Has Minnesota’s “Libertarian Moment” Arrived?

Two candidates squared off in a Libertarian Presidential Candidate Forum on April 16th (held in conjunction with the party’s state convention) in Maple Grove. Participants included Former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson and Kentucky Pastor Shawna Sterling. The forum focused on libertarianism, current events and how to win the White House in 2016. A recent Monmouth University poll showed that in a hypothetical three-way race (Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump vs. Gary Johnson), Johnson garners 11% of the vote as the Libertarian Presidential Candidate. If this were to come to fruition, it would be a historic election showing for the Libertarian Party.

Minnesota has a history of supporting individuals and parties outside of the mainstream.  In 1992, approximately 24% of the Minnesota voting electorate cast their ballots for Ross Perot, who ran an independent campaign for the presidency.  More recently, Jesse Ventura ran on the Reform Party ticket for Governor in 1998, and was elected with approximately 37% of the vote.  Can this history of voting for non-mainstream candidates and parties translate to the future success of the Libertarian Party in Minnesota?

According to Gary Johnson’s remarks during the forum, the party is expected to be on the presidential ballot in all 50 states in 2016, offering the nation and the state of Minnesota the opportunity to not vote for party front runners and perspective nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both of whom have record unfavorable ratings.

In an election season in which the word “establishment” is viewed as a curse word, the non-establishment Libertarian party has a chance to embrace the opportunity of large numbers of Minnesotans not constricted to a specific political ideology. A 2014 Pew Research Study found that 27% of Minnesotans are liberal in their political ideology, 35% are conservative, 32% are moderate, and 8% don’t know their ideology. According to this data, 40% of Minnesotans are not committed to a specific political ideology, leaving them susceptible to being swayed to vote for a third party.

No political pundit or polling expert is picking the Libertarian Presidential Candidate to win the state of Minnesota in 2016, but some may argue that it’s not just about winning, it’s about expanding the “liberty movement.”

Nicholas Meyer, an attendee at the forum, says he recently converted from the Republican Party to the Libertarian Party due to his “frustration with the status quo” and the establishment. Meyer argues that Minnesota is witnessing a “Libertarian moment” already because “people are fed up.” When asked whether Minnesotans are Libertarians and just don’t know it yet, Meyer answered in the affirmative, “a lot of Minnesotans are looking for alternatives” and says, “once they see what else is out there, then the choice becomes obvious for them.”

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Blake Kraussel