photo courtesy Microsoft stock images
Guest post by Sean Thornton, SC State Committee Chair
Libertarians don’t win a lot of elections. Why? Quite simply, there is still a lot of unfamiliarity with what a libertarian even is. A few years back, a Pew Research study found that only 14% of people self-identified as libertarian.
But over 20% of those self-identified libertarians didn’t even know the meaning of the word!
When asked for the name of “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government”, more than 20% of self-identified libertarians said that was the definition of progressive, authoritarian, communist, or even Unitarian!
Worse than that, of the remaining libertarians who could correctly identify the definition of their own claimed ideology, many held distinctly non-libertarian views:
- 16% supported the surveillance state
- 26% wanted homosexuality discouraged
- 33% thought marijuana should stay illegal
- 42% believed police should be allowed to stop and search anyone who even just “looks like” a criminal.
If we hope to win elections, we clearly have a lot of work to do helping not only the public but also each other understand and unite behind what libertarians stand for.
Education must be item number one in our strategy.
The best way to educate people en masse about political ideas is through a political campaign, but the candidate must be able to present libertarian principles clearly and consistently or s/he will just worsen the confusion.
A third-party option has become attractive to duopoly refugees, but the Libertarian Party may not be the right fit for all of those defecting from other major parties. Simply hating Democrats and Republicans is not the same thing as being a libertarian.
Having one or two libertarian views among many authoritarian positions does not make someone a libertarian. For example, favoring lower taxes but supporting the drug war, military interventionism, and same-sex marriage bans does not make a person a qualified Libertarian Party candidate. Openly supporting homophobia, racism, theocracy, slavery, misogyny, or exploitation of children is a good indication that a person is not libertarian at all and definitely not a good candidate.
But shouldn’t we be excited about so much new interest in our party?
Yes! It is encouraging that a swelling majority of Americans are disgusted with the duopoly. Fresh candidates vying for roles at city, county, and state office level shows renewed enthusiasm in government by the people. This is a good thing.
But we have NOTA for a reason. We cannot simply accept any applicant just to have someone to run. Our candidates must be uncompromisingly libertarian—Ron Paul, not Rand Paul.
This means our candidates should:
- believe steadfastly in the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP).
- believe in and support the Libertarian Party’s platform with only minor reservations.
- understand and be able to explain from first principles why the party’s platform positions are what they are.
- be able to justify any personal disagreements with the platform in the same way—by reasoning from core libertarian principles, not from selfish or authoritarian motives.
- be familiar with the issues relevant to the position for which s/he is running and able to clearly explain their libertarian solutions—not only what they are but also why they are and how they work.
A good candidate will not simply value their own liberty only but rather will value the liberty of everyone, including and especially those most oppressed by our authoritarian system.
Will this be enough to win?
Realistically, no—at least not yet—so a good candidate must educate voters and reflect positively on the SCLP in order to build up our relationship with the public.
Candidates are ambassadors for our cause. Their loyalty to it will allow us to cascade success onto subsequent candidates as we aim for the future, when eventually we will win.
Ready to get involved? Click here to find the next meeting for your local SCLP group.
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