The 2016 election was a unique one, in that it was the first presidential election in the 21st century in which Americans had a real conversation about third parties.
The Libertarian and the Green Parties garnered a great deal of attention, and presidential candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein even got their own town hall events on CNN.
Despite this, Johnson was only able to get a little more than 3% of the vote, and Stein got just 1% of the vote. The two candidates, despite their campaign efforts, never had a real chance of winning the election, and were mere protest votes.
Their election efforts have since prompted a much needed discussion about the role of third parties in this country. Are they viable platforms for implementing change? Or are they instead hindrances to our goals of moving towards a freer society?
The gut reaction to anyone who is witnessing the downfall of the GOP amidst the ongoing healthcare debate is to abandon the two party system. But one man who had the courage to stand alone is having many now think otherwise.
It was Senator Rand Paul who had the courage to stand up to Trump when there were rumors that he would appoint neocons John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani to his cabinet, perhaps single handedly keeping the two away from the White House. And it was Senator Paul who had the courage to stand up to Paul Ryan and the GOP establishment when they authored a new healthcare bill, dubbing it “Obamacare Lite.”
Paul was mocked by his colleagues at first, but is quickly becoming a revering figure in DC. His courageous leadership may have single handedly stopped the Obamacare Lite bill from passing, as more and more representatives have vowed to vote ‘no,’ and their efforts to halt the bill have even gotten the vote delayed.
If Paul were a member of the Libertarian Party, he would be nowhere near Washington right now, and have no influence over public policy. He wouldn’t be on the Senate floor each day fighting tooth and nail to stand up to dangerous legislation, such as this healthcare bill. And the President of the United States would never even consider entertaining discussions with Paul over the matter.
If Rand Paul, Justin Amash, and Thomas Massie were members of the Libertarian Party, the Obamacare replacement bill would have already passed with ease, since none of them would be in Washington. Now there are rumors that Paul’s bill is gaining traction; a bill that was only made possible by having a Senator Paul in DC in the first place. And if Ron Paul never ran in the GOP the 12 times he sought office in Congress, there would be no modern libertarian movement.
Perhaps if we invested less time in third parties and more time in fighting winning battles to get more men like Rand into Washington, then the battle against tyranny would get a bit easier. Entertaining the thought of growing third parties was a necessary part of challenging our preconceptions in 2016, but when reality sets in, it needs to be realized that third parties are not the answer to achieving liberty.
If a third party is going to be utilized, it should be to spread a message. The Libertarian Party ought to focus on spreading the full message of liberty instead of running watered down candidates like Johnson and Weld. It should focus on winning minds to liberty, instead of winning votes, since it has no real chance of winning elections. And the Libertarian Party shouldn’t be afraid to help viable candidates like Paul and Massie run in the GOP, since those are battles we can win.