The Libertarian Party moves to the right

Third parties have a political impact far greater than their electoral successes. They are the research and development wing of the political system. Only once, during the exceptional rise of the Republican Party in the 1850s, did a third party gain enough support to contest power, but there are many instances where the two main parties generously borrowed issues and ideas. to upstart rivals. The Lincoln Republicans themselves took a stand against the expansion of slavery by the former Liberty Party and Free Soil Party. The Democrats under William Jennings Bryan hacked (and watered down) the People’s Party agenda. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was also light in borrowing ideas from the Socialist Party and other left formations. In a more sinister vein, Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” and his “law and order” whistles were motivated by a desire to steal the thunder from George Wallace, who ran in 1968 as the Party candidate. American independent.

The Libertarian Party can rightly claim to be the heir to this tradition of being a breeding ground for political innovations taken up by both Democrats and Republicans. If the dominant ideology of American politics since the 1970s has been neoliberalism, then the Libertarian Party has truly outgrown its weight, influencing economic trends (the shrinking welfare state) and social policy (the Libertarian Party has championed gay rights and drug decriminalization long before the Democrats).

In defiance of this history, the Libertarian Party now seems to have entered an upside-down world where it has begun to mimic Republicans. Since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign, the dominant political story on the right has been the consistent Trumpization of the GOP – a trend visible both in politics (more protectionist, more anti-immigrant, more unilateralist in foreign policy) and also in cultural style (with Trump’s humorous routine now de rigueur among Republican candidates).

In 2016, Gary Johnson became the most successful Libertarian candidate in history, receiving nearly 4.5 million votes (or 3.3% of the votes cast). That was three times more than any previous libertarian presidential candidate, including Johnson in his previous run in 2012. Johnson achieved that success by moving closer to the type of old-line Republican establishment that the GOP had just dismiss: he was a soft-spoken, culturally moderate advocate of small government. As such, he seemed like an alternative to Trump for weary Republicans.

But despite Johnson’s strong electoral performance, the Libertarian party was quickly ravaged by its own internal strife thanks to a guerrilla faction that wanted to engage in culture war politics.

On July 28, 2017, Jeff Deist, the president of the Mises Institute, named after libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises, published a blog post claiming that “Blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people.” people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of being irrelevant. The phrase “blood and soil” already had an unmistakable fascist connotation, but it took on an even more horrific connotation two weeks after the post during the infamous 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally, where an anti-racism protester was killed. White supremacists trying to dominate the streets of Charlottesville chanted “blood and dirt.” Several of the organizers of the Charlottesville rally identified themselves as libertarians. Following this event, Nicholas Sarwark, chairman of the Libertarian Party, signed an open letter warning of the dangers of fascism. Arvin Vohra, vice president of the Libertarian Party, wrote an article claiming that “the Mises Institute has been turned into a sales funnel for the white nationalist branch of the Alt Right.”

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