|Chairperson Nicholas Sarwark (AZ)|
Membership (October 2016) 499,492
|Student wing College Libertarians|
|Founded December 11, 1971; 45 years ago (1971-12-11)|
Headquarters 1444 Duke St. Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Ideology Libertarianism Non-interventionism Fiscal conservatism Economic liberalism Cultural liberalism Laissez-faire
The Libertarian Party (LP) is a Libertarian political party in the United States that promotes civil liberties, non-interventionism, laissez-faire capitalism and the abolition of the welfare state. It is the third largest political party in the United States.
- Name and symbols
- Structure and composition
- Libertarian National Committee
- State chapters
- Presidential candidate performance
- Earning ballot status
- Party supporters
- Election victories
- Best results in major races
- Voter base
- 2016 election
- Presidential ballot access
- Recent issue stances
- Economic issues
- Fiscal policies
- Health care
- Immigration and trade agreements
- Retirement and Social Security
- Social issues
- Crime and capital punishment
- Freedom of speech and censorship
- Government reform
- LGBT issues
- Pornography and prostitution
- Second Amendment rights
- Foreign policy issues
- Political status of Puerto Rico
- Principle vs Pragmatism debate
- Platform revision
The LP was conceived at meetings in the home of David F. Nolan in Westminster, Colorado in 1971 and was officially formed on December 11, 1971, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The founding of the party was prompted in part due to concerns about the Nixon administration, the Vietnam War, conscription, and the end of the gold standard.
The party generally promotes a classical liberal platform, in contrast to the Democrats' modern liberalism and progressivism and the Republicans' conservatism. Gary Johnson, the party's presidential nominee in 2012 and 2016, states that the LP is more culturally liberal than Democrats, but more fiscally conservative than Republicans. Current fiscal policy positions include lowering taxes, abolishing the IRS, decreasing the national debt, allowing people to opt out of Social Security, and eliminating the welfare state, in part by utilizing private charities. Current cultural policy positions include ending the prohibition of illegal drugs, supporting same-sex marriage, ending capital punishment, and supporting gun ownership rights. Many libertarians believe in lowering the drinking age to 18.
There are 411,250 voters registered as Libertarian in the 27 states that report Libertarian registration statistics and Washington, D.C. By that count, as well as popular vote in elections and number of candidates run per election, the LP is the country's third largest nationally organized party. The LP was the party under which the first electoral vote was cast for a woman, Tonie Nathan, for Vice President in a United States presidential election, due to a faithless elector.
Though the party has never won a seat in the United States Congress, it has seen electoral success in the context of state legislatures and other local offices. Three Libertarians were elected to the Alaska House of Representatives between 1978 and 1984 and another four to the New Hampshire General Court in 1992. Neil Randall, a Libertarian, won the election to the Vermont House of Representatives in 1998 and was re-elected until 2002, which marked the last time to date a Libertarian was elected to a state legislature. Rhode Island State Representative Daniel P. Gordon was expelled from the Republicans and joined the Libertarian Party in 2011. In January 2016, the Libertarians tied their 1992 peak of four legislators when four state legislators from four different states left the Republican Party to join the Libertarian Party: Nevada Assemblyman John Moore in January, Nebraska Senator Laura Ebke and New Hampshire Representative Max Abramson in May, and Utah Senator Mark B. Madsen in July. In the 2016 election cycle, Madsen and Abramson did not run for re-election to their respective offices, while Moore lost his race after the Libertarian Party officially censured him over his support of taxpayer stadium funding. Ebke was not up for re-election in 2016. New Hampshire Representative Caleb Dyer changed party affiliation to the Libertarian Party from the Republican Party in February 2017.
The first Libertarian National Convention was held in June 1972. In 1978, Dick Randolph of Alaska became the first elected Libertarian state legislator. Following the 1980 federal elections, the Libertarian Party assumed the title of being the third-largest party for the first time after the American Independent Party and the Conservative Party of New York, which were the other largest minor parties at the time, continued to decline. In 1994, over 40 Libertarians were elected or appointed which was a record for the party at that time. 1995 saw a soaring membership and voter registration for the party. In 1996, the Libertarian Party became the first third party to earn ballot status in all 50 states two presidential elections in a row. By the end of 2009, 146 Libertarians were holding elected offices.
