If the Arvin Vohra saga has one silver lining, it’s that it’s reigniting a discussion about what exactly the purpose of the Libertarian Party is and should be.
Since its inception, many libertarians have viewed the LP less as a vehicle to institute change via the ballot box than as a way to inject libertarian ideas into the national political discussion. Indeed, one of the co-founders of the party, David Nolan, is quoted as saying “”This very mania for ‘winning now’ is one of the factors that makes both of our present major political parties unlikely vehicles for libertarianism…a third party, in contrast, can take a long-range approach – running candidates with no intention of immediate victory.”
But times have changed dramatically. Following the historic showing by Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson in 2016, more people are familiar with the Libertarian Party than ever before. And while both Republicans and Democrats continue to attempt to co-opt various parts of our platform in order to appeal to voters, it should be clear to everyone by now that libertarian ideas rarely get more than lip service in the national political discussion from the two major political parties. Once elected, their candidates almost always fall back into their authoritarian ways, leaving a major void for those looking for a political party that shares their desires for smaller government and more individual freedom.
For decades, the Libertarian Party has been little more than a backroom debate club where we congratulate ourselves and pat each other on the back for “being right” about who’s the bigger statists, republicans or democrats. (Or lately, other libertarians.) However, for the first time in our history, we now have a legitimate chance to be a viable political party that can become a home for millions of disenfranchised voters yearning for a voice of freedom in modern politics.
It is time for all of us, as Libertarians, to decide what we want our party to be.
Are we content to merely be a vehicle for injecting libertarian ideas into the national political discussion? Or is it time to increase our efforts towards actually injecting our ideas into the government itself by seriously focusing our efforts to achieve electoral success? This doesn’t necessarily mean the every-four-year exercise of pushing a Libertarian candidate for President, but rather cashing in on the hard-fought ballot access we now have across most of the country and trying in earnest to win local and state races. These are, after all, the kind of races that usually don’t require a ton of money to win, and often the impact we can make locally dwarfs the impact we are currently having nationally in even our best years.
With all due respect to former President Ronald Reagan, it is the Libertarian Party who now has a “rendezvous with destiny”. We will preserve for ourselves this party, the last best hope for non-violent political change in this country, or we’ll continue to wander aimlessly in darkness, arguing with anyone who will listen that those not as ideologically pure as we are just statists who don’t know the first thing about liberty.
To quote Larry Sharpe, “We’ve been winning arguments and losing elections for over 40 years.”
It’s time for a change.
You can read more from Matthew McGowan on Think Liberty here.