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KNAPP: Election 2016: Finally a Real Third Way?

As I write this column, the polls haven’t yet opened for “Super Tuesday.” By the time you read it, polling predicts that Donald Trump will have carried at least 12 of the 13 Republican primary and caucus states, the possible exception being Texas (which may go for Ted Cruz), and that Hillary Clinton will have won 10 of 12 Democratic contests (Bernie Sanders is expected to carry Vermont and Colorado).

If the polls are right, Trump and Clinton are, at this point, essentially unstoppable in pursuit of their parties’ presidential nominations.

Over the years I’ve become desensitized to the constant talk about how this or that election is “the most consequential of our lifetimes.” It’s usually just not true, because the “major party” candidates are usually as alike as peas in a pod.

But it may be true this year, precisely because the two candidates are as alike as Juan and Evita Peron.

Over the years I’ve also become desensitized to the constant talk about this being the year a “third party” finally breaks out, because as much as I’d like to believe that (I’m a long-time Libertarian Party activist), it’s also usually just not true.

But it may be true this year, because we seem to have hit bottom in our long slide into banana republicanism — the culmination of, among other things, George W. Bush’s “unitary executive” claims and Barack Obama’s “pen and phone” posturing.

The first step, as Alcoholics Anonymous points out, is admitting you have a problem. There’s certainly no denying that at this point. We seem to be at the point where America has two choices: Up, or out. We can pull ourselves up from our authoritarian funk, or we can finally tip ourselves over into the dustbin of history.

I’m not placing any bets on which way things will go in the here and now, although my money is on the dustbin option for the long term (I always bet with the odds).

It seems to me, however, that if there is ever going to be a libertarian moment in American politics, it has to come soon, and that this year is its best chance.

Since 1972, the Libertarian Party has consistently offered American voters their best shot at national resurgence and a new birth of freedom. We’ve been right on economics. We’ve been right on foreign policy. We’ve been right on immigration. We’ve been right on all the burning social issues.

But being right has never been enough. While hundreds of Libertarians have served and continue to serve in public office, we’ve never worked our way higher up the elective political ladder than state legislative seats. It’s always been easier for voters to just go with the flow, kick the can down the road, etc.

So, how’s that working out for you? The polls say not so well. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? If that’s not the bottom of the barrel, the barrel has no bottom.

Time to vote Libertarian. Or to quit pretending you care about your country.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) 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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