Originally published in LPNews, 2022 Spring Edition
We all came to the Libertarian Party from somewhere, for some reason. We all defend or promote freedom in our own unique ways. Different approaches reach different people who are looking for their new political home.
I was never active in any other political party, and always felt politically homeless. As an educator in the public school system for 20 years, I was undoubtedly alone in my political ideology. In the early 2000s while working on my first master’s degree, I was thrust into the libertarian mindset as a result of my research into the USA PATRIOT Act. It was that horrific piece of legislation that led me here.
In February, our very own Larry Sharpe announced his campaign for governor of New York on a cable news show with a mostly right-leaning viewership. Almost immediately, he was endorsed by the newly established Forward Party, made up primarily of disaffected Democrats. This exciting news made two things very clear. First, Larry is reaching people. His approach is working and people are paying attention. Secondly, this endorsement shows that even those who may not identify as Libertarian (yet) see how far we have come through 50 years of ballot access drives, lawsuits, and elections, and they know that the change they want to see can be realized through us.
I am encouraged by the news of this outside support for Larry. It whets the appetite for coalition building — to promote non-duopoly candidates, particularly where we need them most. I look forward to seeing other Libertarian candidates earn endorsements from those seeking to widen the lane for options beyond the two-party system.
Some among us might pucker a little at this crossover support coming in — get a little panicky. Some may worry that we are pandering, compromising, losing ourselves, betraying our principles. I’m not. Are you?
From where I stand, I see not just an opportunity to capitalize on support from those who see what we are doing as righteous, meaningful, impactful, even moral — I see an opportunity to be dutiful — to light the way for anyone who believes in freedom, voter choice, personal responsibility, and to lead the way for those who actively seek to eradicate tyranny no matter which form it takes.
So what still keeps voters from checking boxes next to our names across the country?
They want to know victory is possible by plurality. But they also want to be able to vote their conscience. We can help them with both of those. We already provide the choices — but we need to provide the means by which they can take the risk they perceive by voting for us.
For this reason we need to be at the forefront pushing advanced voting methods — Ranked Choice Voting, Approval Voting — more genuine and appropriate means of voter expression.
It’s also why we can’t shy away from coalition building. Groups that are laser focused on issues like drug policy reform, ending qualified immunity, abolishing the death penalty, expanding school choice, eliminating taxes, decriminalizing sex work, supporting immigrants and refugees, and so many more passions that we share are already aware that the Republicans and Democrats are not going to take any meaningful action where it matters. We need them to see that we are the vehicle for the political change they seek in the world.
The Libertarian Party can reenergize those who have lost hope or have been marginalized — we do this by differentiating ourselves through positivity. We can reset the tone for American politics by engaging professionally and dispassionately. We don’t have to rage about what we are against, if people understand what we are for. We don’t have to surrender self-defense or privacy — none of us want that. We must not allow ourselves to be aggressed upon, AND we must not cross the line to become aggressors. Don’t take that bait.
We Libertarians like to think Americans are tired of the same old parties — polls tell us they are. Polls tell us that Americans are tired of the old party messaging, their promises and lies, their failed policies — but it’s evident that voters are not tired of it actually.
Polls show that 75% of Americans are dissatisfied with the state of the country — a state the voters put us in year after year. With each election cycle, we Libertarians gear up with the mindset that this is our year; that pivotal moment when all the stars will align and things will finally change for us. I do believe we are experiencing an undoubtedly important time in our nation’s history, and I believe we have opportunities we’ve not seen before.
We don’t proclaim to have all the solutions to all the social and political problems we face. In fact, you may often hear me say, “I don’t know what it is, but I know what it ain’t.”
What we do proclaim and can offer though is a genuine acknowledgement that government doesn’t know best — and we can point to evidence of that fact. We can also point to evidence that the government’s use of force, and the use of force in general, provokes resentment, deliberate non-compliance, and an attitude of uncooperativeness. One side or the other refuses to back down or even negotiate toward a win-win. We’ve seen this recently in places like Australia and Canada, in our own communities, and sadly, within our beloved party.
When people are misled or ill-informed about the problem they wish to solve, the use of force to address it magnifies the harm done. This is where we are finding ourselves so much more often now.
While we all work to find our sea legs in this changing tide — internally and externally — we thankfully have elected leaders out there carrying the torch for us: Representative Marshall Burt in Wyoming. Supervisor Hewitt in California. Trisha Butler, Kalish Morrow, and Ashley Shade — City Councilors in Tennessee, California, and Massachusetts, respectively. And the highest ranking Libertarian we’ve had — former Congressman Justin Amash.
And many more to whom we owe our gratitude and respect.
As of this past November, we are up to 355 elected Libertarians nationwide. For this reason, we must live to fight another day — we must stick with it — like the legends among us who got us this far. I can’t walk away or give up, because they haven’t.
It has taken us 50 years to get here — 350+ electeds out there now. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish — to see what the seeds they’ve planted will grow to become and what legacies they leave.
It may take 50 years more for any one of us to realize our own individual goals through our efforts here and those of our colleagues. I can assure you though, no matter which goals we do accomplish — we will likely never have the luxury to back down from our efforts to challenge the cult of the omnipotent state.