When you look at election results in the modern day and age, you might notice that often libertarian candidates get only a small portion of the vote. This is not true all of the time, but it is often the case in most places, especially with liberty-leaning people who are running as independent or Libertarian Party candidates.
A lot of people like to argue that libertarians are under-represented because some libertarians (and anarchists, etc.) do not vote. Though this is true, I cannot imagine that this accounts for a significant percentage of the voting-eligible public.
I am in fact inclined to argue that that opposite effect might be true: rather than saying that there are a lot of libertarians who do not vote, I would contend that there are a lot of non-voters who would or should or might be libertarians.
Why do I say this? Well, let’s look at some reasons why people do not vote.
- Because there are no good candidates.
Non-voters silently are protesting the two-party system, which does not offer enough attractive alternatives to even entice the non-voter to the polls. Who campaigns most actively against the two-party system? Why, it’s us, the libertarians!
It seems to me that many non-voters would support libertarian (or other third-party) candidates if these candidates regularly got on the ballot and seemed electable. The difference between a non-voter and a libertarian is that a libertarian is someone who is willing to fight that uphill battle to put third parties on the ballots (and weaken the two-party system.) Many non-voters simply are not aware yet that this battle is happening.
- Because registering to vote is difficult.
What do you call someone who does not like complicated government forms and bureaucracies? Well, mostly likely you would think of him as a libertarian!
Non-voters are silently expressing the fact that they find the bureaucracy behind modern democracy to be stultifying, and their actions show that they do not want to put up with it. Thus, again, non-voters are expressing libertarian preferences.
- Because standing in line to vote is annoying.
People who don’t want to wait in line to vote are expressing a preference: that their time is too precious to be spent on an inefficient bureaucratic process.
If you think that your personal time is better spent working, or being with friends and family, than wasted on an inefficient government-run program, then you are also showing that libertarian streak.
- Because there is a feeling that voting does not make a difference.
Even if a non-voter might not express this sentiment in words, it is a known fact that whether a Republican or a Democrat wins, things will continue to get worse. Even though political ads and media narratives always claim otherwise, a plurality, or even a majority, of the voting-eligible public knows this fact in an innate and sometimes inexpressible way.
Each person faces this problem when election day comes around, and unfortunately, the easiest solution to this problem, on a personal scale, is to simply be resigned to it. And this is why most people do not vote: because they are unaware of the more difficult, but more effective solution: to bring about third-party change.
Libertarians spend much effort convincing a small proportion of the “undecided” voting public to vote for libertarian causes and politicians. What if we instead were able to engage the decided non-voting public? After all, these people, many of whom with even a tiny push in the right direction might realize that they are libertarians, almost always outnumber the undecided voters.
I think that it is high time that we libertarians stopped thinking of ourselves as a minority and began to realize that we are just part of a large, and as yet voiceless, new silent majority.