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Even a Libertarian might admit that his party isn't exactly mainstream. Yet. Then again, once upon a time the Republican Party wasn't mainstream, either. Think 1844 and Henry Clay. Or 1996 and Bob Dole. (Kidding!)

Parties come and go. They switch sides. They re-invent themselves, disappear, reappear, and change geographic bases. On this, you should trust the unreliably conservative newspaper editorial in a paper called the Democrat-Gazette.

Some ideas the Libertarians float are indeed strange, not to mention unworkable. But they give voters a choice, just as the Green Party does on occasion. How many conservatives, uncomfortable with the liberal and the populist in the last presidential election, voted Libertarian--because its candidate was the only conservative in the race? Answer: 4.5 million Americans.

Libertarians can be something to see and hear when you can find one. They may be rare, but America needs 'em, bless their anti-government hearts. They pull starboard even when Republicans are moving port. If the Greens and environmentalists are throwing bombs at the two major parties from the left (figuratively, let's hope), the Libertarians are doing the same from the right. Most of the time.

Because right and left mean little to Libertarians. The glue that binds them is a belief that government is best that governs the oh-so-least. No matter what you think of some of their ideas, you have to give the party this: It's consistent. Unlike the two major parties in America today.

The papers say at least one state lawmaker is trying to make things harder for Libertarians to make the ballot. Oh, he wouldn't put it that way, and didn't, but that would be the result of state Sen. Trent Garner's bill to raise the threshold for ballot access. If his bill passes, it'd require third parties to get even more signatures to appear on the ballot.

Presently Libertarians, the Green Party, the Reform Party (remember it?) and any other third party seeking to challenge Republicans and Democrats in Arkansas need to get petitions signed just to appear on the ballot. So how many signatures did Libertarians need to appear on the 2018 ballot? Ten thousand. And they spent $30,000 to get them.

Sen. Garner's bill would raise the number of signatures needed to 3 percent of total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Considering 2018 results, that'd be just under 27,000 signatures next time out. (If a third party secures 3 percent of the vote in a gubernatorial election, then there's no need for petitions. They're off to the races.)

The sad irony for Arkansas Libertarians is that their last gubernatorial candidate fell 861 votes short of the party appearing automatically on the 2020 ballot.

Sen. Garner says this change is needed to reserve space on the ballot for "serious candidates."

But who is to decide who are serious candidates? Sen. Garner? The governor? We are sailing into some very dangerous waters when politicians start deciding which candidates can appear on the ballot. Don't they do that in more authoritarian countries? We are reminded of the Chinese student who tried to convince his friend from the West that the Communist government in Red China offered real freedom, unlike the liberal democracies in the West. "How can you have free elections," he asked, "if the wrong side wins?"

The more choices on the ballot, the healthier our democracy. Voters deserve to have more than Democrats and Republicans to choose from, especially given how far left and right each party is heading at the moment. Besides, the Arkansas Poll shows there are more independents in Arkansas than Republicans or Democrats. No, really. Arkies can be an unpredictable bunch. Not to mention fiercely independent.

Another problem for those interested in seeking office is that filing fees for both Republicans and Democrats are ridiculously high, at several thousand dollars to run for state House or Senate. KNWA reported our state has the highest filing fees in the nation. Combine that with our low median income, and you have a situation in which running for office is too expensive for many regular Joes. Running as a third-party candidate presents a more frugal option.

Besides, is there a problem with the process as it exists? If so, we haven't heard about it. Why fix something that ain't broke? Our advice on this bill: Don't just do something, sit there.

Malcontents have always been a part of American politics, and they congregate in a lot of third parties. When Republicans are running up the federal deficit and Democrats are cheering a law in New York state that will make late-term abortions not rare but all too common, it's good to hear some consistency from the Libertarians. Even if they don't belong to a "major" party.


Editorial on 01/31/2019

Print Headline: Ain't broke, don't fix


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Archived Comments

  • RBear
    January 31, 2019 at 6:26 a.m.

    Yes, this is a bill by the "busy body" senator from south Arkansas who's more concerned about Bowie knifes, shotguns, and defining veterans as "athletes" than economic development. Garner's bill is an attempt to shut down those Libertarians who often poach from the Republican rank and file of voters in elections. By making it harder for them to get on the ballot, voters who would prefer a libertarian POV are more likely to side with those of Garner's ilk, aka the Republican Party.
    As the D-G Ed Board rightfully noted, why attempt to fix something that isn't broken. Why not actually look at ways to improve voter participation that have been successful in other states. To go a step further, I imagine we'll be seeing efforts by the Trump campaign to possibly eliminate the presidential primary to ensure Trump isn't challenged in 2020. South Carolina is strongly considering this option.
    “We have complete autonomy and flexibility in either direction,” Drew McKissick, chairman of the South Carolina GOP, told the Washington Examiner back in December. “Considering the fact that the entire party supports the president, we’ll end up doing what’s in the president’s best interest.” A lot of this is to shore up Trump's position since both CA and TX will hold primaries shortly after the first three (IA, NH, and SC) which will go a long ways at locking up the nomination.
    In 2020, the number of delegates needed to win the Republican nomination is 1,276. CA and TX combined have a quarter of those delegates. Both states are winner-take-all states which Trump would need to win the nomination. By eliminating primaries in lesser states, it allows the Trump campaign to focus all its resources on those two big prizes.
    For all the attacks by right wingers on the Democratic nomination process, they really ought to be looking at their own party at the shenanigans.