Photo of Libertarian rally in Washington D.C. by Carolmooredc
A couple thousand noble savages and nerdy savants from across the republic are letting loose at the Libertarian Party National Convention in Orlando this weekend. A fun question to ask is whether their ranks will swell with significant numbers of Republicans seeking asylum from the Party of Trump.
While it’s hard to deduce the precise extent and nature of the anti-Trump diaspora, it’s pretty clear what type of Republican could take refuge in the Libertarian Party this November. It’s also pretty obvious which type of Republican will find no sanctuary in the party of Nolan this year. (That is, David Nolan, an Ayn Rand fan and Goldwater supporter turned anti-Vietnam War activist and Nixon wage-and-price-control critic, whom historians credit with founding the Libertarian Party in Colorado Springs in 1971.)
This year’s Libertarian Party makes no bones about its contempt for Trump and, conversely, its appreciation of John Kasich. “For John Kasich supporters, the Libertarian Party will offer a nominee who will challenge Hillary Clinton and who will eschew the divisive, incendiary remarks and policies that have marked the Donald Trump campaign,” the party asserted in a press release in early May. The release also noted that the Libertarian Party’s support for “free trade is in stark contrast to the trade wars that Donald Trump threatens to wage.”
The party has been reaching out to “fiscal conservatives”: “The good news for fiscal conservatives is that the Libertarian presidential nominee—a tax-and-spending-cutter’s dream—is expected to be on the ballot in all fifty states, plus D.C., this November,” the press release stated. As of this writing, though, the Libertarians have gained presidential ballot access in only thirty-two states.
But what about the social conservatives? Would the Libertarians provide a home for Cruz supporters and others who seek government suppression of gay marriage and are particularly worried about where transgender people got to the bathroom? No. Libertarians denounce that kind of thinking as “statist.” The Libertarians’ 2016 national platform declares that “sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government's treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws.” Moreover: “Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.”
Likewise, the Libertarian Party offers no safe harbor for Republicans seeking government control over a woman’s reproductive rights: “Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.”
The rebuff of social conservatives goes double for Ted Cruz supporters, according to Pierre-Alexandre Crevaux, the twenty-two-year-old executive director of the Miami-Dade affiliate of the Libertarian Party of Florida. “I don’t want to call him any names, but he is a social conservative maniac,” Crevaux says. Libertarians might find common ground with Cruz Republicans “when it comes to smaller government and the general philosophy of small government,” Crevaux added, “but the thing is, we don’t believe that an individual like Ted Cruz, a Senator like Ted Cruz, would actually act upon his promises were he to become the President, especially given all of his talk about controlling people’s social life.”
Control being the crux of the matter and the key word at the heart of the Libertarians’ political appeal and psychological allure. “The old parties fight over which one gets to control how you live, how you run your business, and how to give out your tax money to special interests. There are differences, but they both want to control your life in different ways,” Libertarian National Committee chair Nicholas Sarwark wrote in a pre-convention opinion piece published this week. “The Libertarian Party is the only political party in this country that stands up for all of your freedoms, all of the time. When Libertarians come together in convention, the goal is to craft a platform that maximizes individual freedom and minimizes government control.”
Of course, with 900 Libertarian delegates in one space there will surely be a spirited fight over which of the party’s eighteen presidential candidates will take control of the nomination. The top contenders (according to establishment media) are 70-year-old anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee; 35-year-old libertarian magazine publisher Austin Petersen; and 63-year-old Gary Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico. Another ex-Republican, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, has offered to be Johnson’s running mate. (Libertarians nominate their VP separately.)
The libertarian creed rests on serious leaps of faith, such as the notion that only a free market can protect individual rights, and that government agencies harm the natural environment more than they protect it, and that if we could just dismantle the trappings of government, our noble instincts would trump the greedy ones.
Another leap is that a Libertarian presidential candidate could actually win this year. “It is a narrow path to victory,” Crevaux admits, explaining that it runs through all the states where Trump did not finish first, particularly plains and mountain states, and then involves a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Libertarian thought holds that many Trump supporters will defect to the Libertarian Party in November now that The Donald is no longer self-financing his campaign. “That was his biggest asset, that he was anti-establishment,” Crevaux observes, calling it a “disgrace” that Trump is now “cozying up with individuals like Sheldon Adelson,” the casino magnate who is also an opponent of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. “I’m expecting a lot of his voters to vote Libertarian in November.”
Crevaux even believes that the Libertarian nominee could steal votes from the Democratic ticket because the parties are aligned on many issues, including gay rights, immigration reform, curbing the war on drugs, and a foreign policy favoring diplomacy over war. But in majority of cases, votes for the Libertarian are probably going to help Hillary Clinton.
Kirk Nielsen is an independent journalist and writer based in Miami Beach.