This article first appeared in Reason Magazine on October 24, 2014. It was written by Nicholas Sarwark, the current chair of the Libertarian Party and 2018 candidate for Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona.
Why should libertarians vote for the Libertarian Party? The short answer is that “libertarian” is right there in the name. If that’s good enough for you, thank you for your vote for our candidates, you can stop reading now. But if you’re one of those “small l” libertarians who want to know why you should vote for the Libertarian Party candidate instead of the candidate with the D or R by their name who is closest to your views, read on.
1. The Libertarian Party supports all of your freedoms, all of the time. Only the Libertarian Party puts up candidates who are working to dramatically reduce big government spending, taxes, debt, regulations, bureaucracies, foreign meddling, and invasions of our personal freedoms. All we is do fight to get the government out of your wallet, your bedroom, and your life in general.
Our candidates aren’t running to “reform” big government programs. Not to “replace” them. Definitely not to add to them. If you want to tinker around the edges of big government, the old parties have you covered. Only the Libertarian Party and its candidates are working to repeal laws and shrink government. What will this leave? Individual liberty and a small, constitutional government that is limited to defending our lives, liberty and property.
2. The Libertarian Party is consistent and principled. Libertarians work for everyday taxpayers, workers and voters. Not for special interests. Not to be part of the machinery of government. Not to land government jobs. Not to grab “our share” of the goodies.
Libertarian candidates aren’t career politicians. They’re veterans like Jess Loban in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District. They’re professional divers like Lucas Overby in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. They’re pizza deliverymen like Sean Haugh running for Senate in North Carolina.
Our candidates are ordinary citizens fed up with old party politicians and willing to take time out of their lives to fight for human freedom. All they want is to make government small, allow free markets to thrive, uphold and expand personal liberties and keep our nation at peace.
3. Voting for old party politicians tells them that you want to keep government big. Voting for a candidate with a D or an R by their name sends a message. It says, “keep doing what you’re doing,” i.e., “raise taxes, spend more, add to the nation’s debt, invent more doomed-to-failure government programs, and start more wars.” It gives them permission – or license – to keep government big. Voting for the “lesser evil” is indistinguishable from voting for team R or D because you think everything they do is awesome. It will be taken as approval for more big government, which leads to higher taxes, higher spending and debt, more government and more war.
4. Voting Libertarian is the only clear message you can send. Spear Lancaster, a former Libertarian candidate for governor in Maryland used to tell me, “Not all politicians are smart, but every one of them can count.” They can count how many votes they got and how many votes their opponents got. Only a vote for a Libertarian sends a crystal-clear message about what you want, more freedom, and when you want it: right now. Voting Libertarian says: “You do not have my permission nor approval to sustain or grow big government. Shrink it immediately.”
With all due respect to those people who argue against voting at all, there’s no way that a politician can tell the difference between the principled anarchist non-voter and the dude who was too lazy to fill out his ballot. If you want to send a message to the old party politicians, a Libertarian vote is the clearest message you can send.
5. Voting Libertarian forces the old parties to take the libertarian positions. Old party politicians are spineless cowards. They’ll get behind the change the majority of the citizens want only a decade or so after that majority wants it. Libertarians have been advocating for marriage equality and ending the drug war for decades. These efforts are finally coming to fruition, even though no Libertarian has been elected to a federal office.
Every Libertarian vote helps to move policy in a small government, libertarian direction. Every Libertarian vote scares a weak-kneed old party politician to come around to the freedom the citizens have already wanted for years.
6. Because the old parties don’t want you to. The old parties will spend millions of dollars on advertising this election cycle to scare you out of voting Libertarian. They will collude with their cronies in government and the media to keep Libertarian candidates off the ballot and out of debates. They are deathly afraid that having a Libertarian candidate on the stage and on the ballot will show them as the intellectually bankrupt government hacks that they really are.
If big corporations, big media, and big government politicians are all going to cheat with both hands to keep you from having a Libertarian candidate on your ballot or in your debates, that’s a pretty clear signal that the Libertarian candidate is far and away better and they’re afraid you’ll realize it.
Like the failed anti-drug campaigns of the ’80s, if someone spends that much time and money telling you how awful something is, it makes you want to try it. And like smoking weed, voting Libertarian won’t hurt you and will probably make you a little happier to boot.
7. Voting Libertarian helps your favorite “libertarian-leaning” old party politician. Justin Amash. Ron Wyden. Thomas Massie. Rand Paul. These are some of the old party politicians that people like to tell me are “libertarian-leaning” and should be supported instead of actual Libertarian candidates. Let’s assume for a minute that these are good politicians that a libertarian would want to support.
Unless you live in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District or Kentucky’s 4th, there’s not a single person in that list that you can vote for this year, since neither Wyden or Paul are up for election in 2014. But what you can do is vote for every Libertarian Party candidate on your ballot and it’ll help all four of those gentlemen.
When a “libertarian-leaning” candidate gets elected in one of the old parties, they are under constant pressure from their party leadership to fall in line. They don’t get good committee assignments. They don’t get leadership support for re-election. They get primary challengers backed by the establishment coalition between big government and big business.
By increasing Libertarian Party vote totals, you send a clear message to the leadership of the old parties that libertarian ideas are popular. Remember, all politicians can count. If the party leaders see that there is a solid block of libertarian votes, they’ll stop putting as much pressure on their “libertarian-leaning” party members to vote the big government line.