The Libertarian and Green parties are not going to make much electoral headway at any point in the near future. The Democratic and Republican parties have embarrassing approval ratings, but, somehow, this has not affected their duopoly’s reign over American politics.
Contrarily, Gary Johnson did receive nearly 5 million votes in the 2016 presidential election, and Jill Stein received over a million to boot. Johnson’s popular vote tally was the greatest in Libertarian Party history, and Stein’s was the greatest Green Party turnout since Ralph Nadar in 2000.
Together, the 6 million or so ballots cast still pale in comparison to the 60+ million votes that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each received. But the third parties made some noise.
Rather than continue to hopelessly lose, it might be in both parties’ best interests to work together to effect better results in US elections.
Let’s first acknowledge that Libertarians and Greens align beautifully on a wide range of important political issues.
While I can’t speak for all Libertarians (and cannot speak for any Greens), I imagine that large portions of the constituencies on both sides agree with me in believing that ending America’s interventionist military policy is the most important issue of our time. When Noam Chomsky and Ron Paul are on the same page, it’s a great opportunity to put our differences aside to accomplish something of such great importance.
In addition to war abroad, the parties agree that ending the failed War on Drugs at home is a no-brainer. We could start by legalizing marijuana then discuss how many steps further we can agree to go.
Libertarians and Greens want to restore the 4th Amendment too. This means discontinuing the Patriot Act and pulling back the overreach of American intelligence agencies. We are on the same page in believing that individuals are innocent until proven guilty and that privacy is a right.
I’m sure there is more overlap, but these three major issues set us apart from the bigger parties right off the bat.
Of course, we disagree on economics, worker’s rights, environmental policy, and a whole lot more. But to each Libertarian and Green reading this, would you risk leaving most of the status quo in place in order to guarantee wins on peace, pot, and privacy? I know I would. Let’s take care of some important business first and discuss the minimum wage and fracking later.
Before we can change policy, we have to play politics. Our strategy could go something like this.
In presidential elections, we need to establish our unity ticket candidates as soon as possible. All press is good press, so getting the names out early will improve our chances of getting recognized and eventually supported. This means holding primaries early, months before the Democrats and Republicans.
We’ll also have to determine which party gets the presidential nod and which gets VP. I believe the fairest way to do this is to compete for participants in the primaries. Each party should allow voters registered in their respective party as well as independents to participate in primary elections. Whichever party gets the most total votes (amassed by all candidates, not just the winners) in the primaries has the rights to the presidential position. The vice presidential candidate would be the winner of the primary with less participation.
Not only would this be a fair way to determine who gets the presidential nominee, it would also encourage our parties to register more voters and get independents involved. It would appear to be a contest, but function more like a marketing campaign.
In congressional, state, and local elections, we’d have to work together too. Like the presidential strategy, we would judge which party to support based on primary elections. But since congressmen and other elected officials lack running mates, whichever party receives less primary participation would drop out of the race altogether and direct their supporters to vote for their Green or Libertarian counterpart.
For example, let’s imagine that during midterm elections a senate seat in Iowa is up for grabs. The Libertarian and Green parties would hold early primaries to determine their respective nominees. If all Libertarian candidates receive a combined 80,000 votes, and all Green candidates receive 90,000 votes, the winner of the Libertarian primary would concede and endorse the winner of the Green primary. Ideally, this candidate would get on the campaign trail and explain why the Green candidate’s anti-interventionist, anti-drug war, anti-spying position makes him the lesser of three evils among the Democrat and Republican candidates despite supporting many policies that run contrary to Libertarian orthodoxy.
Another agreement we should reach is that both parties should favor pro-choice/pro-second amendment candidates. There is a rift among Libertarians on the issue of abortion. Those who lean towards Reason Magazine tend to be more pro-choice, while those who lean towards Anarcho-Capitalism are often pro-life.
I imagine that Greens are more unified in desiring gun control measures than Libertarians are on the issue of abortion. Thus, I must admit that I am asking for more than I am risking as a Libertarian myself. However, let’s face facts and acknowledge that the fight against the Second Amendment is a losing battle. With more guns in American hands than there are individual Americans, and with a clear and unambiguous Constitutional Amendment telling us firearm ownership is our natural right, guns are not going anywhere. Let’s come to terms with reality and meet in the middle to better guarantee enthusiastic support from each of our bases.
Surely, some Green and some Libertarian individuals would be unable to stomach a vote for the other side. However, this may not be a total loss. With the Libertarian-Green strategy in place, Republican and Democratic candidates may be forced to alter their positions to accommodate third party hopefuls. While in a normal year, Democrats would expect to get a large share of disgruntled Greens, and Republicans would feel the same about Libertarians, the major parties would know that they’ll have to earn their votes instead of playing the lesser-of-two-evils game. Third party hopefuls would have a cause and motivation. The major parties would not be less able to rely on cynicism.
Popularizing the big three issues Libertarians and Greens align on could go a long way in influencing the two major parties in general. As we grow our bases, Republicans and Democrats will have to change to market themselves to us. And why prioritize a divisive issue like taxes or healthcare when they could appeal to us as a monolith by saying they’ll legalize weed?
This plan is not foolproof by any stretch of the imagination, and dissenters would be quick to frame one side as exploiting the other. But with zero representation in congress, what exactly do we have to lose?