Should Austin Petersen Leave The Libertarian Party?

Speculation is arising that Austin Petersen, the one-time candidate for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, may soon leave the party. According to his own posts on the Internet, he is not satisfied with the present course of the party and its decisions over the last year.

Vice Presidential nominee Bill Weld especially, who Petersen himself criticized, drew a lot of controversy among libertarian activists. The former Massachusetts Governor became an eager Hillary Clinton apologist during the election, positioning himself more as an Evan McMullin-style Never Trump warrior than an actual principled libertarian.

And yet the Libertarian Party embraced Weld, while criticizing individuals like former Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

Given all of this, should Austin Petersen leave the Libertarian Party?

It’s a complicated question. On the one hand, it gives the appearance that he is an opportunist. Individuals like Wayne Allyn Root and former Congressman Bob Barr previously were the party’s presidential nominees, but fled after trying to advance their political careers in a different arena.

Ron Paul also once ran for president on a Libertarian ticket, before returning to the Republican Party. His logic was that the only way to be successful in the political mainstream is to be apart of one of the two major parties. The concept was converted into an actual strategy in 2012 when he ran for the Republican nomination with a caucus-focused strategy that also took on party leadership positions.

Thus, if Petersen decides to leave to pursue a bid for United States Senate, leaving is probably his best bet. Paul likely would’ve had a more difficult time being elected back into Congress if he didn’t have the party banner behind him.

The bigger question at this point then lies with Petersen supporters who once viewed him as the future of the Libertarian Party. Will they remain or will they follow?

Petersen’s base tried to take over the Libertarian Party with a strong, grassroots driven push for the presidential nomination. He was overcome by the money and established power of the previous nominee, Gary Johnson.

Alternatively, the Republican Party has been more successful with libertarian-leaning candidates. Ron Paul’s son Rand is a United States Senator representing Kentucky. The House of Representatives has Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, while numerous other liberty activists hold other positions at municipal or state levels.

President-elect Donald Trump has some questionable positions, but has moved his potential administration in a more conservative direction than recent presidents on either side of the fence. The wave of support that elected is also reminiscent of the 2010 Tea Party wave that brought in a lot of new blood to Washington.

This explains why individuals like Senator Rand Paul went from staunchly opposing the President-elect to becoming a defender and ally. It also explains why Congressman Massie supported President-elect Trump in the first place.

Libertarians often used the excuse that Gary Johnson and Bill Weld’s views didn’t matter, because they themselves would be a medium for libertarianism. The fact that Weld frequently defended Hillary Clinton while having a history of supporting gun control and the USA PATRIOT Act wasn’t relevant, as Johnson himself said he was the “original libertarian.” By their own logic, Trump could be a medium for liberty as well, for the views of the top politician don’t matter.

At this point, like Petersen himself likely did, his supporters should question the future. Are libertarian principles best advanced in the Libertarian Party with its new left-moderate direction or in the Republican Party, with at least a few federal legislators who can lean in the right direction and win elections?

Chris Dixon is a liberty activist and writer from Maine. In addition to being Managing Editor for the Liberty Conservative, he also writes the Bangor Daily News blog "Undercover Porcupine" and for sports website Cleatgeeks.


  1. Libertarian party lost all credibility when its “leader” criticized Ron Paul… not that Ron Paul is infallible, but Ron Paul is pretty much infallible when it comes to liberty.

  2. I see more Liberty being discussed and defended by the handful of actual Liberty minded within the Liberty Republicans. The Libertarian party’s nominees were a disgrace to all Dr. Paul, and the others who promoted Liberty principles in the past and present, efforts. I see more Liberty hopes with President Trump than I ever saw in Weld or Johnson. Anyone who could defend, (with a straight face), Hillary Clinton, especially after what was revealed, is no lover of Liberty!!

  3. The libertarian establishment that elected Gary Johnsen to be the nominee of the LP twice in the past and would nominate him again in 2020 must be defeated if the LP is going to be successful at achieving any high federal office. Fortunately for Petersen, his support is still strong at the grass root level and more importantly it’s youthful. The other advantage in Petersen’s favor is that that same “Old Guard” that would give us Johnsen/Weld in 2020 is dying out literally. I would be very surprised if Petersen and his “Ninja Army” would put their hopes and aspirations in any org but the LP.

  4. Any one who thinks like a libertarian would find a home in the GOP. The GOP has a lot of problems but there is a direction in which it is starting to head, whereas the Libertarian Party is Dem Lite

    • The GOP has a lot of people who do care about the constitution and civil liberties but then you still got the idiot Neocons

  5. The people who are touting the LP’s great success this year also claim it’s because they watered down the principles in order to achieve that success. If the future of the LP is in watering down our ideas in order to achieve electoral success, then what exactly is the point in a Libertarian Party?

  6. I was not a supporter of Austin Petersen and will shed no tears if he moves from the LP to the GOP. Nevertheless, If he chooses that path I wish him the best of luck. If he succeeds in making the transition I believe he will be an excellent ally of interests to Libertarians on specific issues much as I view Senator Paul.

  7. 2016 election did great harm to the Libertarian party. The public now view the LP as leftist, in the pocket of big money, anti-liberty, pro Clinton, support corruptions, etc. The brand have been damaged.

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