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The odds of a Libertarian Party presidential candidate taking the oath of office on January 20th in the foreseeable future is zero. After more than five decades since the LP was founded in 1971, the “Party of Principle” has been unable to run a competitive presidential candidate nor has a Libertarian Party candidate been elected to the Congress. Why? And yet self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders keeps winning as an “Independent” and ran in two presidential primary campaigns that resonated with Democratic voters.
There are many reasons why a LP presidential candidate has not been elected president, and no LP candidate has made it to the US Senate or to the House of Representatives. These include messaging that did not resonate with voters and not having “troops on the ground” to do the heavy lifting to get out the vote. What about a campaign chest? Does an LP candidate need to raise a boatload of money to run a competitive campaign?
Not really. In New Jersey Republican state senator Ed Durr, Jr. spent virtually nothing to win the GOP primary and a few thousand dollars in the general election to defeat state Democrat Senate president Steve Sweeney. Ed Durr, Jr., a truck driver, defied the odds by ousting a potential future governor with a grassroots campaign that flew under the radar.
What is the lesson for Libertarians? Running as a major party candidate has huge advantages not the least which is voters typically vote for a Democrat or Republican.
However, in 1998 pro wrestling star Jesse Ventura shocked the political establishment by winning the Minnesota gubernational race with 37% of the vote running as the Reform Party candidate. He ran a brilliant campaign mocking both major party candidates and speaking truth to power about Minnesota politics. Ventura served as mayor of a small town, had huge name recognition as a celebrity and is 6’4”—always a plus when you are a candidate. So Jesse was not a first time candidate and was “larger than life.”
A year earlier I was the NJLP gubernatorial candidate and recount my experience in the last two chapters of my memoir. In short, I did not have any of Jesse’s attributes, which was a big plus in his campaign. However, the feedback I received after the campaign was heartwarming—from the Ramapo College chaplain to voters who wrote me after the election and the letters they sent to the Star Ledger after the debates I participated in with the two major party candidates. In addition, some of my ideas were enacted by Gov. Whitman and future governor Jim McGreevey, who was elected in 2001. Also, our campaign struck a blow for free speech in a landmark court case.
This brings me to how libertarians could affect next year’s election.
The other day Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. announced his campaign for president, challenging President Biden for the Democratic nomination. RFK’s campaign reminds of two previous challenges to incumbent Democratic presidents, Sen. Gene McCarthy’s near win in the New Hampshire primary against LBJ in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War and Sen. Ted Kennedy’s 1980 primary campaign against President Jimmy Carter.
McCarthy received 42% of the vote in the February primary and effectively caused LBJ to announce his withdrawal from the race in a nationwide televised address on March 31. I remember it well having watched LBJ’s announcement in my fiancé’s apartment.
Although Ted Kennedy did not win the nomination Carter lost the election to Ronald Reagan. Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the 1968 Democratic nomination after RFK’s father Sen. Robert Kennedy entered the race and was then assassinated on June 5th having won the California primary. RFK had the momentum to win the Democratic nomination. So, who was behind the assassination? There is substantial evidence that Sirhan Sirhan was not the “lone gunman,” and neither was Lee Harvey Oswald.
Libertarians should vote in the Democratic primaries next year because they could help anti-war RFK Jr. win the nomination or cause Biden to withdraw from the race. We will then see if the Democratic insiders realize a pro war Democrat cannot win the general election and choose a pro peace candidate.
If both parties nominate pro war presidential candidates, then the LP presidential candidate should run with this issue from coast to coast. No other issue matters more than war and peace.
If LP candidates for Congress focus on irrelevant issues, like the age of consent or other nonsensical laws, then the LP has no reason for existing.
I will expand on this in my remarks in Austin next week.
On April 29th I will be speaking at the Libertarian Party Mises Caucus in Austin, TX, one stop in the Human Action Tour. See if there is an upcoming one in your area, https://lpmisescaucus.com/take-human-action-tour/.
My latest piece on the economy was published in Fortune, https://fortune.com/2023/03/27/recession-2023-layoffs-tech-finance-unemployment-outlook-fed-rates-murray-sabrin/ This is an update of my 2021 forecast, https://fortune.com/2021/12/09/next-recession-heres-everything-bubble-markets-2021-2022-covid-murray-sabrin/
Murray Sabrin, PhD, is emeritus professor of finance, Ramapo College of New Jersey. Dr. Sabrin is considered a “public intellectual” for writing about the economy in scholarly and popular publications. His new book, The Finance of Health Care: Wellness and Innovative Approaches to Employee Medical Insurance (Business Expert Press, Oct. 24, 2022), and his other BEP publication, Navigating the Boom/Bust Cycle: An Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide (October 2021), provides decision makers with tools needed to help manage their businesses during the business cycle. Sabrin’s autobiography, From Immigrant to Public Intellectual: An American Story, was published in November, 2022.