Someone recently described the Libertarian Party as an “elephant graveyard.” It’s an interesting description, but a factual one as well. The Libertarian Party has had a recent trend as being new life for opportunistic Republicans, many of which are hardly libertarian at heart. The Libertarian Party has essentially become an aspiring clone of the Republican Party.
Libertarianism itself has it’s appeal, with a 2015 Reuters poll showing “One in five Americans consider themselves libertarian, with younger adults being the most likely to adopt the label. Among adults aged 18 to 29, 32 percent consider themselves libertarian. Just 12 percent of Americans age 60 or older consider themselves libertarian.”
The Libertarian Party itself doesn’t seem to gather the fact that the younger generations are embracing libertarianism and welcoming the principles of freedom, instead only resigning itself to be a rebound for Republicans.
Consider the 2008 libertarian presidential ticket when Bob Barr was the presidential nominee, with Wayne Allyn Root as his running mate. Barr was a former Republican Congressman who served from 1995-2003. In this time, he was a strong supporter of the federal drug war, authored and sponsored legislation to federally define marriage as between one man and one woman, and voted for the USA PATRIOT Act. Barr also voted for the Iraq Resolution.
Barr’s running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, had been a lifelong Republican.
Nothing is wrong with Republicans, Democrats, socialists, communists, etc. crossing over and discovering libertarianism. But there is a difference between welcoming in newcomers and giving reborn politicians the keys to the kingdom.
Barr’s political career had been aiding moderate and neoconservative Republicans and opposing the libertarian message. Root, while not having as deep an anti-liberty record, still hadn’t established himself as libertarian in principle. Furthermore, both were later shown to be mere opportunists. Barr rejoined the Republican Party to explore running for United States Senate, instead of running under the Libertarian ticket to theoretically give it a boost. He would also support Mitt Romney for President, instead of Gary Johnson.
Root rejoined the Republican Party as well, throwing his support behind Romney, who he declared would win. After floating the possibility of running for United States Senate as a Republican, not a Libertarian, he now supports Donald Trump for President. Not Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Given facts like these, it’s only natural that libertarians are skeptical of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and running mate William Weld, a former Massachusetts Governor. Both are former Republican Governors who only joined the Libertarian Party for a new career jump start. Johnson had been a Republican up until 2012, when he dropped the label after failing to catch fire in the Republican primary.
Weld joined the Libertarian Party not long before Johnson announced he was the preferred running mate. It further doesn’t reflect well that Johnson chose a running mate who supports gun control and wouldn’t remove the United States from the United Nations, among other views contrary to common libertarian positions. Not only did Weld support then-Senator Barack Obama for President in 2008, he joined Barr and Root in supporting Romney for President in 2012.
In terms of libertarian credentials, there is much debate about the two former governors on this cycle’s libertarian ticket. It’s not too much to ask for libertarians to want something different in this ticket. Beyond this, libertarians have every reason to be skeptical of the ticket. Will Weld stick with the party after losing the general election, or will he return to the Republican Party and abandon Libertarians?
Supporters for the Johnson/Weld ticket can criticize those they label as purists all they want, but the so-called purists are raising legitimate questions. With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hitting low favorability ratings, the moment for libertarians is here. So the Libertarian Party wastes a golden opportunity on moderate Republicans who became Libertarians out of political convenience?
When did the Libertarian Party become the Little Republican Party?