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Rumors of the GOP’s Demise are Exaggerated, but There’s Still Good News

As a callow youth, I cast my first vote in a presidential election for Michael Dukakis, the Democratic Party’s 1988 nominee. Since then, I’ve never again voted for a Democrat or Republican for president. If George HW Bush had bothered to read his own lips in 1992, he’d have had my vote and I might never have ended up as a Libertarian Party member, activist and candidate. Thanks, George.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, 160 years into its life as a national political organization and 156 years after it became the most recent new party to put up a winning presidential candidate, the Grand Old Party seems to be coming apart at the seams thanks to Donald Trump.

That’s probably an illusion. Fifty years from now this year will most likely have been, in retrospect, just another inflection point. It would be far from the first. Eisenhower’s defeat of Taft in 1952 made the Republicans the party of Cold War instead of non-interventionism. The period connecting Goldwater and Reagan spanned several major changes including but not limited to a rhetorical co-option of libertarianism at those end points and Nixon’s actual co-option of the formerly Democratic “Solid South.”

The Republican Party may be imploding, or it may just be shifting gears. Either way, I’m relieved. Not because I necessarily think New GOP will be any better than Classic GOP. But at least it will be less vexing on one front:

For my entire adult life, Republicans have campaigned as libertarians and governed as Democrats. I doubt we’ll see any major change on the latter point. But it will make my year (heck, my decade) if this election cycle means America stops running off to bed with a beer-goggles-induced Thomas Jefferson on the first Tuesday night every fourth November and waking up next to Hubert Humphrey the following morning.

If you’re a conservative or a progressive, okay. Just be that, take pride in it, and openly act on it instead of trying to convince yourself (and everyone around you) that you’re something else.

If you love freedom, though, this election cycle should be the point where you stop screwing around and get serious. You’ve GOT a political party, the Libertarian Party. We’ve been around for nearly half a century. We’re America’s third largest political party. We’ve elected hundreds of local officials and even some state legislators. Let’s hit the next level together. And welcome home.

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Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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