Tonie Nathan, running as the Libertarian Party's vice-presidential candidate in the 1972 presidential election with John Hospers as the presidential candidate, was the first female candidate in the United States to receive an electoral vote.
The 2012 election Libertarian Party presidential candidate, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, received the highest number of votes—more than 1.2 million—of any Libertarian presidential candidate at the time. He was renominated for president in 2016, this time choosing former Massachusetts Governor William Weld as his running mate. Johnson/Weld shattered the Libertarian record for a presidential ticket, earning over 4.4 million votes. Both Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein received significantly more news coverage in 2016 than third-party candidates usually get, with polls showing both candidates potentially increasing their support over the last election, especially among younger voters.
Name and symbols
In 1972, "Libertarian Party" was chosen as the party's name, selected over "New Liberty Party." The first official slogan of the Libertarian Party was "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" (abbreviated "TANSTAAFL"), a phrase popularized by Robert A. Heinlein in his 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, sometimes dubbed "a manifesto for a libertarian revolution." The current slogan of the party is "The Party of Principle."
Also in 1972, the "Libersign"—an arrow angling upward through the abbreviation "TANSTAAFL"—was adopted as a party symbol. By the end of the decade, this was replaced with the Lady Liberty until 2015, with the adoption of the current "Torch Eagle" logo.
In the 1990s several state libertarian parties adopted the Liberty Penguin ("LP") as their official mascot. Another mascot is the Libertarian porcupine, an icon that was originally designed by Kevin Breen in March 2006, that is also often associated with the Free State Project.
Structure and composition
The Libertarian Party is democratically governed by its members, with state affiliate parties each holding annual or biennial conventions at which delegates are elected to attend the party's biennial national convention. National convention delegates vote on changes to the party's national platform and bylaws, and elect officers and "At-Large" representatives to the party's National Committee.
The National Committee also has "Regional Representatives", some of whom are appointed by delegate caucuses at the national convention; others are appointed by the chairpersons of LP state affiliate chapters within a region.
Libertarian National Committee
The Libertarian National Committee (LNC) is a 27-member body, currently chaired by Nicholas Sarwark. The LNC is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations of the Libertarian Party and its national office and staff. Wes Benedict is currently the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party. Former executive director Carla Howell, whom he was picked to replace in 2013, was made the party's political director.
The Libertarian Party is organized in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each state affiliate has a governing committee, usually consisting of statewide officers elected by state party members and regional representation of one kind or another. Similarly, county, town, city and ward committees, where organized, generally consist of members elected at the local level. State and local committees often coordinate campaign activities within their jurisdiction, oversee local conventions, and in some cases primaries or caucuses, and may have a role in nominating candidates for elected office under state law.
Since the Libertarian Party's inception, individuals have been able to join the party as voting members by signing their agreement with the organization's membership pledge, which states that the signer does not advocate the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals. During the mid-1980s and into the early 1990s, this membership category was called an "instant" membership; currently these are referred to as "signature members". People joining the party are also asked to pay dues, which are on a sliding scale starting at $25 per year. Lifetime membership is granted with a $1,500 donation in one calendar year. Dues-paying members receive a subscription to the party's national newspaper, LP News. Since 2006, membership in the party's state affiliates has been separate from membership in the national party, with each state chapter maintaining its own membership rolls.
The preamble outlines the party's goals: "As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others" and "Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands." Its Statement of Principles begins: "We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual." The Statement of Principles is foundational to the ideology of the party and was created specifically to bind the party to certain core principles with a high parliamentary burden for any amendment. The platform emphasizes individual liberty in personal and economic affairs, avoidance of "foreign entanglements" and military and economic intervention in other nations' affairs, and free trade and migration. It calls for Constitutional limitations on government as well as the elimination of most state functions. It includes a "Self-determination" section which quotes from the Declaration of Independence and reads: "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of individual liberty, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to agree to such new governance as to them shall seem most likely to protect their liberty." It also includes an "Omissions" section which reads: "Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination should not be construed to imply approval."
