The Libertarian Party: Past, Present & Future

By Brandon Mioduszewski
August 10, 2019

While you may have studied the rich histories behind the American Democratic and Republican parties in high school, you probably aren’t familiar with the roots of the Libertarians. Like all great things (reality T.V. show binge watches and cutthroat Monopoly games), the party was founded in a living room in 1971. The living room in question belonged to David Nolan.

Nolan was the founder of the Libertarian Party. As a youth, he was heavily politically involved, especially on the campaign of Republican Barry Goldwater during his college years at MIT. Although he always held Libertarian ideals, he never fully understood what party to fit into. Although he often worked with conservatives politically, he sided with liberals on issues regarding personal freedoms. This pushed him to eventually create the Libertarian party that we know today.

Nolan was most famous for the creation of his political quiz and compass – the Nolan Chart. Dividing into four political subgroups of Left Liberal, Right Conservative, Libertarian, and Authoritarian, he was praised on the chart’s innovation. This chart continues to be referenced in both college and high school education today.

The Libertarian Party has seen tremendous growth over time. Even near the party’s infancy in 1976, they were able to attain 100,000 votes nationally during the presidential election. Following steady growth, by 1992 the party was on the presidential ballot in all 50 states for the first time in party history. Furthermore, the party has attracted eccentric and famous figures such as Julian Assange and John McAfee.

Recently, the party has seen explosive success. According to the 2018 edition of Ballot Access News, “the number of U.S. voters registered as Libertarian has surged by 92 percent since 2008.”  It is the fastest growing third party in the United States, effectively peeling voters from both the Democratic and Republican sides.

Looking ahead to 2020, three serious Libertarian candidates have emerged. Max Abrahamson, Dan “Taxation Is Theft” Behrman, Adam Kokesh, Kim Ruff, and Arvin Vohra have all announced their candidacy for 2020. With this mixed bag, it is unclear who will come out on top – however, it is notable that Gary Johnson is not on the podium during this presidential cycle.

Many Libertarians look upon this negatively. When Johnson ran in 2012, he accumulated nearly 1% of the popular vote. In his 2016 run, this percentage was 3.28%. Why would he stop this momentum? In my opinion, this is a positive. The Libertarian Party cannot turn into the party of Gary Johnson, or any one representative for that matter. A variety of representation ensures new perspectives and new audiences to bridge towards.

Taking all of the recent growth into account, the party should be excited to see the few years play out – who knows where we’ll be in 2029.

Works Cited & Further Reading