If there’s no big bump for Rand Paul in the next few Republican debates, libertarians must consider their other options. The Libertarian Party might make more sense in 2016 than in any prior election. I can hear you saying that’s not a high hurdle, but bear with me.
First, let me dispense with two common complaints from my fellow libertarians: (1) that no one should be weighing a vote for the Republicans in the first place and (2) that no one should vote at all.
There are undeniable strategic advantages (and built-in support networks) for anyone running as a major-party candidate, so it makes sense to try working through a major-party candidate if he’s darn close to libertarian. Few politicians have ever been closer than Rand Paul, and my enthusiasm for him is a natural function of seeing how far away the other major-party candidates are.
As for the anti-voting anarchist position, it’s one for which I have growing sympathy, and I would never insist anyone must vote, but I think a populace voting “defensively” has to be seen as morally acceptable. If people genuinely vote in an effort to decrease the statism to which they’ll be subjected, they may well fail, but to chastise them for trying strikes me as blaming the victims.
But if the only big question within the Republican Party should remain “Trump or Carson or Bush?” and the only big question within the Democratic Party is “Clinton or Sanders or Biden?” it’s reasonable to jump ship and see what the Libertarians are offering. It just so happens that in all likelihood (pending the May 2016 Libertarian Party nominating convention), instead of running some yahoo, they will again pick the popular and successful former two-term governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, who is arguably just plain better qualified than any of the politicians mentioned earlier in this paragraph, with or without his immense ideological advantages (such as loving both capitalism and marijuana).
And so I vow that in 2016, as it was in 2012, my operating slogan will be “Johnson if not Paul,” meaning the Republicans either do the right thing and nominate a libertarian (or quasi-libertarian), or I go to where I know for sure I can find one. I certainly don’t want to remain in the Republican fold if, as usual, they eventually overcome their disgust and turn into cheerleaders for Trump if he’s the nominee.
Now, if Trump’s the nominee and the conservative establishment refuses to turn into cheerleaders, great (cheerleading is embarrassing as a general rule—witness some of those “Rumsfeld as hunky pinup”-type covers on National Review a decade ago, for instance). Not cheering could be very educational. The establishment would then have my respect, and Gary Johnson would have my vote. He ought then to have theirs as well.
—Todd Seavey can be found on Twitter, Blogger, and Facebook, daily on Splice Today, and soon on bookshelves with the volume Libertarianism for Beginners.