Road to Illiberalism: the Future of the Libertarian Party?

At the Libertarian Party National Convention over Memorial Day weekend, we were able to spend time talking with some amazing activists and candidates who are working to spread the message of liberty far and wide. Their passion is truly infectious and we cannot wait to see how they will impact the liberty movement. However, like many other party members, we are worried that these efforts may be hampered by the party’s new leadership.

Statements made by the new leadership show a concerning lean towards illiberalism, the culture war, and a generally dismissive attitude towards democracy. Platform changes – such as removing the plank that condemned bigotry as irrational and repugnant – and the messaging strategy advocated by the new leadership, also show a willingness to dehumanize others.

We hope to be proven wrong by their actions. However, at the current moment we see a future for the national Libertarian Party characterized by electoral failure, irrelevancy, and pandering to small niche political groups. The party is already experiencing a wave of disaffiliations from candidates, donors, and recurring members.

Here’s the truth: As Republicans and Democrats continue their death spiral into political tribalism, voters are looking for a way out. Whether it’s overreach in schools, mandates on private businesses, or the banning of certain books or ideas, voters are sick and tired of being forced to choose sides on issues the government should not be involved with in the first place. The largest voting bloc in the country has become independents precisely because the extremes of the left and right dominate political dialogue. Importing the tactics of the Republicans and Democrats into the Libertarian Party will harm our electoral future.

You cannot win a culture war; you can only lose less than the other side.

The Libertarian Party must reject the culture war or become nothing more than another mouthpiece for the left or the right. The message of the Libertarian Party should be clear: liberty is not a participant in the culture war, it is the solution to it.

Voters cannot be told to stay out of the political process, and so our criticisms of democracy should serve our goal of limiting government to its proper role; protecting the right to life, liberty, and property. Despite its shortcomings, democracy has enabled peaceful solutions through cooperative dialogue that historically would have been resolved by violence. This has resulted in unprecedented freedom and prosperity. The ultimate goal of libertarianism is to create a society based on cooperation instead of one based on coercion. As such, we should advocate that democracy works best in the context of a constitutional republic with checks and balances to curb its excesses. We undermine it at our own risk.

Voters are not looking for utopia, they are looking for solutions to the day to day problems they face. They want to know how to pay their rent, find baby formula, and save for their future. Libertarianism – classical liberalism – has the answers. We need to show voters how government entanglement in everything raises costs, lowers standards, and generally makes the average person less prosperous and less safe.

As a party, we either choose to reach the “great middle” of voters where they are, or risk losing them forever.

Bigotry is a direct path towards tyranny. It is irrational and repugnant because the first step in increasing the power of the state is to dehumanize its targets. As a party, we must hold true to the cosmopolitan tradition of classical liberalism precisely because humanizing even our enemies protects their rights and, by extension, our own. We should unite behind the principles that have held true for over 250 years. From Locke to Bastiat and Paine to von Mises, the acceptance of others is a cornerstone of liberalism. We either take a stand against “othering,” or we will watch their rights slip away with ours soon to follow.

The Libertarian Party must coalesce around ideas and practices that will advance liberty in our lifetime. Organizationally, we are not a movement or a nonprofit; we are a political party. Our purpose is to run candidates and achieve legislative outcomes. Any other purpose or goal beyond this can be better served with a different type of organization.For everyone worried about the future of the Libertarian Party, it has been in existence for over half a century, and it will be here in another half of a century. We should not give up on the only liberal voice in American politics, but work together to guide its course. Ultimately, politics is about coalition building: it is messy and imperfect.

We believe that we should not abandon the party because of one election; the competition of ideas is far from decided.

This isn’t the time for timidity; this is the time for bold action. We must stand for our principles or risk losing them to history. It’s time to reject the culture war, reject the false left-right dichotomy, and choose cosmopolitan liberal values as the path forward. 2024 will present this party with an unprecedented opportunity that we should be prepared to maximize. This will not be achieved by building our party to appeal to niche political groups – we must reach the “great middle” of voters.

The Libertarian Party should not be a cheap duopoly knockoff, but rather spread the radical message of classical liberalism; that free men, free minds, and free markets will improve life for all. This message took the world from feudalism to enlightenment; it stood strong against every abuse of government, from slavery to Jim Crow, vice laws to lockdowns.

Our mission is not to be blown around by the winds of political change, but to stand as a bulwark against illiberalism both in our party and outside.

We hope that the new leadership of the Libertarian Party takes a balanced approach over the next two years. At the end of the day, we are here to work with anyone who wants to advance the beautiful message of liberty and organize around the strategies that will take the Libertarian Party from the margins and into the majority.

If you agree with this mission, join with us to achieve our shared goal of “liberty in our lifetime.”

– Board of Directors, Classical Liberal Caucus

The Classical Liberal Caucus is dedicated to promoting classical liberal principles, involvement, and professionalism in and through the Libertarian Party. We believe that human rights are inherent and the ultimate goal of government is to protect them. Join and help us make liberty classical again.

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