Meet the Lesser of the Three Evils: Capital “L” Libertarians

It is no secret that the Libertarian Party ticket is not very libertarian at all. Libertarian Vice-Presidential candidate William Weld is a known gun-control advocate, and Gary Johnson is ardently un-libertarian on issues such as religious freedom and balancing budgets. Certainly, these candidates are a far cry from a Libertarian Party version of Ron or Rand Paul. For libertarians and conservatives, the options are severely limited in this election season.

Hillary Clinton is an obvious loss for liberty. Donald Trump has earned the ire of prominent conservatives, as well as a sizable fraction of the conservative Republican coalition, for his liberal past and his failure to — put plainly — be conservative. Gary Johnson somehow manages to be a candidate who is left of Trump and left-of-center, despite having the Libertarian Party seal of approval. No explanation needs to be given as to why conservatives and libertarians cannot stand Jill Stein. If anything, perhaps Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party is reliably libertarian enough for liberty lovers and conservatives. However, given that the latter two candidates are effectively irrelevant, voters can only hope to see a three-way race with Trump, Clinton, and Johnson.

Many libertarians are critical of the Johnson-Weld ticket, and rightly so. Some will go as far as to say that it is a poor ticket, a not-so-libertarian-at-all ticket, but that they will support it anyway. Why is it that the same people who tell others not to vote for the lesser of two evils will enthusiastically vote for what they believe to be the lesser of three evils?

Partisan loyalty.

The same partisan loyalty that plagues the Democratic and Republican parties is available to voters in Libertarian flavor now. As it turns out, the Libertarian Party does not put libertarianism at the forefront of the nomination process. Similarly, the Republican Party does not put conservatism at the forefront of the nomination process. And the Democratic Party… well the Democratic Party is a whole other demon altogether. The fact of the matter is that, like the multitudes of Democrats and Republicans, they harshly criticize others for voting along party lines and voting for party over principle. Yet too many libertarians will gladly commit the very sin that they chastise others for committing, so long as there is an (L) next to their candidate’s name.

johnson weld buttons

This hypocritical behavior makes those voters Libertarian, with a capital “L,” and not libertarian. The difference between the two is critical. One could be libertarian without being Libertarian or be Libertarian without being libertarian. A Libertarian is bounded by the whims of the Libertarian Party. A libertarian is freed by philosophy. Where a Libertarian is restricted by loyalty, a libertarian is liberated by principle.

Devotion to the Party is antithetical to the high horse of principle that Libertarians tend to take when discussing with their conservative and liberal peers. Claims that the two-party system needs to be shaken up and taken down are insincere. So long as one of two major parties has the name “Libertarian” in it, Libertarians will be content. The substance behind the party is irrelevant, as is evident in the two major parties today. Unfortunately, this is the path being taken by today’s Libertarian Party with Gary Johnson and William Weld.

Principle does not have to be sold in order to buy notoriety, but the Libertarian Party has decided to pay the price for instant gratification that will last for about one day in November, if anything at all. For this reason, the Libertarian Party, as a political organization, has become an enemy to freedom. Those who follow the Party blindly run the risk of being Libertarians who actually stand against liberty. There is no principle in that.

This is not to say that devoted Johnson supporters are unprincipled. There is a growing number of people who completely agree with Gary Johnson and his agenda. Those who vote their conscience are not bad people. They are not unprincipled for voting Johnson because they believe in everything he stands for. They are just wrong. I digress, though.

The libertarian moment is supposed to be an uprising of those who have been thrown around by the government for too long. That’s all of us. Exalting a party because it has a word one agrees with in the name is hazardous because it obfuscates what it is that really matters in the fight for freedom. We as liberty lovers ought not to be preoccupied with electing Libertarians but electing real, freedom-defending, red-blooded libertarians. Liberty knows no party lines.

Irving Weihs

Irving studies political science at Manhattan College in New York. He is a a prominent advocate for liberty on his campus, serving as the president of his Young Americans for Liberty chapter. Furthermore, he aims to further develop the liberty movement through his work as New York State Chair of Young Americans for Liberty.