Guest Column: No Need to Panic about Johnson-Weld

After some mulling, I feel I’ve reached a reasonable analysis of the J-W ticket
by Kathleen Wikstrom [Facebook post here]

Kathleen Jacob Wikstrom's Profile PhotoI’ve been mulling over my best response to the Libertarian Party’s Johnson-Weld ticket, and I think I’ve finally settled on something.

For all the people who think this ticket has the potential to bring large gains for the libertarian movement, I will wish them luck and encourage their efforts. I hope Gary Johnson wins, if our only other choices are Clinton and Trump. But I am looking for more than this ticket will offer, so I will put my efforts elsewhere.

I think the ticket has the potential to get way more serious media coverage than the LP has ever received. Depending on what issues the campaign focuses on and how they present those issues, I think this could be a good thing. It also has the potential of turning the LP into something other than a ‘liberpartisan’ party and redefining what “libertarian” means to the general electorate. (And the more successful it is, the more likely that potential will be realized.) For many libertarians, this will be a sad thing, but since a large percentage of people never knew what “libertarian” meant anyway, it wouldn’t be a huge setback. We just Alongside_Nightcome up with a new term for the branch of libertarian thinking that we want to continue to work to spread. Maybe radical libertarianism?

If former Republicans take charge of the LP, is it really such a loss? The LP was pretty much going nowhere and already had many members that I would not call full libertarians. Isn’t it a step forward to have a political party (though not a libertarian one, except in name only) that is considered more respectable and is given serious coverage that is offering better policies than the current GOP and Democrat parties? If they don’t want to say that taxation is theft but are willing to offer proposals for cutting tax rates in half, it may not be very helpful as an educational tool, but I’ll gladly take a 50% reduction in my taxes while we radical libertarians keep arguing for and working for an end to taxation.

I was already thinking that the LP was a waste of time and money, so losing it while getting a better party than the Rs and Ds to argue against seems like a plus. And there is no question that it would be better (at least for a while) than what we’ve got. Gary Johnson is talking about abolishing the IRS and the Dept. of Education. He’s arguing for a much more restrained foreign policy. He doesn’t argue for these things the way a radical libertarian might argue for it, but he’s not stopping us from making our own arguments to further the debate.

To keep the LP what it was (mostly a social group that was largely ignored by the media) is of no value, unless you just like the feeling of being able to pull a lever for a candidate you truly believe in. The cost of running those kinds of campaigns (in labor and money) just isn’t worth the joy to be gotten from pulling that lever.

And when the radical libertarians see that they have lost their party, we should be there to suggest better avenues for making positive change. Get involved in non-partisan initiative campaigns that can actually win and increase our freedom. Move to New Hampshire and work with the Free State Project. Homeschool your kids. Write books and articles. It used to be that most people just weren’t interested in politics outside of presidential campaigns, and that was my main reason for ever participating in the LP. But I think social media has changed that to a large degree. Maybe the best we can hope for in electoral politics is the kind of party that the Johnson-Weld ticket will lead to, a party that will offer some very good proposals but still needs to be argued with, because they really don’t get what non-aggression is all about.

The only way the LP will go back to being “more libertarian” after the 2016 election is if it is unsuccessful in getting large numbers of Republican and/or Democrat voters to make the switch in 2016, and then we’re back to where we started: an impotent political party that’s going nowhere. If it is successful, the LP newbies will have the numbers to easily outvote the old members. If the big growth happens, there’s no going back. But the new LP will surely move the public debate in the direction we want, and then it’s our job to move it even further. We’ll just have to do it from outside of a political party. I’m OK with that.

Original column here.

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