This includes favoring minimally regulated markets, a less powerful federal government, strong civil liberties (including LGBT rights), (the party supports same-sex marriage), the liberalization of drug laws, separation of church and state, open immigration, non-interventionism and neutrality in diplomatic relations, free trade and free movement to all foreign countries, and a more representative republic. The party's position on abortion is that government should stay out of the matter and leave it to the individual, but recognizes that some libertarians' opinions on this issue are different. Ron Paul, one of the former Presidential nominees of the Libertarian Party, is strictly pro-life, but believes that that is an issue that should be left to the states and not enforced federally. Meanwhile, Gary Johnson, the party's 2012 and 2016 presidential candidate, is pro-choice.
Presidential candidate performance
The first Libertarian Presidential candidate, John Hospers, received one electoral vote in 1972 when Roger MacBride, a Virginia Republican faithless elector pledged to Richard Nixon, cast his ballot for the Libertarian ticket. His vote for Theodora ("Tonie") Nathan as Vice President was the first electoral college vote ever to be cast for a woman in a U.S. presidential election. MacBride became the Libertarian nominee himself in 1976. This was the last time that the Libertarian Party won an electoral vote until 44 years later when Texas Republican faithless elector Bill Greene, who was pledged to cast his vote for Donald Trump, instead cast his vote for Libertarian Party member and former congressman Ron Paul for President.
During the 2016 presidential election, Gary Johnson and vice-presidential candidate Bill Weld received a record percentage of 3.28% of the popular vote (4,488,919 votes), getting as much as 9.34% in New Mexico, where Johnson had previously been elected Governor. In the 2012 presidential election, Gary Johnson and running mate Jim Gray received 1,275,821 votes (1%),.
Earning ballot status
Historically, Libertarians have also achieved 50-state ballot access for their presidential candidate four times, in 1980, 1992, 1996 (in 2000 L. Neil Smith was on the Arizona ballot instead of the nominee, Harry Browne), and most recently 2016.
In April 2012, the Libertarian Party of Nebraska successfully lobbied for a reform in ballot access with the new law requiring parties to requalify every four years instead of two. Following the 2012 election, the party gained automatic ballot status in 30 states.
Following the 2016 election, the party announced that it had achieved automatic ballot status in 37 or 38 states plus the District of Columbia.
In the Libertarian Party, some donors are not necessarily "members", because the Party since its founding in 1972 has defined a "member" as being someone who agrees with the Party's membership statement. The precise language of this statement is found in the Party Bylaws. There were 115,401 Americans who were on record as having signed the membership statement, as of the 3rd quarter of 2004. A survey by David Kirby and David Boaz found a minimum of 14 percent American voters to have libertarian-leaning views.
There is another measure the Party uses internally as well. Since its founding, the Party has apportioned delegate seats to its national convention based on the number of members in each state who have paid minimum dues (with additional delegates given to state affiliates for good performance in winning more votes than normal for the Party's presidential candidate). This is the most-used number by Party activists. As of December 31, 2006, the Libertarian Party reported that there were 15,505 donating members. 1,108 of the donors gave the federal minimum ($200) or more for required individually itemized contributions.
Historically, dues were $15 throughout the 1980s; in 1991, they were increased to $25. Between February 1, 2006 and the close of the 2006 Libertarian party convention on May 31, 2006, dues were set to $0. However, the change to $0 dues was controversial and was de facto reversed by the 2006 Libertarian National Convention in Portland, Oregon; at which the members re-established a basic $25 dues category (now called Sustaining membership), and further added a requirement that all National Committee officers must henceforth be at least Sustaining members (which was not required prior to the convention).
Libertarians have had limited success in electing candidates at the state and local level. In 1988, The Rev. Dr. James W. Clifton made Michigan state history by becoming the first Libertarian to win office in a partisan contest for city council in Addison. He received more votes than either his Democratic or Republican opponents. Following the 2002 elections, according to its site, 599 Libertarians held elected or appointed local offices and appointed state offices. Since the party's creation, 10 Libertarians have been elected to state legislatures. The most recent Libertarian candidate elected to a state legislature was Steve Vaillancourt to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 2000. Vaillancourt, then a Democratic member of the House with libertarian leanings, had lost the Democratic primary for a seat in the New Hampshire Senate that year and accepted the Libertarian nomination so as to keep his House seat.
