Dmitri Mehlhorn: “Work within the GOP” is terrible advice for libertarians who want to be effective


Dmitri Mehlhorn, author and political activist, offers an interesting analysis of why Republican exhortations that libertarians should “work within the GOP,” an argument usually framed in terms of being pragmatic and effective, is really neither.

Mehlhorn points out that being swing voters, and building up the Libertarian Party, are both more effective options than always voting Republican and hoping to be rewarded for it.


Indeed, GOP officials often claim ownership over libertarian voters, so much so that libertarians who do not align with the GOP are called “spoilers” who throw races to presumably anti-libertarian Democrats.  For instance, during the 2014 gubernatorial race in Virginia, Republican Party organs such as Red State argued that Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis should withdraw from the race to increase support for GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli.

For libertarian idealists, this is terrible advice.  […]

From the Progressive Party in the 1890s to the United We Stand (Ross Perot) movement of the 1990s, major national policy changes happened when a credible third party movement threatened to take votes from the major parties.

American political tribalism has left few blocks of swing voters. Most states and interest groups now vote reliably for either Democrats (e.g., African Americans, residents of Vermont) or Republicans (e.g., Christian conservatives, residents of Utah). Individual voters in such blocks or states face social ostracism if they express interest in voting for the less-common political party. This social dynamic is not good for the voting blocks involved, and should be rejected by libertarians.

Read the rest at Dmitri’s personal blog.

Related at IPR: Major historical third-party results, and the shift in major-party platforms that followed


8 thoughts on “Dmitri Mehlhorn: “Work within the GOP” is terrible advice for libertarians who want to be effective

  1. jim

    If the GOP was truly serious about adopting libertarian principles, and demonstrated that, this might be far less of a problem. But it is by no means clear that GOP is “going libertarian”.

  2. Huh?

    I’m sort of surprised Andy would have posted this. First, there wasn’t a nationally-organized Progressive Party in the 1890s. Populists perhaps? Also, while I realize most Republicans are blockheads, doesn’t Dmitri mean “blocs of voters”…not blocks? I could be wrong…


  3. Andy Craig Post author

    @ “Huh?”

    Like I said in the post, he makes a good argument. I wanted to post the whole piece, but had to choose some excerpts because I don’t have permission to republish. But yes, you’re right that he confused the Progressive and Populist parties, and used the wrong spelling of “bloc.” I don’t correct other people’s typos in quotes, and neither is really relevant to the point that was being made.

  4. paulie

    @ “Huh?”

    Posting an article here does not mean we have to agree with the article, much less every single point made in the article. And altering your screen name puts your post in the moderation queue, which someone may or may not see.

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