to exist as a means of advancing liberty. For the other side, #links from bottom of page.

  15. LP should just keep fighting the culture war and try to influence Rs and Ds.

    Anyone with libertarian leanings and a brain votes R anyways. Even the more old-school Ds who are tolerable still play into the party machine.

  16. The Antifa infiltrator believes all progress toward freedom comes from communo-fascist ideologues like himself, and that our 328% increase in votes for the LP platform was awful. Sarwark missed a chance to ask how the income tax and beer a felony got into the Constitution when the Bryanists/socialists/prohibitionists never averaged more than 2% of the vote. Spoiler votes have enormous law-changing potential, and that is the one issue no looter party–or their surrogates infiltrating the LP–will talk about.

  17. I graze many podcasts but Dave Smith’s Part of the Problem and Reason’s disjoined podcast/Youtube channel are top of the list.

    Thank you Dave & Nick
    Thank you SOHO
    Thank you Reason
    Everybody listen to Dave Smith’s podcast, Part of the Problem.
    There is more to be heard on this head-to-head on POTP:
    Dave talks about it a little more here:

    Way I see it, if you are reading this, it was worth posting. Now go check out Dave.

  18. Look, assume tomorrow they all stopped stripping in public, turning their skins blue, endorsing Hillary Clinton, etc., they’d probably get no more than an extra 5% of the vote and that’s being generous.

  19. The ideal strategy for libertarians?

    Bend over, place your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye….

    We are living in a world where Trump is the sane one in the room.

    Let that marinate for a minute. Compared to most of the DNC field, that buffoon is actually a reasonable choice. Good lord…

    1. You are correct. Libertarians better wake up that choosing a nominee for President on the libertarian ticket is like deciding on the Captain of the Washington Generals to play the Harlem Globetrotters. At least with Trump we are getting mostly good judicial nominees who will outlast any of these candidates. Better focus on more in the house and senate that lean libertarian.

      1. Agreed. This was my point above. I don’t disagree with Dave’s assertions and laud his goals, drive, and mentality but the current political climate shows Sarwark to be playing some quaint 80s era basement D&D political game in the modern MMORPG FPS political era.

        Not only is Trump the sane one in the room, and this steps on Dave’s toes a bit too, but massive international corporations, founded and built in the US by (at the time) auspicious libertarians, are between aloof and outright hostile to libertarianism. They could be bringing their social media influence to bear on both sides of the great firewall and, if successful, would win both liberty and, likely, the eternal gratitude of Americans and Chinese citizens alike. Instead, they’re safely kowtowing to socialist dictators.

    2. That’s the Dave Smith position. He’s admitted before that he doesn’t believe in voting. His strain really believes everything will dissolve into chaos soon, and the real strat is to gather a libertarian “remnant” (my word, not his) that will survive and establish ancap paradise.

  20. Jaxon Smith completed his higher education from one of Australia’s most reputed universities after which he joined Total Assignment Help. He is responsible for offering young scholars education advice and guidance. He also maintains a proactive presence on the internet and blogs on smart education and study approaches, which helps educate and guide young scholars towards developing a better career.

  21. At the risk of sounding wimpy and boring, I like both these guys; if they could find a way to work together the libertarian movement and the LP would be stronger.
    We need the mix of both pragmatic salesmanship and prosetylizing.

  22. The LP needs to find a place where they can get a foothold, build critical mass, and create credibility. Lots of these places exist. Places with one party rule, like in California, that have major problems would be ideal. The Republican Party brand is dead in California, so the LP would be acceptable alternative. Get in there and hammer on only a couple of themes and focus one only the top problems.

    Themes: Democrats have failed. We need a change. We can make California beautiful and prosperous again.

    Problems: Poverty, Homelessness, trash, job growth.

  23. John Monds and Mark Whitney are candidates that stick to Libertarian values and appeal to the Obama/Trump voters. The majority of voters are independents looking for a way not to get shafted by the DNC and RNC. Mark Whitney and John Monds give us a real choices.

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