The Libertarian Party moves to the right
Third parties have a political impact far greater than their electoral successes. They are the research and development wing of the political system. Only once, during the exceptional rise of the Republican Party in the 1850s, did a third party gain enough support to contest power, but there are many instances where the two main parties generously borrowed issues and ideas. to upstart rivals. The Lincoln Republicans themselves took a stand against the expansion of slavery by the former Liberty Party and Free Soil Party. The Democrats under William Jennings Bryan hacked (and watered down) the People’s Party agenda. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was also light in borrowing ideas from the Socialist Party and other left formations. In a more sinister vein, Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” and his “law and order” whistles were motivated by a desire to upstage George Wallace, who ran in 1968 as the Party’s candidate. American independent.
The Libertarian Party can rightly claim to be the heir to this tradition of being a breeding ground for political innovations taken up by both Democrats and Republicans. If the dominant ideology of American politics since the 1970s has been neoliberalism, then the Libertarian Party has truly outgrown its weight, influencing economic trends (the shrinking welfare state) and social policy (the Libertarian Party has championed gay rights and drug decriminalization long before the Democrats).
In defiance of this history, the Libertarian Party now seems to have entered an upside-down world where it has begun to mimic the Republicans. Since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign, the dominant political story on the right has been the consistent Trumpization of the GOP – a trend visible both in politics (more protectionist, more anti-immigrant, more unilateralist in foreign policy) and also in cultural style (with Trump’s humorous routine now de rigueur among Republican candidates).
In 2016, Gary Johnson became the most successful Libertarian candidate in history, receiving nearly 4.5 million votes (or 3.3% of the votes cast). That was three times more than any previous libertarian presidential candidate, including Johnson in his previous run in 2012. Johnson achieved that success by moving closer to the type of old-line Republican establishment that the GOP had just dismiss: he was a soft-spoken, culturally moderate advocate of small government. As such, he seemed like an alternative to Trump for weary Republicans.
But despite Johnson’s strong electoral performance, the Libertarian party was quickly ravaged by its own internal strife thanks to a guerrilla faction that wanted to engage in culture war politics.
On July 28, 2017, Jeff Deist, the president of the Mises Institute, named after the libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises, published a blog post arguing that “blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of being irrelevant. The phrase “blood and soil” already had an unmistakable fascist connotation, but it took on an even more horrific connotation two weeks after the post during the infamous 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally, where an anti-racism protester was killed. White supremacists trying to dominate the streets of Charlottesville chanted “blood and dirt.” Several of the organizers of the Charlottesville rally identified themselves as libertarians. Following this event, Nicholas Sarwark, chairman of the Libertarian Party, wrote an open letter warning of the dangers of fascism. Arvin Vohra, vice-president of the Libertarian Party, wrote a message arguing that “the Mises Institute has been turned into a sales funnel for the white nationalist branch of the Alt Right”.
The ensuing “blood and soil” arguments led to the creation of a Mises caucus, which aimed to overthrow the pragmatic Gary Johnson wing of the party and adopt the hard-right’s incendiary culture war policy.
write in RaisonBrian Doherty, eminent historian of libertarianism, reports that “haters say too many Mises Caucus members and fans downplay libertarian positions that might offend the right, are intentionally obnoxious and intimidating, and are often racist”. Doherty quotes a tweet posted by the New Hampshire Libertarian Party after it was picked up by the Mises Caucus: “America owes no debt to black people. If anything, it’s the other way around. This tweet was posted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and was later deleted after criticism. On March 7, 2021, Jeremy Kauffman, a prominent member of the Mises Caucus, tweeted“If 1,000 trans people were murdered every year but there were no taxes, we would live in a much more moral world. [For] referring to approximately 40… transgender people are murdered in the United States each year. This tweet was also later deleted.
In early 2021, the Mises Caucus in California invited an anti-Semitic provocateur nominated Bryan Sharpe (also known as Hotep Jesus) to speak at his state convention. Senior Mises Caucus member Angela McArdle defended the invitation, saying, “I don’t really think anyone who tries to be a seeker of truth and figure out what’s going on — and asks the question of whether Jews run Hollywood or not is an anti-Semite.
On May 29, at the Libertarian Party convention in Reno, McArdle won the title of chairman of the party’s national committee. It was a decisive victory for the Mises Caucus, which received the vote of 69% of the delegates. The Mises Caucus is now the undisputed ruling faction of the party.
In a report for hate alerta publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Creede Newton evidence gathered— circumstantial but suggestive — that the Mises Caucus is aligned with Trumpist Republicans. David Valente, an active member of the Libertarian Party since 2012 and former alternate member of the Libertarian National Committee, said hate alert, “The whole point of what’s happening with the MC…is to sabotage the LP to sideline it for the next few years for Donald Trump.” Ashley Shade, another disgruntled Libertarian Party member and former chairman of the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts, also spoke with hate alert and called the Mises Caucus “a tool of the Republican Party.”
Whether the Mises Caucus deliberately plans this or not, the troubles it has inflicted on the Libertarian Party are a boon for Republicans. speaking on The neoliberal podcast, Andy Craig, editor at the Cato Institute, predicted that the Libertarian Party “will disappear very quickly. They will lose their right to vote. They are already bankrupt. All Donors [will] Leave.”
Brian Doherty’s report in Raison supports this analysis:
Two prominent former LP donors, Kyle Varner and Michael Chastain, both with decades of party history, said in phone interviews that the Mises turn, which they consider important, a level of racist dominance for which they have no taste, has made them stop funding LP contestants. Such defections are particularly relevant in this environment: the national LP just had three straight months of expenses exceeding revenue, and the number of active donors has been down for seven straight months.
The pattern here might be some political shenanigans from the 2000 election. That year, Roger Stone worked with Trump to wreak havoc in the Reform Party primaries (Trump briefly entered the race and aimed his shot at eventual nominee, Pat Buchanan). The weakening of the Reform Party had the effect of helping the GOP. Some observers, such as the late Voice of the village journalist Wayne Barrett, speculated that had always been Stone’s goal.
Making the Libertarian Party a competitive force will help consolidate the right-wing vote around the Republican Party. Once the Libertarian Party has become a shell of itself, the alt-right faction will continue to aid a Trumpized GOP in a way parallel to groups like the Proud Boys. MAGA Libertarians will be a powerful vehicle for spreading bigotry on social media. The Mises Caucus is the nominal winner of the libertarian turf wars, but the ultimate beneficiary could be Donald Trump.