Libertarians don’t get elected.
The problem is simple. In the United States, we have a plurality takes all system, meaning the candidate who gets the most votes gets all the representation, in contrast to a parliamentary system where the political representation is determined by what percentage of the votes they get. If a party only gets 15% of the vote, they still get 15% of the representation. In America, however, if a candidate like Gary Johnson gets 15% of the vote in the New Mexico Senate race, there is no representation.
Some argue that Libertarians should run as Republicans in order to win actual seats in the House or Senate. Others decry this move as a betrayal of principles. To analyze whether Libertarians should run 3rd party, a cost-benefit analysis is required.
The costs for a libertarian running 3rd party is that it might drain votes from the Republican candidate. Because the Democratic party represents big government with high taxes, high spending, and high regulation agenda, this strategy seemingly hurts the liberty movement. If there is even a sliver of a chance that their candidacy would help democrats, then they did more harm than good. However, Republicans are not entitled to Libertarian votes; there is no guarantee that libertarian voters would choose the Republican candidate.
The benefits of Libertarians running as a 3rd party is that their message is spread. Elections gives libertarians a large platform to show that there are ideas beyond than the standard Democratic and Republican talking point. Furthermore, running as a 3rd party candidate pulls Republican politicians closer to libertarianism to attract fence sitting moderates.
Ultimately, if the goal is to win elections, the best way for Libertarians to actually get elected is to run as Republicans. There is not a single Congressman, Senator, or Governor that has run as a 3rd party Libertarian and won. However, several Libertarians have been elected by running as Republicans. Justin Amash, Ron Paul, and Thomas Massie have been elected to the House by running as Libertarians. Libertarians: Rand Paul and Mike Lee have been elected senators running as Republicans. Also, Libertarians: Bill Weld and Gary Johnson have been elected as governors running as Republicans.
It is clear that if the goal for Libertarians is to actually get elected then they should run as Republicans. If the goal for Libertarians is to get their message across, then they should run as 3rd party candidates. The preferred choice is not clear, but suffice it to say that libertarians have the potential to influence the political system despite their seemingly small notoriety.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.