Nationwide, there are 135 Libertarians holding elected office: 36 of them partisan offices and 99 of them non-partisan offices. In addition, some party members, who were elected to public office on other party lines, explicitly retained their Libertarian Party membership; these include former Representative Ron Paul, who has repeatedly stated that he remains a Life Member of the Libertarian Party.
Best results in major races
Some Libertarian candidates for state office have performed relatively strongly in statewide races. In two Massachusetts Senate races (2000 and 2002), Libertarian candidates Carla Howell and Michael Cloud, who did not face serious Republican contenders (in 2002 the candidate failed to make the ballot), received a party record-setting 12% and 18% respectively. In Indiana's 2006 U.S. Senate race, which lacked a Democratic candidate, Steve Osborn received 13% of the vote. In 2012, Joel Balam set a record for the largest percent of the vote in a U.S. House election, running in Kansas's 3rd congressional district against Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder without a Democratic opponent and receiving 32% of the vote, he received 92,675 votes according to official Kansas State voting records. In 1982, Dick Randolph earned 15% of the vote in his race for Alaska Governor (best ever Libertarian result for Governor). In 2002, Ed Thompson, the brother of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, received 11% of the vote (second best ever Libertarian result for Governor) running for the same office, resulting in a seat on the state elections board for the Libertarian Party. In 2008, Libertarian Party of Georgia Public Service Commission candidate John Monds became the first Libertarian in history to garner 1,076,726 votes (33%). His opponent, Republican H. Doug Everett, won the race with 2,147,012 votes (67%). In 2012, Mike Fellows, the Libertarian Party candidate in Montana for the statewide position of Clerk of the Supreme Court received 43% of the vote as the sole opponent to Democratic candidate Ed Smith, winning 27 of the state's 56 counties. This was the best a Libertarian candidate has ever polled percentage wise for a statewide office.
Ballot access expert Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, periodically compiles and analyzes voter registration statistics as reported by state voter agencies, and he reports that as of October 2012, the Libertarians ranked fifth in voter registration nationally with 325,807.
A Monmouth University opinion poll conducted on March 24, 2016, found Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in double digits with 11% against Donald Trump (34%) and Hillary Clinton (42%) in a three-way race, while a CNN poll from July 16, 2016 found Johnson with a personal best 13% of the vote. To be included in any of the three main presidential debates, a candidate must be polling at least 15% in national polls.
Following Trump's win in the Indiana Republican primary, making him the presumptive Republican nominee, the Libertarian Party received a rise in attention. Between 7 PM on May 3 and 12 PM on May 4, the Libertarian Party received 99 new memberships and an increase in donors as well as a rise in Google searches of "Libertarian Party" and "Gary Johnson". On May 5, Mary Matalin, a longtime Republican political strategist, made news when she switched parties to become a registered Libertarian, expressing her dislike of Trump. On May 24, 2016, Matalin endorsed Missouri Libertarian candidate Austin Petersen.
Several Republican elected officials publicly stated that they considered voting for the Libertarian Party ticket in 2016. That included 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. It has been a common question and concern that the Libertarian ticket will exclusively draw away votes from Donald Trump and not the Democratic ticket. In response, Libertarian 2016 nominee Gary Johnson noted that analysis of national polls shows more votes drawn from Hillary Clinton.
After the conclusion of the Electoral College in 2016, the Libertarian Party received one electoral college vote from a faithless voter in Texas. However, the nominated Libertarian Candidate for 2016 Gary Johnson did not receive the faithless vote, the faithless vote went to former Congressman Ron Paul who changed party affiliations in 2015 to the Libertarian Party. He is the first libertarian to receive an electoral vote since 1972.
Presidential ballot access
In the 2012 Presidential election, the Libertarian Party gained ballot access in 48 states plus the District of Columbia, missing only Michigan (write-in only) and Oklahoma.
During the 2008 United States Presidential election, the Libertarian Party gained ballot access in 45 states; missing Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maine (write-in only), Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
The following is a table comparison of ballot status for the Libertarian Party presidential nominee from 1972 to 2016 (signatures needed). At the 2014 Mid-Term election, the Party had ballot access in 35 states and DC.
