For many in the Libertarian Party and small “l” libertarians in the liberty movement at large, seeing Justin Amash jump into the LP Presidential race less than 72 hours ago was a welcome and long anticipated move. I predicted it about a year ago, others made the same predictions when he left the GOP in July of 2019, but it seemed like the day would never get here. Finally, it did get here.
Social media discourse changed in mere minutes from, “no one even knows who your Presidential candidates are” to “ don’t run, this election is too important!”, but Libertarians expect that. Every election cycle the cries of “this isn’t your time!” or, “you’re going to hand the election to [insert any major candidate here]”, permeate the conversation around any front runner. It has even been suggested that voting Libertarian is a privileged position to take in American politics. Could that be true?
Currently, the Libertarian Party has ballot access in 36 states, more than ever going into a general election year, all made possible by Gary Johnson in 2016. Remember 2016, before the pandemic? At the time the discourse was the exact same, “you’ll hand the election to Clinton!” were the cries of detractors. Personally, I am shocked by the news that my favored Libertarian candidate simultaneously cannot win any elections but has the power to control the outcome of said elections. They must be Schrodinger’s candidate.
Libertarians are accused of standing on principle while the world burns down around them because we refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils. More people will be hurt by one candidate’s policies more than another so we should vote for that one and not doing so means we must not be in a vulnerable position to be affected by [bad candidate]’s policy. This simply is not true. Libertarians are not magically immune to bad policy decisions that affect our access to or cost of healthcare, income taxes, or the legalization of cannabis.
It is estimated to cost at least 1 million dollars to get ballot access in some of the states where a Libertarian is not automatically on the ballot for President. Ballot access only comes from sweat equity and libertarians have given a lot of that. Libertarians are chronically underrepresented on the ballot and our voters are suppressed by policies like straight ticket voting. This hardly sounds like privilege.
Privilege is walking to your local election commission and filing paperwork to run for Senator with 25 signatures. It is knowing that you will be on the ballot when you walk out of that office and never facing the prospect of years of litigation or massive expense just to have your party designation after your name or the stress of knowing that a bureaucrat could miscount and cost you the opportunity for years. Privilege is knowing that a candidate that matches most of your ideals will always be on your ballot and that you will never have to ask for donations to pay for a convention because your primary is paid for by taxpayers. Privilege is taking for granted all of that and never having to put in any effort to “earn your place” on the ballot.
Voting for a worthy candidate is a duty 3rd party voters take seriously and why we are not eager to waste our votes on candidates we know have massive flaws and do not represent our principles. The only wasted vote is for a candidate you don’t feel comfortable voting for and is owed to no one who hasn’t earned it. It is not privilege to vote for a Libertarian Presidential candidate, it is a hard won choice.