From LP News | Vol. 50, Issue 3 | Quarter 3, 2020
By Joe Bishop-Henchman • LNC Chair
I spent Election Day 2020 on Wyoming sidewalks in 30-degree weather, helping rally voters for Libertarian candidates. After a night fretting about election results, I spent the next day with State Rep.-elect Marshall Burt (L-WY) — I love writing that! — talking plans for the legislative session and how we can duplicate his success and get him reinforcements. I’ve been on the phone with our local officials in 36 states talking the same.
The national chair facilitates decisions, removes obstacles, and connects our candidates, activists, donors, and state and local party leaders with each other. I find there’s no substitute to seeing first-hand what things are like on the ground, which is why I was in Wyoming for the final push. It’s why I helped gather ballot access signatures in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, was at Jo and Spike events in Texas and Ohio and Georgia and Virginia, joined the entire LNC in knocking doors in Minnesota, showed up for debate night in Indiana, and spent an evening with our text banking team reaching undecided voters.
It allows me to tell you without hesitation that if all it took to win elections were the right ideas and enthusiastic volunteers, we would win every election. Of course it takes more than that: fundraising, messaging and media training, door knocking, phone banking, and effective national and state party infrastructure to keep it all going.
The Libertarian Frontier Project, as described in more detail in the front page story, is essentially us building and deploying all that to elect Libertarians to public office to change public policy. It was a successful experiment that I want to expand for next time as fast as resources permit.
Some thoughts on the 2020 results:
- Jorgensen/Cohen ’20 earned about 1.8 million votes (1.2%), second best in our history behind only 2016. One in 90 Americans voted for Jo and Spike, despite a fundraising and name recognition disadvantage, media blackout, and inability to campaign normally due to the pandemic. We “beat the spread” in key states like Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, drawing old parties’ anger. I love the image someone shared — Libertarians cast “Schrödinger’s vote,” simultaneously wasted while deciding the election.
- We had 50+DC ballot access for this election no small feat as we overcame gratuitous procedural obstacles, pandemic conditions, and a bidding war for paid petitioners caused by billionaire candidates. Everyone’s hard work ensured Jo Jorgensen was one of the three choices in front of every American voter.
- Momentum. Registered Libertarian voters are up 7% since March to 652,000 (in the 32 states with partisan registration), and party membership is up 29% for the year to over 21,000. Campaigns brought in tens of thousands of new donors and thousands of first-time activists. The presidential campaign bus tour earned a ton of local press and we learned from polling that we have higher support with young people under age 30 (earning 7% support) and some other demographic tidbits.
- Local Libertarians won election and re-election. Turn to page 10 for a full list (as of press time). More Libertarians will be voices of common sense in city councils, school boards, and county governments. Other races solidified us as active competition, such as Ricky Harrington getting 34% for U.S. Senate in Arkansas, Don Rainwater getting 14% for Governor of Indiana, and others that beat the spread between the old parties. Brad Barron in Kentucky earned an attack ad from Mitch McConnell. And nearly all of these candidates achieved what they did with a fraction of the money their opponents had.
- The drug war lost. Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota legalized marijuana. Mississippi legalized medical marijuana. D.C. decriminalized mushrooms. Oregon decriminalized hard drugs. I remember when ending the drug war and not viewing drug use as a criminal enforcement problem was a crazy Libertarian position in this country. Now it’s winning every time everywhere.
To all of our candidates: thank you. Win or lose, the commitment is an enormous one and can be draining in so many ways. Our impact and our ballot access depend on you, and your often-unsung efforts are appreciated by so many of us.
Onward. We are going to take on the duopoly until they change or we get our people elected. Seeing a routine election treated as a do or die moment by so many Americans reminds me that we need to rethink the power we give to government, and that only Libertarians will actually deliver on this.