“The Libertarian Moment . . . for Self-Reflection” from Young Voices’ Fiona Harrigan in the Wall Street Journal
Everyone knew the names Donald Trump and Joe Biden this past election season. But how many American voters had heard of Jo Jorgensen? The Libertarian Party candidate received a little more than 1% of the popular vote, a showing that ranked as the LP’s second-best finish ever.
The low number remains disappointing for those of us who are liberty-minded, but there’s an important lesson here. Many people are dispositionally libertarian. They’re tired of “forever wars.” They want to be left to their own devices, and they’d rather not pay so much in taxes, all things considered. The party’s philosophy is compelling; its optics, however, are not. Asking voters to trust the LP, after so many public-image issues over the years, is a tall order. Unfortunately, the Libertarian Party is doomed to be taken only as seriously as it takes itself.
For now the LP needs to focus on helping its candidates at the state and local levels. That way, Americans can learn that Libertarians can help change their lives for the better. In an era when every presidential election seems more important than the last, that sort of credibility will help voters trust Libertarian candidates with more prestigious offices.
In yet another election in which Americans were essentially asked to pick between the lesser of two evils, the Libertarian Party was handed a golden opportunity. For the sake of a nation that so badly needs a viable third party, let’s hope that this is a wake-up call.
—Fiona Harrigan, University of Arizona, political science