The traveling circus that is the Libertarian party has never gotten anywhere. The party’s nominees never reached the stunning heights of John Anderson and Ross Perot. In fact only once did they get over 1% of the vote, when in 1980 they ran the pacifist, anti-Reagan Ed Clark with billionaire libertarian David Koch (yes, that Koch).
That could change this year if angry conservatives vote for Gary Johnson over Donald Trump. Here’s one reason that’s a good idea.
The reason to vote Libertarian is to try to create headaches and spoiler effects for the Republicans of Trump for years to come.
I’ve said in the past that it’s a terrible idea to vote Libertarian as a principled protest vote, and so I’d never vote for him. But I’m going to have to go back and say I was wrong, for one very important reason: The FEC.
While no Republican candidate would ever match the billions in free media Donald Trump got this primary cycle, situations like that are rare cases. Having sufficient money to get your message out, and to tell people that you’re a credible candidate, is a huge deal for most candidates. For third party candidates, matching funds from the FEC are a treasured source of money, but the holy grail for them is to get outright public funding.
But only one third party has ever managed to get that money. Ross Perot’s Reform Party received that money, and it resulted in the election of a governor: Jesse Ventura of Minnesota. The Reform party got there because Ross Perot was twice able to achieve what the ‘main’ third parties never did: 5% of the vote in a Presidential election.
Additionally, reaching key vote thresholds in various states will give a third party ballot access advantages in the years after. Ballot access continues to be a problem for every third party, even the Libertarians. For 2016 the Libertarians are currently not on the ballot in 18 states as of this writing, though they have the “process underway” in five states.
If Gary Johnson were to hit 5% or more, he would give the Libertarian Party the best electoral situation they’ve ever had. Angry conservatives can get him there, in position to spoil races for Republicans for years to come. So that in itself is one good reason to vote Gary Johnson: to spoil races for the Party of Trump.