Libertarianism in Michigan: Still A Wasted Vote or A Growing Popular Opinion?

Even though the Libertarian Party has gained much progress since the 2016 presidential election, the odds are against them still, specifically in the Michigan state and county parties. Many people still don’t understand the party and their ideology and it’s just one of the things the party needs to work on to keep up with modern politics.
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Libertarianism is socially liberal and economically conservative. Libertarians don’t care who you marry or if you choose to do drugs. They also want very little government involvement in their business–that includes not having as many taxes either. They are the party who doesn’t want to be in your business.

 

That may sound like a dream to many Americans, who often are torn to vote for either Republicans and Democrats. However, among the numerous amount of controversial things to do or say these days, declaring yourself a Libertarian in a tense political environment is still among the top of the list.

Often dismissed as “wasting a vote” on election day, the Libertarian party has been appearing on various ballots throughout local and statewide elections. But no one Libertarian candidate has ever been so popular as Arizona governor Gary Johnson, who ran as a candidate in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.

Since its official political party development in the 1970s, the Libertarian Party has had a slow increase in awareness and popularity. However, within the past 10 years, the party has grown to an all-time high, thanks to Johnson, Rand Paul and other disliked political candidates over the years.

Diane Bostow has been a part of the Libertarian Party of Michigan and its treasurer since its beginning in 1971. Now married to one of the founders of the Michigan party, Bostow says the party has become the most popular within the last decade.

“When we first started, nobody recognized the name ‘Libertarian,’” Bostow said. “People would say ‘you gotta get a different name.’ They would call us the Librarians or the Libertines. But now, you hear it on mainstream media. People at least recognize the name ‘Libertarian’ now.”

Because of the 2016 election results in Michigan, the state party is now considered a major political party for the first time in its history. This means all counties must send official delegates from each county to the statewide convention, among other changes. This is just one of the few history-making moments within the party this past year.

Michigan Party Political Director Scotty Bowman–no, not the hockey one–also agreed the recognition problem for the party has improved. He even believed that the arguments against Libertarianism have become healthier in a way.

“More people, when they do criticize us, do so for the right reason instead of erroneous reasons,” Bowman, who’s running for Detroit’s Police Commissioner, said. “As far as criticizing us for something we actually believe so they know more about us. So that is good. There has been growth in understanding of what a Libertarian is and the existence of the Libertarian party.”

But the popularity level is still very low for the party, who often needs thousands of signatures to get on many ballots around the state. On top of this, Libertarians running for any office has struggled with getting any sort of media coverage. Bowman says “they still refer to ‘all the candidates’ as only ‘two’ of them.” Agreeing with Bowman, Wayne County member-at-large Loel Gnadt calls the coverage problem “a snowball effect.” “We haven’t run a full-blown campaign so they just disregard us for that,” Gnadt said. “It’s like a snowball effect. They don’t hear about us, therefore, they don’t cover us.”

To challenge the issue, Bowman tried taking the Paul approach in 2008, when he ran for the U.S. Senate as a Republican. Still participating in the Libertarian party “on a subdued level,” Bowman even got a bit of media coverage. This was inspired after seeing Paul at a rally, where Bowman believed his temporary “switch” made more people comfortable with voting for him.

“I really didn’t change my personal sense of identity of feeling I was a libertarian at all,” Bowman said. “And I think it falls back to that ‘wasted vote’ thing–people just feel like it’s a better chance [for their candidate to win] and it’s a bigger deal.”

Running for Michigan Secretary of State, Greg Stempfle says that the Libertarian Party of Michigan has “institutional and legal challenges with having more than two political parties in the state.” A solution for the Libertarian Party is a strategy the state of Maine is trying, which is something Stempfle would like to implement here in Michigan if elected.

“One thing I’m optimistic about is that Maine just voted for an instant run-off vote [which allow for voters to rank the candidates],” Stempfle said. “The spoiled vote argument goes away. Without that, it is hard to go against that argument.”

Libertarian Party of Oakland County member Lisa Lane Gioia briefly explains why she believes many people are truly Libertarian, as seen in the Are You A Libertarian? #Hive55 video from Anjelica Dudek‘s Vimeo.

As for how President Trump is doing? Many members of the Wayne County and Oakland County parties, like Bostow, agree that Trump isn’t a true Libertarian and he’s not doing the best job so far. But if he can keep his promises to “clear the swamp,” he would get applauds from the Libertarian party.

“I like the idea of cutting back regulations,” Bostow said. “That’s probably the main hope I have for him. I don’t like the fact that he released those bombs either. I thought he was going to keep us out of all of these countries.”

But for now, the Libertarian Party of Michigan will continue its continuous struggles of getting those signatures to be on local ballots and gaining true support from citizens in their local towns.

“But meanwhile, we need to get more people to vote for us,” Bowman said. “So between us being a protest vote and us actually winning is this place where we are making a difference but maybe not winning. And when you have that happening, you need to have a good answer as to why it’s still good to vote Libertarian or else you are stuck in a rut.”


Designed for those looking to see which political party they fall under, the Nolan Chart is a quick but thorough political quiz that lets users know which party fits their ideology, from conservative to liberal, authoritarian to libertarian, or right down the middle as a centralist.

To get involved with or to learn more about the Libertarian Party of Michigan, visit their website or stop by the next meeting spot closest to you.

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