Republicans woo Libertarians, Democrats ignore them – at their peril.

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a single contribution to help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

Former President Donald Trump spoke to the Libertarian Party’s Annual Convention on Saturday, May 25, 2024. Fox News reported that he was met with a crowd of repeated booing during his speech. The Nation’s National Affairs Correspondent John Nichols described Trump’s Outreach to the Libertarians as an Absolute Train Wreck.

But Fox also noted that some Republican supporters wore “Make America Great” hats and T-shirts cheering “USA! USA!” It’s unclear if they were libertarians or just Republicans attending the convention.

In brief, Trump didn’t make any friends with his typical self-aggrandizement. Nevertheless, his instinct that libertarians were voters, which he needed, was correct. In twenty polls spanning thirteen years, Gallup found that 17 to 23% of the American electorate voters see themselves as libertarians. They are a substantial chunk of voters. 

Libertarian voters can tip the presidential election in the swing states.

It’s easy to ignore or even belittle the Libertarian Party’s past election results. Admittedly, the Libertarian presidential candidate’s performance has been minuscule. They’ve been at one or three percent of the popular vote in the last three presidential races. 

Nevertheless, they are the best-organized independent party, having their presidential candidate on every state’s ballot in five of the last eight presidential elections and more times on the ballot than any other third party. 

Libertarian Party members will most likely vote for their candidate in any presidential election. However, if the Democrats and Republicans make a pitch that appeals to their values, some may vote for Biden or Trump. Those voters could make a crucial difference in the swing states that narrowly went to Trump in 2016 when he carried more independent voters than Clinton.  

Trump lost them in 2020 when third-party 2016 voters went 53%-36% for Biden over Trump. On a larger scale, among all independents and those affiliated with other parties, Biden led Trump by 52%-43%, according to the Pew Research Center.

In 2024, independents may return to Trump since he leads Biden in the six swing states Biden won in 2020 with the assistance of independent voters, many of whom are libertarians. These tightest contested states are Arizona, Georgia, Nevada (Trump ahead by >4%), and Pennsylvania (Trump ahead by >3%), with Biden behind by less than 1% in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Libertarian votes could provide Biden another win if he can attract more of them again than Trump. 

For instance, in Arizona and Georgia, if 20% of the Libertarian 2020 voters went for Biden, it would equal or exceed the number of votes that was Biden’s margin of victory. 

In Michigan and Wisconsin, where Biden has the best chance of winning, the Libertarian vote accounted for about 70% of all independent votes. The votes are there; Biden needs to reach out to them.

Republicans have allies within the Libertarian Party.

The doctrinaire conservative Mises Caucus has held the Libertarian Party leadership positions since being elected at its convention two years ago. Mises retained the presidency and secretary positions this May. The elected vice president is not with Mises.  

The Mises Caucus and the Mises Institution, which preceded it, are little known outside libertarian circles. Their beliefs stem from the economist and social philosopher Ludwig von Mises. The institute praised von Mises for being uncompromising, radical, and rigorous, and it hopes to capture these qualities by pursuing his principles through the Libertarian Party.

Mises taught that the only viable economic policy was unrestricted laissez-faire, free markets, and the unhampered exercise of private property rights. The government was strictly limited to defending persons and property within its territory.

As of 2022, the Mises Caucus is the largest caucus of the Libertarian Party and controls 37 state affiliates. Its members support Trump’s policies as being closer to their beliefs while downplaying their differences. 

For instance, while the published Libertarian Party platform supports the unrestricted movement of people across national borders, the Mises Caucus aligns with Trump in opposing open borders. The LP platform states: “Individuals own their bodies and have rights over them that other individuals, groups, and governments may not violate.” Mises accuses libertarians of being leftists when they apply this clause to allow women to have abortions.

These Mises positions lead other libertarians to accuse the caucus of acting like a Republican lobby promoting Trump and his policies that violate personal liberties. 

The Mises Caucus on X echoes Trump’s claim that his conviction as a felon is an instance of the U.S. justice system being weaponized against the people. Through their leadership positions, the caucus orchestrated the invitation to Trump to address their convention. Trump libertarian supporters got to the venue early and occupied the front-row seats chanting “USA.” 

Many libertarians still reject Trump, as they did in 2020.  This hostility was on display when he spoke. One member held up a sign reading, “No wannabe dictators!” 

The party’s presidential candidate, Chase Oliver, who beat the Mises candidate at the convention, said of Trump’s appearance, “The truth is, I don’t like having a war criminal on this stage, I don’t feel he deserves a spot on this stage.”

Right-Wing Libertarians are moving away from their Presidential Candidate toward Trump.

Even though Oliver calls for the closure of all overseas military bases and ending of military support to Israel and Ukraine, Mises leaders accuse him of being woke. Mises Caucus advisory board member Dave Smith said he would not vote for Oliver because he is woke by accommodating some immigration and COVID restrictions.

Others outside the party magnify that message. Jim Geraghty, National Review’s senior political correspondent, wrotethat “Oliver wants a path to citizenship for 8 million people who entered the country illegally, which is just another way of rewarding people for breaking the law.”

