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Third-Parties and the Philosophy of Liberty
posted by Andrew Davis on Sep 11, 2008
Perhaps it is the acrimonious environment of a two-party system, or simply a "strength in numbers" struggle that makes strange bedfellows among third-party candidates in today's politics. Whatever the cause, third-party candidates often reach out to others for support and assistance in the mutual struggle against the tyranny of the duopoly. Be it in pooling resources, or simply an extra hand in meeting ballot access requirements: Third-parties are a band of political outcasts struggling for a right to compete for the votes of American people, the same as Republicans and Democrats.
This semblance of unity, of overcoming political differences in the pursuit of greater competition in elections, is certainly something to appreciate and encourage. Third-parties alike face the monstrosities of corrupt ballot access requirements in their attempt to place candidates on the ballot, and it is only natural for de facto alliances to spring up in this pursuit.
In many cases, these political competitors can even find common ground in their political positions, such was the case with the recent Libertarian, Green, Constitution, and independent party endorsements of a quartet of issues compiled by Republican Congressman Ron Paul. Such a consensus is rare in partisan politics, and the willingness of these candidates to come together represents a refreshing change of pace from the refusal of Republican and Democrats to address the issues that Americans face.
Though a positive step in politics, there is a hidden danger in attributing too much worth to this showing of solidarity among political parties that differ so greatly. An oppressive two-party system presents a clear need for reform and change, but a mutual agreement on issues between political parties is not necessarily indicative of an overall similarity or compromise between parties.
There are very real, and very diametric differences between the Libertarian Party and all of its other political competitors. Agree as they may on issues like civil liberties, war and economic reform, the philosophy of each political party is distinct and unbending. While the Libertarian Party certainly claims no absolute monarchy on all the avenues to freedom, we believe our platform and positions are most consistent with that of the true meaning of liberty in the United States.
This is the philosophy of liberty.
To dismiss this philosophy in the pursuit of consensus is a dangerous trend that third parties must avoid at all costs. To do so, for whatever reason, is to abandon the very core identity of the political party. Just as the soul is the essence of a person, the political philosophy of a political party is the foundation on which its platform is built. While the platforms of different political parties may overlap on some issues, the quintessential philosophy of each is wholly unique.
The maintenance of this philosophy is more important than any political coalition or victory. For without our philosophy, any victory will be hollow, and any coalition empty of meaning.
For every question, there is an answer, and individuals may arrive at this conclusion through many different means; some right and some wrong.
Libertarians may agree with Greens on the need for a foreign policy based on nonaggression, but it is for very different reasons. And Libertarians may agree with independents on the need for ending welfare reform, but again, for very different reasons.
The appeal of banding together with other third-parties may seem appealing on the surface, but such a compromise of the very basic values of the party would be no better than Republicans or Democrats and the compromises they make.
Only in the Libertarian Party is the principle of individual sovereignty, limited government and lower taxation the core philosophy of our beliefs. While we may share some issues with other political parties, we do not share our philosophy. It is ours, and ours alone.
Working with other parties on electoral reform and eliminating anti-democratic ballot access laws is advantageous for all involved; however, at the end of the day, we are still competitors vying for individual votes of Americans. A vote cast for any other political party than the Libertarian Party is a vote the Libertarian Party will not receive, no matter how well intentioned.
The power of a third-party does not lie in coalition building—at least for the true purpose of a political party. By the very nature of politics, political parties are competitors, regardless of ideological congruity or cooperation. Greens, Constitutionalists, Independents, Republicans and Democrats are all competing for the same votes as Libertarians. Coalitions may be beneficial for specific goals, such as electoral reform, or may make for good publicity; however, in the end, the restoration of the Constitution in the United States will come from a single third-party's rise in prominence that keeps the true philosophy of liberty at heart.
The liberty movement needs a single leader, not a nebulous consortium of strange bedfellows.
Trading the tyranny of a major party for the tyranny of a minor party is no desirable end. Only in a libertarian society will people be truly free, and only through the Libertarian Party with its libertarian principles will this society exist. No other political party has the platform or philosophy that would bring it about.
To assume that somehow a coalition of third parties will effect this change is to somehow assume all other third parties will abandon their own philosophies in accepting ours.
If we are not willing, then why do we assume they will?
Agreeing on a handful of issues is far from agreeing on the same basic philosophy of freedom in the United States, and it is only the philosophy of freedom that is truly important. It defines us, and will serve as a template for freedom as it has served in framing the Constitution.
There is only one party dedicated to the principles of the Enlightenment, and those principles that founded the American society: the Libertarian Party. Only through our candidates will true freedom be restored.
Until the philosophies of the other parties change, we must never accept any substitute for the freedom for which the Libertarian Party calls. Working with other political parties on electoral reform is a great idea, but there can be no substitute or compromise in our pursuit of political reform.
The Libertarian Party can never follow the beat of any drum other than its own.