The Libertarian Party presidential nominee acquired fewer votes than in 2016. Here’s exactly how those votes helped adjust the election anyway.

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A Pennsylvania ballot with few of the selections for president: Joseph R. Biden, Donald J. Trump, and Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen. Ben Hasty/MediaNews group
Just before the election, I argued that 3rd parties were unlikely come play a significant role this year. The deck to be seemingly stacked versus them — an unpopular incumbent president and expected high turnout would certainly make it harder for them to it is in competitive and garner votes from american displeased v both significant parties.

It turns out that i was half-right, and also half-wrong.

It’s true that third-party votes declined from 2016 to 2020, as people who may have actually voted for a third-party candidate in 2016 determined to poll for one of two people Joe Biden or Donald Trump.

But that turned the end that in a gyeongju that hinged on reasonably small margins in between Biden and Trump, one third-party candidate — Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen — may have actually helped rotate the tide towards Biden in number of states. She didn’t generate enormous numbers, yet she didn’t have actually to. Her votes were close enough to the margin to imply that some voters who may have leaned towards Trump (or perhaps simply not voted because that president at all) voted because that her.

Many libertarians think this bodes well because that the future. As Libertarian Party nationwide chair Joe Bishop-Henchman said me, “America didn’t want Trump anymore however didn’t want Biden’s policies.”

How the Libertarian Party won — sort of

More world voted because that Joe Biden than for any presidential candidate in American history. This acquire happened not merely by generating votes from democrats (or middle or former Republicans), however from independents and the estimated 5 million voters that favored a third-party candidate in 2016.

Though votes are still gift tabulated, for this reason far, the variety of third-party votes has dropped precipitously indigenous 2016 come 2020, from an ext than 5 percent come perhaps less than 2 percent. Countless of those third-party voters ultimately voted for Joe Biden: As reason Magazine’s Matt Welch explained, if Trump’s voting percentage in states choose Michigan and also Arizona mirrored his 2016 performance, votes that visited third-party candidates prefer Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson in 2016 appear to have actually gone to Biden instead.

To be clear, us don’t recognize if 2016 voters and 2020 voters room the same civilization — third-party voters in 2016 may have actually stayed residence in 2020, an interpretation that Joe Biden got a vital number of votes from first-time voters.

But in Wisconsin, whereby the gap between Biden and Trump stands currently at 20,557 votes, Jo Jorgensen received 38,393 votes. And also in Arizona, where the gap between Biden and Trump is an also tighter 12,813 votes, Jorgensen obtained 50,636 votes — nearly four time the margin between Biden and Trump.

Both the those states, i m sorry Trump won in 2016, visited Biden in 2020.

This is an practically exact reversal of what happened in 2016, when third-party candidates like environment-friendly Party nominee Jill Stein and then-Libertarian Party nominee Johnson got thousands more votes 보다 the can be fried margin between Trump and then-Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton. As NBC News report the day after the 2016 election:

In Michigan — which was a must-win for Clinton, but was still also close to contact as of Wednesday morning, according to NBC News projections — Johnson and Stein had collectively taken a little more than 222,400 votes, or around 5 percent that the vote there. Trump, in contrast, organized just end a 15,600-vote lead over Clinton.

In Florida, i m sorry was an essential to Trump’s victory, Johnson, Stein and also two other third-party candidates on the ballot collectively drew over 293,000 votes — much more than twice the 128,000-plus votes the Trump led with as of beforehand Wednesday morning.

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“Libertarians are here to stay”

Several influential Republicans, like previous Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, expressed wake up at the success of the Libertarian Party (and arguably, libertarianism itself) this election cycle.


realDonaldTrump is less than 21,000 votes. #Elections2020 pic.twitter.com/JGmfmvpngT

— Scott walker (

And the founder of Libertarians because that Trump, Loyola university economist and also anarcho-capitalist Walter E. Block, created in the wall surface Street newspaper on November 8 the libertarians had “spoiled” the election, suggesting that “on the Libertarian-O-Meter, Mr. Trump scores much higher than Mr. Biden” because of his justice nominations and deregulatory policies. The concluded, “Pardon me while i beat mine head against the wall. How could libertarians in purple claims be so stupid?”

But libertarianism is not identified with Trumpism (or conservatism, for the matter), and Jorgensen’s project aimed to different herself native both the Democratic and Republican party nominees, saying for the federal decriminalization of all drugs and the defunding that the drug Enforcement Administration, because that instance, and also saying that the joined States must pull the end of NATO and also the joined Nations and also become “one large Switzerland.”

So while part votes for Jorgensen may have actually come native conservatives, it’s also possible that Libertarian Party voter are simply that: libertarians, a vote cohort that may not have voted for Trump (or also voted in ~ all) had there been no libertarians top top the ballot.

As David Boaz said at the Cato Institute, “In the end, if girlfriend ask whether Jo Jorgensen’s 1.8 million or so votes, or an ext specifically she votes in states chose by narrow margins, swung the election, the prize is no: had there to be no Libertarian ~ above the ballot, those voter would have actually been split amongst Biden, Trump, and also not voting, with a tilt toward Biden (or probably ‘against Trump’).”

Joe Bishop-Henchman called me the Jorgensen’s campaign was aimed at “protecting freedom,” adding, “She argued maybe we must pay more attention to what power we’ve given up, rather than simply who we select to wield it.” and also as come the increasingly fractured relationship in between libertarianism and mainline conservatism, that said, “A decade back there to be still a lot of of human being who had dreams that the Republican Party would certainly champion smaller federal government and an ext liberty, and also the Tea Party wave used a many that rhetoric. Those desires are dead now, because that to be Republican now is to be pro-Trump, anti-free trade, and anti-immigrant.”

And he is optimistic about the future the the libertarian movement, an especially as the country likely encounters a separated government moving forward. “Polling shows most Americans are with Libertarians on free trade, open immigration, criminal righteousness reform, fiscal responsibility, ending the medicine war, and bringing the troops home,” the told me. “If a autonomous president and Republican Senate have the right to come with each other on those things, great! If castle don’t and end up in gridlock, fine be ready in 2022 and also 2024.”


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