Recent issue stances
The Libertarian Party supports laissez-faire capitalism and the abolition of the modern welfare state. It adopts pro-civil liberties and pro-cultural liberal approaches to cultural and social issues. Paul H. Rubin, professor of law and economics at Emory University, believes that while liberal Democrats generally seek to control economic activities and conservative Republicans generally seek to control consumption activities such as sexual behavior, abortion etc., the Libertarian Party is the largest political party in the United States that advocates few or no regulations in what he deems "social" and "economic" issues.
The "poverty and welfare" issues page of the Libertarian Party's website says that it opposes regulation of capitalist economic institutions, and advocates dismantling the entirety of the welfare state:
We should eliminate the entire social welfare system. This includes eliminating food stamps, subsidized housing, and all the rest. Individuals who are unable to fully support themselves and their families through the job market must, once again, learn to rely on supportive family, church, community, or private charity to bridge the gap.
According to the party platform, "The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected." – Libertarian Party Platform, Section 2.0 (adopted: May 2008)
The Libertarian Party believes government regulations in the form of minimum wage laws drive up the cost of employing additional workers. That is why Libertarians favor loosening minimum wage laws so that overall unemployment rate can be reduced and low-wage workers, unskilled workers, visa immigrants, and those with limited education or job experience can find employment.
The party supports ending the U.S. public school system. The party's official platform states that education is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality, accountability and efficiency with more diversity of school choice. Seeing the education of children as a parental responsibility, the party would give authority to parents to determine the education of their children at their expense without interference from government. This includes ending corporal punishment within public schools. Libertarians have expressed that parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children's education.
The Libertarian party supports a clean and healthy environment and sensible use of natural resources, believing that private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining such natural resources. The party has also expressed that "governments, unlike private businesses, are unaccountable for such damage done to the environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection." The party contends that the environment is best protected when individual rights pertaining to natural resources are clearly defined and enforced. The party also contends that free markets and property rights (implicitly, without government intervention) will stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect the environment and ecosystem because environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior.
The Libertarian Party opposes all government intervention and regulation on wages, prices, rents, profits, production, and interest rates and advocate the repeal of all laws banning or restricting the advertising of prices, products, or services. The party's recent platform calls for the repeal of the income tax, the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services, such as the Federal Reserve System. The party supports the passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which they believe will significantly lower the national debt, provided that the budget is balanced preferably by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes. Libertarians favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types. The party also wants a halt to inflationary monetary policies and legal tender laws. While the party defends the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of companies, it opposes government subsidies to business, labor, or any other special interest.
The Libertarian Party favors a free-market health care system, without government oversight, approval, regulation, and licensing. The party states that it "recognizes the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want (if any), the amount of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions." They support the repeal of all social insurance policies, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and favor "consumer-driven health care". The Libertarian Party has been advocating for Americans' ability to purchase health insurance across state lines.
Immigration and trade agreements
The Libertarian Party consistently lobbies for the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. This is because their platform states that "political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries". To promote economic freedom, they demand the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, the party encourages control over the entry into the country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.
The Libertarian Party supports the repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment while opposing government-fostered/forced retirement and heavy interference in the bargaining process. The party supports the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions, and believes that employers should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union.
Retirement and Social Security
The party believes that retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. Libertarians would phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system. The Libertarians feel that the proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals, believing members of society will become more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in that realm.
The Libertarian Party supports the legalization of all victimless crimes, including drugs, pornography, prostitution, polygamy, gambling, removal of restrictions on homosexuality, opposes any kind of censorship and supports freedom of speech, and supports the right to keep and bear arms while opposing Federal capital punishment. The Libertarian Party's platform states: "Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships."
The official Libertarian party platform states, "Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration." Libertarians have very different opinions on the issue, just like in the general public. Some, like the group Libertarians for Life, consider abortion to be an act of aggression from the government or mother against a fetus. Others, like the group Pro-Choice Libertarians, consider denying a woman the right to choose abortion to be an act of aggression from the government against her.
