By: Elias J. Atienza
There is heavy speculation that Austin Petersen might run for Senate in 2018 against incumbent Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in his home state of Missouri. While he has refused to put anything on the table, saying that he will decide on a run in June, it is interesting to see which party he will choose, if he decides to run at all. It will also be interesting to see how the Libertarian and Republican Parties will react to his decision.
For those who argue that he should run under the Libertarian Party, it is because of a belief that the party is the best tool for spreading liberty. Despite a less than stellar performance in the 2016 election, where expectations went from possibly winning the election to not reaching the goal of five percent, the LP is still doing better than ever.
They got ballot access in almost 40 states, and received more votes than anytime in their history. Registration has increased dramatically and as National Party Chairman Nicholas Sarwark explained in an interview with The Libertarian Republic, the party has over half a million registered voters for the first time in their history.
In addition, it would continue the fight against the two main parties that have control over the Congress if Petersen managed to win a Senate race under the LP. It would break duopoly’s stranglehold of American politics. The Republican Party has not managed to lower spending, deregulate, or reform government; they have contributed to these problems and a new voice such as Petersen as a member of the Libertarian Party would be welcomed.
Petersen has received support from libertarian figures such as Larry Sharpe, the second place vice presidential candidate in the LP Convention, to stay within the party. He also received pushback from other figures like Adam Kokesh, who ironically ran as a Republican in New Mexico and lost by over 40 percent, and is gearing up for his own presidential run in 2020.
This quote by libertarian Tom Arnold summarizes the position that Austin should run for Senate as a member of the Libertarian Party.
“I am a libertarian, believing in the principles of individual sovereignty, and free markets, and that the State works to the detriment of both. I am also Libertarian, believing that that party is the best vehicle with which to promote those principles. As such I will continue to stay the course to achieve the goals of both the principles and the party.”
But there is support coming from the Republican Party as well. The Republican Liberty Caucus, which supports libertarian and libertarian-leaning Republicans such as Rand Paul and Justin Amash, has voiced their support for Petersen to run as a Republican.
These supporters of #AP4GOP believe that the Republican Party is the best vehicle for spreading liberty. After all, Rand Paul, Justin Amash, and Thomas Massie are all libertarians or libertarian-leaning and they have been elected to the House and Senate respectively. These figures have done much more to advance libertarian ideas than the entire Libertarian Party due to their status. This is not a swipe at the LP, it is just the truth.
The LP didn’t nearly defund the NSA; that was Justin Amash. The LP didn’t shut down the Patriot Act; that was Rand Paul. The LP has not managed to get Audit the Fed nearly passed and with the support of the majority of the Senate and the President-Elect. And it is Rand Paul’s Obamacare replacement plan that will be voted on by the Senate.
Ron Paul, the Libertarian Party presidential nominee in 1988, moved to the Republican Party because he believed it was a better vehicle for spreading libertarian ideals. The Ron Paul movement has since spread and evolved into something more than just Ron Paul and his immediate family; his influence is seen in some of Donald Trump’s positions as well, along with the widespread knowledge about the liberty movement.
As Chris Dixon writes in The Liberty Conservative:
At this point, like Petersen himself likely did, his supporters should question the future. Are libertarian principles best advanced in the Libertarian Party with its new left-moderate direction or in the Republican Party, with at least a few federal legislators who can lean in the right direction and win elections?
Of course, Petersen can always run as a Republican and switch to the Libertarian Party if he wins. This is how the LP has the few state legislative seats they had in 2016, before Nebraska State Senator Laura Ebke became the only one.
My own view is that Petersen should run in 2018 against McCaskill. Whatever party he decides, whether it is Libertarian or Republican, he must do the best he can. After all, this is the man who came out of virtually nowhere and became the LP’s second place presidential vote getter; the man who ran the “campaign of the future” and received endorsements from big names in politics like Erick Erickson and Mary Matalin.
Whatever happens, let’s just hope that Petersen runs in 2018. We need more libertarians in the House, the Senate, and, God willing, maybe the White House one day.