Libertarian Party Chairman Nicholas Sarwark Talks Path to Libertarian Victory

I am Nicholas Sarwark, Chairman of the Libertarian Party.  Let's talk about the Presidential election, Gary Johnson, and why the Libertarian Party is the only political party growing in America right now.

@sam.ward: Welcome Nicholas! Gary Johnson has come frustratingly close to breaking into the debates, do you think the media failed to give him enough attention to break 15% or is something more needed by the LP to make a change?  If you look at the state by state polling numbers, Gary Johnson is over 15% in 15 states and over 10% in 42 states.  The media chooses not to cover him in spite of being on all 50 state ballots. Don't count him out of the debates yet, we have some more tricks up our sleeves.

@saddam.dewolf: I'm torn on the debates. On the one hand I would LOVE to see the Libertarian party get a spot on the main debate stage. On the other hand, I want to see Trump and Clinton duel to the death and I don't want anyone to get between them. How do I reconcile these two conflicting world views?  If you think that a two-person debate is going to be anything but stage-managed kabuki theater, I have a bridge to sell you.  If you put Johnson on the stage, it'll be like when people switched from black and white television to color. Everything changes.

@hallway.meeting: The biggest struggle to the Libertarian Party is converting frustrated Dem/GOP voters into voting for another party. How do you propose to capture the disenfranchised two party voters into a third party? Everyone has their own limits for how bad things have to be before they change. Both old parties have declining voter registration as people figure out that they aren't getting what they want through those vehicles. We keep showing up and attract people ready to make a change.

@america.strange: Which national pollsters do you have the biggest methodological issues with right now?  CNN eliminating millennials and changing their weightings to make the race look like they'd like it to look stands out to me.  They want a close race and they are willing to game their numbers to produce one.

@garys.johnson: @nicholas.sarwark what do you see as the 2-3 biggest obstacles to a libertarian electoral victory of any kind on the federal level?  The biggest obstacle is breaking through the structural barriers that the old parties put up to prevent competition. Taxi companies don't like Uber, Detroit doesn't like Tesla, hotels don't like AirBNB, and the old parties don't like the Libertarians. Haters gonna hate.

@captain.fatmerica: What are the first three cabinet level agencies you'd dissolve if the Libertarians controlled the White House?  My personal favorites would be DHS, DEA, and DOE (Education).

@brodhead.blodgett: When are you going to legalize it?  Soon.  The Libertarian Party has supported cannabis legalization since its founding and we're winning that war as the American people get tired of politicians wasting law enforcement resources on arresting and caging people for what they choose to smoke. 

@heinz.moynihan: I have a better question: how are you going to legalize it? Through what legal mechanisms?  Mostly ballot initiatives in the states that allow initiative, but through legislation in some of the states. Medical marijuana is easier to get through legislatures, but when they see the tax revenue coming in to Colorado, I think a lot of states will get on board with recreational. Would you agree that there is not a realistic chance of Governor Johnson winning the presidential race, and if so what is the goal of the party this election?  I wouldn't agree.  The old party nominees are terrible, we're on the ballot in all 50 states, and nearly 2/3 of Americans would consider a choice from outside the old parties.  The goal of the party in every election is to come out stronger than we went in; that will definitely happen.  

@unown__: What is the party doing to compete in states with jungle primaries so that more libertarian candidates advance to the general election? Does the party support the jungle primary system?  We put up candidates in jungle primary and top-two states, often in elections that one of the old parties doesn't contest.  That whole system is screwed up, though.  In California, you're getting general election contests between candidates of the same party, disenfranchising many voters.

@f.sjl: Why does the Libertarian party try to run before learning how to walk? I support the idea of a third party, if not your beliefs. But why don't we see more targeted efforts by your party to start at the state and local level? Why pour a lot of resources into the Presidential?  We've been around for 45 years, we have active state affiliates in all 50 states and DC.  We're running candidates all across the country from President all the way down to local offices.  We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

@graysons.dyejob: Compared to Trump or Clinton, Johnson seems like he'd be a responsible steward of this country in this time of dysfunction, but he by no means elicits the excitement of Bernie Sanders. Would he consider a pledge to a single term a la Cincinattus to just help us out of this shitty election? I can't speak for Governor Johnson, but he's an active supporter of term limits and so would be more likely to agree to that than either of the two bullies who are running against him.  They are so thirsty for power, there's no way they'd agree to give it up voluntarily. If you receive 5% of the general vote this election, you will become eligible to receive public funding for your next election. Where does the party stand on this, and how would accepting or declining the money be in line with libertarian values?  If our Presidential candidate gets over 5%, we'd become eligible for Federal matching funds.  It would be a question for the 2018 convention delegates of whether they want to party to accept them. I'm skeptical of a system McCain wouldn't participate in when the law had his name on it.

@sam.ward: What has been the highest vote showing for a libertarian for a house seat? Wikipedia says Joel Balam in 2012 but there's no citation.  I don't know for sure whether Wikipedia is accurate on that.  I'd have to check with our Political Director, Carla Howell; she keeps more detailed records of things like that.

@hallway.meeting: Following up on @f.sjl, why hasn't the Libertarian Party had any Members of Congress with the (L) after their name? Shouldn't the Libertarian party  win local/state elections to grow brand? And that way we can see a solid block of (L) states leading by example?  There are structural barriers like ballot access where the two old parties collude to keep us off the ballot, out of debates, etc.  There's also the lobbyist/patronage system.  As more people leave the old parties, I anticipate we'll see a tipping point.

@sam.ward: Wasn't the jungle primary in California supposed to give moderates more voice by avoiding primaries dominated by extreme voters?  Translation: the California system was designed to protect incumbents from challengers and ensure that the people who were giving special favors to their cronies got to keep on doing so.  FTFY.

@f.sjl: I have no problem admitting I am not ideologically on your side. But you do seem like the most likely third party to breakthrough. Why not focus on targeted districts?  Your concern trolling about how we should run our party is duly noted. We are making great progress in fundraising, membership, voter registration, and media coverage without taking the advice of limiting our efforts to particular districts where we are easier for the old parties to fight.

Targeting particular districts is also strategically bad, since it gives the old parties a clear target for where to use their superior resources to beat us.  We do target districts and races, but it's easier to be successful at that when those are camouflaged in a wide field.

@hallway.meeting: While @f.sjl may be trolling, I consider myself at the very least a small "L" libertarian though I have voted  the party in the past. But I still find the lack of success in state and congressional elections telling about the lack of vision to make the Party competitive.  The old parties have a few year head start on us.  The trick is not giving up and continuing to make steady progress.  Demographics are on our side to the point that I expect one or both of the old parties to collapse within the next 10-20 years.  Those coalitions cannot stand.

@garys.johnson: I am a small l libertarian and voted Johnson in 2012, but I'm starting to think the Libertarian party is doomed to failure because of public financing and debate rules. Are you working with Bruce Fein at all to appeal the cartel/collusion lawsuit?  We are a co-plaintiff in the CPD lawsuit and will be looking at an appeal.  It's probably going to be a strategy question after the election.

@billion.boy: Thanks for chatting @nicholas.sarwark -- Do the party have an HQ or anything like that in DC?  Our national headquarters is just across the river in Old Town. 1444 Duke Street.  I believe we're the only political party other than the two old ones to own a permanent national headquarters.

@billion.boy: @nicholas.sarwark Nice! Follow up question: do you know how we get on the events list?  Go to and sign up for the email list.

@nicholas.sarwark: Thank you everyone for your questions and for participating.  If you want to keep up with the Libertarian Party, is the website. You can follow me on Twitter at @nsarwark as well as Facebook.