Growth of the Libertarian Party Spells Hope For the Future
The evening began at 7:00 PM Central Time; and at that time, there were probably around 20 or so in attendance at the watch party for the Oklahoma Libertarian Party. It was located in a relatively small room of a local restaurant in Midwest City, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City. The state was immediately called for Trump at 7:00 when the polls closed, but that wasn’t our focus.
Early returns were continuously called out for each county as our small crowd began to swell to somewhere around 40 or so people, crammed into a space that was for a much smaller crowd. The turnout was the same as the one for the vote. It was much larger than expected. The size of the watch party was absolutely nothing like the size of the two major parties, but it was incredibly special because it represented a first time gathering of a party that did not exist in any official capacity before. Jubilation was in the air as this was the first time in the state’s history that the LP has been recognized as an official party, and there was more. The Gary Johnson/Bill Weld ticket was pulling in around the 5% to 6% range for the entirety of the night – the largest showing of any LP candidate in history. The other state LP candidates were fairing with very similar numbers, and as it turned out, Oklahoma had the third highest showing for Johnson at 5.9%. We needed to maintain at least 2.5% to remain on officially recognized party, and that was more than covered by the results.
I am not certain about the following numbers specifically for my state, but I am certain that since most people do not live here, most would be more interested in national results.
Exit polls may have showed skewed results over all, but they did show some interesting things about the LP. Of those polled that declared they were unhappy with both major candidates, voted over 70% for Trump, and exit polling also showed that nearly 22% of former Bernie Sanders supporters surprisingly voted for Trump. That shows that the gap in Clinton’s results was not too dissimilar from the percentage of votes received for Gary Johnson. What this means is that the Johnson/Weld ticket had a much greater impact on disturbing the election for Clinton, than it did for Trump.
Going forward, it looks as though many disenfranchised members of the Democratic Party are willing to consider the LP platform. Similarly, it appears that the message of true smaller government and individual liberty are appealing in many solidly red states.
The election proved an overall attitude of anti-establishment that has left people at least considering their loyalties to their respective parties. Perhaps greater numbers of Democrats more than Republicans will join the party if the same trend continues. It remains to be seen if these new members are open to a more fiscally responsible agenda, or if they will be turned off by this. It also remains to be seen as to whether so many Republicans continue to feel disenfranchised from their party or whether a win for their party makes them comfortable to hold onto their GOP registration. I have always felt that the liberty message is more appealing to members of the GOP than Democrats, but I may be proven wrong.
It is unfortunate for the LP that the Johnson/Weld ticket fell short of its 5% goal of the popular vote nationally, in order to receive federal funding in 2020. However, the strongest showing of a third party candidate since Ross Perot indicates the LP definitely has something to build upon. Few people actually believed that the LP would win anything nationally, and results certainly bear that out. However, this particular election gave far more coverage to Libertarian candidates than ever before. The message was heard by far more people, and the numbers within the LP have swelled record levels.
Funds raised by the national LP have doubled this election cycle, and I do not believe that this is a one-off scenario. The deep divisions within both major parties were strong enough to consider a new message and made people aware of a new way of thinking that they might not even have known existed before. The LP has grown much stronger. It will not be 5% of the electorate, but it might remain at close to 3% support (not necessarily membership) until 2020, when it is possible we could see a much higher result on a future LP ticket.
Perhaps it will take three or more election cycles before we see anything like a successful election for a member of the LP winning a national office, but the firm base has been established for the first time. The difference with how the party of Ross Perot failed and fell apart and the LP which will be much more resilient is that the We The People party was Ross Perot. When he gave up, the party gave up. But, in the case of the LP, it has been around since 1971, and it is much bigger than Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. It will gain in popularity, rather than fade into obscurity.
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