The presidential primary campaign is over for Republicans and for all intents and purposes ditto for Democrats. Whoa, there is a third party to consider! Enter Ex-Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson on the Libertarian Party ticket. The Republican primary voters just reformed their party into a more centrist party so there will be some angry libertarian-leaning Republicans who may find a new home. To explain this, I need to go back in time a bit.
Some of you may recall back in the 80’s and 90’s that the Libertarian Party ran candidates in some western states. I draw on my memories in Colorado and from what I can tell much of the same happened here in Nevada. Back then economic libertarians ran candidates in local elections and occasionally drew enough votes to elect a Democrat. In Colorado they would draw 4-5% of the votes, all from Republicans.
In the 2000’s, libertarians decided this was not a good strategy so they decided to infiltrate the Republican Party and ran candidates as Republicans. They had remarkable success electing many libertarian-leaning Republicans to office as well as electing party officials that leaned libertarian on economics.
This was easy to do in Colorado since it was a caucus state and a small minority could take over the Republican caucuses since they were so poorly attended. They had remarkable success with this strategy peaking with the rise of Ron Paul and finally ending with the recent failure of Ted Cruz.
Their bubble burst when lack of job creation caused voters to step in and send a strong message with their primary votes. They demanded a solution to our loss of manufacturing jobs and the inevitable collapse of the middle class. This is what fueled the Sanders/Trump phenomenon.
Economic libertarians believed that the market would correct the mercantilism of foreign nations when those nations ignored the new trade agreements and WTO rules. Well, it’s been more than a quarter century and the markets haven’t adjusted for the government interventions with these particular trading partners. American voters finally had enough of these flawed policies.
Along come Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders saying we need to balance our trade using the same solutions Reagan used in the 80’s to bring Japan back in line. They surged in the polls with amazing strength and speed. Bernie’s revolt will probably fall short but “The Donald” is very likely to beat Hillary because of her 25 year support for the laissez faire trade policy Bill and Hillary put in place and George Bush implemented.
Trump’s and Sander’s voters share their view on jobs and trade policy and taken together they could well outnumber either of the traditional parties. In other words, these voters will determine who the next president will be. Economic libertarians could reconstitute the Libertarian Party under Gary Johnson. So, there is already a de facto “third party.” I suspect some of the very conservative (libertarian-leaning) Republican voters will end up here. Ditto some of Bernie’s supporters for different reasons. Currently, the polls show Johnson is taking voters from both R’s and D’s equally and is polling at 10%. History tells us that the Libertarian candidate will end up with slightly more than 5% of the national vote.
So, now we have more transparency in our presidential candidates and more historically accurate party definitions:
- We have a right of center party for Republicans
- We have a left of center party for Democrats
- We have a party for the far-left (social) and far right (economic) for Libertarians.
Will Hillary be able to convince enough Democratic voters that her past support of laissez faire trade is behind her and she will now support Reagan-style “fair trade?” I assume many Democrats will forget this unless someone (think Trump) reminds them.
Another question is, how many economic libertarians registered as Republican, will vote Libertarian this November? Will the new voters coming into the Republican Party out-number those who might leave? How successful will Trump be in putting the old Reagan coalition together?
How many of Bernie’s true believers regarding trade policy (Reagan Democrats), will vote for Trump? I believe there will be a substantial number that will easily overwhelm the losses on the far right. These voters used to have manufacturing jobs that paid them a living wage and there are millions of them. Almost every American knows a person who lost their job or business due to outsourcing of U.S. production and these are all potential new Trump voters.
At least now the Republican and Libertarian Parties represent their natural constituents. This should make it easier for the American voter to vote for the person/party that most closely matches their own beliefs. Whether you hold center-right or center- left views there’s a place for you. If you are socially liberal and economically conservative, there’s a place for you too. If you are a pure socialist or an economic (only) libertarian, you may have to hold your nose when you vote.
If “Make America Great Again” Trump defeats “Globalist Hillary” and he doesn’t compromise on the main reason voters gave him this opportunity, he can be the first president since Reagan to move our nation towards balanced trade, rebuild the middle class and restore the American Dream.
Frank Shannon served in the U.S. Army, was an engineering/operations manager for AT&T for 27 years, was the owner of a small manufacturing business for 23 years, served as Colorado Chair of the Coalition for a Prosperous America and moved to Mesquite in 2013.