Paul Jacob

I like alluding to the classics. When I’m not referencing the great poets and novelists, I try to sneak in books I’m certain actually to have read. Like “The Little Engine That Could.”

Great story. Inspiring. A lesson for all time. Can a day go by when one does not think of that engine chugging “I think I can I think I can I think I can”?

I especially think of that story when the subject of the Libertarian Party comes up.

No political organization in America persists against all odds and all principalities and powers to . . . survive.

The party never quite gets up that hill, chugging as it does (note: allude to Sisyphus’s rock), but it never gives up.

You might think that a political party is there to elect people to office. And the Libertarian Party has elected a few people here and there. But, well, though in general LPers are not exactly the most “spiritual” of folk — they are not as apt as an incense salesman is to spout homilies like “it’s the journey that counts” — they do keep running candidates that, for the most part, get no more than 3 percent, 5 percent, or (occasionally) 10 percent of the vote.

The Democrats and Republicans, on the other hand, elect candidates every election day. Since the LP was formed in 1972, Republicans re-elected their glorious contender (Nixon) and elected three more: Reagan, Bush the Elder, and Bush the Younger. After LP candidate Prof. John Hospers (heavy-duty philosopher) and Mrs. Tonie Nathan (professional media person) received one renegade Electoral College vote for their first-time-out effort, the Democrats have elected two presidents: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. The Libertarians, however, have never even garnered a million votes for one of their candidates.

I mention all this merely to say that I prefer to think of the persistence of the Libertarian Party as charming, not pathetic. Everything is stacked against them. The two parties in charge have made sure that it is very hard for “minor parties” to challenge them. Just getting on the ballot is no picnic. The Libertarians have spent millions and millions of dollars and massive quantities of man-hours maintaining ballot status in the forty-odd states they have maintained it, over the years.

And now that persistence has paid off. In a way. The party has become a magnet — a magnet for disgruntled major-party players.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.