Crime and capital punishment
Shortly before the 2000 elections, the party released a "Libertarian Party Program on Crime" in which they criticize the failures of a recently proposed Omnibus Crime Bill, especially detailing how it expands the list of capital crimes. Denouncing Federal executions, they also describe how the party would increase and safeguard the rights of the accused in legal settings as well as limit the use of excessive force by police. Instead, criminal laws would be reduced to violations of the rights of others through either force or fraud with maximum restitution given to victims of the criminals or negligent persons. In 2016, the party expanded their platform to officially support the repeal of capital punishment.
Freedom of speech and censorship
The Libertarian Party supports unrestricted freedom of speech and is opposed to any kind of censorship. The party describes the issue in its website: "We defend the rights of individuals to unrestricted freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right of individuals to dissent from government itself.... We oppose any abridgment of the freedom of speech through government censorship, regulation or control of communications media." The party claims it is the only political party in the United States "with an explicit stand against censorship of computer communications in its platform."
The Libertarian Party favors election systems that are more representative of the electorate at the federal, state and local levels. The party platform calls for an end to any tax-financed subsidies to candidates or parties and the repeal of all laws which restrict voluntary financing of election campaigns. As a minor party, it opposes laws that effectively exclude alternative candidates and parties, deny ballot access, gerrymander districts, or deny the voters their right to consider all legitimate alternatives. Libertarians also promote the use of direct democracy through the referendum and recall processes.
The Libertarian Party advocates repealing all laws that control or prohibit homosexuality. According to the Libertarian Party's platform, "Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government's treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws."
Gay activist Richard Sincere has pointed to the longstanding support of gay rights by the party, which has supported same-sex marriage since its first platform was drafted in 1972 (40 years before the Democratic Party adopted same-sex marriage into their platform in 2012). Many LGBT political candidates have run for office on the Libertarian Party ticket, and there have been numerous LGBT caucuses in the party, with the most active in recent years being the Outright Libertarians. Many Outright Libertarians have expressed support for a proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would end LGBT employment discrimination.
In 2009, the Libertarian Party of Washington encouraged voters to approve Washington Referendum 71 that extended LGBT relationship rights. According to the party, withholding domestic partnership rights from same-sex couples is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. In September 2010, in the light of the failure to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy (which banned openly gay people from serving in the military) during the Obama administration, the Libertarian Party urged gay voters to stop supporting the Democratic Party and vote Libertarian instead. The policy was repealed at the end of 2010.
Pornography and prostitution
The Libertarian Party views attempts by government to control obscenity or pornography as "an abridgment of liberty of expression" and opposes any government intervention to regulate it. According to former Libertarian National Committee chairman Mark Hinkle, "Federal anti-obscenity laws are unconstitutional in two ways. First, because the Constitution does not grant Congress any power to regulate or criminalize obscenity, and second, because the First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech." This also means that the party supports the legalization of prostitution. Many men and women with backgrounds in prostitution and activists for sex workers' rights, such as Norma Jean Almodovar and Starchild, have run for office on the Libertarian Party ticket or are active members of the party. Norma Jean Almodovar, a former officer with the Los Angeles Police Department and former call girl who authored the book From Cop To Call Girl about her experiences, ran on the Libertarian Party ticket for California lieutenant governor in 1986 and was actively supported by the party. Mark Hinkle described her as being the most able "of any Libertarian" "to generate publicity". The Massachusetts Libertarian Party was one of the few organizations to support a 1980s campaign to repeal prostitution laws.
Second Amendment rights
The Libertarian Party affirms an individual's right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and opposes the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. They oppose all laws at any level of government requiring registration of, or restricting, the ownership, manufacture, or transfer or sale of firearms or ammunition.
Foreign policy issues
Libertarians generally prefer an attitude of mutual respect between all nations. Libertarians believe that free trade engenders positive international relationships. Libertarian candidates have promised to cut foreign aid and withdraw American troops from the Middle East and other areas throughout the world.
Political status of Puerto Rico
The Libertarian Party has not officially commented on their position of the status of Puerto Rico. However, they did publish an article in which Bruce Majors, the party's 2012 candidate for the District of Columbia's at-large congressional district delegate election, expressed support to "put a referendum on the ballot and let...residents decide whether they would like to be a state" and thereby give residents of Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico greater control over their level of taxation.
