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Run As Many Candidates As Possible

I wrote this for Libertarians, but the analysis is equally true for every other third party.

The purpose of a political party is

  • To Advance its Agenda via Political Action.
  • To run Candidates for Office and Win Elections.
  • To Use Electoral Victory to Put Its Program into Effect.

The only way we can forward our cause as a political party is to run people for office. Some candidates will bring the Libertarian word to the public. Other candidates will win election and serve in office, thereby showing voters how the Libertarian program of small government, low taxes, and the whole Bill of Rights benefits every voter personally.

I have discussed four sorts of candidates that we can run, namely the paper candidate, the minimum-commitment candidate, the serious candidate, and the running-to-win candidate

Someday, there will be a Libertarian candidate for every election across the United States, and every single one of them will be a serious candidate, generally in a position to run to win.

That day is not here yet.

Until then, we make do with the candidates that we have, while inciting as many of our fellow Libertarians as possible to run for election.

How many candidates do we run? In my opinion, there is only one possible answer to this question: We run as many candidates as we can over the long term. That’s not quite “run as many candidates as we can”: Let’s not burn out our activists, so they aren’t there for the next election. Let’s not run people who will seriously embarrass the party. Let’s be sure that the candidates who have a reasonable shot at winning can do the job when elected.

However, it’s pretty close: Without wrecking ourselves up for the long term, we should be running as many candidates as we can.

There are people who will say we shouldn’t run minimum-activity candidates, the people who answer questionnaires and talk to the press, but do no campaigning. They don’t want to run candidates who get 5% of the vote or 3% of the media coverage. They don’t want us to run candidates who make the Libertarian party look like a paper tiger.

To those people I say: When we run no candidate, we’ll get not 5% or 0.5% but no percent at all of the total vote. When we run no candidate, we’ll get not 30 percent or 3 percent but no percent of the vote. Actually, we’ll be lucky to get no more than no percent of the vote. In 1996, Massachusetts Libertarians finally ran no candidates for “Party State Committee”, a Massachusetts elective office, and were mocked for their failure by one of the major Massachusetts newspapers.  The newspaper predicted that the Libertarian Party would soon disappear without a trace.

We should run all the serious candidates that we can. Through the Local Organization strategy, we should work to get those candidates the staffs and fundraising channels that will let them win their elections. But if we can’t find a serious candidate, or don’t have the staffers, volunteers, and funds to give a volunteer a serious campaign, we should to the maximum extent possible run minimum-commitment candidates for as many offices as possible.

The candidates that our Local Organizations develop and support will bring us to the Libertarian future of freedom, prosperity, and peace.


  1. NewFederalist NewFederalist April 23, 2023

    I’ve been an advocate of this strategy since 1980. Even “paper” candidates are helpful insofar as they make the party look better by having as many nominees as the major parties AND provide an opportunity for voters to vote AGAINST the duopoly nominees. This is especially important in races where the major party nominees are even worse than usual. If a “nobody” polls 7%, for example, it might make the major parties reevaluate their nominees in the future or even encourage better candidates to get involved in their respective party primaries. Either way, it provides a nudge for improvement. Of course, as George said in the article a truly frivolous candidate can do more harm than good

  2. See Spot Run See Spot Run April 23, 2023

    Do you oppose paragraph breaks as a matter of principle? I’m not sure if it’s a learning disability or completely normal, but when I see a paragraph that long my brain shuts down and refuses to process the words.

    • George Phillies George Phillies Post author | April 23, 2023

      Software formatting issue. Format is OK in the draft. Fixed.

  3. George Whitfield George Whitfield April 23, 2023

    Very sound advice.

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