Why Libertarian Party Candidates Can Never Be “Kingmakers”

Some suggest that if Libertarian Candidates endorse a duopolist, we can move the needle towards liberty. But this is a sure path to disaster for the Libertarian Party, and is certainly no path to liberty in our lifetime.

Ballot access concerns aside, unless a candidate is transparent about this strategy from the start of their campaign, this tactic would leave our volunteers, donors, and voters feeling betrayed. Future candidates would have a harder time trying to find donors and volunteers. And early voters would have to consider if their vote would be thrown away if an endorsement came after they had voted.

Even if this was an openly stated practice, libertarian voters want to fundamentally alter the duopoly, not merely shift it by 0.002%. The plan is utterly unworkable because it would drive off the very support it needs to be successful.

Most Libertarians vote their conscience and so would ignore any endorsement. To demand that they vote for a duopolist for a small concession is demanding that they ignore their values. Few Libertarians, after resisting the siren’s call of voting for the lesser-of-two-evils, would then simply follow a candidate’s endorsement. Most would probably not vote at all, and many would vote for a candidate other than the endorsed candidate.

This policy would turn a Libertarian vote into a truly wasted vote. The media narrative would not be about how many votes the Libertarian Party got, but how many went to which duopolist. Even if this strategy did not run the party into the ground it would merely make the party and its candidates pawns for the duopoly to toy with.

The strategy also shows a complete misunderstanding of who votes for Libertarian candidates. Polls show that when a Libertarian pulls votes from Republicans and Democrats, they do so fairly evenly. So the idea that Libertarian voters would simply fall in line and allow an LP candidate to dictate which duopolist they should vote for is laughable. If there is one sure thing about libertarians, it’s that we are our own masters.

This isn’t to say that there will never be a scenario in which this strategy could be possible, just that it could never be a common practice. One can imagine that we could possibly pull a duopolist candidate slightly towards a more liberty minded position. But there would be no way to enforce any promises made, and certainly no guarantee of permanent change. If the endorsed candidate gained office, they will run in the future as an incumbent, which would mean that they would have far less of a need for a Libertarian endorsement.

The Libertarian Party cannot afford candidates that donors, volunteers, and voters do not trust to stand up for them. Candidates who are willing to sellout for the duopoly will never gain much support among the libertarian base. This is particularly important with a Presidential nomination coming up over the next several years. A sellout at the top of the ticket would damage the party for decades to come.

Nor can the Libertarian Party afford a leadership that is weak on this issue. Candidates, and all the hard work that people put into their campaigns, are not pawns to use for short term concessions. We need a leadership that takes a strong stance against selling out, not one that hems and haws about it.

Duopoly incrementalism is the worst form of pragmaticism because it will never be a path to a world set free in our lifetime. The duopoly has proven time and time again that the best it can do is pander to libertarians. America needs a liberty wave, not a trickle.

This piece solely expresses the opinions of the author, and not necessarily the Classical Liberal Caucus as a whole.

The Classical Liberal Caucus is dedicated to promoting classical liberal principles, involvement, and professionalism in and through the Libertarian Party. Join and help us make liberty classical again.

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