On July 4th Former Libertarian Party Presidental candidate Austin Petersen declared his run for the U.S. Senate in his home state of Missouri. But this time he declared he would be running not as a Libertarian but as a Republican. Just like former Libertarian Presidental Candidate, Ron Paul did when he returned to politics in the 1990s to run for Congress. I both cases I can guess many in the LP (Libertarian Party) were annoyed, hurt and downright angry at their decisions but they were the right ones.
In an Op-ed in the Kansas City Star Petersen said running as a Republican is ” the best way to bring change to Washington”. Austin Petersen is in this race to win not for vanity, not for Facebook likes but to change policy. Petersen has stated his race is about principles, not party. As long as the Senate candidate’s principles don’t change then there is nothing to worry about. A party is just a platform and has little actual importance outside of winning which Petersen is planning (unlike most Libertarians Party Candiates) to do. With that said here are three quick reasons why Austin Petersen was right to run as a Republican and why you are wrong if you are complaining about it.
1. Austin Petersen Can Win As A Republican
The founder of the conservative Leadership Institute Morton Blackwell has been quoted saying “you owe it to your philosophy to win”. So with that said Petersen and us owe it to our philosophy to do whatever is morally acceptable and legal to win. As long as you believe in putting your principles over your party then switching parties is both morally acceptable and obviously legal.
Not everyone cares as much about politics as myself (someone writing an article about a liberty minded candidate) and you (reading an article about a liberty minded candidate). So with that said the party structure is an easy way for people to identify who they agree with without spending tons of time researching candidates. At the end of the day regardless of what you think people understand in general Republicans are for less government and Democrats are for more. If Austin ran as a Libertarian he would be missing out on a huge swath of Republicans that would have voted for him but simply could not understand his platform. Or did not want to “waste” their vote.
While many reading this article will argue there is no such thing as a wasted vote there most certainly tends to be. In a contested election between 3 major parties, the 3rd party will most certainly draw from it’s closest ideological rival. Evidence comes from the 2016 election where Bill Weld told reporters that 75% of his and Gary Johnson’s voters would have voted for Trump. Likewise, most of the Libertarian tickets voters they could have picked up would have been from the far-right as in liberty minded Republicans and constitutional conservatives. If Petersen would run as a Libertarian he would be guaranteed the nod, however, he would the one “stealing” or “wasting” votes. It would be very unlikely he would get the coverage to become the #1 vote getter of conservative/libertarian votes. Even if he did in that scenario it is likely Petersen and the other Republican would have split the vote so much Claire McCaskill would win her 3rd term.
With Austin running as a Republican this whole dynamic goes out the window. No longer will Austin be viewed as stealing votes but now if he wins the nomination any establishment candidate who runs as an independent will be viewed as stealing votes from him. Just like how many Republicans may have preferred Evan McMullin to Donald Trump they ended up voting for our current President because he was on the ticket. Likewise, many establishment Republicans only funded, supported and volunteered for Trump because he was the nominee. If Austin Petersen becomes the nominee for this important Senate Race he will be getting special funding, volunteers and free news coverage he would have never gotten as a Libertarian. In addition, there will be a very little chance that he splits the vote. No Libertarian would run against Petersen because they will all most likely be supporting him.
Chances are very high if Ron Paul had the kind of crowded field like Donald Trump did in his election he would be in his second term right now. In politics in order to exercise your principles, you actually have to win. Ron Paul ran as a Republican for his congressional runs and later his Presidental runs because he knew that. Now Austin Petersen is running as a Republican for the same reason, he understands the automatic advantages Republicans have and obviously, his base does too. Petersen said 98% of his base (including Libertarians, Democrats, and Republicans) all said he should run as a Republican.
2.Austin Petersen Can Help Transform The GOP
Just like how Ron Paul fundamentally altered the Republican Party from a centrist party to the Tea Party right leaning party we have today you can expect Austin Petersen to do the same. If not for Ron Paul in the 2008 election pushing Republicans further north towards libertarianism then you could expect the Republican party to be much more Democrat lite than it currently is. With Petersen within the Republican Party, I honestly believe you will see major policy shifts.
Austin Petersen is very young (politically speaking), only 37. If Austin Petersen is elected even with term limits passed he would be serving two terms in the Senate, that is 12 years folks. Imagine having a literal libertarian exposing the principles of liberty within the Republican party for that long. Imagine him speaking at College Republican groups and hiring libertarians who would grow up to be fellow congressmen, media personalities, and Republican bureaucrats. A Senator Austin Petersen would along with Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ben Sasse, Ted Cruz and the whole liberty caucus push the Republican party further towards liberty. Now some of my libertarian readership might be mad about Ted Cruz being on that list but imagine a world where Ted Cruz was the establishment. I think that would be a good world seeing as Constatutional Conservatives and Libertarians agree on about 90%.
3.The Libertarian Party Is Not Ready For The Big Leagues
Let’s face it The Libertarian Party is not a grown up organization. The Libertarian Party who had the biggest opportunity of quite possibly any 3rd party political organization in history got 3-4% nationally with Gary Johnson who is the only 2016 candidate to run a worse campaign than Hillary Clinton.
Well known good guy, friend to all libertarians and great photographer (thanks for the photo) Judd Weiss exposed that the Johnson campaign was nothing more than a money-laundering front for Gary Johnson to pay Ron Neilson over 1 million dollars annually to run a failing 3rd party campaign. At one point Libertarians polled over 11% and were thought to be a shoe-in for the debates, then Gary opened his mouth. Like I’ve said before I don’t blame Gary for not knowing where Aleppo is, I blame him and his media people for him being stupid enough to admit it. At that point he had effectively been running for president for nearly 4 years. You think he’d freaking learn how to maneuver around a question he didn’t understand. Worst of all this the Libertarian Party celebrated the fact they won little over 3% nationally! That is a failure on massive scales.
While Gary Johnson was failing on a nationwide scale you gotta wonder “are there Libertarians anywhere that could have won an election?”. Well yes, there were. In Alaska Joe Miller a strong conservative Alaskan put up a good challenge to liberal Alaska Senator Lisa Muroski in which he only lost by 14%, however, was outspent by over $3,000,000.
It makes you wonder if The Libertarian Party had not spent over $1,000,000 on a crappy campaign manager and instead on a worthwhile candidate in Alaska then the Libertarian Party would most likely have a Libertarian Senator right now. But that is another article for another time.
To conclude Austin Petersen wasn’t the first Libertarian Party member that left the party to actually win elections, Ron Paul pioneered the way on that front. It was not only a good idea but a great idea for both men to leave. If we left liberty solely to the Libertarian Party it would be dead. We would have no elected libertarians and we would have a much more moderate Republican Party. Libertarians are not only rejuvenating the Republican Party but they are re-engineering it into a Party of liberty. If any Conservatarians wish to actually get elected, create change and help America that is (currently) done through the Republican Party.
Austin you did the right thing, just like Ron Paul.