Libertarians selected Clemson University professor Dr. Jo Jorgesen as their nominee for president following an all-day online convention on Saturday. Jorgensen, who was the party’s vice presidential nominee in 1996, captured the nomination following four rounds of voting. She never trailed and only saw her lead grow over the evening as other members of the so-called pragmatic caucus of the Libertarian Party consolidated their support.
“I am glad that the voters will finally have a real choice because the non-choice between Trump and Biden is still an option between big government and more big government,” Jorgensen said in a statement released by the party early Sunday. “The volunteers are already pouring in and it looks like it will be the most massive volunteer effort that the LP has ever seen. It is really growing from the grass roots.”
Jorgensen’s rise to the nomination proved the adage, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” She won only one of the non-binding Libertarian Party primaries, capturing Nebraska on May 12th. The Future of Freedom Foundation co-founder and president, Jacob Hornberger, won seven while political humorist Vermin Supreme won two (again, these primaries are non-binding, but Supreme was impressive in his knowledge of the issues and ability to meld serious and humorous answers together, head boot and all.). Yet, Jorgensen pushed forward in the campaign coming in second to Michigan Congressman Justin Amash in a poll of Kentucky LP delegates earlier this month.
The Libertarian Party presidential nomination, as usual, became a fight between the aforementioned pragmatic caucus and the almost anarchist caucus. The former sees electability key while the latter appears to prefer a candidate who espouses freedom and liberty no matter the circumstance. Hornberger represented the almost anarchist caucus quite well in his full-throated defense of smaller, weaker government and free markets. He walked and talked the talk without fear of repercussions. Hornberger ideologically attacked Jorgensen as being too pragmatic during the final presidential primary debate last week.
“Hornberger believes Libertarians give up their valuable moral high ground if they give an inch to any variety of statism, including Social Security and Medicaid,” Reason’s Brian Doherty wrote in his recap of the debate. “Jorgensen stressed the limits in our constitutional system of how much libertarian change a president alone could unilaterally deliver. She said she’d be quick to veto excessive spending and to pardon victimless criminals, but she thinks those who have paid into Social Security deserve to get that money back—so she’s against instantly killing the system entirely, though she said she would allow people to stop paying into it from day one.”
Jorgensen was correct in her assertions on the constitutional system making it hard to immediately enforce any sort of Libertarian agenda. Rule by executive fiat needs to be avoided at all costs despite its growing power by the day in the White House. Checks and balances exist for a reason meaning Congress, as currently constructed, would likely pass on any sort of legislation eliminating entitlement programs. Negotiations work if sentiment for reform existed within hearts and minds. Libertarian delegates realized Jorgensen’s pragmatic method might sway voters more easily than a 70-minute speech on the ideals of freedom and liberty.
The big question for the Libertarian Party remains ballot access and media coverage. LP successfully got on all 50 state ballots in 2016 and will need a repeat performance this year. The coronavirus pandemic puts a damper on ballot access despite recent efforts to reopen certain states. The possible second wave of coronavirus might cause even more difficulties depending on the circumstances.
Media access will also be an issue. Jorgensen is a better speaker than former Governor Gary Johnson, the 2012 and 2016 nominee. It’s doubtful she’ll have an Aleppo moment despite the fact Johnson’s answer, once he realized it was in Syria, was quite thorough and understandable. Jorgensen will need to fight through the partisanship of the airwaves while navigating the constant pandemic news cycle in hopes of reaching out to voters. Alternative media including podcasts will be a factor although whether it makes an impact on polling is still the question.
Can she do it? Absolutely. Neither President Donald Trump or former vice president Joe Biden are enthralling candidates for one reason or another. It’s an uphill battle and one she’s likely not to win given the political duopoly currently in American politics. The fight is still worth it especially for those who want their voices heard at the ballot box and in the political spectrum. Thankfully, there are people out there who are willing to listen and advocate for their beliefs.