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ON THE FRONT LINES: Mises Caucus poisons election well

Though voters are expressing discontent with President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and former President Donald J. Trump, the Mises Caucus hurts the chance for a successful third-party challenge from candidates like Angela McArdle, the chair of the Libertarian National Committee. – Photo by @al_drago/  Instagram, @angela4chair / Instagram, Wikimedia

As the 2024 election progresses, many Americans are unhappy with the two major candidates, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and former President Donald J. Trump. Both candidates hold net unfavorable ratings, and voters feel they must choose between a rock and a hard place.

On one side is a senile, old man presiding over an economy many feel is not working for them and a humanitarian crisis in Gaza that does not seem to be ending.

On the other side is a convicted felon who seems more interested in reheating his grievances against people who did not support his baseless voter fraud claims, such as by pledging to invoke the Insurrection Act against his opposition and purging the federal government of dissenters, than offering an alternative policy vision for the nation.

This discontent with the binary choice has sparked a renewed interest in third parties as a viable alternative. Amid this discourse, one party that has long been a fixture in third-party politics is seemingly getting minimal attention: the Libertarian Party.

It is strange that the party has not received much coverage despite being the third-largest political party in the United States.

The moment also seems ripe for a Libertarian. With Americans feeling overtaxed, concerned that the U.S. is getting pulled into foreign conflicts and worried about government overreach, this would be the perfect storm. The question then becomes why there has been barely any noise from the party.

Looking closer at the Libertarian Party, there seem to be many issues. They have lost ballot access in many states, are losing state chapters and losing money.

What could have infected the Libertarian Party to create this issue? The answer is the Mises Caucus.

For those unaware, the Mises Caucus, named after economist Ludwig von Mises, is a faction in the Libertarian Party that seeks to reclaim its soul. The Mises Caucus claims that the party has lost touch with its origins and aims to make the Libertarian Party Libertarian again.

The Mises Caucus cites the decision to include Bell Weld as the vice-presidential candidate in 2016, along with the party's softer messaging around COVID-19-era mask and vaccine mandates, as ways that the Libertarian Party has lost touch with the Libertarian ideology.

Now that the Mises Caucus is in power, with board member and California organizer Angela McArdle becoming the chair of the Libertarian National Committee in 2022 and the caucus controlling 37 state delegations, they have been able to push their agenda on the party. The results have not been great.

One of the Mises Caucus' big pushes was getting bolder messaging out. Their bold messaging is similar to that of a 12-year-old screaming the most brash statement possible to get attention.

This is best shown by the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, where they have made racially insensitive remarks, denied genocides and praised the death of the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Rather than drawing in more people into the Libertarian Party, membership has declined and drawn backlash. Many say that any publicity is good publicity, but the Libertarian Party has proven to be the case where that principle does not work.

What about centering the party in a more Libertarian direction? The Mises Caucus has also aligned itself against this cause. During the 2022 Libertarian National Convention, when the Mises Caucus got into power, members voted to revisit the party's stance on open borders and also supported limited immigration.

This stance on immigration contradicts traditional Libertarian stances, which support people's freedom of association. In fact, the Mises Caucus' stance on immigration is opposite to its namesake.

The Mises Caucus has also tried to make inroads with the Trump coalition in the hopes of courting new members, even rolling out the red carpet for the former President to address the convention this year. This strategy makes no sense. 

Calling Trump a Libertarian is completely missing the point. This is a President who supported red flag laws regarding firearms, a stance that many Libertarians view as violating due process. Trump also extended drone strikes, increasing tariffs on many goods and pledged to build a border wall.

These are not the stances of someone who is a Libertarian. Trying to go after Trump's supporters or essentially inject Trump ideologies into the party is not going to get the support needed.

Libertarians would be better off following the example of the 2016 nominee, Gary Johnson, whose presidential campaign brought the highest ever vote share in the history of the Libertarian Party.

Johnson's support did not come from posting racist tweets and pledging fealty to Trump but by offering a vision that could contrast the duopoly.

His brand of fiscally Conservative but socially Liberal politics seemed to appeal to many voters who similarly identify. Furthermore, his stances on marijuana, foreign intervention and special interests in government also garnered much support from dissatisfied voters.

For the Libertarian Party to stay relevant and have a fighting chance of challenging the duopoly in politics, it must ditch the Mises Caucus. Luckily, the tides are changing as the Libertarian Party has nominated Chase Oliver, a candidate not affiliated with the Mises Caucus. Hopefully, this will breathe new life into the party.

Kiran Subramanian is a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in economics and political science.

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