A Potential Opportunity for the Libertarian Party in 2012

The Libertarian Party’s 2012 national convention will be held during the first weekend of May in Las Vegas, Nevada.  It is at this convention that the Libertarian Party (LP) will choose its nominee for the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

This could potentially be a huge opportunity for the LP.  The economy is still a mess (despite what some may say) and war has continued under Obama (despite his Nobel Peace Prize).  There are a lot of dissatisfied Americans who are looking for a true change.  Even more, Ron Paul’s run for the presidency has demonstrated that there are millions of Americans who want less government and more liberty.

For the sake of this article, let’s make a few assumptions.  First, let’s assume that Ron Paul does not win the Republican nomination.  Although his delegate count will likely be far higher than what the mainstream media is saying, let’s assume one of the other three candidates gets the Republican nomination (and it doesn’t matter which one).  Second, let’s assume that all of the rumors about Romney and Paul secretly teaming up are false.  This is probably a safe assumption.  Third, let’s assume that Ron Paul does not decide to run as a third-party candidate.  If he were to run on the LP ticket, he would have to decide before the convention.

If the above assumptions hold true, most Ron Paul supporters are not going to support the Republican nominee or Obama.  They will be out in the cold, at least as far as politics go in the national presidential election.  Many, if not most, of Ron Paul’s supporters are just like the man they support.  They will not compromise on their principles.  This means that they will not support someone for political office unless that person is a principled libertarian.

There are several people seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president.  The most famous is Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico.  Gary Johnson also ran as a Republican for the presidential nomination.  Due to his exclusion from most of the debates and his low poll numbers, he made the decision to drop out and seek the LP nomination instead.

Johnson certainly has some libertarian leanings and was the only person in the Republican field who was anywhere close to Ron Paul on some of the issues.  Johnson vetoed hundreds of bills while he was governor.  He is generally fiscally conservative.  He is not as anti-war as Ron Paul, but he is also not as hawkish as the other Republican candidates.  He often approaches issues from a more pragmatic perspective, and less from a moral perspective.

While Johnson seems like a decent guy, he is no Ron Paul.  He is more of a Ron Paul-lite.  He says he wants to legalize marijuana.  He does not say he wants to end the federal war on drugs.  Ron Paul says he wants to end the federal income tax.  Gary Johnson is in favor of the Fair Tax.  While the Fair Tax would eliminate the income tax, it would also replace it with a huge national sales tax.

The bottom line is, many Ron Paul supporters will not trust Gary Johnson enough to support his campaign or vote for him in the general election.  Johnson may have been a good governor when compared to all of the others, but that is not really saying much.  While the growth rate of spending was reduced in New Mexico, actual spending still went up under Governor Johnson.  There will also be hesitation about Johnson and his views on foreign policy.  Again, he would certainly be better than Obama or any of the Republican candidates (excluding Paul), but there will be questions about whether he will order the complete withdrawal of all troops on the day he takes office.

Many LP members have to be questioning the wisdom of nominating Gary Johnson.  The party nominated a former Republican in the last election cycle.  Former Congressman Bob Barr was nominated because it was thought that he would bring some notoriety and respectability to the party’s nominee.  That didn’t work out too well.  If you have any doubt, just look at what Bob Barr has done this year.  It is reported that he announced his support for Newt Gingrich.  While it would be an insult to compare Gary Johnson to Bob Barr, there is still a lesson to learn that the party should not pick its nominee solely based on celebrity status.

When the Republican primaries are done, Ron Paul will have received a couple of million votes.  The LP has never received over one million votes in a presidential race.  If the LP were to get those couple of million votes in November, it would be a huge boost to the party.  It would help tremendously in future elections in many states in achieving ballot access as a major party.

The LP and its members do have other choices.  There is at least one principled libertarian running for the LP nomination.  His name is R. Lee Wrights.  The issue that he stresses the most is war.  He wants to end them immediately.  He believes in a non-interventionist foreign policy.  He is libertarian on all issues, as he believes in the non-aggression principle.

While Wrights is not well known at all, it would not matter.  If Ron Paul is not on the ballot in November, Paul supporters will be looking for someone with principles to support.  While I can’t speak for Ron Paul at all, my guess is that he would be more likely to support someone like Wrights than Johnson.

2012 is potentially a real opportunity for the Libertarian Party.  Will they repeat the mistake of 2008?  Or will they put up a principled libertarian like some previous nominees.  Harry Browne was the nominee in 1996 and 2000.  Ron Paul was the nominee in 1988.  There have also been other principled nominees.  Let’s hope that if Ron Paul is not on the ballot in November, that there will at least be one pro-liberty candidate on there.