Elections

Should the Libertarian Party run a POTUS candidate in 2024?

I’ve joined Clubhouse app, a new form of social media that I’ve described as live interactive podcasts that are not recorded for the public. The libertarian contingent on the app is still quite small. While having a conversation with some libertarians a few days ago, a participant suggested the Libertarian Party should stop running presidential candidates. I assume the individual’s intention was for the effort from presidential races could be utilized for campaigns with a better outcome for victory or elsewhere in the broader libertarian movement. This was not the first time I have encountered this suggestion.

Happy President’s Day. President’s Day is the federally designated birthday celebration for George Washington, who would be 289 next Monday. 

The Libertarian Party is turning 50 this year and has not outright elected a federal candidate to date. The POTUS candidates of the past have held diverse backgrounds from party insiders to congressmen including Ron Paul and Bob Barr. Roger MacBride (1976) and Andre Marrou (1992) held experience as state level legislators prior to running for POTUS. With a candidate in each race since 1972, the party has broken one million votes in its last three races. 

The departure of Donald Trump from the White House has recently initiated conversations on creating new political parties, but an anti-Trump conservative party has little appeal to members of the GOP. While the Libertarian Party failed to win a presidential race in 13 attempts, only 5 of those races appeared on the ballot of each voter (1980, 1992, 1996, 2016, 2020). Libertarian Party activists are familiar with what seems to be a tradition of celebrating improved election results to be met with state legislatures increasing the threshold to appear on the ballot for future cycles. Donald Rainwater was the Indiana LP candidate for governor in 2020 and received 11% of the vote, the second highest percentage ever for an LP gubernatorial candidate. Within two months of the election, the Indiana legislature considered a bill to increase the signature requirement for future races from 500 signatures to 4,500. It has not moved forward, but this is an example of the perpetual series of obstacles the LP has faced.

There are considerable financial and human resources expended on presidential races. Governor Gary Johnson’s near 4.5 million votes in 2016 came with nearly 12 million dollars raised and a few million more spent by PACs. Dr. Jo Jorgensen’s nearly 2 million votes were supported by 3 million dollars raised. Could these dollars be funneled into funding ballot initiatives? Sure, but I’m skeptical the same individuals would contribute. Presidential cycles carry a spirit of optimism and a rare ability to highlight every policy at a national scale. The next time there’s an opportunity to be in a room (or Zoom) with a group of libertarians, I challenge you to ask each how they first discovered libertarianism. I’ve been doing this myself for over a decade and the majority of my sample surveys have resulted in people inspired to action because of an LP candidate. 

The magnitude of 4.5 million votes in 2016 is often under appreciated. When has the libertarian movement engaged this many people in a few months timespan? Moving people to action is difficult. The Libertarian Party has provided every American voter with a choice in the last two presidential cycles. The time it takes to fill in a dot or push a screen is the only action needed to participate in the Libertarian Party’s attempt to peacefully give power back to the people. George Washington saw a good share of blood to achieve similar results while he was the commander in chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. 

What if the LP decided to sit out on one POTUS cycle? This would be detrimental to the state parties that rely on presidential results to place their state level candidates on the ballot. Ballot access at the state level is a significant hurdle.

When I share I am a libertarian with new acquaintances, I’m generally met with a response botching Ron Paul or Gary Johnson’s name. While people may not be able to recall a candidates’ name accurately, their mind associates the ideology with a spokesperson in the form of a candidate.  

My experience in seeing the impact from POTUS campaigns is first hand. I worked on the 2016 and 2020 campaigns. Seeing thousands of supporters or curious voters attend Governor Johnson’s rallies and hundreds of Dr. Jorgensen’s supporters amid a pandemic was a very unique experience. Dr. Jorgensen campaigned in three cities in Alaska this year making her the only POTUS candidate to stop in the 49th state. She was the front page news in each of the Alaskan cities. “Thank you for coming to (insert city)” was a common phrase I heard in the 40 states I traveled to with Dr. Jorgensen in 2020. The campaign reached 48 states in total, significantly covering more ground than Trump or Biden and I can guarantee that Dr. Jorgensen and Spike Cohen engaged in hundreds more conversations with voters than their opponents. 

