The Libertarian Party has a solid chance of becoming a third party alternative for disaffected Republicans. But to do so it would have to grow up.
Many people think of the Libertarian Party as the pothead party. As long as they can have a good time, they have no principled grounding. Pro-lifers have a hard time accepting a party that claims to be for liberty, but is perfectly happy to let some die. Conservatives have a hard time with the Libertarian Party because the party seems to only care about federalism when it comes to marijuana. Likewise, conservatives do kinda think it is okay if the government builds a road. After all, the Constitution says it is okay.
Over the years, the Libertarian Party has backed scores of unserious candidates who get a few percentage points in the polls.
This year gives the Libertarian Party a chance to grow up and be a viable third party option. It would need to have some clear ideology on federalism. It may not become a solidly pro-life party, but could persuasively argue that the issue should be left to the states as non-constitutional. It could do the same with gay marriage. Building the party around robust federalism would placate the libertarians and ameliorate the concerns of those looking to the party.
A party that has at its core the idea that people of like mind should be able to get together and govern and not impose their will on others is a party conservative could potentially be comfortable with.
The trade off for weary libertarians would be a large vote share — large enough in fact to secure ballot access in even more states. Libertarians would be able to rely on conservative help in collecting signatures and then getting high enough vote percentages to make a play in all fifty states. That has not yet been possible.
To do this, though, the Libertarian Party would need to settle on a grown up candidate with serious ideas who can be taken seriously. Right now that does not seem to be possible. Neither Gary Johnson, seen above, or his rivals seem to have the stature to make the case for a grown up Libertarian Party.
The Libertarian Party has a real shot at growing up this year and becoming a future force to be reckoned with. But as of now it has shown no inclination. It’s members would rather be the party of party and stay in Neverland.