As a registered Libertarian myself, this is a big thing to have stated in a major news publication:
Time Magazine: Libertarians: a (Not So) Lunatic Fringe
Basically, they talk about Ron Paul, a former Libertarian, switched to Republican for the 2008 election, Bob Barr, the current Libertarian Nominee, and how disgruntled Republicans and Democrats are switching to the Libertarian party, largely citing a feeling that their former party of choice has failed them. They foresee Libertarians as a possible deciding factor in the November General Election, and possibly growing so much in the next few years, as to be a viable third party.
Ultimately, what I see the Libertarian Party becoming, speaking as a mostly conservative, but liberal-leaning Libertarian, is a party that encompasses the best points of both the old Republican Party, and the Clinton-era Democrats - reasonably small government, with federally funded programs that help people, instead of hindering freedom. I think it'll become a party that supports Federal education funding, Federally funded drug education and rehabilitation programs, Federally funded health care, but at the same time, saves the American public boatloads of tax money by returning to to gold standard, abolishing such Federal money-wasters such as the DEA, DHS, and others, as well as ousting the Federal Reserve bank, instead returning control of the American dollar to congress, where it should be anyway (according to the Constitution). A common Libertarian standard is also the abolishment of the IRS, but after weighing both sides of the issue, I'm wondering how feasible that really is, even with greatly reduced Federal spending. It looks great on paper, but how will it really work out? I really have no problem with paying Federal taxes, so long as I feel my money is well spent. Right now, the Federal Government spends my money in ways that I wound never approve of in a million years - the DHS and the Iraq war being the two most glaring examples, followed closely by the recently passed FISA reform bill - yup - we're all now paying for the government to spy on us (well, we have been for years, but it's legal now).
The underlying core principle of the Libertarian Party is freedom - a return to the Constitution as our Forefathers intended it; to return the basic expected standard of all Americans to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The more I educate myself about the political and social issues at large, the less I toe the direct party line of the Libertarians, though I still feel that this party is the one to return my privacy to me, enable me to become wealthier in the long run (all I want is to be comfortable, and as it is right now, I'm making almost triple the minimum wage, and it's still not a viable living wage - I barely have a roof over my head, and can afford no more than ramen for food - people making triple what I'm making are still living paycheck to paycheck - this is simply not right). The Libertarians want to enable Americans to be the masters of their own respective futures - and not rely on some badly worded, non-thought out Federal program, made law for "our own good". Some Libertarians do understand the need that some Americans need help, due to disability, illness, or other issue. They are willing to work with those people to help them also achieve the American dream. Libertarians, on the other hand, have no love for people who are perfectly capable of, but simply refuse to, help themselves. Poor welfare recipients that simply have more and more children in order to increase their welfare payments. Able-bodied people that are too lazy to get a job and be a productive member of society. These are the ones that we are currently paying for, that the Libertarians want to stop subsidizing. Note: this DOES NOT include special cases, like single mothers (or families) that are on welfare, even when they work (or if they are unable to work) due to the special needs of their child. People in these special cases deserve all the help we can muster (and all too often in today's America, are not helped nearly enough, due to the people that are abusing the system, and taking money that would be better spent on these special cases).
The Libertarian party is largely misunderstood in modern America, most often being thought of as fringe lunatics that preach anarchy. The lion's share of the Libertarian party is not that at all. There's really three types of Libertarian: the fringe lunatic that preaches anarchy (also less than 10% of the party), the old-style conservative that harbors essentially the same principles as pre-WWII Republicans, and the liberal leaning Libertarian (where I fall in the party), which is the fastest growing segment of the party, and will likely end up controlling the party in the near future.
Explanations of Libertarian Party segments:
Anarchist style Libertarians: largely a fringe element of the party - mostly seen as extremist outcasts to the party, much like the neo-conservative movement is currently seen in the Republican party (at least to the average regular American Republican who is upset with the neo-con line). The biggest difference is that the anarchist Libertarians are in no position to take control of the party.
The old-school Republican: The core beliefs of the Libertarian party are essentially the same as the beliefs of the pre-WWII Republicans - small government, self-accountability, and utmost adherence to the Constitution. This is currently the largest segment of the party, and the segment that best describes Ron Paul's politics.
