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  • Writer's pictureMicah French

How Libertarians can save America... for real.

Updated: May 10, 2021

Let me start by explaining what this isn't.


This isn't some argument for a silver bullet policy. This isn't a deep dive into a transformative political philosophy. This isn't even an attempt to convert people to Libertarianism.


This is a very simple ask that will change the dynamic in Washington and shift how parties interact with each other for the betterment of all Americans.


Our country was not built to carry a 2-party system, as evidenced by our current political environment.


Politicians are just people, they're not special. People act according to how they're incented to act. They avoid threats and gravitate towards safety.


In our current system there are no term limits in congress. You can make that job a lifetime position.


There are 16 Senators currently serving that have been there 20+ years. There are 48 members of the House of Representatives currently serving that have been there 20+ years.


You get a staff, you get $174k/year + benefits, you gain relative celebrity status within your own social circle, your job is protected against economic turmoil, and generally you don't have to do much.


Being in congress is an easy, secure, comfortable place to be.


Everyone else serving in congress wants to be in that 20+ year club, they want to make a career out of it. All their decisions are based around that, "What do I have to do to ensure that I'm still here after the next election cycle?"


If you're looking for a practical solution to our current political environment you have to start at the premise that getting re-elected is the absolute driver behind all decisions made in congress, and that won't change anytime soon.


So what threatens that place of importance, comfort and security? The answer isn't often the opposing political party.


Gerrymandering (political parties drawing voting districts that favor their party) is legal. Politicians pick their voters as much as voters pick their politicians.



It means that most politicians face little to no threat from an opposing party. Overwhelmingly people in their district vote for their party, they've made sure of that by (literally) edging out voters not registered to their party.


Not only that but typically people who vote in primaries are often the more extreme elements of a party as they care enough to take the extra time out of their lives to participate in every stage of the process.


If everyone in your district is going to vote for your party, where is the threat to your job? The only place a threat can arise is from within your own party, and specifically from an opponent that gains more support among the most passionate people within your base, those who vote in primaries.


Politicians are directly incented to play to their base exclusively.


So, you want to be there for life, there are no rules in place that say you cant, and the only way to lose your spot is to lose the most impassioned people within your party. It's not hard to predict how you're going to act/vote in that scenario.


You know what the edge members of both parties hate the most? Working with the opposition, on basically anything. The word "bipartisan" used to have a positive connotation, our current environment has rendered that concept obsolete.


Republicans, do you want to hear about how your elected representative compromised with some woke liberal? Democrats, do you want to hear about how your elected representative gave in to the illogical demands of some deplorable Republican?


It's really, really easy to demonize your opposition and position yourself as a hero by becoming a political brick wall against any bipartisanship... and the strategy works, it'll get you re-elected 9 times out of 10.


The game is prevention and dominance, not compromise and agreement.


None of what I've laid out here is going to change via policy. It would take the politicians themselves voting to change it, and they have no incentive to do so.


But there is a way to change the dynamics in Washington even with these impediments remaining in place. The goal here is to re-introduce the concept of partnership, to begin to reverse the absolute demonization of opposition. If you're partnering with an opposing political party on select issues it's far more difficult to vilify them at large.


Let me illustrate, broadly:


Federal Legalization of Marijuana

- 50 Democrats: Yes

- 50 Republicans: No


Protecting Gun Rights

- 50 Democrats: No

- 50 Republicans: Yes


LGBTQ Marriage Equality

- 50 Democrats: Yes

- 50 Republicans: No


Deregulation of Industry

- 50 Democrats: No

- 50 Republicans: Yes


What happens to these issues if you introduce the Libertarian Party into the equation at minimal numbers?


The Legalization of Marijuana

- 40 Democrats: Yes

- 40 Republicans: No

- 20 Libertarians: Yes



Protecting the 2nd Amendment

- 40 Democrats: No

- 40 Republicans: Yes

- 20 Libertarians: Yes



LGBTQ Marriage Equality

- 40 Democrats: Yes

- 40 Republicans: No

- 20 Libertarians: Yes



Deregulation of Industry

- 40 Democrats: No

- 40 Republicans: Yes

- 20 Libertarians: Yes



*HERE IS YOUR GAME CHANGER*


Military Intervention

- 40 Democrats: Yes

- 40 Republicans: Yes

- 20 Libertarians: No



Ending Farm Subsidies

- 40 Democrats: No

- 40 Republicans: No

- 20 Libertarians: Yes



Privatizing Social Security

- 40 Democrats: No

- 40 Republicans: No

- 20 Libertarians: Yes




This is a very broadly drawn concept, but it holds up fundamentally. To win any policy battle you'd need some combination of multiple parties.


The introduction of partnership as a win condition instead of dominance being the only path to victory would change how Washington works. Politicians would have to interact, face to face, with members of opposing political parties, which matters. It would discourage absolute demonization of your competition, because there'd inevitably be scenarios where you'd need to work with them, and you'd actually get to know a few of them over time.


Even while playing to their base you'd start to see the conversation change:


Republicans Before: "I spent my time in Washington fighting against crazy Nancy Pelosi, shifty Adam Schiff, and that communist AOC!"


Republicans After: "I spent my time in Washington protecting your 2nd amendment rights, defending our country from foreign threats, and protecting your Social Security!"


Democrats Before: "I spent my time in Washington fighting against authoritarian Trumpism, its enablers like Moscow Mitch, and that army of crazies like MTG!"


