Potentially Potent: The Libertarian-Green Combo


Posted by Bob Lord

The Libertarian and Green Parties have a few things in common. Most noticeably, they've both been wandering in the desert for decades and, in terms of the struggle to gain popularity, they're both as lost today as they've ever been.

I wonder, though, if they seized on their other commonalities — especially their intense distaste for U.S. foreign and military policy — and put everything else aside, whether they might bring an end to their wandering.

I have connections of sorts to both the Libertarians and the Greens. Philosophically, I line up with the Greens far more closely than I do with the Democrats. In fact, I doubt there is any principle Democrats these days would not be willing to cast aside if doing so were certain to result in victory at the ballot box, whereas the Greens, to their credit, are a highly principled bunch. If the Greens were the least bit viable, I'd be right on board. But they're beyond incompetent, so what's the point? 

My sister was the Libertarian candidate for Vice-President in 1992. When I ran for Congress in 2008, I became friendly with my Libertarian opponent, Mike Shoen. And I do read the comments to my posts, including those from our Libertarian friend, Thane. Overall, I don't subscribe to the Libertarian philosophy. But, like Greens, Libertarians are nothing if not principled. When I disagree with Republicans, whether they're of the "establishment" or "tea-party" variety, there's often an element of disdain, because, to me, their statements often reek of intellectual dishonesty or stupidity, or both. Not so with Libertarians. My disagreement with Libertarians generally is respectful, although I question their adherence to formulas that I believe are overly simplistic in a very complicated world. 

So, my objectivity here may be severely compromised, even moreso than normal, but it seems that if the Libertarians and Greens united based on the principles to which they both subscribe, and cast everything else aside, they'd be a powerful political force. I certainly wish it were so, nut just because I'd love to be working with my crazy sister towards a common goal, but because I think the area where the principles of the Libertarians and Greens most vividly and completely intersect happens to be the area where America's survival as a nation is most endangered and where both the Democrats and Republicans are most royally screwing things up. That area of course is our foreign and military policy.

I'm speaking of the Ameican Empire: Our 1000 plus military bases strewn around the globe; our $700 Billion military budget; our endless wars; our military occupations; our support of third-world thugs who are all too happy to sacrifice the well-being of their people for personal wealth; and our plundering of the world's mineral resources. Libertarians and Greens understand well the danger we face if these ghastly policies continue. Democrats and Republicans, not so much. 

It is abundantly clear from world history that great civilizations decline not from under-engaging militarily, but from over-engaging. Eventually, the empire cannot be sustained. From this perspective, great civilzations are not toppled as much as they commit suicide. The Libertarians and the Greens both get this, whereas our mainstream political parties are clueless.

So, hypothetically, what would happen if the Libertarians and Greens joined forces and spoke only to this issue, and perhaps a few others, such as pot legalization, where they agree and the Democrats and Republicans have their heads up their collective asses? Would a LibGreen Party win elections and send representatives to Congress? In the short term, probably not. They would, however, go from Ralph Nader and Gary Johnson type performances to Ross Perot type performances. They would very clearly bleed votes from both establishment parties. (I think the Libertarians already do this, but the perception is they hurt the Republicans far more, and perception is reality on this front). It's anyone's guess what might happen from there, but there would be chance, a glimmer of hope, that American foreign and military policy might be forced to move in a better direction, and that would be one hell of an accomplishment.

Or, the Libertarians and Greens could continue wandering in the desert.


  1. All of which sounds like a good reason to be Libertarian instead of Green. Due to the multi-plane nature of politics it is possible for a Democratic party candidate to encompass Green ideals (and the reverse). I have heard of Green party voters casting their vote for Libertarian candidates in which case the Democrats have lost votes they would otherwise have so Democratic party candidates do need to be responsive (in races where a Libertarian candidates are available).

    Competition for votes and support in the current electoral market is difficult for voters and for candidates. I wish the marketplace becomes more challenging for candidates and offers more choices for voters.

  2. Enemy of the good? If it were that easy, I’d agree. But the so-called “good” is becoming worse over time. Why? Because your vote, based on “Green” principles as you say, is locked in for the Democrats. They don’t have to worry about you, because you’re worried about wasting your vote, and you’ll never vote Republican. So, they don’t have to be responsive to you. They can act in their own personal interests (politicians do that you know) and not have to fear losing your support.

  3. Given the fact that the voting system in any given state is the choice of Democrats and Republicans I would assert that the powers that be use the election system to discourage voters from supporting candidates that they support for fear of “spoiled” elections.

    I will agree that a voter disposed to vote for a Green candidate if one is available will likely vote for a Democratic candidate if one is not available. I think the case of Libertarian vote siphoning hurting Republican candidates is not quite as clear.

    In Arizona the Republican establishment could switch to an approval voting system or a ranked choice voting system if they wished. Such a change would completely eliminate any claims of spoiled elections. The fact that the powers that be do not make such a change leads me to believe that is is very likely that those folks find that the belief in spoiled elections works to their advantage.

