When the Libertarian Party was founded it was intended to be the party of free markets, civil liberties and a non interventionist foreign policy. Though electoral success was fleeting and sparse, the party quickly grew a reputation as being a party of principle. By nominating dedicated activists activists like David Koch and Ron Paul and Harry Browne to lead their party, the Libertarian Party established the level of dedication placed on being principled in no uncertain terms. With the Ron Paul Revolution having happened in the Republican Party in 2008, one would think this would drive the Libertarian Party to embrace Paul’s hardcore approach to an even greater extent.
Unfortunately, we have seen the exact opposite unfold since that 2008 primary. The Libertarian Party responded to the rise of Ron Paul in 2008 by nominating Bob Barr, a former congressman who had supported the Drug Importer Death Penalty Act and voted for invading Iraq, outraging liberty activists across the country. This departure from principle lead to the Libertarian Party receiving just 0.4% of the vote in a year where they had massive potential to do better. In 2012 the Libertarian Party nominated former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, a much better candidate than Barr, who pulled off the 2nd largest percentage the Libertarian Party has ever pulled in a Presidential race (0.99%) and garnered over 1.2 million votes. Johnson was considered a pragmatic libertarian who was perhaps a bit hawkish on foreign policy, but overall was libertarian enough to gain the support of the grassroots. Though it should be mentioned that this 1.2 million votes was nearly half of the 2 million plus votes Congressman Ron Paul received during his presidential run in 2012, demonstrating that there were still many voters being left on the table by this compromise strategy.
This time the Libertarian Party may have gone too far and handicapped their ability to get to the 5% threshold they seek. Gary Johnson is once again the nominee, but over the 2016 primaries he has tacked severely to the left, alienating many in his base of supporters. Johnson has taken positions which are fundamentally unlibertarian or demonstrate a clear lack of understanding of libertarianism. These transgressions include rejecting freedom of association, belittling the importance of the Non Aggression Principle, claiming the free market is killing coal as opposed to the EPA, being unable to provide the definition of a “right”, and a very confusing position on the banning of burqa’s in the United States. This left a serious opening for challengers such as Austin Petersen, Darryl Perry and John McAfee to force a second ballot at this years Libertarian National Convention. Though Johnson won on the 2nd vote of the convention, his 49.5% on vote one paled in comparison to the 70%+ delegates he managed to coalesce in 2012, a sign of a highly fractured party.
The major cause of this fracturing, to an even greater extent than Johnson’s deviation from libertarian principles in his own campaigning, is Johnson’s nomination of former Massachusetts Republican Governor turned lobbyist William Weld as his vice president. Weld is the quintessential Rockefeller Republican, a supporter of the Iraq war who increased state spending as governor and has no qualms about murdering unborn children. Weld supported the EPA’s electric car mandate and greater regulations on smog as well as affirmative action as governor. That isn’t even to mention the fact that Weld endorsed Mitt Romney over Ron Paul twice and endorsed Barack Obama in 2008. You read that correctly, folks, the Libertarian Vice Presidential Nominee endorsed BARACK OBAMA for President in 2008. This is the man Gary Johnson called “the original Libertarian” during the convention? Fortunately, Weld’s nomination was not met unchallenged, prompting a near revolt on the convention floor during his nomination and forcing a second ballot to ultimately confirm him.
I certainly understand the impulse that many liberty activists have to try and nominate a “serious” ticket when we have two frontrunners with historically high unfavorable ratings. It may seem prudent to nominate two former 2 term governors regardless of their views on policy, but it should be very clear to everybody that Bill Weld is not a libertarian and that Gary Johnson is less of one than he was in 2012. Is it worth changing the definition of libertarian itself in an attempt to appeal to the Bill Kristol crowd? Did we not already try a similar strategy with Bob Barr in 2008 and see disastrous results? Even if it works, doesn’t that create an open invitation for every political moderate in DC to turn the Libertarian Party into an empty vessel? I hope you join me in sending a message to the Libertarian Party by refusing to vote for a ticket that has demonstrated clearly that they do not care about the Constitution or libertarian principles.