Libertarian Party Gaining Ground as Primary Parties Lose Support

There are around 7,000 seats in the upper and lower houses of all the state governments in America, and of those, 4 are currently held by representatives of the Libertarian Party. This statistic provides a simple explanation to why third parties, in general, have such a hard time in elections, particularly the presidential election. In 2016, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson pulled in 3.27% of the national vote, making him, based on numbers, the most successful Libertarian and third party candidate to ever run for president. Today, now over five months into Republican President Donald Trump’s term, many officials in both the Democratic and Republican parties are changing their tune and switching their affiliations to be with the Libertarian Party.

The state of New Hampshire has become in a sense the epicenter of Libertarian activity, its state motto of “live free or die” clearly aligning with the party’s principles. The past year has seen three state representatives switching to the party, two coming from the Republicans and one from the Democrats. In a statement regarding why he chose to change, Rep. Brandon Phinney shared that he felt the Republican Party was pressuring him to push certain ideas that didn't align with his own principles. Rep. Joseph Stallcop, the Democratic convert, said that the primary parties’ goal is simply to expand government and their own agendas, ignoring the protection of the people’s rights. The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire is now gaining ground in passing legislation that aligns with their values too, hoping to soon create laws that legalize recreational marijuana and outlaw the death penalty.

While there are currently no Libertarian officials in Congress, the party has their eyes on certain representatives whose work aligns with the party’s values. Many analysts and speculators see the strategy as people running to be elected in one of the primary parties with the motive to convert to the Libertarians once elected. Nebraska State Senator Laura Ebke, the first to officially change to the third party says that this is the wrong strategy, as it could result in the person not getting elected at all. Instead, she sees the opportunity to work with sitting officials who seem to lean their way. While the funding for third party candidates’ election and reelection campaigns isn't nearly as great as the primary parties, Ebke and others are confident that if their party can be willing to put aside small differences with voters but agree on key points, they have a strong chance at increasing their numbers in state and federal legislatures as well as in the presidential race.