"Principle" vs. "Pragmatism" debate
The debate that has survived the longest is referred to by libertarians as the anarchist–minarchist debate. In 1974, anarchists and minarchists within the Party agreed to "cease fire" about the specific question of whether governments should exist at all, and focus on promoting voluntary solutions to the problems caused by government instead. This agreement has become known as the Dallas Accord, having taken place at the party's convention that year in Dallas, Texas.
In the opinion of some Party officials, members who emphasize "principle," even at the expense of electoral success, have dominated the party since the early 1980s. Libertarian members often cite the departure of Ed Crane (of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank) as a key turning point. Crane, who in the 1970s had been the party's first Executive Director, and some of his allies resigned from the Party in 1983 when their preferred candidates for national committee seats lost in the elections at the national convention. Others, like Mary Ruwart say that despite this apparent victory of those favoring principle, the party has for decades been slowly moving away from its ideals.
The debate quieted for a time, then arose again in the mid-1990s, when a "Committee for a Libertarian Majority" (CLM) was formed and met in Atlanta, Georgia, and worked up several proposals to alter many aspects of the Libertarian Party's operations. Two of their proposals (substantially altering the platform and abolishing the membership pledge) attracted a lot of attention and opposition sprang up in the form of another committee called PLEDGE. In the long run, CLM's proposals attracted some support at the national convention but did not prevail.
Beginning in roughly 2004, the debate arose anew as a division between "Purism" and "Pragmatism", with the formation of several "pragmatist" groups, such as the Libertarian Party Reform Caucus. These groups generally advocate(d) revising the party's platform, eliminating or altering the membership statement, and focusing on a politics-oriented approach aimed at presenting libertarianism to voters in what they deemed a "less threatening" manner. LPRadicals emerged in response and was active at the 2008 and 2010 Libertarian National Conventions.
At the 2016 Libertarian National Convention, a newly re-founded Radical Caucus endorsed Darryl W. Perry for President and Will Coley for Vice President, who respectively won 7% and 10% of the vote on the first ballot. Though not explicitly organized as such, most self-identified pragmatists or moderates supported the nomination of Gary Johnson for President and Bill Weld for Vice President. Johnson and Weld were both nominated on the second ballot with a narrow majority, after having both placed just shy of the required 50% on the first ballots. After the convention, the Libertarian Pragmatist Caucus was founded and organized with the goal "[t]o promote realistic, pragmatic, and practical libertarian candidates and solutions." The Libertarian Party Radical Caucus which was very active at the 2016 Convention was founded and organized with the goal to "support the re-radicalization of the LP; and further to promote a clear, radical vision of libertarianism through education and electoral advocacy both within the LP and outside of it."
The party currently contains three factions:Classical liberals, Minarchists, and Anarchists
In 1999, a working group of leading LP activists proposed to reformat and retire the platform to serve as a guide for legislative projects (its main purpose to that point) and create a series of custom platforms on current issues for different purposes, including the needs of the growing number of Libertarians in office. The proposal was incorporated in a new party-wide strategic plan and a joint platform-program committee proposed a reformatted project platform that isolated talking points on issues, principles and solutions, and an array of projects for adaptation. This platform, along with a short Summary for talking points, was approved in 2004. Confusion arose when prior to the 2006 convention, there was a push to repeal or substantially rewrite the Platform, at the center of which were groups such as the Libertarian Reform Caucus. Their agenda was partially successful in that the current platform was much shortened (going from 61 to 15 planks – 11 new planks and 4 retained from the old platform) over the previous one.
Members differ as to the reasons why the changes were relatively more drastic than any platform actions at previous conventions. Some delegates voted for changes so the Party could appeal to a wider audience, while others simply thought the entire document needed an overhaul. It was also pointed out that the text of the existing platform was not provided to the delegates, making many reluctant to vote to retain the planks when the existing language wasn't provided for review.
Not all party members approved of the changes, some believing them to be a setback to libertarianism and an abandonment of what they see as the most important purpose of the Libertarian Party.
At the 2008 national convention, the changes went even further; with the approval of an entirely revamped platform. Much of the new platform recycles language from pre-millennial platforms. While the planks were renamed, most address ideas found in earlier platforms and run no longer than three to four sentences.