Producing a campaign rally was a skill I mastered in 2016 and taught in 2020. Bringing a presidential candidate to a city provides the state campaign team with the training on how to prepare and execute a campaign event. Every detail from the quality of sound to making sure rally signs are ordered and show up on time take hundreds of hours behind the scenes. Getting press releases to the media and supporters to an event is an artform and I enjoyed playing the role of teacher to future Picassos. The spotlight that comes from a presidential candidate stop gives state and local candidates an opportunity to speak directly to the media and voters. The Jorgensen campaign stops featured down-ballot candidates while benefiting from a presidential campaign produced event. 

Presidential campaigns cultivate and identify talent. My colleagues from Dr. Jorgensen’s campaign are currently planning to run for office or manage races. When Libertarian Party candidates run at the local level, we see a significant increase in the conversion rate for wins. Approximately 50% of the candidates that ran in 2019 won, some being the only candidate on the ballot. A very recent win came from Chris Powell, the 2018 Oklahoma LP candidate for governor. You likely know one of his primary opponents, Joseph Maldondo or Joe Exotic from Tiger King.  Chris received 3.44% of the vote while running for governor and followed up with a win on February 9, 2021 with 76% of the vote for Bethany city council in Oklahoma. Congratulations to Chris!

Former Congressman Justin Amash has given his word to continue to help the Libertarian Party after discontinuing his three week bid for the LP POTUS race in 2020. While there are no indicators that have been shared with me as to his plans to run in 2024, Justin’s help in building the party has the potential to be a game changer in the party’s trajectory. I’ve asked Jason Pye of FreedomWorks to re-join the party on many occasions and I was delighted to hear that Justin Amash’s commitment to build the LP finally brought Jason back into the party’s membership rolls. There is time before 2024 for the party to take advantage of Justin’s offer. Fundraising for the 2024 ballot access fund is a prime opportunity for any contender for the 2024 race. The cost to achieve 50 state + DC ballot access for 2024 will be more clear after the 2022 results, but the figures will likely be well above $500,000. Bringing more Jason Pye’s back to the LP with direct asks for support should be a priority as well as recruiting candidates. If California’s Governor Gavin Newsom is recalled, who could Justin help to recruit for the party to take advantage of the opportunity?

On President’s Day, I am reminded of George Washington’s farewell address warning Americans of the division that could ensue from political parties. Given the two party system has ruled in America since 1852, my solution to this pollution is dilution in the form of more options on the ballot.

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

FAREWELL ADDRESS | SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 1796

20 replies »

    • I voted Yes with the following caveat.

      The Libertarian Party should run a presidential candidate only if the candidate is willing to run a full-time campaign, not just a half-time ruse designed to raise money for pathetic text messages preaching to the choir and put bread on the table for political operatives.

      The candidate and staff should come to grips with the modern media capabilities and requirements necessary to reach a broader audience. To climb that media mountain, the candidate and team must realize that what voters really want are private sector benefits and opportunities that make their lives better. The candidate must realize that public sector top-down political parties are inherently ill-equipped and unlikely to provide benefits that actually improve the lives of people.

      The candidate must instead be a leader by example committed to encouraging, facilitating, and even participating in private sector free market and volunteer initiatives that will actually make lives better for people, something that political parties can help with only by getting out of the way.

      Thoughts?

      • David,

        You articulated that very well and I would say many would agree with you.

        Here is another thought: With the growing percentage of millennials and younger generation voting for the libertarian party this past round. Do you think we should also be publicizing on other platforms to reach more of them? Im not completely avid about social media but I think this has been the best way to reach different groups and good used even better.

        Bottom line, the media isn’t our friends as they only favor the big dogs or what stories make them the most money. But they are also a dying trend in my opinion because most of the younger generation aren’t watching the news or taking what the media says for granted as it is often bias. Or at least I would like to think that the younger generation can see past the bullshit. We can show them that through other means as you mentioned.

        Jean-luc

  1. We should definitely run a candidate. We need to hold the primary a lot sooner and start campaining as early as right after the midterms. It also wouldn’t hurt to get bigger names involved. As much as I loved Jo, most people are willfully ignorant of alternative parties and highly skeptical. name recognition would help a lot. There have got to be some celebrities out there who we could get in on this, like Vince Vaughn and Drew Carey.

  2. Yes, but nominate a celebrity like Vince Vaughn who can bring the needed media attention to get into the debates. From there, a 34% majority in a 3-way split would be gravy.

  3. All ballot access laws are censorship of voters and Libertarians should seek their abolition.

  4. We HAVE to keep the pressure on. We HAVE to do everything possible to get the word out, increase public awareness, and keep nominating excellent candidates like Brown, Paul, Johnson, and Jorgensen. A Trump third party I think would just put another Democrat in the White House. We NEED a Libertarian President.

