How The Libertarian Party’s Partisan Politics Hurts Libertarianism

in Politics

If you speak to any political activist operating outside of the two-party mainstream, a common point mentioned is how party politics compromises principles. Republicans often sacrifice conservative principles to advance the party elite. Although individuals such as House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are considered leaders in the Republican Party, conservative activists generally do not consider them standard bearers of their cause. Case in point is the failure to legitimately repeal Obamacare.

The same is said for many liberals and progressives in terms of the Democratic Party. Instead of nominating someone more devout to their cause such as Senator Bernie Sanders, the party elite opted for Hillary Clinton, a mistake possibly responsible for Trump’s unexpected presidency. The Democratic Party seems more concerned with the party elite than advancing their principles.

So why would the Libertarian Party be any different?

Libertarian National Committee chairman Nicholas Sarwark has an active presence online, targeting individuals who stand at odds with his party. This is not unusual, as across the country, Republicans figuratively snipe at Democrats and vice versa. Even on that rare occasion there is common ground among both sides, partisanship always reigns supreme. It is a fact of life in today’s political climate.

But with the last election, the Libertarian Party sought to brand itself as the sane alternate to the madness of the two-party duopoly. The problem is that the party’s own chairman contradicts this own line of logic.

Sarwark has criticized libertarian icon, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul as well as his libertarian-leaning son Senator Rand Paul. More recently, he has taken aim at historian Tom Woods. The recurring theme is Sarwark’s love for hurling insults at non-Libertarians, even the ones that are simply unenrolled libertarians.

Is this healthy for the cause of liberty?

The liberty movement had a very brief moment of unity in 2012 when Ron Paul ran for President, but after that, the movement splintered almost immediately. Libertarians want success for the Libertarian Party, but many Paul-aligned activists remain within the Republican Party. In a number of ways, libertarianism has fallen victim to a tug-o-war between political parties.

So where does this leave Sarwark?

The question ultimately lies where his loyalties are and to a degree, what the aim of the Libertarian Party is.

Is the Libertarian Party in existence to advance its own brand, or does it exist to advance libertarian principles? More importantly, do these goals align?

If the answer to the latter question is yes, then the Libertarian Party would support causes that advance libertarian principles. Nobody is arguing that the Ron, Rand, or Woods are perfect. With that being said, it is undeniable that these individuals have made a significant contribution to liberty. Given Sarwark’s attacks, it’s then easy to assume that advancing the Libertarian Party and the cause of liberty are not parallel causes.

So where does that leave the Libertarian Party?

Ultimately, the Libertarian Party is a lot like the Republican Party. Candidates, activists and scattered leaders may genuinely identify with the principled cause, but the party structure works contrary to it. Political parties work contrary to principles, whether it be Republicans with conservatism or Libertarians with libertarianism.

When Sarwark attacks prominent libertarian figures simply because they don’t identify with individuals such as Gary Johnson or Bill Weld, he is setting back the cause of liberty in favor of pushing his brand. This may be his job as a party chairman, but let’s not operate under the assumption that he is working towards the goal of advancing liberty.

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.