As someone guided by the ways of science—my holy grail is the Scientific Method—I try to stay focused on realistic probabilities of what’s achievable. This carries over into my libertarian candidacy for California Governor, and while I’d like to win in 2018, I know it’s all but impossible.
Some libertarians are angry that I publicly admit I won’t win. But this is the quintessential problem with the Libertarian Party—many members I’ve met are unrealistic. After a year of attending conferences, executive committee meetings, and party functions, I’ve come to realize a significant number of libertarians seem downright delusional when it comes to politics.
It’s really not surprising libertarians almost never do well in elections. Most libertarian candidates have little public standing, resources, or professional acumen. What pains me is despite this, many in the Libertarian Party will incessantly and often belligerently shout from the rooftops how we are going to win our political races—and how current government and its institutions are appalling and blatantly abusive. They insist that “taxation is theft,” or forcing people to get drivers licenses is oppressive, or not being allowed to have an armed tank parked in one’s front yard is proof Americans live under a tyrannical government.
I notice many libertarians—especially the loudest ones—don’t have much education, managerial experience, or money. I suspect they don’t realize what it’s like to own a half-million dollar home with a mortgage, and then have one’s neighbor park an armed tank on the front lot, reducing the neighborhood’s entire value. I’m not against people owning tanks, but America did not become the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world through such antics. Freedom is one thing—disregard for basic neighborly cooperation and social precedent is another. This is a major problem with libertarians. They are often so fringe, they hardly know how to get along with each other, let alone the general public. Ironically, it’s very rare to meet a libertarian who actually thinks another libertarian is “libertarian” enough.
Beyond many libertarians’ obsessiveness on all matters of freedom lies a far more ineffective way of being. The Libertarian Party prides itself on being the “The Party of Principle”—and its members act so much upon that idea that while their biggest aim is freedom, they have unwittingly become a highly closed-minded political group. Many libertarians actually believe their ideas are perfect—and their policies cannot be compromised or altered. As a result, there is little change possible in their platforms. Those platforms have, after almost 50 years of being a political party, done almost nothing for them in terms of the one thing that matters: winning elections to cause change in their worlds. Libertarians hold no governorships or seats in the US Congress, despite being the 3rd largest party in America.
Politics is a contact sport that is always changing. To win, you need to evolve, adapt, and sometimes set out anew. The libertarians seem to want nothing of this. Despite growing inequality, increased dependence on the government, and jobs being threatened by technology, they insist nothing should be done that adjusts the libertarian philosophical status quo. They insist they already have all the answers. And for some, those answers are a complete reset of the government, or even disbanding Federal institutions entirely—despite the practical impossibility of such things because of the structure of Congress and the other branches of US government.
It’s for this reason, that big ticket donors or major media pays little or no attention to libertarians. As a former National Geographic journalist and correspondent for The New York Times, it’s easy to see why libertarians are rarely covered. This point was made abundantly clear to me when Larry Sharpe, a well-liked figure in the Libertarian Party, all but endorsed another libertarian candidate for governor in California, Nickolas Wildstar. Multiple candidates running for the same office within the same party are a fact of life, but when Sharpe jubilantly pointed to Wildstar at a recent public event and said: “There is a future for California that is not the same old thing…it’s this man right here…Wildstar is the right answer for the future of this state,” I had to do a double take and roll my eyes.
California is the world’s 6th largest economy with nearly 40 million residents. More billionaires live here than any other territory in the world. Its universities boast one of the highest amount of Nobel prize winners anywhere. According to Wildstar’s campaign biography, he hasn’t even been to college. He also doesn’t list any notable business experience, executive leadership history, or credible political qualifications. Apparently, Mr. Wildstar, an unknown rapper with a tiny social media presence, simply woke up one day and wanted to become governor of America’s most populated state. It’s simply unimaginable that libertarians could expect to be taken realistically by the public when they support candidates who aren’t qualified to run for minor office, let alone the most important and powerful job in California.
It’s this kind of unreasonableness, being spread from the top of the Libertarian Party all the way down to an army of anarchist trolls on Facebook, that has made it the laughing stock of politics. In order for libertarians to be taken seriously, and possibly win some elections someday, they must ban together and get a hold on reality. They must not accept just any candidate reciting the party line who decides one day they want to lead multi-trillion dollar economies and tens of millions of citizens.
Nickolas Sarawak, Chairman of the Libertarian Party, has the well-wishing goal of running 2000 libertarian candidates in the upcoming 2018 elections. But I fear this strategy will only highlight one thing if the candidates are not qualified or reputable: that the Libertarian Party has no interest in ever challenging the Democrat and GOP duopoly in a meaningful way. I would much rather see the Libertarian Party focus on 100 good candidates across the nation that are important enough to make the news regularly and could possibly impact their respective races.
The Libertarian Party seems to think it matters that there is a libertarian candidate to check-off on in every election. They believe it’s good name recognition to be on every ballot—even the smallest political race across the country. Obviously, that’s correct to a degree, but far more important is to get a few dozen good candidates across the nation whose public personas stretch far outside the libertarian base, so as to actually help enlarge the party and is goals. For this, those candidates must be reputable public figures with standout resumes, able to actually be seen by the public and media as possible and capable high office holders.
In its quest to protect the freedom of Americans and reduce the size of the government, libertarians have forgotten a core part about politics: being liked. I sometimes call up libertarians on the phone, and when they don’t recognize my number, they often answer hostilely: “Who is this? How did you get my damn number?”
This is not the way libertarians are going to win elections, by being socially inept or cantankerous—or by being dreamers. Libertarians will win by pushing forth ideas of limited government and personal freedom with behavior that’s more professional and likeable then the Democrats and the Republicans. Libertarians should take a hard look at how diplomacy works, and why the art of friendliness and compromise is often the best platform for building new relationships and winning elections. Libertarians should also come down to Earth with their expectations—and focus on what they can actually accomplish in politics. Otherwise, the Libertarian Party will soon turn 50, and another tiring half century will follow of indefinite losses and ridicule.
Zoltan Istvan is a futurist, author of The Transhumanist Wager, and libertarian candidate for California Governor.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.