The Libertarian Party is probably the best known third party in the United States. Its most prominent figure, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, is running for the Senate and helping to draw attention to the liberty-loving organization. We spoke to two Libertarian candidates in Colorado to get a snapshot of what the party means today. This article is part of a series on the midterm elections.
Roger Barris is running in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional district. This solid blue district is home to Representative Jared Polis, who is running for governor. Joe Neguse is a near certainty to succeed him, with Republican Peter Yu trailing.
“My number one priority will be to return the Federal government to its proper, and limited, role,” Barris says. “Specifically, I will strictly adhere to the Constitution, meaning that decision-making in a great many spheres will be returned to its proper position in state and local governments and decision-making within the Federal government will be returned to its proper position in Congress.”
“There is plenty of polling evidence that Americans want a real third party alternative (over 60% of Americans in the latest Gallup poll) and that this alternative is libertarian in its leaning, with the largest single grouping of voters falling into the minimal government/fiscally conservative/socially liberal camp.”
“I believe that the current administration is accelerating this process,” Barris says. “First, it is making clear that the ‘small government/fiscally responsible’ rhetoric of the Republican Party is totally hollow. Second, the reaction of the Democratic [Party] become even more extreme in its adulation of big government and social engineering. This is leaving an enormous gap in the political landscape for a party that espouses the type of small-government, constitutional policies of the Libertarian Party.”
Barris thinks the current situation is reminiscent of the 1850s, the decade that preceded the Civil War. He thinks it’s time for the media to sit up and pay attention to the Libertarian alternative.
“This increasing divisiveness is beneficial for the Libertarian Party since it heightens the sense of crisis which is probably necessary for a radical change to our political landscape,” Barris says.
“As the old parties shrink – and they are shrinking – they increasingly play to their extreme bases. This gives the Libertarian Party the opportunity to claim the high ground as the party of sanity and practical and principled solutions. We have seen this at work in Nebraska where Senator Laura Ebke, who converted to Libertarian from Republican, has been able to achieve important legislative changes on a bipartisan basis precisely because she is not a member of the warring tribes.”
Eric Mulder is running for sheriff in Colorado’s Arapahoe County. Down ballot races like his are essential if the Libertarian Party is to make a serious challenge to the established parties, but that doesn’t make them any easier.
“I am running because Jeff Sessions has exerted a disconcerting amount of influence over local peace keeping agencies, demanding more civil asset forfeiture, an escalation of the failed war on drugs, and increasing the number of persons being incarcerated in jails,” Mulder says. “Our incumbent has demonstrated an unacceptable willingness to infringe upon individual freedoms, has proven to be uninterested in standing up to infringement of our freedoms by federal agencies, all while marching in lock step with his political party’s agenda claiming to be a ‘non-partisan’ sheriff.”
That incumbent is Republican David Walcher. His Democratic opponent is Tyler Brown, who lost to Walcher in 2014.
“There is growing resentment towards the status quo in Colorado,” Mulder says. “Both major parties have sacrificed key tenants of their platforms in pursuit of the elusive ‘unaffiliated’ vote. As Libertarians, we have the capacity to provide an alternative to this by fielding candidates who campaign on their actions and principles.”
“Even when we do not win elections we succeed when our candidates engage their prospective constituents, which is the best way to change perceptions about Libertarians while bringing our message of individual freedom directly to our communities.”
“One of the biggest advantages Libertarians posses is that key tenants of our platform resonate with a wide variety of individuals,” he says. “Though we are not a centrist party, Democrats, Republicans, and independents are receptive to several of our ideals relating to individual freedom.”
This may not be the year of the Libertarians, but if Barris and Mulder are anything to go by, the party that signs its emails ‘In Liberty’ is going to keep on fighting.