Libertarians — both “small l” and “big L” — have found their candidate for 2016. It’s the same one they had in 2012. Yes, Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, is a hero to libertarians for the same reason Ron and Rand Paul are — they actually won elections at some point. However, the presidency still eludes them. Former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter wrote about how Libertarian-Republicans can triumph in his book, Liberty Risen.
Ultimately, the best chance libertarians have in winning more elections is breaking up what Reason.com and Reason TV Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie refers to as “binary choices.” He wrote:
Everywhere around us, we have more choices and, as important, we show more comfort with more choices. Understanding the world in terms of gradations and spectrums rather than simple yes/no, good/bad, right/left binaries is what the 21st century is all about.
Except in politics, where the two-party duopoly still smothers competition in all sorts of ways and forces diverse people between not chicken or fish but what South Park once modeled as the choice between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich. So when conservative Republicans at The Weekly Standard and elsewhere start saying no dualistic party loyalty and refuse to insist on binary choices in politics, the beginning of change is afoot.
In this presidential election, there is no greater agent of change in breaking up the two-party system than Donald Trump. As Gillespie points out, The Weekly Standard and other Republican stalwarts are abandoning the Republican ticket.
There has been much hand-wringing among the right on where Republicans go now that Trump has “destroyed” the party. They complain that the Republican Party has left them, while millions of Trump voters and libertarians believe party leaders and professional pundits left them decades ago. Regardless of whether the #NeverTrump crowd has valid points, it is clear that Trump has done libertarians a favor in busting the Old Guard of Republican kingmakers. The Old Guard isn’t mad that Trump doesn’t represent their principles, but that they no longer hold any power in picking the top of the ticket. The proof is that rather than get behind Gary Johnson, they’d rather trot out a candidate with zero name recognition or campaign infrastructure.
Nearly every established Republican and conservative website has run a version of a “how to rebuild the Republican party” article since Trump locked up the nomination. For libertarians, it seems like it would be more beneficial to support Trump breaking up the two-party system rather than join in the #NeverTrump chorus. The handful of Republicans who claim they’ll vote for Gary Johnson this year are already talking about how they can take back the Republican Party. Missing is any talk on bringing in Johnson supporters or ideas. Being a Republican is their identity. It’s their private club and they have no plans to bring in libertarians if they get power back. In fact, it’s likely they’ll be even more exclusive to prevent another rogue candidate.
By contrast, the Trump campaign has been a battering ram for libertarians. In just over a year, Trump has succeeded in what the Libertarian Party hasn’t been able to do in the 35 years since it was conceived. Not only has he upset traditional party politics, but he’s also paved the way for non-traditional candidates. Who needs stuffy party leaders and pundits when you have social media and 100% name recognition?
Nearly a year ago, I wrote on Breitbart.com:
There is a large group of potential voters who care more about persona than policy. Perhaps it’s because they’ve been told for years that conservatives have the policy ideas, but have seen very little return. For many, it’s about sending a message that they’re not going to send another politician to do a job politicians have been shirking for years — the job of making America great again. For others, it’s about Trump echoing the growing impatience with immigration reform. (See Ann Coulter’s definitive Adios, America.)
In the current political climate, personality, authenticity, and even celebrity reign. Trump has shown that at least in the primaries, the absence of a traditional ground game and campaign budget can be overcome. Libertarians have an advantage because we already know they’re authentic by going against the dominant parties. This is why so many of the people I call “political punks” — Kennedy, Nick Gillespie, Chris Barron, Clint Eastwood, Clinton Cash: The Graphic Novel’s Brett R. Smith — identify with the libertarian philosophy.
Libertarians also have a good celebrity bench that could help them replicate the Trump campaign. I wouldn’t necessarily endorse famous libertarian Vince Vaughn for president (though I would endorse myself as First Lady), but I would enthusiastically get on the Peter Thiel Train.
Set aside policy disagreements libertarians have with Trump. They should be thankful that Trump has created a new path for national office. He built libertarian candidates a path to success and he paid for it.