Liberal-Leaning Libertarian: As I said, this is where I fall. Both of the major parties have failed the American public. Even though the fastest expanding part of the Libertarian party is disgruntled Republicans, many have liberal leanings in certain areas, particularly in public programs. While an adherence to the Constitution is of utmost importance, they can recognize the merit in certain public programs, while the abolishment of other Federal programs will free up funding for these public programs, and in many cases cost far less (the drug education/rehabilitation program versus the DEA, for instance). There are also many disgruntled Democrats joining the Libertarian party in this segment. Due to the political climate in the US today, this will continue to be the largest growing segment of the party, likely overtaking the Old-School Republicans as the controlling segment within a decade or so. Libertarian Nominee Bob Barr falls between the Old-School Republican and Liberal-Leaning segments of the party.
Why did I become a Libertarian, you may ask? Well, I'll explain my history of political affiliation, and that will likely explain why I sit where I do politically.
When I first became somewhat politically aware in the late 1980s/early 1990s (end of the Regan years, and during the Bush Sr. years), I was a young, disgruntled teenager, going through an identity crisis, and seeing any sort of political program as an obstacle to overcome in defining myself and living my life. I didn't like authority in any form. I was too young to vote, so I, fortunately, didn't help to cause any damage. I identified as an Anarchist in those days.
Towards the end of my High School career, particularly after a few classes in American History and Civics, I finally became enlightened enough to realize that Anarchy, while great for an anti-authority idealist, would never work in the real world. Some degree of law was necessary just to protect people wanting to live their lives - such as laws against theft, murder, and rape. With this new (admittedly cursory) understanding of politics being built on top of a formerly Anarchist political belief, I registered as an independent in 1993, when I turned 18 - just 10 months too late to vote in the 1992 general election, which brought Clinton into his first term. I didn't really know enough about politics at that time to make an educated decision on either major political party. I just knew that my parents were both Republicans, and I had recently heard of the Libertarian party, which, at the time, was described to me as near-anarchists (not correct, but I didn't know that). Still being politically green, I identified most with the Libertarian party, but found myself unable to really choose. I felt that before I committed to one party or another, I should learn more.
I paid close attention to the Clinton years. I loved that the economy was improving. I liked some of the social programs that Clinton put in place. I completely missed Hillary's involvement in NAFTA, and had I known of it, I probably wouldn't have understood it at the time. Generally, I was happy with Clinton as president, and thought I'd like to see him as president for another term. In the 1996 election year, I was quite tempted to register as a Libertarian, as I still identified the most with that party. It was when the Elections Board representative told me that I'd only be able to vote in the primaries if I was registered as a Democrat or Republican that made me choose a major party. I registered as Democrat that year, yet still thought among Libertarian lines. I helped re-elect Clinton in 1996. I also knew that Ron Paul was running as a Libertarian that year, but I, still being reasonably politically uninformed, stuck with the Democrats. In hindsight, had I voted for Paul, it wouldn't have helped... the support for Clinton's re-election was too strong.
During Clinton's second term, I thought more and more about joining the Libertarian party, doing more research on them, liking the party beliefs, loving the adherence to the Constitution and the American right to personal liberty. As Clinton's second term was coming to a close, and the candidates for the 2000 election were starting to campaign, I saw George W. Bush quickly coming to the forefront of the Republican Party. I knew right from the start that he'd be horribly bad for the country. I didn't much care for Al Gore either, though - I still remember Tipper's attempt at censoring/banning various music albums in the 1980s with the PMRC (Her extreme thoughts on censorship were much of the reason for my extreme thoughts on anarchy in the 80s). Still, I knew that George Bush was going to be disaster for America. In 2000, the year I thought I'd register as Libertarian, I remained a Democrat, to try and ensure that GWB never saw the White House. I did everything I could to have Gore elected - including donating money to his campaign - which I haven't done since, until this year. I did not want GWB as President, and Gore was the only one with a chance to beat him. Unfortunately, as we all know now, my efforts - and the efforts of everyone else that knew GWB was going to be Death for America - were in vain. Corruption came out on top, and awarded GWB the presidency.
Even still, I relegated myself to give GWB a chance, even with as much as I didn't like him. He had not been in office for a day before he proved his complete incompetency, ignorance, and disregard for the Constitution and the American public. I could tell from the subtext in his first inauguration speech that he was going to destroy America. I just didn't know if it was going to be through incompetence or disregard for the American public.
