Republican candidate Roy Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 special election for U.S. Senate. The Moore campaign was plagued by allegations of sexual impropriety, and voters turned away in droves from what was once considered a safe GOP seat. The race was so close, though, that Jones won by a margin of only 1.5 percent — less than the 1.7 percent of votes for write-in candidates, including Libertarian Ron Bishop.
“If you’re happy that Roy Moore was not elected to the Senate, thank write-in candidates like Libertarian Ron Bishop,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark.
Bishop and other independent candidates received 22,780 votes in the election according to the latest figures from the Alabama secretary of state, while the margin of difference between the Jones and Moore was a razor-thin 20,715. Even President Donald Trump acknowledged in a tweet that “The write-in votes played a very big factor” in determining the outcome.
According to Bishop campaign staffer Jim Albea, it will be several weeks before we know how many of the write-in votes went to Bishop. Libertarian candidates usually draw equally from disaffected Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Considering the slim margin of victory in such a heavily Republican state, though, Bishop probably turned far more voters away from Moore than from Jones. He did so with an unabashed campaign championing free trade, a balanced budget, lower taxes, and other common-sense Libertarian positions that would also appeal to fiscally conservative Republicans — but he didn’t shy away from Libertarian positions on social issues that can make social conservatives uncomfortable.
Bishop’s campaign also remained respectful toward Jones, whose long career as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama included a remarkable victory in convicting the Ku Klux Klan members who had been responsible for a 1963 Baptist church bombing.
According to a 2015 Gallup survey, 27 percent of the electorate is broadly libertarian. That’s more than the 26 percent who are conservative, the 23 percent who are liberal, and the 15 percent who are populist. That’s the highest percentage of libertarians Gallup has ever found among U.S. voters. Thanks to the efforts of both Republican and Democratic state politicians, Alabama has long been subject to state ballot access laws that keep third parties off the ballot in a special election this one. This prevents Libertarian voters from easily expressing their preferred electoral choice and ensures that Republicans and Democrats will retain a stranglehold on the political process.
“In 2018, the Libertarian Party aims to challenge the Democratic/Republican duopoly across the country,” Sarwark said. “We plan on fielding more than 2,000 candidates nationwide. Libertarians don’t care whether people are liberal or conservative. We welcome both liberals and conservatives with open arms. What we do care about is when conservatives force their views on others, for instance, by trying to ban gay marriage. Or when liberals try to force their views on others, for instance, by mandating the intricate details of health insurance contracts and then forcing people to buy them or pay draconian fines.”
The Libertarian Party also stands in opposition to the strain of populism that dominates in the United States today, which seeks to restrict people’s ability to do business with someone on the other side of a line in the sand drawn by dead politicians decades ago.
“We believe that limiting the power and size of government is a great first step toward creating a society in which people of all types accept and get along with each other,” Sarwark said. “Instead, our authoritarian regulatory regime encourages combat between blue and red tribes over the spoils collected by taxation and inflation. A better world of peace and freedom is possible, but cultural change comes before political change. The increase in libertarian cultural thinking, documented by Gallup, bodes well for political change in a libertarian direction.”