  5. Name recognition. My recommendation is to get a member from both the Republican and Democratic side to run together. An example, Dan Crenshaw and Tulsi Gabbard. Libertarian. We’re more like you than the other two.

  6. THE BULLY PULPIT. We need to get into the Presidential Debates. With the civil war now breaking out in the Republican Party, our national opportunity is nearly upon us. The principles that we have on offer are profoundly traditional ones, harking back to the earliest days of the Republic and persisting ever since. We are, by definition, part of the “national conversation”. With a little dough (and with articulate candidates), we can offer a credible “way out”, without being “way out”.

  7. Why not focus on grassroots campaigns? Local and State races. The more elected officials Libertarians actually get elected the better chances of it becoming a more legitimate option in a federal election.

  8. MY DONATION receipt for The Liberty Herald shows it was paid to one “Robert Bentley”. Who the heck is he? A quick Google search shows someone I’d want more info about before sending money.

  9. Libertarians need to be running in all elections. In Our Nation, We The People, hear from one voice, The Establishment. It does not matter that the people who are in the two parties associated with The Establishment are generally dissatisfied with their representation, but they don’t all know that there are alternatives. They don’t know that there is a better way, a Libertarian way that puts the power back in the hands of the people. However, the more of us who run for office, the more Libertarians start working as elected officials, the more we will be able to demonstrate that we literally can walk down a path where we start fixing the problems government continues to create or expand.

  10. Great article and as a Indiana LP member I really appreciate the nod to Donald Rainwater. I’ve helped to put together a number of events and craft media but would love to know some of you knowledge on growing and managing campaigns and events. Find us at Vigo County Libertarian Party on Facebook

  11. To those who want the LP to abandon presidential campaigns:

    If it is ineffective for the LP to run a presidential candidate, it is also ineffective for you to spend your energy and wits to denigrate and attempt to interfere with those who believe otherwise.

    Use that immense talent to profitably attack the opposition instead; or run for a local office.

  12. The presidential campaigns — even our weakest ones — tend to result in the acquisition of thousands, or even tens of thousands, of new names.

    These are people who have largely changed their own minds and have come to the conclusion that our political system is bullshit of the first order. We don’t need to spend money to find them, we don’t need to advertise to them. They’re already ready.

    Before we tolerate any more of this nonsense about not running a presidential candidate, I challenge each and every person who holds that view to peel yourselves off the couch and ask your state chair to forward you all of the new inquiries the LP gets. Then:

    CALL THEM.

    If they’re in your city, grab a couple of LP stickers, quiz cards, and maybe a copy of “Libertarianism In One Lesson”, and invite them to meet you for coffee that same day.

    Bring a membership/donation form with you and have all of their information (name, address, email, and phone) already hand filled-in. Slip it towards them after you’ve gained some rapport, and ask them to join you as an investor. Start a conversation. Get them enrolled and in the habit of donating and volunteering — BEFORE next year’s election.

    Anyone who hasn’t done this kind of basic individualized politics has **nothing** to say about whether we should run this kind of candidate or that.

    Libertarian Party Welcome Committee 2021: Less talk, more do.

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ByddKQRvGISPeXaulE8Bv-h9Jh2i1aIPUqNiqr84sn0/edit?usp=sharing

  13. I think that the real winning of elections will start at the local level. I think our attention should be there.

    A local candidate can have name recognition which would be hard to achieve nationally, and a candidate for an “entry level” office will not suffer from being called inexperienced.

    There are many ways to defend liberty at the local level. Local ordinances can be very oppressive. Zoning, licensing and other things like concealed carry are examples. Boosterist boondoggles, like spots stadiums, are another.

    That said, I think we should have a Presidential candidate. To raise the visibility of the local candidates, and to give them a way to display a position on issues which are not their main campaign thrust by referring to the platform.

  14. Yes and hopefully do more than in 2020. Jo Jorgenson missed out on a perfect opportunity to capitalize and mobilize a population dizzy from governments sudden overeach and lockdowns. From day one Libertarians did nothing but capitulate to government edits and executive orders. The National Convention should have took place on the streets of Austin and amenities dispensed with. Whoever led the way on this would have recieved the nomination. No hotels? Sleep in your car and buy sandwiches for the homeless of Austin with the money saved. Suspend our liberties hell! In your face! That should have been our response. Jo could have led the way but did not. Whoever stands up and takes an in your face position on suspending our liberties will be our next presidential candidate.

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