Now that the dust has settled, I am gaining some perspective on what happened on Election Day and some of the positives and negatives, at least from a libertarian standpoint.
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party (LP) candidate, will finish with just under 1.2 million votes. This was just under 1% of the total popular vote in the country. It was a very good finish for the LP in comparison to past races, but that is not surprising given the previous Ron Paul campaigns, the mood of the country, and the lack of choice between the two major party candidates.
It is hard to find the results of the third-party candidates. Here is one website. Unfortunately, we will probably never know how many people wrote in a name like Ron Paul or Big Bird.
Although Johnson received more than one million votes (first time for the LP), I would not consider it to be the most successful. There are many more libertarians today than there were 5 years ago and there were more then than there were 20 years ago.
While Johnson showed that there is a small (but significant) portion of the population who desire real change in a libertarian direction, I'm not sure that he converted a lot of people. Meanwhile, if you look at someone like Harry Browne, who ran twice and did not receive nearly as high vote totals, he defined success in a different way. His main reason for running was to educate others on the benefits of liberty. Harry Browne probably created more libertarians that Johnson did. And the libertarians that Browne created would tend to be more principled and educated.
I think Gary Johnson is a decent guy from what I can tell and he really seems to mean well. Unfortunately, I just don't think he is well enough educated on what it means to be a libertarian. He probably learned a lot more on the campaign trail than he bargained for.
I still think if the LP had run a more principled and radical candidate in the mold of Ron Paul, or Ron Paul himself, then the vote total would have been even greater. Ron Paul received almost two million votes in the primaries and many states only allow just Republicans to vote. If Paul had ran on the LP ticket and had been on the ballot in most or all of the states, then I think he would have received several million votes.
I also think another significant and positive story is voter turnout. While a small portion of the differential may have been due to Hurricane Sandy, it was still down in most other states. Obama received over 7 million votes less than he did in 2008. Romney received over 1 million votes less than McCain did in 2008. This means that there is widespread dissatisfaction and that many people did not feel obliged to vote for the lesser of two evils. If not voting counted as a candidate, then that candidate would have easily beaten Obama.
Just remember this point. Obama does not have majority support from Americans. He only has a majority (and very slight) of the Americans who actually voted.
One last point on this whole thing here; If Romney and the Republican establishment had treated Ron Paul and his supporters with more respect, then it might have made a difference. I and many others still would not have voted for Romney, but I suspect that some would have. Even more so, it would have been interesting if Romney had chosen Rand Paul as his running mate.
But Romney chose an establishment running mate and he blew off the libertarian element in the Republican Party. Doing that, there was no way he was going to win. He couldn't beat Obama with a bad economy and high unemployment. There simply wasn't any enthusiasm for Romney. There was some enthusiasm to beat Obama, but it was never really FOR Romney. In the end, Romney was a dud and he deserved to lose. Unfortunately, so did Obama.