Will Libertarians get solid traction in 2020?
Since their founding in the 70’s, the Libertarian Party has seen an increase in popularity in local and national elections. In 1972, the Libertarian Party gained an astonishing .11% of the national presidential vote, with John Hospers as the runner. This was also the Libertarians first run at the presidential election, so .11% isn’t too bad. Eight years later, with the presidential runner for the Libertarian Party being Edward Clark, the Libertarians garnered a total of 1.06% of the national vote. Unfortunately for the Libertarian Party, a 9.63% increase in votes every eight years was unrealistic. What was realistic, fortunately, was returning to 1.03% of national votes in 2012, with the runner being Gary Johnson. In 1984, David Bergland, instead of Edward Clark, was the Libertarian runner and earned a whopping .33% of the national vote. This wouldn’t be the lowest the party has gotten since, though. In 1992, the party gathered only .28% of the national vote. If the party had followed the trend of “one good election for every 7 bad ones,” we could come to the conclusion that the party would have been devastated in 2016. Something very different happened though: the Libertarian Party went from 1.03% in 2016 to 3.28% of the national vote in 2016, and the runner in both elections was Gary Johnson. The big question is, can the Libertarian party keep this trend in 2020?
The candidates for the 2020 libertarian bid are going to be Adam Kokesh, Bill Weld, and Arvin Vohra. In Johnson’s 2012 run, he ran with James “Jim” Gray, and in 2016 his running mate was William “Bill” Weld. Jim Gray has had years of judicial experience in the military and political world in California. He has been an outspoken opponent in the war on drugs, and was featured in the documentary American Drug War: The Last White Hope. Bill Weld was Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997, and in 1996 he challenged John Kerry in the race for senate. He lost the election to Kerry, 53% to 45%, but that election was one of the most eyed senate races of the year.
Gary Johnson wasn’t just a two time run politician, either. His first political endeavors as in 1994, for Governor or New Mexico, against Bruce King, winning 50% to 40%. In 1998 he was re-elected for his second term, winning 55% to 45% against Martin Chavez. Gary then ran for president in 2012 and 2016, and is currently in the race for senate in New Mexico. He is currently polled in second place, behind Democrat Martin Heinrich, and above Republican Mick Rich.
As Johnson and others have said before the 2016 election, the only way the 2 party hold on presidential elections is going to end is if 3rd party candidates will be allowed to participate in the presidential debates in the weeks approaching the election. To actually get in the debates, a candidate needs to earn 15% or more in popularity in at least 5 national, well-trusted polls.
Whether it is Weld, Kokesh, or Vohra that is nominated as the libertarian candidate for president, the most important thing will be sticking to libertarian values. Sticking to the anti-drug war, fiscal conservatism, and military non-interventionism values that are most popular with voters across party lines. If the Libertarian Party is to have success in 2020, the candidate needs to hit hard on especially those 3 issues. Discussion about healthcare’s place in the American economic system was hot in 2016, and Libertarians need to stand strong on the idea that the free market will provide better than the government can, which is an issue Republicans will normally agree on. Non interventionism is something that both Democrats and Republicans can’t totally agree with in their parties. Low tax is something Republicans and Libertarians would like to hold hands on, and personal freedoms, like ending the Drug War, is something Democrats and Libertarians can connect on, and even a growing number of Republicans.
Going off the momentum of the Johnson-Weld 2016 run, the Libertarian Party has a chance at getting into the presidential debates. To achieve this, it would help a lot to win seats in this years midterms, and to get tougher campaigning.
No one can give a confident forecast of the 2020 political atmosphere yet. What Libertarians can do right now to try to reach new levels of success in 2020 is to do what can be done now in midterms, and to hit hard in 2019 and 2020 with campaigning against the two party system. The Libertarian hope for 2020 is that, by the time of the presidential debates, popularity can exceed 15% to get them on stage in the national spotlight. The answer to whether Libertarians can gain traction in 2020, is wholly conditional to what success the party can get before 2020.