    I know one of the Green party candidates for Arizona Corporation Commission and spoke for 15 minutes with the other. I believe both are sincere supporters of Green party ideals.

    In the end I always encourage voters to support only the candidate whose ideals match their own. Casting your vote for anybody else means that you have abandoned your ideals and are supporting someone that you do not fully support. How does that make sense?

  4. While I respect the right of anyone to support Libertarian or Green candidates, even though I am a Very Green Democrat and support the views advocated by the Green Party I will not vote Green. Votes for either of these parties in our two party system works in direct opposition to our goals — pulling votes away from candidates that are more mainstream but still support most of the voters’ views albeit not all of them.

    Green candidates siphon votes from Democratic candidates while Libertarians siphon votes from Republican candidates and neither the Greens or the Libertarians have a reasonable chance of winning except in very limited circumstances (usually very far down ballot races where one of the two major parties fails to field a viable candidate). These non-mainstream parties are the spoilers of elections, whether they field legitimate candidates or false faces. The Libertarians are the Republicans demons, they will have to determine how to deal with them. But for Democrats Ralph Nader. In the 2012 election Democrats lost two seats and possibly could have won a 3rd on the Arizona Corporation Commission probably as a result of the two Green candidates on the ballot. Those two seats could have limited the damage to the environment that will no doubt be visited on Arizona by the all Republican commissioners. I have no way of knowing whether the Green candidates were false candidates or not, I don’t care. A vote for either Green or Libertarian is more than a lost vote, it is vote for the other side. In this case the perfect is in fact the enemy of the good.

  5. Over the short term, given the obstacles that the media and government impose on Green and Libertarian candidates not to mention the fact that few Libertarian or Green party candidates raise or spend enough money exceeding government reporting requirements I think that the R and D party will continue to prevail in most elections unless there is a sharp change in how Americans look at political issues or H. Ross Perot or Justin Bieber decides to run as a Libertarian party candidate.

    Of the eleven budget cutbacks Obama identified which are listed here: http://nyti.ms/Xb3lvd

    None of them came close to mentioning ending overseas occupations. The powers that be are using the tried and true method of trying to scare voters and taxpayers by threatening to stop providing services that people believe, rightly or wrongly, will hurt people they care about and safety and education services they are addicted to. Ending unpopular overseas occupations aren’t listed because they are not even on the table.

    I personally believe that the sequester will be avoided (kicked down the road).

    If an idea gets to the political end zone I personally don’t care what color uniform the person who is holding the football I only care that We The People win the game.

    For today most of the public is being sold the idea that austerity for military spending is abhorrent and that reducing government spending is likely to result in catastrophe. The freedom and responsibility that Libertarians are selling have a small but loyal clientele but when we have to compete with a multitude of companies selling ideas via loudspeakers proclaiming that **THE SKY WILL FALL** unless government spending continues you can see that the road is still very much uphill.

    Over the long term I have plenty of hope as young people everywhere are more and more people exposed to the disastrous effect overseas occupation has on US soldiers. There are plenty of young people leaving the US armed forces that are physically and mentally injured as a result of their overseas deployment.

    When it comes time to put up or shut up come March 1st I will be looking at how the Arizona delegation to Washington DC votes (or fails to).


    I am looking closely at Matt Salmon and Raúl Grijalva based on their vote on US House roll call 30.


  6. There are plenty of political issues where Libertarians, Greens and others who are neither agree on. Cannabis legalization is one of them. Everybody that I know is of the opinion that legalization by degrees is inevitable. Are Green party or Libertarian party candidates winning office to state or federal legislatures as a result? No they are not but does that mean the idea hasn’t succeeded? I would say the idea has won regardless of the political designation of current elected officials.

    As far as wasteful spending on military endeavors that are clearly utopian dream projects (overseas occupation of country X, Y or Z) I would say that the Democratic and Republican administration isn’t as clueless as you and I might hope. It is clear to me that military spending for defense contractors such as Boeing, Raytheon and General Dynamics are being defended by the folks such as Barbara Lee and Kyrsten Sinema that I would identify as closest to Green party ideals. I look forward to the day I see Rand Paul and Lee and Sinema on the US Congressional steps (or on the Rachel Maddow show) decrying US military spending on the occupation of Afghanistan.

    <- Barbara Lee on the sequester Sinema or Lee could easily crip defense cutbacks of $85 for 2013 from Rand Paul or Gary Johnson but they don't for reasons only they can say.

  7. Nice article. Some data:

    The Greens and Libertarian Parties were both founded by the Libertarian International Organization civic group to work on related issues, and the parties regularly co-operate on many areas.The fact that Green is a household world and Libertarians abound in local offices and drive most policy debates in the rights direction shows they’re influence.

    See http://www.libertarianinternational.org which hosts an international contact group of activists in parties in over 100 countries.