Can a Post-‘Takeover’ Libertarian Party Improve on Its Historical Run of 2012–20?
After succeeding last weekend in his half-decade-long quest to engineer a “takeover” of the Libertarian Party, Michael Heise, founder and chair of the L.P.’s now-dominant Mises Caucus, crowed on Twitter that the national party had become “the 1st institution to shake off wokism in the country. Now that the party isnt a raging embarrassment we can actually outreach to and funnel so many groups. Bitcoiners, people pissed at schools, the major podcast audiences, etc.”
Baked into Heise’s optimism is the assumption that the prior L.P. leaders, campaigns, and candidates that the Mises Caucus repudiates—including former three-time national chair (2014–2020) Nicholas Sarwark, the team behind Jo Jorgensen’s 2020 campaign, and, above all, 2016 vice presidential candidate Bill Weld—repelled potential voters with milquetoast messaging.
This may indeed be true; political counterfactuals are stubbornly difficult to prove. But what is indisputable is that the Libertarian Party has never had an electoral stretch as successful on the presidential level as 2012–2020:
The M.C.-derided Libertarian presidential campaigns of 2016 and 2020 produced the top two voting-percentage results in party history; the 2012 Gary Johnson/Jim Gray ticket ranks a close fourth behind the well-financed Ed Clark/David Koch experiment in the third-party spike year of 1980. The L.P.’s current streak of three consecutive bronze-medal finishes is the longest of any American third party since before the Great Depression.
The most paradoxically impressive result in that stretch might be the one most recent: Jo Jorgensen, with close to zero national name recognition and very little political charisma (“She put the nation to sleep,” cracked comedian Robbie “the Fire” Bernstein during a Libertarian convention-adjacent taping of Dave Smith’s Part Of The Problem podcast), produced the party’s second-highest presidential vote percentage in a year that was brutal for nonmajor candidates and bested Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins in all 50 states.
Before former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson ran in 2012, the high-water mark for an L.P. presidential nominee’s share of the non-Democratic/Republican vote was in 1988, when 48 percent of that electorate pulled the lever for future Mises Caucus hero Ron Paul. Johnson/Gray topped that figure with 56.6 percent in 2012; Johnson/Weld inched upward to 57.2 percent, and Jorgensen/Spike Cohen brought it all the way up to 64.5 percent. The gang that went 0 for 4 against Ralph Nader has, within three election cycles, become the third party in the United States.
Will that streak continue, now that the L.P. has been taken over by a caucus highly critical of the people who produced those comparative successes? Twenty-nine months is an eternity in modern politics; at this point four years ago, the party’s top three presumed 2020 candidates were Bill Weld (who would end up running and losing badly as a Republican), John McAfee (who was arrested in Spain on U.S. tax evasion charges in October 2020 and found dead in his jail cell eight months later), and Adam Kokesh, who wound up finishing sixth.
As of this very early moment, the two main potential 2024 Libertarian presidential candidates are comedian/podcaster Dave Smith, who has the strong backing of the Mises Caucus, and former congressman Justin Amash, who in his convention keynote speech trolled the caucus by getting them to boo blind quotes from their namesake economist, Ludwig von Mises. Amash played Hamlet in the 2020 race and then abruptly dropped out just before the nominating convention, citing among other factors the adverse third-party electoral environment created by heightened negative polarization, though many insiders suspected that L.P. dysfunction may have also scared him off.
Article from Reason.com