Make no mistake, the Midterms were a brutal day for the Libertarian Party at the polls.
Incumbent state legislators who recently switched to the LP were handily defeated in their races. Ballot access has been lost in several states (and potentially lost in even more) due to poor performances by statewide candidates in crucial races. While there were a few notable victories and some damn good showings by other candidates running under the LP banner, the majority of results indicated what many are calling a bloodbath for the party as a whole. As a result, countless libertarian activists are again ready to bail on the party, and even the majority of those left standing are wondering just where we go from here.
While there is no denying that it was a pretty damn disheartening day, I can still see hope on the horizon for the LP; even if it isn’t necessarily in the form we had originally hoped for. It all starts with changing our mentality. For starters, we need to realize that, at least right now, national (and in many cases even state level) politics just isn’t our thing. A more viable strategy for where we stand right now would be to focus on smaller and more winnable city, township, and county races, particularly for non-partisan offices where voters cannot just choose the “R” or “D” on their ballots. Sure, we will need to continue to present viable alternatives in Presidential and Gubernatorial Races for ballot access purposes, as well as to keep our brand on the minds of voters. But at the end of the day, it’s those small races where we are most likely to have an impact on individual liberty. And after all, isn’t that what we are supposed to be all about in the first place?
We also need desperately to start putting aside our pride and moral superiority and start reaching out more to groups who share some of our views and are just as marginalized as we are. There are positions on issues we share with Liberty Republicans, Civil Rights Democrats, as well as groups like Black Lives Matter, Young Americans for Liberty, and so on. It’s time we start seeking cooperation with these groups on causes we both hold dear, rather than continuing to take the stance that these groups aren’t “pure” enough for us to work with.
We likewise need to make sure these conversations are more than just us to talking to them about what we want to accomplish and why they should stand with us. We must actually listen to what they have to say about what they want to do, as well as how they want to do it. We need partners in the battle for liberty; and the more the merrier. There is strength in numbers, which we clearly do not have on our own. But if we can put aside our pursuit of political purity and start working with groups who are of like mind on issues that are important to us, we can grow support for ballot initiatives such as ranked choice voting and removing party lines from ballots; initiatives that help advance the cause of liberty. Especially if they are being presented across multiple fronts by various organizations working together.
If we can start working with groups outside of our own spaces on these issues and more, not only might it help us to be taken more seriously among those who want the same things we do, it might even earn our candidates some support in those small, local races we are capable of winning. Who knows, we might even actually accomplish a win or two for individual liberty along the way.
I know it sucks right now, believe me. So that’s why it’s a good time to step back, lick our wounds, and start looking at new and better ways to achieve what we want to achieve. We know how NOT to do it. We know that all too well. But that just puts us one step closer to getting it right. It is long past time we, as individual Libertarians working within our state and local parties, stop looking to the national party for answers. Instead, we need to start looking to ourselves to make a difference where WE live. That is how we can still advance the cause of liberty, and move forward towards the “world set free in our lifetime” we all hope to see.
You can read more from Matthew McGowan on Think Liberty here.