For some conservatives, Donald Trump becoming the all-but-decided Republican nominee means it's time to get out of the party.
"We're getting tons of emails from people inquiring into the party who are fed up with the GOP or just say, 'this is the last straw, I'm coming to the Libertarian Party,'" Carla Howell, political director of the Libertarian National Committee, said. "We're just seeing a surge in interest that I've never seen before."
The average Republican tends to be more libertarian than mainstream Republican politicians, Howell said, and Trump — whom many see as questionably conservative due to previous stances on issues — becoming the nominee is pushing more of them toward a third-party option.
"Rank-and-file Republicans are very libertarian, and they love the stuff that Libertarians are talking about, especially when it comes to taxes," she said, "especially for those who are aware of and admitting to the fact that their Republican party has failed them dramatically when it comes to taxes and spending."
A joke website made the rounds on Twitter this week, proclaiming itself as "The Case For Trump." Using saltier language than we'll repeat here, the site proclaimed that there isn't one, and linked to the website of the Libertarian Party.
Libertarians will decide their own 2016 presidential nominee May 29 at their convention in Orlando, Florida. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a previous Libertarian presidential candidate, is running again, along with about 17 other hopefuls.
The Libertarian Party is hoping to poach some of the many Republicans who can't bring themselves to vote for Trump or his likely Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in 2016.
"I think this is going to be a real banner year for the Libertarian Party," Howell said.
In an interview with TheBlaze, she explained the issue-by-issue case that Libertarians are currently making to conservatives to go third-party.
"When you look at the spending under Democrat and Republican governors and presidents, their records are pretty much the same," Howell said. "And in some cases, the Republican governors and Republican presidents have been worse than the Democrats They've been a terrible disappointment to fiscal conservatives," Howell said.
"Libertarians don't just throw out platitudes like, 'We're for lower taxes,'" she continued, adding, "We actually propose significant, bold cuts in taxes. We have lots of libertarians running for federal office, for example, who want to end the federal income tax. Replace it with no tax, just cut spending."
"The Libertarian Party has always been completely pro-gun, Republican politicians sometimes sell out on that," Howell said.
She argued that the GOP sometimes wants to enforce existing gun laws, rather than getting rid of laws that restrict the ability of gun owners to defend themselves.
"We're with the rank-and-file Republicans on this issue," Howell said.
"There, the pretenses come down," Howell said. "Republicans are overtly interventionist, pro-military, they want to spend even more money on the military than we're already spending, which is an ungodly amount, about $1 trillion a year."
That perspective causes libertarians to be a bit more isolationist than Republicans, she added. Plus, Libertarians are more concerned with overspending in every area of government — even on defense: "Yes, we need a strong military defense, but not an offense."
"We're spending way more than needed for an effective military defense. In fact, all this military offense puts the country at greater risk," she said. "For the safety and protection of the country, we need to stop meddling in the Middle East, we need to close down the foreign military bases and start minding our own business."
[sharequote="center"]"Yes, we need a strong military defense, but not an offense."[/sharequote]
Howell pointed to previous U.S. campaigns such as the Vietnam War, Bosnian intervention and various conflicts in the Middle East that have led to further instability and have tested the patience of American voters.
"They're tired of endless war that just keeps making things worse," she said.
On social entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, Libertarians believe that the government should get out of the business of health care.
"Our approach is minimal government, the least government," she said. "With respect to Medicare and Medicaid and other welfare programs, Social Security, Libertarians will state without reservation that the government should never have gotten involved in these things. Now we're in a situation where many people, especially the elderly, are dependent on these programs."
Like with Social Security, people are owed money back that they've been contributing for decades. So Libertarians don't believe in cutting off those subsidies, she said, but getting to the heart of the big government issue by prioritizing letting the free market run health care and social programs. That means getting rid of the FDA and letting companies test drugs, and removing barriers to setting up free clinics, she said.
"We need to end any prohibition on free health care," she said.
On abortion, the Libertarian Party has people who vehemently believe in both the right to life and the right of a woman to choose, Howell said. And with gay marriage, both sides of the issue are represented within the party.
But on both issues, the party believes that the government shouldn't be involved.
"The issues people really care about are the fact that government is too big, they want freedom, they want lower taxes, they want to get rid of gobs and gobs of government regulation that stifle the economy, stifle small businesses and kill jobs," Howell said. "They want a policy of peace, they believe that marijuana is milder than alcohol and should be legal, and they know the drug war has failed."
On the marijuana issue, libertarians tend to be more lax than the average Republican, but they line up more with the average American. Support for marijuana legalization has increased steadily in recent years.
"They want civil liberties, they don't want us being spied on, they don't want our emails and phone calls spied on," she said. "But both the Democrats and Republicans have been voting to sustain it and expand the NSA and mass surveillance and other abridgments of our civil liberties."
"The real polarization should be big government versus freedom, but the media on the left and right perpetuate this very phony distinction called liberal versus conservative," Howell added
[sharequote="center"]"The real polarization should be big government vs. freedom, but the media on the left and right perpetuate this very phony distinction called liberal vs. conservative."[/sharequote]
The two-party system is a "smoke screen" for the fact that both parties have voted regularly to expand government, Howell argued. By believing that only major party candidates can win, voters are missing out on the chance to elect candidates that align more closely with their values, she said.
"For Republicans that have been making a habit of voting Republican all their lives, you gotta ask them, 'How's that been working for you?'" Howell said.
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