Third Party & Independents Archives

The Silent, Ignored, Divided Twenty Percent

Earlier this year, the Burlington Free Press printed a letter to the editor that stated, in part,

The Gallup Poll’s annual survey on government found that 20 percent of the population is libertarian. Many libertarians can be found in the Democratic and Republican parties trying unsuccessfully to change these behemoths. Trying to hold the Republicans to their small-government rhetoric, and the Democrats to their promises of social tolerance and opposition to the war.

Libertarians make up the sensible center. We are socially tolerant and fiscally frugal. Libertarians are building a third party to put freedom of choice and responsibility back into your hands.

The letter was written by Hardy Machia, the chairman of the Vermont Libertarian Party.

It may not be immediately obvious, but Mr. Machia is in the minority of politically active libertarians in that he eschews the two major parties. Most people who seek policies of greater freedom do so from within the two big parties. And they generally lose that fight to those who seek to regulate, regulate, regulate. This is true with the Democrats (regulate business, regulate firearms, regulate hate-speech, etc) and Republicans (regulate relationships, regulate substances, and secretly monitor that which cannot be regulated). Libertarians who fight from within either of these two parties are often on a fool’s errand.

Their plight was recently highlighted by an article in The Economist:

America may be the land of the free, but Americans who favour both economic and social freedom have no political home. The Republican Party espouses economic freedom—ie, low taxes and minimal regulation—but is less keen on sexual liberation. The Democratic Party champions the right of homosexuals to do their thing without government interference, but not businesspeople. Libertarian voters have an unhappy choice. Assuming they opt for one of the two main parties, they can vote to kick the state out of the bedroom, or the boardroom, but not both.

But the situation is even worse than this, as the two main parties repeatedly fail to deliver what they are advertising.

Democrats actually oppose gay marriage and even civil unions. Remember the way Bill Clinton burned the gay community with “Don’t ask, Don’t tell”? Why do Democrats have the support of the gay community?

Democrats are the self-styled party of inclusiveness and diversity, but they have no problem violating those principles for partisan mud-slinging based on race, creed, etc. And it’s not hard to make the argument that they have long taken the black vote for granted.

Meanwhile, Republicans are not giving us smaller government. They are fat on pork, and are so different from the 1994 GOP that even Dick Armey says they have compromised their agenda and will lose their majority in the House.

Again, why would any lover of freedom vote for either of these two parties? The only answer is pragmatism, though we know that is a formula for failure in the long run.

The Economist article concluded with an ironic, painful note that the situation is, of all things, market-driven:

Libertarians are ignored partly because they are hard to find, not least because they just want to be left alone. (There is a Libertarian Party, but it gets hardly any votes.) Politicians can reach social conservatives through churches or union members through their unions, but where do libertarians gather? Parties will always court the votes that are cheapest to court because, for once, they are spending their own money.

Libertarians have been hoping that the internet will be the place to find and organize like-minded, anti-government Americans. According to polls, there is a large, silent minority of us in this country - enough to control the outcome of any election, if we could only be organized toward a common goal. But we instead concentrate on our differences - some fight primarily for social freedom, while others concentrate on economic liberties. So long as that is the case, we will only get lip service from the two parties of power and big government.

Posted by Wulf at October 28, 2006 7:55 PM
Comment #191237

Wulf, Does that 20 % you refer to include those of us who dont think the libertarian plan is much better than the repubs or dems?

Posted by: j2t2 at October 28, 2006 9:20 PM
Comment #191243

I would say yes, j2t2. The term “libertarian” is difficult to nail down, and those of us who use it as more of an adjective than a noun are often at odds with the LP.

The Economist article references a new study from the Cato Institute. That study says:

Gallup also found — this year as in others — that 20% are neither liberal nor conservative but libertarian, opposing the use of government either to “promote traditional values” or to “do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.” Another 20% are “populist” (supporting government action in both areas), with 10% undefined.

So I suppose you might very well be part of that 20%… but you might also be populist or undefined.

Posted by: Wulf at October 28, 2006 9:43 PM
Comment #191247

First, who you call a libertarian is important. Second, the question is what tendencies you’re describing. Third, the question is, how you do get a bunch of libertarians together to agree on something, in the ideological sense?

Most people pick and choose what they believe people should be free about. I think this is wishful thinking on the part of the source, in terms of them really coming together.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 28, 2006 10:32 PM
Comment #191292

It is probably time for us “libertarian” people to actually start talking politics at work. In this I do not mean get rude and in peoples faces but remind them how close together our 2 party system really is.
Then turn the question to how you get change to happen, this change almost always involves pain. Pain both fiscal and actual are what drive people and companies to change policies.
I think I even got one of my co-workers here in OR to seriously think about voting 3rd party. We have a choise for Gov. here Ted our gov now (I personally think he is OK at his job) or Ron Saxton who had his campaign not started out by slinging mud but how he plans to make OR better would have stood a better chance of getting elected Gov.
I didn’t get my wife to vote 3rd party this time on that race but helped her come to the conclusion to try to vote out incumbants in the national election. She personally likes Ted’s convictions and as a military family on both sides I can follow that belief.

Posted by: timesend at October 29, 2006 9:07 AM
Comment #191561

I for one don’t see too much difference between dems and repubs. They both want to sacrifice one freedom for another one.

I like the libertarian perspective. It is favorable to my personal beliefs of Capitalism in its ‘pure sense’ of an individuals right to persue ‘more’ with obstruction of laws governing victimless crimes.

I do not on the other hand like that the LP has consistently failed to establish a common platform to promote their ideals from. A lack of platform makes it near imposible for the national mass to establish an opinion of the LP making even less possible to establish national support.

If the LP could simply establish a platform, a broad sense of guidlines to follow that can vaguely encompass the totality of LP belief on all ends, then they would gain my full support, until then I have no real option other then to continue picking and choosing according to individual agendas with in all parties.

If anyone is interested in forming a think tank of some sort to begin forming such a platform I would be more than happy to donate my insight in accordance of my ‘we all have the right to all things unoppressive’.

Pierce College
Student Relations Senator
Bryan AJ Kennedy

Posted by: Bryan AJ Kennedy at October 30, 2006 5:53 PM
Comment #191745

Wulf, I am with the Libertarians on many an issue.

Where we divide is at their extremist view of freedom. Freedom advocated without responsibility, in some cases. The greatest freedom is anarchy and war. There are no rules of others to bind one. That is an extremist view of freedom.

Our founding fathers sought neither anarchy nor war. They recognized that with freedom comes obligation, duty, and responsibility (ability to respond appropriately) as a people as well as individuals. A nation of laws, not of men, was their grand design.

Libertarians too often rail at law as intrusive and restrictive. And too often Libertarians champion freedom to the point of excusing themselves from any responsibility for our neighbors and the less fortunate and less able among them.

The core philosophy of the Libertarian Party I generally agree with. But, the Libertarian Party like the Republocrats, have their own extremists who undermine the party’s acceptance with a very narrow individualist philosophy that harkens back to the views expressed in the book The Naked Ape.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 31, 2006 6:43 AM
Comment #196930

I like effen lifestyle. Work hard, party hard - vip all the way to a-list nightclub

Posted by: party king at November 29, 2006 6:56 PM
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