Oliver takes the mainstream libertarian position that personal rights are just as important as property rights. They include women having control of their bodies, like having abortions or access to contraception. 

Mises downplays protecting personal rights as posted on X: “Federally-mandated access to contraception isn’t even Constitutional, let alone Libertarian. Supporting it under the guise of “women’s right to healthcare & autonomy” is Woke Progressive, not Libertarian. The only real rights are property rights”

As a result of these criticisms of Olive, Smith encourages right-wing libertarians to “abandon this clown show and work on influencing the GOP… and stop trying to win over the leftist social club.” He and similar thinking libertarians are sending a nuanced message for party members to vote for Trump, not Oliver.

Converting the Libertarian Party to a Right-Wing Organization is underway.

The Libertarian Party has been undergoing an effort by the Mises Institute since 2017 to move its beliefs to a more fundamentalist economic perspective. That effort, at times, has become linked to white nationalism.

For instance, Mises Institute president Jeff Deist began the effort when he wrote a blog calling for a “new libertarian” to replace the LP’s establishment leadership. He wrote that libertarians should not ignore “blood and soil … still matter to people.” The term “blood and soil” was a Nazi slogan and was chanted by white nationalists, along with ‘Hail Trump,” ahead of the deadly Charlottesville rally.

According to David Valente, a former alternate member of the Libertarian National Committee (LNC) and LP member since 2012, the Mises Caucus has a plan in motion. “The purpose of what is going on with the MC … is to sabotage the LP to sideline it over the next few years for Donald Trump.” 

Last month’s race for a Kentucky state house seat points to a close relationship between Mises and Trump’s far-right base in opposing incumbent Republican politicians. Kentucky Republican T.J. Roberts,  a former libertarian Mises Caucus member, beat an incumbent Republican this past May. Roberts had the support of Congressional Rep. Thomas Massie, who seconded the motion to oust Speaker of the House Republican Mike Johnson.

More importantly, Massie joined 13 Freedom Caucus members voting against a resolution condemning Myanmar’s general who violently overthrew elected leaders. They supported the military coup because the military said that 16% of the ballots had “voter irregularities.” The military rejected the country’s election commission, which called the election fair. In response, the military instituted media and internet blackouts. This is an authoritarian approach to limiting personal freedoms, not a libertarian approach to protecting them. 

The right-wing effort to control LP opens the door for the Democrats to hammer home the point that a second Trump presidency will snuff out LP’s support for personal rights and could destroy the party’s independence.

Democrats protecting personal freedoms will appeal to libertarians.

Democrats must not only understand why attracting libertarian voters is essential but also how to reach them. 

Democrats must take into account that the Mises Caucus is trying to turn the Libertarian Party away from protecting personal freedoms as a core libertarian belief. The MC has labeled stances that appear to be pro-migration, pro-choice, and pro-LGBTQ positions as leftist and anti-libertarian. Since they have not secured the LP candidate for a Mises member, they appear to have moved from capturing the Libertarian Party to siphoning off members to vote for Trump as president. 

Democrats need to wake up to this strategy and respond by appealing to libertarians that their party could be diverted to a narrow right-wing agenda. This is particularly true if Trump is elected and appoints a Mises Caucus member to his administration as promised at the LP convention this May. 

Having a right-wing libertarian in the Trump cabinet will encourage billionaires to fund Mises to make LP more to their liking. Two of those billionaires are registered Libertarian, options trader Jeff Yass and former CEO of Overstock Patrick Byrne.

Since 2017, Yass has been a generous supporter of Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who is more aligned with Libertarian views than any member of Congress. Since 2018, Yass has contributed $18 million to the super PAC Protect Freedom, which is directly linked to Paul. Protect Freedom funds independent advertising campaigns to elect conservative candidates, such as Senators Michael Lee and Ron Johnson, who are staunch supporters of Trump.

Byrne is mentioned in a social media screenshot of private Mises Caucus-linked groups saved by John Hudak, an LP member and former member of the Mises Caucus. Michael Heise, the MC chairman from Pennsylvania, claimed on social media to have received donations and solicited advice from Byrne. He authored a book based on an election fraud that cost Trump the 2020 election. Byrne was also the main financier of the audit of Arizona’s Maricopa County election results, which failed to prove fraudulent voting.

Democrats should realize that most libertarian-oriented voters sympathize with protecting individual liberties, which is closer to Democratic policies than Republican policies concerning the rights of women, ethnic minorities, gays, and trans citizens. Pew Research Polls from 2015 and 2014 showed that 22% of Democratic voters identified themselves as “libertarian,” whereas only 12% of Republicans did.

If Trump is elected, the Libertarian Party’s future independence from either major party may vanish and could become more subservient to the Republican’s right-wing agenda. That should motivate libertarians to consider which presidential candidate presents the more existential threat to their party. The writing is on the wall for all to see who presents that threat.  

NOTE: The information for this piece was gathered from reviewing 38 articles and websites, some of which are linked above. 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a single contribution to help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 
Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the SixtiesHe is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

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