The Libertarian Party of New York (LPNY) is not unlike any political party in the nation. They have local meetings with constituent members. They work to recruit new members, and strive to gain candidates on the ballot. They work to have their voices heard on the issues that they find important to the growth and success of America.
In 2014, the presidential race foreshadowed much of what happened in 2016. That was the first year that former New Mexico Governor, and former Republican, Gary Johnson ran for office. The result may seem slim to some voters, 1% of the national popular vote (1.2 million votes), but it made waves among the 3rd Party factions. At the time it was the best result since Ross Perot ran for office in 1992 (he garnered 18.9% of vote and 0 electoral votes).
In 2016, all eyes were on 3rd Party candidates with Gary Johnson leading the pack. Though at one point Johnson was polling in double digits nationally he ultimately received 3.2% of the popular ballots (4.04 million votes). While not enough to earn federal funding (which requires a result of 5% or more) for the 2020 Presidential election for the National Libertarian Party it did almost quadruple the result of 2012. Many within the Libertarian Party took the growth in national news media attention and support from voters as a sign of recognition and eventual seats at the national political table.
For New York State, a traditionally deep Democrat State, there are 8 political parties that are automatically on the ballot: Conservative Party; Democratic Party; Green Party; Independence Party; Reform Party; Republican Party; Working Families Party (WFP); Women’s Equality Party (WEP). Generally the WFP & WEP are seen as extensions of the Democrat Party. Equally, many feel the Conservative Party is similarly an extension of the Republican Party. Which leaves just the Green, Independence (not to be confused with Independent voters), and Reform Parties as recognized 3rd Parties in the State. The Libertarian Party may be the largest of the non-automatic ballot Parties in NY State.
In total, Gary Johnson earned 2.26% of the New York vote. 1.53% (109,965 votes) of that was as an Independent and 0.73% (52,308 votes) on the Libertarian Party line. A total of 162,273 votes, which placed the Libertarian Party in third place, ahead of the Green Party (1.40% or 100,110 votes). But, 0.67% (48,098) of votes were blank, with an additional 0.85% (61,241) of votes were Writ-ins for other candidates. This was not lost on the LPNY.
In just 3 Counties, the Libertarian Party ballot line won versus the Green Party Line on the Presidential ballot. In the race for Senate, incumbent Sen. Charles Schumer easily won with 66.9% of the vote versus Republican Wendy Long with 26.05% of the vote. Here again Libertarians fared poorly, with Libertarian Alex Merced gaining 0.61% of the vote which paled to the 4.82% of Blank votes (it should be noted that all of the Parties with the exception of Democrats and Republicans had fewer votes than Blank votes in this race).
Thus, like many political parties of all sizes across the nation, the LPNY held its 2016 State Convention to recap what went right and wrong in 2016. This focus on the 2016 race was also the gateway for discussion on elections in 2018, 2020, and beyond. Several dozen representatives of Libertarian Committees across the State gathered in Binghamton, NY on Sunday November 13, 2016 to evaluate and plan.
One of the major themes of the first hour of the convention, open to all media though only we attended, was a focus on growth. Prior to the 2016 election, where many individuals are expected to have abandoned the Democrat and Republican Parties in favor of 3rd Parties, there were just over 5,400 registered Libertarians in the State. According to LPNY Chairman Mark E. Glogowski, while the expectation is to see membership swell, the ultimate vision is to become the largest political party in New York – supplanting Democrats as the driving force of the State. The mission, he further stated, was to get Libertarian candidates, at all levels of Government, elected in 2018, 2020, and beyond.
“My vision, is a vision I hope this Party will embrace, is to be the largest, most respected political Party in NY State by 2019.We can do that. I really believe it. Our mission is very clear. Our goal, this Party, is to get people elected to office. Nothing else changes until that happens. Nothing else changes until that happens. We’re going to battle like crazy and get candidates on the ballot and into office, and if we don’t succeed we haven’t gone anywhere yet.”
This was a theme of all the opening speakers at the event. Jim Rosenbeck, Vice President of LPNY, noted that without elective success the cost of running candidates against the 2 major Parties would become cost prohibitive without membership growth. That growth leads to elective victory, and would place the Party on a path to the future.
“So I ask you rhetorically, how many more years do we go on focusing on that next gubernatorial election, that next presidential election when it cost $80, $90, $100,000 and that’s what’s going to happen… If this group decides that being a official Party of NY State and reaching ballot access is important I will suggest that 2018 may well be our last opportunity to do that. Because if we do not make it in 2018, we are going to get priced out of Republican and Democrats game.”
Larry Sharpe, a delegate to the National Libertarian Party, spoke to the point that only growth within the Party will achieve the goals of elective victory and growth. That local and regional Libertarian candidates, running competitively in those races, are the path to victory. He further made a call to dissuade the leadership from focusing on encouraging converts from other political parties and developing the potential of members already existing. A theme echoed by Mr. Glogowski who pointed out that in just tapping into those that have either never voted or those that have abandoned voting due to the histories of the 2 majors, a potential in excess of 2 million voters is available – which could lead to victories a all levels of elections.
“But I will tell you my opinion. Rand Paul is a Republican. If and when he becomes Liberatarian I’m ok talking to him. But until that day, he’s Republican. And I don’t want us thinking, ‘Let’s just wait til Rand Paul comes around.’ That’s the wrong way of thinking. We should be thinking, let’s grow our own Party. If he comes around, awesome. If he doesn’t, I don’t care.”
But the meeting was not just about the importance of growing the base of membership, reaching the goal since 1972 of 50,000 signatures to gain automatic ballot listing, or if the need to win in a Gubernatorial was a primary concern. Beyond the concerns of cost of elections that plagues all Parties, the LPNY convention address the successes to be found in 2016. Such as the way internet and social media were used to widen the reach of the voices of the candidates. The growth in donations to fund election campaigns and the interest in the public in the Libertarian political message. Perhaps most of all the meeting was a focus on the fact that public awareness increased dramatically on the choices that have and continue to exist for voters.
It is unclear if the Libertarian Party of New York will field candidates for the New York Governor and Lt. Governor races. It’s far to early to tell if such candidates could win, or at the least propel the LPNY into automatic ballot appearance status. But what is clear, among the LPNY and millions of Americans nationwide, is that the 2-Party system has cracked. It is possible that by the 2018 mid-term elections the crack could become a fissure opening the door to candidates and Parties never before considered viable. Or the crack could seal as the cost to compete is driven so high as to deny competition without consideration of the attributes of potential challengers.
Both realities are possible. Which is where the closed portion of the Libertarian Party of NY convention began. Only the future, and voters, will determine the outcome.