They’ve got a strange crop of candidates running as representatives of the Libertarian Party in Texas this year. With prospects of 2-3% of the vote it’s debatable that they’re serious candidates, and based on their issue positions and public statements it’s surprisingly difficult to determine if they are even libertarians. There are Republicans running in the state whose positions are closer to those of traditional libertarians than are those of many of the candidates who bear the official Libertarian Party brand.
Just look at a few of their top contenders. Kathie Glass is running for governor on a hardcore nativist platform, including proposing deploying the state guard to the border — the LP used to support open borders. Steve Susman is running for Congress and promises to subsidize green energy with taxpayer dollars, opposes privatizing social security, wants to expand farm subsidies, supports limits on political free speech, wants to make unions illegal and is strongly opposed to gay rights. Jim Stutsman is running for Congress and wants to expand the military, increase the level of tax on personal income and also opposes gay rights.
These are not typical libertarian positions. Many of them are even directly contrary to the national and state Libertarian Party platforms. While many other LP candidates like John J. Myers and Robert Nowotny are very much traditional libertarians, the number of candidates representing the party who have bizarre views on major issues has grown substantially. This is reflected by changes in the party platform which include the removal of the pro-immigration plank and an increased emphasis on states rights and isolationism.
The Libertarian Party and especially many of their candidates, seem to have come under the influence of the far-right Paleocons. They have become immigration nativists, far more socially conservative, begun advocating for states rights over the Constitution, and have entirely lost interest in a true libertarian foreign policy. Some don’t even seem particlarly fiscally conservative.
Coming at a time when the Republican party is moving in a much more libertarian direction in Texas and nationwide this creates a strange conflict for some of their more principled candidates. In Texas two Libertarian candidates have recently dropped their campaigns upon realizing that the Libertarian Party had set them up to run against Republicans who were as libertarian as they were. In one case this was because the Republican in the race was a true libertarian. In the other it was because the Libertarian Party candidate was on the same page as his Republican opponent as a social conservative.
One of these candidates was Tom Gleinser in Texas House District 45. He abruptly ended his campaign with a very strong statement against the Libertarian Party and its disastrous campaign strategy:
“I am withdrawing from the race for State Representative District 45 in order to give the Republican candidate a better shot at it. All I’ve been doing the past two elections is ensuring the victory of a toll-road, teacher’s unions loving Democrat.
I will continue to espouse libertarianism, but the Libertarian Party to me is dead.”
Like many libertarians around the country, he was angered by the strategy which the Libertarian Party has chosen, of running token candidates regardless of the quality of their Republican opponents, doing little or nothing to support those candidates and making no noticeable effort to assure the quality of the candidates they are running. They have degraded the reputation and legitimacy of the Libertarian Party as a voice for liberty and they have allowed liberty-minded Republicans to steal their initiative as the leading edge of the libertarian movement.
The lack of leadership and the poor leadership choices made at the head of the party have rendered the Libertarian Party increasingly irrelevant. Running bad candidates on a compromised platform with no real effort to actually win races has led to a substantial drop in membership and fundraising and demonstrates that the “Party of Principle” has lost track of those principles and may not have much of a future.
(Candidate position information is mostly taken from the “Political Courage Test” at Project Vote Smart.)