Libertarianism has been around for quite some time, being first identified under the vast umbrella of classical liberalism during the Enlightenment in Europe and North America. Ideas proposed by Adam Smith among other liberty-minded philosophers of the time were adopted in small parts by each major American political party from 1797 onward. Democrats, Whigs, Federalists, Democratic Republicans, and Republicans all adopted some beliefs of classical liberalism, however those beliefs were phased out of the main party platforms in favor of a more populist and security-oriented set of beliefs. Effectively, following the development of increasingly interventionist foreign policies and increasing instability domestically, the concept of civil liberties among other classically liberal policies began to vanish. Out of the ashes rose a phoenix, though, and in 1971, a small accumulation of like-minded socially liberal and economically conservatives met in Dallas, Texas, at the first Libertarian National Convention. Though this first gathering could be considered small and insignificant, it had tremendous impact on the political landscape, especially in the 2016 electoral campaign. Guest speakers included Milton Friedman, arguably the most recognizable and decorated economist of the 20th century, who also happens to have been a staunch advocate for Libertarian trade policies.
In 2016, the Libertarian candidate running versus Donald Trump (R) and Hillary Clinton (D) was former Republican governor of New Mexico and former Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who had gained mild traction in the 2012 presidential election garnering 1% of the vote. In 2016, Johnson, a Libertarian since the early 2000s, launched a massive 50-state campaign, gaining several millions of dollars in donations, tens of thousands of volunteers, and topping 15% in some state-by-state polling. Unfortunately, when it came to election day, Johnson only was able to obtain 3% of the popular vote. Still, though, the Johnson campaign has been seen as a turning point for American politics. No longer are the two parties satisfying enough of the population to receive the support of the voters, nor are their policies acceptable to voters from across the political spectrum.
Current President Donald Trump seems to have given himself a mandate to lead, and has claimed that he is the result of a true political revolution. In fact, he is, but for the same reasons that the Libertarian party was so successful in the last election. Americans have become tired of the continuation of failed and inactive policies by both democrats and Republicans, and were waiting for a voice to rise from the crowd to create tangible change in America. While President Trump was the louder voice, Governor Johnson had the more genuine message that he was trying to get to the American people. “Live Free” was his campaign slogan, and the vast majority of his policies fell in line with the libertarian concept of expanding the liberties of each individual in America. Americans were tired of the stagnated policies of indifference toward their own struggles, and Johnson served as a refuge for those who felt similar. Johnson served as a beacon for those who wished to challenge the legitimacy of the flawed democratic system in the United States. Many have claimed that Gary Johnson’s campaign served as nothing more than a way for protest voters to get their voice heard. While that may be true for some, it certainly speaks volumes that Governor Johnson garnered 4.5 million votes against the two major parties, even if they were all protest votes.
The Libertarian party serves as a refuge for those who wish to stand against a system so swamped in the obstruction and dissolution of liberties that it no longer resembles its former glory. Both parties see themselves in the White House expanding the size and scope of government, and continuing to centralize power around one single executive instead of maintaining power with the people by way of the Congress. Through their platform, the Libertarian Party reaffirms to their constituents, members, and observers these principles of liberty and reaffirms their promise to continue to fight for the preservation of liberty.