Q&A Friday: Will The Libertarians Or Other Third Parties Ever Make A Big Political Splash?

Question: Given the continued(and largely self inflicted) marginalization of the Democratic Party, mixed with increasing disenfranchisement of both libertarian and socially conservative Republicans, do you think it is likely we will see one or more influential new political parties emerge soon? What pros and cons do you see in this scenario vs. our traditional two party system?

Personally, I have always favored the two party system, but I no longer believe it is capable of bringing about any of the type of changes I support. I used to believe Libertarians could influence the Republican party from within (take Ron Paul as a good example). I have recently become convinced that there are irreconcilable differences between libertarian and socially conservative factions in the party which would cause the social conservatives to quickly jump ship should libertarians ever gain significant influence. With that in mind, I think more political parties would serve mostly to create political ‘gridlock’… which today’s GOP controlled government has convinced me is a net benefit for our country. — President_Friedman

Answers: Before I answer this question, let me emphasize something: I do not dislike Libertarians. Let me say it again, just to make sure people don’t misunderstand: I do not dislike Libertarians. Ok, now before I go forward, let me add this:

*** Warning: Blunt, unpleasant truths that will make Libertarians unhappy will be revealed in this post. Please, do not continue if you can’t take the constructive criticism ***

To begin with, because of the way that the American political system is set-up, it’s almost impossible for third parties to gain traction. Just consider the difficulties third parties have getting on the ballots in some states, the winner takes all nature of the electoral college, the fact that any great idea a third party comes up with will be co-opted by either the Dems or the GOP, and the staggering amounts of money & manpower both the Republican and Democratic Parties already have available in every state.

Yes, you might see fluke wins by independents or third party candidates here and there (Jesse Ventura, for example), but it’s much more likely that candidates outside the major parties will only be spoilers to the party that most closely matches their views (Think Teddy Roosevelt, Ross Perot, & Ralph Nader).

Moving on to the Libertarian Party in particular, let’s face it: you almost have to be a political wonk to be a Libertarian. It’s just not a party that people who aren’t very interested in politics are going to gravitate towards. So, you’ve probably cut out 50%+ of the American population right there. Next up, lefties are never, ever going to sign on with the LP because Libertarians are all about small government and that’s antithetical to everything the left believes economically. Then when it comes to the conservatives, as you say, Libertarians and most conservatives have unbridgeable gaps when it comes to social issues. So, you’re down to a pretty small group of people whom the Libertarian party has any opportunity to bring onboard.

And that’s even setting aside that while there are plenty of rational, logical, likeable, well informed Libertarians worth paying attention to out there — like Neil Boortz, Glenn Reynolds, & Milton Friedman — the Libertarian movement is just riddled with kooks.

I mean just look at the Human Rights Section of the Libertarian Party Platform for God’s sake:

“The Issue: We condemn the violations of human rights in all nations around the world. We particularly abhor the widespread and increasing use of torture for interrogation and punishment. The violation of rights and liberty by other governments can never justify foreign intervention by the United States government. Today, no government is innocent of violating human rights and liberty, and none can approach the issue with clean hands.

…Transition: Until a global triumph for liberty has been achieved, we support both political and revolutionary actions by individuals and groups against governments that violate rights. In keeping with our goal of peaceful international relations, we call upon the United States government to cease its hypocrisy and its sullying of the good name of human rights.

So no government — including the US — is innocent of violating human rights and the LP supports “revolutionary actions” against those governments. A fair reading of that is that the Libertarian Party officially supports terrorist attacks against the United States.

That just screams, “We’re a bunch of crazy wackos!”

And if that didn’t do it, here’s a little info on the last Libertarian candidate for President, Michael Badnarik. Read this and tell me that this guy doesn’t come off as way too eccentric to be elected as dogcatcher, much less President:

Badnarik believes that the federal income tax has no legal authority and that people are justified in refusing to file a tax return until such time as the IRS provides them with an explanation of its authority to collect the tax. He hadn’t filed income tax returns for several years. He moved from California to Texas because of Texas’ more liberal gun laws, but he refused to obtain a Texas driver’s license because the state requires drivers to provide their fingerprints and Social Security numbers. He has been ticketed several times for driving without a license; sometimes he has gotten off for various technical legal reasons, but on three occasions he has been convicted and paid a fine. He also refused to use postal ZIP codes, seeing them as “federal territories.”

Put this whole package together, folks, and you get: “Hi, I’m a Libertarian candidate. I want to legalize crack, make prostitution legal, favor abortion on demand and gay marriage, want to open the border..oh, and I want to radically change the tax system, the structure of government, and gut the military. Vote for me in 2008.”

It’s. Never. Going. To. Happen. Never.

So, if you ask me, Libertarians would make more of an impact by picking the party that best fits their views, joining up, and trying to influence them from within. Will Libertarians gain great influence in either Party? Probably not, but they don’t have great influence now, nor are more than a handful of Libertarians likely to ever rise above the level of spoiler on the national level.

That’s why joining up with the Republicans or Democrats is still the best way to go for Libertarians in my opinion.

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