by John Hawkins | January 7, 2005 7:30 pm
Question: “What do you think might happen to the libertarian party? Will it become the 3rd major political party, replace either the democratic or republican party, or just stay as a small percentage of americans?” — GoodOleBillyC
Answer: First off, there are plenty of smart, politically savvy Libertarians. However, history says that the Libertarian Party is unlikely to ever be anything but a spoiler party that siphons votes from Republicans. Here’s an excerpt from my interview with Michael Medved that will explain what I mean…
“…One of the big lies in American history is that third parties have played a prominent or constructive role, they never have. They’ve only played a destructive role. The Republican party was never a third party. This is another one of the big lies. The reason I say it was never a third party is because the first year the Republicans offered candidates under the name “Republican,” in 1864, they elected almost 200 members of Congress. They were second only to the Democrats.
I think it’s possible for one party to collapse as the Whigs did and then for another party to replace it. But, we’ve never had a situation where third parties have achieved anything in America. Let me give you a good example. People look on the Teddy Roosevelt campaign for president in 1912 as a great success….
John Hawkins: With the Bull Moose Party….
Michael Medved: Exactly. He got 27% of the vote, which is more than any other third party candidate ever got. The purpose of his campaign as historians recall was basically to move the Republican party in a more progressive direction. But what he did was killed the progressive wing of the Republican party, he killed it dead. Because basic logic here, you do not influence a major political party by leaving it. You influence a major political party by staying in it and fighting for the ideas and the candidates you care about.
The Libertarian Party in particular is never going to go anywhere. The LP tends to run embarrassingly bad candidates and they tend to come across as a little bit kooky on the national stage. Moreover, the GOP and Dems co-opt a lot of the decent ideas they have and you almost have to be a political junky to even understand where Libertarians are coming from. In other words, Libertarian ideas and the things they tend to really care about don’t translate well when you’re talking to people who aren’t policy wonks.
As an aside, Libertarians often get offended when I write posts like this, but I’m not trying to be insulting. There are some issues I agree with Libertarians on & my favorite blogger (Instapundit) is a Libertarian, but that doesn’t change the fact that voting for candidates on the LP ticket is, was, and probably will always be a dead end 99% of the time…
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