Democrats After: "I spent my time in Washington fighting for marriage equality, the legalization of marijuana, and protecting your Social Security!"


Libertarians Before: "Nobody knows who we are...ok...good meeting...there's pie in the back...it will not be divided equally, you have to fight for it."


Libertarians After: "We've finally got some sway, let's focus!... 9/11 was an inside job."


This is resoundingly not an original idea, I'm describing something approaching a parliamentary system at least in principle. In America we're not going to change our Constitution to move to that system, nor do I think we should, but we don't have to while still enjoying some of the benefits of it.


WE'RE NOT GIVING LIBERTARIANS SEATS FOR FREE


I'm not asking for Republicans or Democrats to kindly hand over 20 seats. What I am asking for is a fair chance to compete.


** Let Libertarians debate!! **


If Libertarian candidates were allowed to participate in debates I believe the Libertarian party would gain enough seats in Congress to initiate the shift described above.


I joke a lot about Libertarians generally being odd ducks, I personally love that about us... why be normal when you can be weird.


By default the party is currently made up of outsiders, people that have taken an action outside the norm, joining a political party that holds no power simply on principle. It's easy to believe that, because Libertarians are a strange sort, Libertarian ideas must be crazy.


A lot of that sentiment is due to the fact that you never get to hear Libertarians explaining their ideals. It's easy to misconstrue something when you never hear what it's actually about.


In reality there is an elegance to Libertarian philosophy. Libertarians strongly oppose any government interference into personal, family, and business decisions. We believe all Americans should be free to live their lives and pursue their interests as they see fit as long as they do no harm to another.


Libertarians want to legalize weed not because we're all stoners, I myself don't smoke weed, but because we don't believe the government should have a say in what we do as long as we're not hurting anyone else. Now, you drive a car stoned and cause an accident, Libertarians will throw you in jail just like anyone else would.


Libertarians believe in marriage equality because we don't think the government should be able to tell you who you can marry (we actually don't think the government should be involved in marriage at all).



Libertarian ideals would be a great addition to the national conversation on a great number of policy issues. It would introduce an alternative perspective, and hopefully some nuance.


But, Libertarians are arbitrarily held out of the political conversation.


WHO DECIDES WHO GETS TO DEBATE?


That's actually a really easy question to answer: "The commission on presidential debates."


"The Commission on Presidential Debates is a nonprofit corporation established in 1987 under the joint sponsorship of the Democratic and Republican political parties in the United States."


The commission on presidential debates sets the requirements on being included in presidential debates. It's typically based on a % in polling at the time.


It's a chicken and egg situation. You have to have X% to participate in a national debate, but without being able to participate in a national debate it's near impossible to reach X%.


That being said, the Libertarians have come close on multiple occasions, Ron Paul and Gary Johnson in particular, and every time that's happened the commission changes the criteria. They move the goal posts every. single. time.


It's entirely arbitrary, the organization exists to hold 3rd parties off the stage. That's not hyperbole, it basically does that and I guess sets up podiums occasionally.


State and Local political debates aren't governed by this group, but often you'll see the exact same tactics used at the local level to drown out 3rd parties.


You don't have to become a Libertarian, or vote for Libertarian candidates, but it would be to America's great benefit to let us speak.


If Libertarians were able to promote their message equally we'll start to see progress towards that 20% Libertarian representation in Congress.


WHY LIBERTARIANS? WHY NOT ANY OTHER 3RD PARTIES?


I'm game for allowing more participation in national debates, not just Libertarians. Competition always sharpens the saw, it's a fundamental American principle.


Having 20 different parties on stage is impractical, but having 4 or 5 on stage seems doable and would enrich the conversation. Save the slippery slope stuff, there's a reasonable number here that's greater than 2.


Set the criteria at "Top 4 Parties in Current Polling" and you've solved a good chunk of your problem. It'll be a little like the College Football Playoff, there will always be legitimate arguments as to why the bracket should be expanded, but even with that tension it beats the current "invitation only" set-up.


What I do think differentiates Libertarians from most other 3rd parties, and why I think we're uniquely positioned, is that the principles Libertarianism developed from naturally encompass a wide variety of issues and policy positions. If you know the base logic of Libertarian thought you can reach natural conclusions on most topics, therefore Libertarians can constructively contribute on a greater variety of subjects.


For contrast The Green Party, the 4th largest party by % of vote obtained in recent elections, was originally organized specifically to combat environmental issues. They've since expanded their scope, but that's the base. That means any subject matter outside of environmental issues is a bit of a grab bag, not necessarily based on a set of foundational principles.


(Green Party people, before you beat me with a sustainably sourced pipe, I love you guys, and I get you've got your 10 Key Values, but you're kind of all over the place once you leave your environmental wheelhouse.)


THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY


There are actual polices that would change things immediately and more permanently, things like Ranked Choice Voting, Term Limits in Congress, and Ending Gerrymandering. All those things are reliant on current politicians to enact however. I'm not holding my breath.


On the other hand simply allowing Libertarians to debate isn't something that needs to be written into law, the commission on presidential debates isn't a government entity. There just needs to be enough of a ground swell on social media to pressure the dozen or so people that write the criteria to change it so it allows for more parties to participate.


If the internet can make Dogecoin a thing it can get Libertarians on a debate stage. Share this article along with the hashtag #Let3rdPartiesDebate.


Stay Curious. Please Share.

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