Politics is a game of numbers.
Top political strategists work tirelessly to find out what percent of this group and that group is needed in order to achieve victory. This is most evident in presidential elections and the quest for 270 electoral votes. Focus must be given to the right demographics in order to secure certain states which are normally up for grabs. Unfortunately, the current state of politics in this country makes the electoral map game only a Democrat and Republican thing.
That doesn’t mean third parties shouldn’t focus on large races, though.
Races for national office and governor races receive the most press. Local races are winnable, and should certainly be a focus for third parties and independent candidates, but those races fail to move the needle on the larger scale.
What third parties need to compete, is raw numbers. Every four years, the presidential election is going to be a minor party’s best opportunity at free press and opportunities to spread their message. To qualify for federal assistance, a party must secure at least 5% of the national vote. To achieve this, there must be a strategy.
Although the Libertarian Party did well in places like North Dakota and Montana in 2016, those are not populous areas. Gary Johnson received his best raw vote total in California, where 3.4% of the vote, netted him over 400,000 votes. 5% of the vote would have garnered roughly 600,000 votes in California, where as 6.3% of the vote in North Dakota only gave Johnson a little over 21,000. Even doubling that number, does very little to move the national vote total for the Libertarian Party. In Texas, 3.2% of the vote gave the ticket of Johnson and Weld over 280,00 votes. Therefore, like it or not, the biggest names in the Libertarian Party must run for the highest office available to them, especially when they live in a state with a large population.
For third parties, the goal needs to be consistent, and quantifiable, growth. Nationally, these numbers can be seen through congressional, senate, gubernatorial, and presidential races. There is no denying that local and county races must be won, too, but real marketing must be done in higher races. In these races, candidates are gaining inclusion in debates, and social media allows for a message to traverse through various circles with greater ease and less spin. Since these races have the widest audiences, they have the greatest opportunity to gain attention from those who are either unfamiliar, or improperly informed, of a different message. Within these opportunities, exists the greatest chance for party growth and a dedicated voting population. If the Libertarian, and other minor parties, can keep up their momentum, and continue raising the floor of expected votes, more people will join and there will be exponential growth until state and federal offices have representation for those who don’t identify as Republican or Democrat.
2018 could prove to be a boom for the Libertarian Party, should former vice-presidential candidate Larry Sharpe’s run for governor of New York gain any traction. With only 2.3% of the vote for president in 2016, the Libertarian Party could use dedicated growth in the Empire State moving forward. Should Sharpe’s polished and friendly message exceed that total, New York could give the Libertarian Party the extra boost needed to cross the 5% national threshold in 2020.