Why the Libertarian Party Fails

Nelson Hultberg

August 14, 2014

Many in America’s freedom movement still hope that the Libertarian Party will one day become a power on the political scene to challenge the Democrat-Republican monolith. But in 42 years it hasn’t happened, and it probably won’t happen. There are some very distinct reasons why the LP and all other alternative / independent parties fail. This essay will examine them.

Let’s take, for example, the top independent parties out there: the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party. Even though each of them have appeared at times to be a start toward genuine political reform, they repeatedly fail because they have structured themselves upon the mistake of instant idealism, which leads to their marginalization.

Instant Idealism

This mistake is made because these two parties both have “ideal visions” of the way they feel society should be politically organized, and they attempt to implement their visions all at once through the political process. They ignore the fact that politics is a game of incrementalism, that it is not an arena in which an “ideal society” can suddenly be voted into place. Because they try to do this, they are perceived by the public as not living in the real world.

For example, when asked what tax policy they advocate for the country, libertarians reply that the income tax should be abolished and government should be stripped down to a minimal state that can exist upon excise taxes and tariffs. This would be the limited government that the Founders advocated, which, of course, would be wonderful to have. But it is not a credible political platform to be gained through a political campaign today. It is rather an “ideal” that we can approach over the next 50-100 years. The members of the Constitution Party respond in the same way. Both of these parties wish to instantly implement their visions of the ideal. There is no acceptance of the need for incrementalism upon which all of politics is based.

As a result, both of these parties frighten the electorate with dissolution of the welfare state. Consequently they are marginalized as foolishly utopian. They end up getting at best 1% of the vote on Election Day. They remain obscure fringe voices. No national media pursue them, no nationally prominent candidates seek to run under their banner, no big money flows into their coffers, and most importantly they are never invited to the national TV presidential debates.

Cloning

Other alternative political challenges make the opposite mistake to which the Libertarian and Constitution Parties succumb. They clone themselves to the Democrat-Republican monopoly. This type of mistake was the problem with the Reform Party that Ross Perot founded (and also John Anderson’s independent candidacy in 1980). Both Perot and Anderson ended up becoming nothing but “statists by another name.” While the Libertarians project too much radicalness, Perot and Anderson projected no radicalness. They ended up with no substantive differences ideologically between themselves and the Democrat-Republican establishment, offering only more of the same statist pabulum of their opponents.

Thus they were reduced to running on the notion that they would somehow govern the monster state better because they would bring “better personnel” and “more efficiency” to Washington. Needless to say, this type of me-too campaigning did not excite the electorate who didn’t see the need for still another Big-Government party. Perot and Anderson became nothing but clones and consequently failed.

How We Solve the Problem

These then are the two crucial mistakes that any alternative party challenge of the establishment must avoid: instant idealism and cloning. If an independent party wishes to become viable and succeed, it must offer radical enough change to separate itself from the Democrat-Republican monopoly, but not so radical that it frightens the voters and becomes marginalized.

This is how the National Independent Party is structured. Its Four Pillars of Reform for our monetary, tax, immigration, and foreign policy systems will stop the growth of government, but will not create fear among the voters and lead to marginalization. This will allow the party to attract a nationally prominent candidate to head the ticket who can appeal to enough voters to win (38% in a three-man race). This will bring major media to hang out on his front doorstep as well as major money into the campaign’s coffers.

To bring this about will require a blend of idealism and practicality, which means incremental policy proposals. For example, the National Independent Party candidate cannot campaign on “ending the Fed and the income tax” like Ron Paul did. This will marginalize him (as it did to Paul) and bring him only 10-12% of the vote.

What needs to be done is to recruit a prominent libertarian-conservative such as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Mike Lee to campaign on the Four Pillars of Reform upon which the National Independent Party is structured. Briefly these Four Pillars are:

1) Enact Milton Friedman’s 4% auto-expansion plan for the Federal Reserve. By ending the arbitrary expansion of money by the FOMC, we will reduce annual price inflation in our economy to zero.

2) Enact a simplified 15% flat tax, explaining that it is the only tax compatible with our founding principle – “equal rights under the law.” By ending progressive tax rates, we will stop the redistribution of wealth that allows government to grow so relentlessly.

3) Vigorously crack down on illegal immigration by eliminating the magnets of jobs, welfare services, education, etc. that draw illegals to America. No amnesty will be granted; self-deportation will be the result.

4) End our militaristic, police-the-world foreign policy that is bankrupting us both financially and morally. The dangers to America do not lie in foreign lands; they lie here at home in Washington.

The National Independent Report

The above four reforms are explained in much more detail in our National Independent Report. They do not achieve the ideal. But they will dramatically stop the runaway freight train of government growth and restore freedom and sanity to America.

Yes, Ron Paul is right. We eventually need to abolish the the Fed. But this will take 50 years to bring about, probably longer. A whole new generation of scholars and pundits will have to be ushered in to educate the people as to the merits of a free-market banking system with gold as money. Likewise with the income tax. It also needs to eventually be abolished; but in order for the American people to discard it, they must be convinced to eliminate the welfare state. Not something that can be done overnight.

These are not goals that a political candidate can base his campaign on today if he wishes to get into the national TV presidential debates, which he must do if he intends to be effective. No candidate or party has a chance unless they are in the debates.

This means the national “election” debates, not the primary “nomination” debates. The primary nomination debates, are viewed by only 15 million viewers on cable TV and are minor league affairs. Also they are not mandated to give equal time to all candidates. Thus the statist moderators can ignore a freedom candidate, which is what they did to Ron Paul.

The national election debates, with 70 million viewers, are carried by the major networks and are big league affairs. Also they are mandated to give equal time to all candidates. A freedom candidate cannot be ignored. This is why the national debates are so important in the fight to save freedom; they give us a means to dramatically reach the people.

Crucial Facts of Reality

The Libertarian and Constitution Parties appear to be oblivious to these crucial facts of reality about politics in America. As a result they get only 1% of the vote on Election Day. If freedom is to be saved, it cannot be marginalized. It must be portrayed in a sane, non-threatening manner. Unfortunately, the Libertarian and Constitution Parties do not do this, and consequently they fail.

Tragically our media pundits don’t think these things through and; thus, they ritualistically condemn alternative political parties to the American people. They fail to see that it is not alternative parties that “will never work.” It is alternative parties that marginalize themselves or clone themselves that will never work.

Avoid the marginalization / cloning errors, and an alternative party challenge to the Democrat-Republican monopoly would become a formidable force. The American people are ready for such a challenge. The latest Gallup poll in January of 2014 shows that 42% of voters identify as “independent,” while only 31% identify as Democrats and 25% as Republicans.

The people are overwhelmingly with us, but just don’t know it yet because nobody has come along to explain it to them. This is what a National Independent Party candidate (such as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Mike Lee) would do. Subconsciously Americans are sick to death with the Democrat-Republican monolith. An NIP candidate will bring all this to the surface in tens of millions of voters.

Ross Perot may have cloned himself, but he showed us the way strategically in 1992 to challenge the power structure. By getting into the national TV presidential debates, a candidate can tap into the massive antagonism toward the Democrat-Republican monopoly lurking in the American voters’ minds. All we need to do is run a nationally prominent libertarian-conservative candidate that espouses “freedom” instead of the “vague reformism” that Perot preached. The American people are ready for this. As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, this revolution is coming to America. Victor Hugo said it best: “There is nothing more powerful in history than an idea whose time has come.”


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