We all know the history of GWB's first four years. In 2004, knowing that GWB had to follow the same legacy as his father, and be ousted after his first term, I remained a Democrat, this time around looking to Kerry as my champion (well, at first, I was a staunch supporter of the Howard Dean camp - I liked his passion and ideals for change - too bad that primal scream he let loose cost him his chances - too many people associate passion with insanity). I voted for John Kerry in 2004. In another controversial election, fraught with allegations of voter fraud and voting machine tampering, GWB won his second term in office. We also know how that's going - coming to a close with possible impeachment on the table - with an increasing popularity in the senate.
Knowing the severity of the situation, for the first time ever, I payed close attention to the 2006 Congressional elections. I, like most Americans, had high hopes that ousting the mostly Republican Congress would help to restore checks and balances to the government. In hopes for practicality in changing the country, I remained registered as a Democrat, and voted Democrat straight down the line, all the way from local City Council, to Maryland Governor, to our Senate and House choices in the Federal Government. So far, the Baltimore City Council has proceeded to fuck up the city so bad that I no longer live within city limits. Governor Martin O'Malley is apparently incapable of making a solid decision that doesn't include Irish folk music and a pint of Guinness (fine for the everyperson, but lousy for a Governnor), and our Federal Senate and House members have largely betrayed us, mostly siding with GWB on his every whim. I think my votes in the 2006 Congressional Elections are the votes I regret the most ever.
Now, it's time for the 2008 election. We have the most important Presidential Election year in US History at hand (arguably even more important than the first Presidential election in the US - the one that named George Washington as President, making him the one that defined America for all of history - because that definition has now changed, and needs correction). I felt greatly let down by both the Democrats and the Republicans. I honestly didn't want either of them in office. My primary requirement for a candidate was one that publicly says he'll repeal the Patriot Act, and disband DHS. As these are both goals of the Libertarian party, I decided, with great passion, to re-register as a Libertarian. Even as I was re-registering, I was told by the Elections Board rep that I won't be able to vote in the primaries. I quickly replied with, "I understand that, but as an American that loves his country and values the Constitution above all else, I cannot, in good faith, register myself as either a Democrat or a Republican. They have both failed us. I wrote Libertarian on the form, and I want to support the Libertarian party." With great pride, I made the choice I should have made more than a decade earlier. I knew very well that Ron Paul was running as a Republican. Even though I was unable to vote for him in the primary, I campaigned like mad for him, even contributing money to his campaign (which, I may add, was the best financially run campaign in modern political history - when he ended his campaign, he still had over three million dollars in the bank, which he has since donated to the election fund and the Federal government). I know that I, personally, even garnered him at least three votes from Marylanders that would otherwise have not known about him. After Ron Paul resigned, I was faced with a huge choice - vote for Obama, and hope for some change, vote for Bob Barr (who, at the time, I didn't know much about), or write in a vote for Ron Paul anyway. Earlier this week, that choice was narrowed as Obama voted for the FISA Reform Bill, effectively making warrantless domestic surveillance legal, and ensuring telecom immunity. So much for change, Obama. You just proved yourself to be the same cowardly, waffling politician as most of the rest. Thank you for helping to obliterate the Fourth Amendment. You will not be getting my vote.
Here it is, just a few short months away from the general election (and I still need to change my address on my voters registration), and I'm faced with only two choices. Do I write in a vote for Ron Paul, who is a financial genius, and will likely get this country completely out of debt in his first term, not to mention do MUCH to restore Constitutional rule to America, or do I vote for Bob Barr, who is a former Neo-Con Republican, who now sees the error of his ways, and has been trying, since he joined the Libertarian Party in 2006, to make amends, and promises to restore Constitutional freedom to the American public?
Finally, should I even mention that McCain, with his senility, obvious effects of shellshock, sorry, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, his anti-equality views (that would set back racial equality thirty years, and gender equality almost sixty years), and his promise of one hundred years in Iraq, is not even a remote thought in my head as a viable candidate. I won't even mention his Congressional voting record being 99% in favor of GWB's desires - oh wait, I just mentioned it. Yeah. You get the point.
In 2008, the only American choice is the Libertarian choice.