Did Libertarian Gun Owners "Throw Away Their Votes"?

It’s that time in the election cycle when we all point fingers at each other for the lack of electoral success. For Democrats, that means complaining that Nancy Pelosi either wasn’t moderate enough or was too moderate for voters in her messaging. For Republicans, it means complaining that third-party voters wasted their votes on independent candidates or the Libertarian Party.

On Thursday, Fox News ran a piece criticizing swing state voters who ended up choosing Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen, arguing that their votes may end up costing Donald Trump the election.

“In this election, Libertarian voters could have swung the Electoral College by at least 22 votes by supporting Trump in battleground states Wisconsin, Michigan and Nevada. By throwing away their votes, they’ve likely become spoilers for the Trump reelection effort,” political strategist Ryan Cassin, CEO of Beast Digital, told Fox News.

As of late Wednesday, former Vice President Biden was projected to have secured Wisconsin with 49.6% over Trump’s 49%, and Jorgensen came in third at just under 1%. In Michigan, Biden stood at 49.8%, over Trump’s 48.7% and Jorgenson again at 1%. Similarly, in hotly contested Nevada, Biden garnered 49.2% over Trump’s 48.6%, with the Libertarian Party (LP) coming in at 1.4%.

“In the tightest race of Wisconsin, Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen garnered 38,414 votes, around the normal 1% of the vote they normally do. This number is larger than to 21,000 votes that Democrat Joe Biden won this race by,” noted global risk analyst Dennis Santiago. “Wisconsin was crucial for Republican Donald Trump to win reelection. In the 2020 races where the painful artifacts of a deeply divided nation split the major-party vote so tightly, the Libertarian vote does determine a win or lose.”

Let’s get this out of the way up front: I voted for Donald Trump, though Jorgensen would have been my second choice. I don’t agree with Cassin’s premise that those Libertarian voters ended up “throwing away their votes,” however. Your vote is your choice, and it’s only wasted if you don’t vote at all. I know several gun owners and Second Amendment supporters who cast a ballot for Jorgensen, and while I wish they would have decided differently, these aren’t folks who took their decision lightly.

It’s true that the Libertarian Party will end up playing the spoiler in swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nevada, but the argument that Jorgensen’s supporters threw away their votes doesn’t fly with me. Presumably, these voters had their own reasons for not supporting either Trump or Biden, and I doubt they consider their votes wasted.

It also has to be noted that the Libertarian Party itself isn’t exactly unified. In fact, it’s so fractured that there are people who identify as Libertarian Socialists, as oxymoronic as that is. Even if the Libertarian Party wasn’t on the ballot in these swing states, not all self-identified libertarians would have ended up voting for Trump. Some would have voted for Biden, some would have voted for Trump, and I suspect that a good number of them wouldn’t have voted at all.

Some people vote their conscience on Election Day, backing the candidate they most agree with regardless of their potential to win. Others may vote more pragmatically, picking the major party candidate they’re most closely aligned with even if there’s a third-party choice that personally suits them better. Ultimately, it’s up to the parties to woo these voters, not the other way around.

Do I wish that these Libertarian voters had gone with Trump over Jorgensen? Sure. It certainly would make life easier over the next four years (not to mention the next few weeks, as court challenges over the election take place), but I’m not going to blame someone for casting their vote for the candidate that they actually thought was the best on the ballot, even if they had no chance of winning.

While I’m personally a pragmatic voter, I don’t begrudge anyone their idealism. If Republicans want the votes of the 1% of the population that voted for Jo Jorgensen, they need to compete for those votes. We saw big swings towards the GOP among non-white and women voters this election cycle after efforts were made to court members of those voting blocs, and there’s no reason why the GOP can’t improve its standing among those who identify as Libertarian as well.