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The 2012 election: The Libertarians won

Tom Jackson • Nov 13, 2012 at 3:32 PM

The votes have been counted  and the results seem clear: Libertarians won.

I'm not joking. Ballot initiatives measure  actual popularity of social movements, and the resounding victories last victories of ballot measures to approve the legalization of marijuana and to support gay marriage amount to a stunning shift in public opinion in favor of freedom.

Voters approved gay marriage in three states, Maine, Maryland and Washington, and defeated a ban on gay marriage in Minnesota. They approved legalizing the use of marijuana in two states, Washington and Colorado. 

It was the first time that either issue had been approved in a state ballot referendum. 

This seems much more significant to me than worrying about which professional politician in the Oval Office or on the Senate floor will be using your tax money to buy votes.

Libertarians supported all of the marijuana and gay marriage ballot issues, although no doubt in some cases they didn't feel the proposals went far enough.

The Libertarian Party supported gay rights and marijuana legalization when such stances were out of the mainstream. In a 1996 article in "The Advocate," gay Libertarian activist Richard Sincere, the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Virginia, noted the party's longtime stance in favor of gay rights.

"We've always called for an end to sodomy laws and for an end to discrimination toward gays in the military," he said in that 1996 article. "At our latest convention, we passed a platform plank that urged the abolition of laws banning same-sex marriage." 

The party began fielding presidential candidates (and advocating for gay issues) in 1972.

Similarly, drug legalization goes back a long way with the Libertarian Party. 

Here is a sentence from the 1972 platform of the LIbertarian Party, one that captures the party's stance on both marijuana use and gay rights: "We favor the repeal of all laws creating 'crimes without victims' now incorporated in Federal, state and local laws -- such as laws on voluntary sexual relations, drug use, gambling, and attempted suicide."

The platform doesn't mention gay marriage, but I don't think many people thought in those terms in the 1970s. The explicit endorsement  of gay marriage in the Libertarian Party's 1996 platform put the party ahead of other political parties.

When I offered my theory to one Democrat that Tuesday's poll results had been a huge victory for Libertarian principles, she objected and said that it isn't just Libertarians who support gay marriage and marijuana legalization.

That's true, of course, but it's also fair to remember those who supported freedom when nobody else would. Even in 2012, ending the war on drugs and supporting marriage equality is still too much for most Democratic and Republican politicians.

Many important pillars of freedom begin as radical ideas endorsed by a minority. Nobody supports slavery in 2012, but when William Lloyd Garrison advocated the "immediate abolition of slavery" in the 1830s, he was considered a dangerous radical. His insistence that women should be full participants in the New England Anti-Slavery Society also was seen as beyond the pale, even by his fellow antislavery advocates.

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