“By and large, actual libertarians are conservatives who like weed and aren’t as hostile to abortion as their more traditional counterparts.”
In 2013, the Public Religion Research Institute polled a “nationally representative probability sample” of Americans and reported its results in a 48-page booklet entitled “In Search of Libertarians in America.” Historically, libertarians have argued that their philosophy is based on freedom and, thus, should appeal to Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, and liberals. The report shows conclusively, though, that the libertarian philosophy is far more appealing to Republicans and conservatives.
“The party affiliation of libertarians skews significantly more Republican than Democratic,” the report says. “Close to half (45%) of libertarians identify as Republican, compared to only five percent who identify as Democrat…A majority (57%) of libertarians identify as conservative, while 39 percent identify as moderate and only three percent identify as politically liberal.”
The survey concluded that about seven percent of Americans are “consistent libertarians” and another 15 percent “lean libertarian.” The libertarians who were surveyed were asked numerous specific questions about their views on important issues.
About 96 percent oppose the Affordable Care Act, about 73 percent oppose tougher environmental protection laws, and about 65 percent oppose increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour. On social issues, libertarians are more liberal than conservatives but 59 percent of them oppose same sex marriage.
Analyzing the results, Jamelle Bouie wrote in an article on The Daily Beast news website entitled “Libertarians: The Great White Hope” that “the wide assumption is that libertarians balance their free market economic views with social permissiveness, but this is only somewhat true.” Bouie then noted that a majority of libertarians favor legalizing marijuana and oppose stricter anti-abortion laws before making his observation about ‘actual libertarians’ that was quoted at the start of this article.
“There’s little that distinguishes libertarians from ordinary Republicans,” he wrote.
Libertarian Politicians Ignored
While about 22 percent of Americans are libertarian or lean libertarian, the support that the Libertarian Party has received from voters is significantly smaller.
The Libertarian Party was founded in 1971. In its 44-year history, it has never won a seat in the U.S. Congress — no seats in the House or the Senate. The party’s candidates have never received two percent of the nationwide total of votes for the House and have hit the two percent mark in Senate races only twice — in 2002 and 2014.
Furthermore, the party has never won an election for a statewide office and has had little success in elections for local offices. Currently, 135 Libertarian Party members are officeholders as a result of elections, or less than three per state.
The Libertarian Party has also had little success in presidential elections. Oddly, it won its only Electoral College vote in its first election in 1972 when Roger MacBride, an elector pledged to Richard Nixon, cast a vote for Libertarian Party nominee John Hospers instead. MacBride was the party’s nominee in 1976 and got 172,553 votes.
The ticket of Ed Clark and David Koch, yes the same David Koch now known for the billions he and his brother Charles spend on politics, received 921,128 votes in 1980. By comparison Hospers received only 3, 674 nationwide.
Clark’s vote total stood as the Libertarian Party record until 2012 when former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson received 1,275,821 votes. Clark, who finished fourth in votes, and Johnson, who finished third, are the only Libertarian Party nominees to receive one percent of the vote.
Third parties seemingly always say ‘this is the year things will change.” However, they could be right in 2016 because the likely nominees of the two major parties — Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump — have unfavorability ratings higher than any past nominee of either party.
The Libertarian Party of 2016
Conservatives can soon explore whether the Libertarian Party presidential nominee is someone they would consider voting for in November because the party will select its nominee at its May 26-May 30 Libertarian National Convention in Orlando, Fla.
There are four primaries and one caucus before and during the Libertarian National Convention. Johnson won the North Carolina primary and Minnesota caucus, ‘uncommitted’ won the Missouri primary, and the Nebraska and Oregon primaries will be held on May 10 and May 27.
This year’s campaign featured the first nationally televised Libertarian Party debate, which was televised on April 1 and April 8 by Fox Business Network. The three leading candidates as measured by an online poll participated — Johnson, Missouri media executive Austin Petersen, and John McAfee, a very well-known software developer and business executive who lives in Tennessee.
In recent presidential campaigns, the Libertarian Party presidential nominee has been on the ballot in virtually every state and on the ballot in all 50 states in 1980, 1992, 1996, and 2000. It was on the ballot in 48 states in 2012 and figures to be on the ballot in virtually every state in 2016 although about one-third of the states won’t make a decision until the summer.
Johnson, 63, New Mexico’s governor from 1995 to 2003, was a Republican while he was the governor. He also was a candidate for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2012 and participated in two presidential debates with the Republicans before withdrawing in late, 2011, because of his poor performance in polls.
Johnson received national attention as New Mexico’s governor when he came out in support of the legalization of marijuana and announced he opposed the War on Drugs. He also focused on reducing the size of government by vetoing hundreds of bills, often declaring that the funds were for projects that governments shouldn’t be involved in. Johnson supports “slashing” the funding for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as a fiscal conservative, but he is also socially liberal.
McAfee, 70, developed the first commercial anti-virus computer program. In recent years, he has had a lot of legal problems while living in other nations. Among other problems, Belize has investigated him for murder.
As a presidential candidate, he has advocated for a laissez-faire economy, non-interventionism in foreign policy, and drug legalization. He has also campaigned for business owners having the right to deny service to people based on an owner’s religious liberty rights, a hot-button issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Petersen, 35, was an associate producer for the Fox Business Network. His campaign is based on reducing regulations on business, a flat tax, reducing foreign aid to many nations, reducing the power of the Federal Reserve System, allowing young people to opt out of the Social Security system, and seeking market alternatives to medical problems.
The Libertarian Party Platform
When you look at the Libertarian Party platform, you wonder why nine times as many Libertarians identify as Republican than identify as Democrat. That’s because there are many liberal elements in the platform.
The Libertarian Party platform adopted its current platform in 2014. Its preamble says, among other things, that “we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings.”
The platform provides details about this philosophy — and many of the details won’t be appealing to social conservatives. The Personal Liberty section says “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. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.”
On the other hand, the Libertarian Party platform is very economically conservative. Its statement of principles says, among other things, “we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of individual rights, is the free market.”
The “In Search of Libertarians in America” report divides libertarian policy into three categories — National Security and International Intervention, Economic Policy, and Personal Liberty. The first category’s sections on international aid and military force calls for the U.S. to be less interventionist.
Since World War II, conservatives have been more supportive of deploying the military than liberals, but in recent years there have been more libertarians in the Republican Party, including 1988 Libertarian Party presidential nominee Ron Paul and son Senator Rand Paul.
The second category, though, is the primary reason that conservatives have become attracted to libertarianism. It calls for lower taxes, less spending on governmental services, and a ‘Jobs and Economic Welfare’ section that says “the government should just let each person get ahead on their own.”
The third category mixes conservative beliefs on gun control with liberal beliefs on marijuana and an opposition to restricting pornography on the Internet. In recent years, more conservatives have supported the historically liberal views on drugs and sex.
More and more conservatives are identifying themselves as libertarians, but they’re still not voting for them. Whether the conservatives vote for the Libertarian Party in the future, including the 2016 presidential election, might depend on whether they think the party’s economic policy plank is so superior that it’s much more important than a foreign policy plank and a social policy plank that they have significant disagreements with.