One problem I believe facing Libertarians is where they are focusing their reach. Instead of vying to be a regional force, they are trying to grow too big, too fast. While I understand some states make it so third parties must field presidential and congressional candidates to get on the ballot, I believe the state parties should focus on local and state candidates, since those are where delegates and talent are grown. While you don’t have to solely focus on mayors and county boards, you should probably limit your resources to state representatives, as your ground game would be easy in many states. If you have a decent amount of volunteers, but not a crazy amount, you could feasibly phone-bomb most of the people in the district. If the office is a more local position or is in a rural area, it might not be expensive to have a shot at winning simply if you were to pass out inexpensive fliers. Add in town halls and free media and you could be talking double digits for local positions.
Another tactic for Libertarians to try if fellow libertarians fail to mount local attempts, is to form local parties. While many people may not rally around someone because of school choice or economic free trade zones, as it is harder to link either with national vitality, local parties (“X state First” policies) would be able to directly link them to the health of their state, not only for the fact the policies work, but the marketing has been “stolen” so to speak. The appeal to emotion would be huge.
While some social issues should be thrown in to keep it interesting, controversial issues should be avoided in the platform, like prostitution or abortion, but not banned from the discussion. Fiscal issues should then take center stage, as well as issues of personal choice, such as no-fault insurance, privacy, and school choice. Fiscal issues could include lowering or eliminating the state income tax, encouraging legal tender by creating a development bank that could create gold-backed money, repealing occupational licensing, and other such measures. In some states, it could gain popular support from general populists.
One key area libertarians should invest in is get-out-the-vote (GOTV). There are many disillusioned individuals who just need a nudge to be able to vote with a clear conscience. This is where GOTV comes in and creates a strong third or second place, or if you are lucky, first place. But the fact is that there are thousands if not millions of people that are simply fed up with the current slate of candidates. If, for instance, you look at the evangelical vote alone, there were millions that sat home in 2012 and did not vote for Mitt Romney. While some of their reasons were petty, I imagine many were tired of seeing moderates clinch the GOP nomination. With some effort and coordination, it is possible to capture partially fiscally conservative votes to the LP. I believe the return on investment in GOTV would be huge, but one that is not widely talked about by the LP.
So, to summarize, libertarians, and in general, the Libertarian Party, need to create “safe spaces” for libertarianism to thrive. Areas like Minnesota (history of independent voting) and on a smaller scale smaller communities would be more receptive to these strategies. If the national Libertarian Party were to focus more of its resources on hyper-competitive markets and invest in GOTV and other measures, I believe the LP could win.
* Zach Boyle is the Vice Chairman of the Northeast Lower Michigan Libertarian Party.