The term “liberal” means something completely different in America and Europe. Anyone in the USA who refers to a “liberal” is referring to someone on the left of the political spectrum. The political ground occupied in Germany and Europe by liberals is the same soil that America’s libertarians call their own. And just a few days ago the party nominated Gary Johnson as its presidential candidate.
The party’s annual convention saw sharp criticism of Donald Trump. Johnson referred to Trump’s proposals to deport eleven million illegal immigrants as, “just racist”. He also criticized Trump’s position toward international free trade agreements.
The Libertarian Party is the only “third party” whose presidential candidate will appear on the ballot in each of the country’s 50 federal states. Most opinion polls, however, only ever ask about Democrat and Republican candidates. Nevertheless, a recently published poll did include an option for the Libertarian candidate, and Johnson gained 10 percent of intended votes. 42 percent of respondents said they would vote for Trump and 39 percent are backing Clinton.
Despite his support in this poll, there is no indication that Johnson will actually receive 10 percent of the votes on election day. A result of that sort is more than just highly unlikely. In the 2012 election just one percent of the electorate cast their votes for the Libertarian’s presidential candidate. On the other hand, the party has certainly gained as a direct result of the widespread unpopularity of both Trump and Clinton. In another recent poll, 44 percent of registered voters said they would welcome a third presidential candidate as an alternative to Clinton and Trump.
Libertarians trace their lineage to 19th century classical liberalism – to figures such as Friedrichs August von Hayek. Whichever way you look at it, their program is radically liberal. Johnson wants to abolish federal income tax, corporation tax and capital gains tax, replacing them with a 23% tax on “all non-essential goods”. The former Republican governor of New Mexico can at least point to a record in office that included 14 tax decreases between 1995 and 2003, and not a single tax increase.
Libertarians are also vocal proponents of civil liberties: They are commited supporters of legal marijuana and same sex marriage. While they are closer to Democrats on questions of civil liberties, their economic and financial policies are much more closely aligned with Republicans.
In relation to foreign policy they steer a strictly non-interventionist course. They opposed both the war in Afghanistan and military action in Lybia. Johnson has even gone as far as calling for the United State’s to cut military spending by 43 percent.
Although the party is not going to play a decisive role in the upcoming presidential elections, it could certainly steal a few votes from Republicans in a number of states. If the outcome of the 2016 presidential election is tight, the Libertarian party could well have an influence on the ultimate result.