Election season is upon us and discussion of party politics has engulfed the public debate, at the local, state, and federal level. When the results come in, the right will inevitably claim that dead people are voting and the left will drone on about big businesses rigging the election.
However, there is one thing that both parties can agree on- libertarians are ruining elections. Both sides will claim that libertarian candidates are stealing votes from their side and handing the election to their opponent.
This tactic is nothing but a tired excuse to cover up the failings of outdated and poor policy proposals. Instead of exiling the Libertarian party, both major parties should try and extend an olive branch. Compared to other very minor third party groups, libertarianism has a substantial and viable following.
While the GOP has not yet been willing to acceptlibertarians as competent candidates, the Republican party voters have done so. New voices like Thomas Massie (R-KY), Justin Amash (R-MI), and Rand Paul (R-KY) rising on the national stage show Republicans’ voters willingness to endorse libertarian views. Additionally, the libertarian party has shown the ability to put aside some differences it has with the Republican party and endorse candidates that run under the GOP name.
Massie, Amash, and Paul arguable lean the most libertarian out of all members of Congress. Unfortunately, they are not popular on Capitol Hill. But the GOP can learn a lesson from their struggle. Though they may not be popular with Congress, their message has resonated with voters- perhaps because they support new ideas and endorse policies different from the norm.
Much of what the GOP has put forth as policy in recent years has been more focused on what people think the Republican party should be and has been historically, rather than actual, concrete substance. New voices and new ideas from ideologies like libertarianism can mix in with classic Republican party ideals to reinvigorate the party platform and help the GOP compromise and build on certain issues.
To show the appeal that Libertarian values could have in the Republican party, look no further than Austin Petersen. Petersen is running for U.S. Senate in Missouri, and was a former libertarian presidential candidate in 2016. He has slowly worked his way into favor with Missouri voters, despite his third party views. Petersen has been able to use the animosity that voters have toward establishment politics and has run as the “anti-establishment candidate.” Who better to be anti-establishment than a man who was the presidential candidate for the party both Dems and Republicans despise?
Petersen was considered a long shot and still has some work to do. He is running against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). A very active candidate not shy from public criticism, he has openly advocated for Libertarian ideals while running under the Republican banner. For example, he has not hidden that he would like to see the income tax repealed but would settle for a flat tax of 15%. He openly flaunts his strict adherence to the Constitution by arguing for unfettered gun rights, going so far as raffling off an AR-15.
Many Republicans in Missouri are finding Petersen’s libertarian views to be a new, invigorating voice among the monotonous campaign diatribes coming from other candidates. A new pollshows that this voice is being met with open ears among Missouri voters- the incumbent McCaskill is polling behind both other candidates. McCaskill trails Austin Petersen’s competition, Attorney General Josh Hawley, by 7 percent and trails Petersen by a margin of 16 percent.
Petersen, along with Massie, Amash, and Paul, have found ways to connect with Republican voters and really bring a new life to a party that relies of images of the glory days of Ronald Reagan to garner support. These new voices are showing that Republican voters and Libertarian voters are willing to put aside some differences they have and accept a new voice and a new solution to issues. While the Libertarian party is considered as having unrealistic ideals by the GOP, voters in Michigan, Kentucky, and Missouri disagree. American voters know that the GOP needs to move forward to be successful against the Democrats, and embracing new ideals like those of libertarianism may be the road to victory.
Special thanks to Dallas Coleman and Katie Pickle for their help in writing, researching, and editing this article.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user justgrimes