by Jacob Nestle
There have been plenty of explanations bandied about why Gary Johnson under-performed his polling numbers so badly in the election, even though he did manage to absolutely smash the Libertarian Party record. Heck, he even got blamed for Trump’s win. That’s not what I’m going to talk about.
Dozens of people just among my own personal circles are annoyed that he didn’t do better. Not just at Gary, either. That’s definitely part of it. The more die-hard members of the liberty movement are almost angry. 2016 was our big chance, they say. But Johnson/Weld blew it. It’s not enough for a lot of people to look at just what Weld did. Aleppogate wasn’t the culprit.
Let’s get one thing straight: If the Libertarian Party wants to consistently win elections, it needs a consistent message.
Consistent messages keep things simple.
For all that the main two parties bicker among themselves (and this year, for most the most part, worse than usual) the Libertarian Party is worse. As an independent, it just looks bad. Period. It took a good friend of mine and a lot of reading for me to realize that I was at least mostly Libertarian.
That’s the issue. The liberty movement should, at least in theory, be defined by the Libertarian Party. But it isn’t. People just don’t know exactly what the LP stands for. They didn’t have that problem with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or even Evan McMullin. You can blame this on Gary Johnson — many have, somewhat rightly so — but he’s just an indicator of the problem. The problem is that the LP has no real ideological continuity. Johnson was only able to portray the LP incorrectly according to many because there is no driving consistency. None.
That means, basically, that only a sparse minority of the electorate had any idea what the LP stood for until 2016.
If as many of us liberty-lovers, especially here at The Libertarian Republic, would like to see, Austin Petersen is the nominee in 2020, there will have to be a whole new perspective on the Libertarian Party. That means a whole new campaign. It means that Petersen will have to work twice as hard to do what he should.
If there were consistency, the message would be much simpler for independents and undecideds.
Simple messages win elections.
From the beginning, everyone was confused about how Trump was doing so well. He sounded, quite frankly, stupid. On a lot of issues.
Well, be that as it may, he won. And there’s just one easy reason why: he kept it simple. He banked on the silent majority’s hatred of Hillary, their fear of the Islamic State/ISIS, and their disgust at some of President Barack Obama‘s policies, especially the Affordable Care Act. Well, it worked. He’s the President-elect.
The liberty movement needs to do the same.
That doesn’t mean we actually compromise principles. It means that we couch our intellectualism in a manner accessible to the common electorate demographics. A good way to start would be not talking like that last sentence. We should be able to sound intelligent, but choose to speak normally. It’s not hard. The liberty movement is made up, in my experience, of mostly two groups: intellectuals who understand the philosophy of liberty and common people who understand the application of it. There’s a lot of overlap there, but the main thing is that to win any elections, we can’t alienate either group.
There are a ton of other reasons that the liberty movement needs some consistency of message. For just one:
Consistency means we can’t get trapped into one issue (as easily) and pushed around by the media.
This should be obvious. How did Johnson get stuck as the pot candidate? Well, he didn’t do himself any favors, that’s for sure, but more importantly, he couldn’t dictate the story. That meant he got stuck having to ‘flip out‘ just to make a splash.
If Johnson had dictated from the beginning the way that the conversation in the media would fall, especially with huge opportunities like the CNN town hall, he could have avoided getting question after question in the last part of the election cycle directed solely at his marijuana use.
A consistent message is simpler. Simple messages win. Mainstream media can’t misrepresent us if we keep it consistent.
This is what needs to happen in the Libertarian party if the liberty movement is going to keep making headway, in 2020 and beyond.