By now most people are fairly well-versed in the presidential race. With Donald Trump and Ted Cruz fighting over what remains of the GOP, while Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders fight over the soul of the Democratic Party, the Libertarians are hoping to step in and make a move by picking up disaffected voters. Both the #nevertrump and the #bernieorbust movements seem like prime ground for the Libertarians to grab a few, but it seems that there is a similar division growing within the party that has shown itself to be the true moderate choice.
When many people think of Libertarians, they picture survivalist wackos living in the woods, looking to overthrow of all forms of government. To be sure, there are many of those within the movement, but there are also anarchist-leaning sects within other parties, as well. In reality, the Libertarian movement is just as diverse as any other, with moderate Libertarians and extremists alike.
The moderate wing of the party is by far the largest. They prefer less government involvement in the lives of citizens and local control over most issues. They often want to have a smaller American footprint outside of the United States. They are pro equal rights for the LGBTQ community, so long as it doesn’t come at the expense of someone else’s religious freedoms, pro legalization of marijuana and fiscally conservative. And while they may be pro-life or pro-choice on a personal level, but they would never dream of telling you what to believe on this issue, preferring to leave the option in the hands of the individuals involved. This moderate wing is perhaps best represented by Gary Johnson, the former Republican Governor of New Mexico.
On the other hand, you have the somewhat more anarchic wing of the party. This group is known by their mantra of “all taxation is theft,” and they believe that the government should have very little role, if any, in the lives of its citizens. This group is often made up of conspiracy theorists and those who don’t believe in voting, thus silencing their own voices in a “cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-own-face” move. They are best represented by the likes of John McAfee, founder of the antivirus software of the same name and former fugitive.
To be sure, there are many other Libertarians with various viewpoints, but these are by far the two largest groups within the party. Gary Johnson is almost certain to get the nomination for the general election run, and one would expect those of the other camps within the party to support him. But John McAfee says not so fast in a Facebook post last week.
“A rumor has spread that if I do not get the Libertarian nomination I will abandon the party. Totally untrue. What I said was that I would completely support any candidate running with the single exception of Gary Johnson. If Johnson does get the nomination then it is clear that I misjudged the party and I do not belong here. Nothing and no one will change my mind on this.”
The statement took many by surprise, especially after two were friendly during recent debates– even exchanging a kiss on the cheek during the first half. But McAfee likely sees Johnson not only as too moderate, but as something of an insider and not a “true” Libertarian. This “all or nothing” attitude highlights the biggest internal problem with the Libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party, and why it has never been able to get a foothold among the general populace.
In nearly every discussion, you will see naysayers arguing over who is the “true” libertarian, grappling with each other over who is the most qualified to hold that label. They reject any who do not have absolute ideological purity — a hypocritical position to take for a movement that claims to put emphasis on individual decision making and liberty.
While 19 percent of Americans consider themselves Libertarians, the party has had a hard time getting more than 1-2 percent of the vote in each presidential election. While some of this is certainly attributable to the loaded system that favors keeping an oligarchal two-party system in power, much of it can be traced to Libertarians who feel as though they do not belong in a movement where so many followers preach a strict adherence to a philosophy. The constant bickering and refrain of “more Libertarian than thou” can certainly be a turnoff to those looking for a political home.
McAfee is now taking the same whiny, foot-stomping approach that has come to epitomize Bernie Bros and Trump supporters: My way or the highway. Rejecting the longstanding philosophy that, in order to win the White House, a party must have a big tent to attract voters from across the aisle, plus unaffiliated and swing voters. If you go on the internet, you will see nothing but Sanders supporters on your Facebook wall and favorable coverage. The same goes for Trump, but nobody really believes that this bloviating buffoon represents even a sizable plurality, let alone a majority, of American viewpoints. The likelihood that either of them will ever sit in the Oval Office, or even get their parties’ respective nominations, are slim at best.
So while the Libertarians have their best chance in generations to influence the election and be taken seriously as an alternative to the cesspools that the GOP and Democratic Parties have become, McAfee will ruin it. He’s seeking to sow the seeds of discontent and repeat the cycle of self-destruction that the Libertarians are known for.