Former GOP New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee, and while he will probably be on the ballot in all fifty states -- he may not appear in the presidential debates.
The decision of the Commission on Presidential Debates, regarding the latter, will decide whether he will affect this election as much as Ross Perot in 1992, or as significantly little as Ralph Nader in 2000.
Regardless of the outcome, the influence of libertarian voters in this election will be strong. Libertarians, however, are not a monolithic bloc. They are, at least, tripartite.
Many don’t even associate with the Libertarian Party, fearing the organization of a political party or not formally defining themselves as libertarians. While that statement may sound like a weaselly way to pad the hypothetical number of libertarians, it’s actually a clue into the atypical makeup of the group -- if you can even call it that.
Those conspiracy theorists who question everything from 9/11 and the Waco siege to the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, all share one thing in common: they have authority issues. This makes this ragtag bunch of anarchists, moonshiners and militiamen skeptical of any administration and less likely to organize in large numbers politically.
Other “liberty-minded” folks, like the growing number of slightly pretentious college students and their economics professors, are organized and active in the media, education and politics. More likely to call themselves libertarians, these supporters campaigned for Ron Paul or Johnson. Still, many of this group, generally the more anarchic, have no faith in the political process and focus solely on education.
The last, best-known and most maligned group, is the batch of angry old conservatives that call themselves the Tea Party. Even labeling this group libertarian is heresy in many circles, but it is useful to consider it the most mainstream wing of “the liberty movement.”
Ostensibly about reducing the role of government, the Tea Party has had success where Libertarians have not: electing federal congressmen that share their views. These freshmen legislators were at the forefront of forcing the debt ceiling debate -- and the GOP doesn’t really know how to incorporate them.
So how will libertarians of all stripes participate in this election? Many of the first group have probably never voted and aren’t about to start now, or they are the faithful few who write in fictional characters and Founding Fathers.
The second group might also stay home in November, but they are more likely to vote for a candidate on the ballot. This could mean a simple vote for Gary Johnson, a vote for Romney to oust Obama, or a vote for Obama and all Republican congressmen to keep government in deadlock, The Tea Party will likely vote straight-ticket Republican, preferring Romney to that socialist president they organized in droves to protest in 2010.
The most effective option for all libertarians this election is to vote for Gary Johnson and expect a second Obama administration. Voter turnout has never been stellar in the United States and will probably be even lower this year -- but in America, the squeaky wheels get greased.
A strong turnout for Johnson, whether he is televised debating or no, will send a message to both parties that they actually need to engage in meaningful discourse again and read the Constitution. Tea Partiers may pray for Obama to be a one-term president, but if Romney were to serve as president he would probably govern as the centrist he has always been and move the Republican Party further away from libertarianism.
or as significantly little as Ralph Nader in 2000.