The Libertarian Party’s Presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen insists that her party doesn’t take votes from other parties. However, her 1.8 million votes could have had an important impact on the election, which barring an intervention from incumbent Donald Trump, will see Joe Biden sworn in on 20 January.
Jorgensen is a full-time lecturer in psychology at Clemson University in South Carolina, and is the granddaughter of Danish immigrants. She was the first female Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, which was founded in 1971.
In the key battleground states of Arizona, Wisconsin, and Georgia, Jorgensen’s share of the vote exceeded Biden’s margin of victory. Despite Jorgensen’s claim that Libertarian votes are not taken from a particular party, it is reasonable to assume her policy stances are more attractive to Republican voters.
The Libertarians are socially and economically in favour of individual choice, even when it comes to paying taxes and receiving education. On Covid-19, Jorgensen rejected the idea of mask mandates and was against lockdowns. These stances are objectively closer to those of Trump and other Republican candidates than Biden and other Democrat candidates. In fact, her parties 2016 candidate Gary Johnson referred to himself as an ideal option for “anti-Trump Republicans”. Although he may be better remembered for his “what is Aleppo?” reply when asked about Syria conflict in a CNN interview.
With Jorgensen as the figurehead, the party has succeeded in winning the first third-party candidate to the Wyoming legislature in over 100 years and had a candidate win 33% of the vote in a senate race in Arkansas. The party now has 609,234 registered voters across the country.
Historically, third parties in the USA have been dismissed as irrelevant in the “winner takes all” election system. But occasionally they can be a factor that determines who ends up in the Oval Office. For example, in 2000 Ralph Nader of the Green Party secured 97,421 votes in California. Nader acted as a “spoiler” for environmentalist Democrat Al Gore and this was enough to turn the tide of the election towards George W. Bush.
Despite their few electoral breakthroughs, the influence of the Libertarian Party remains insignificant compared to the two political powerhouses of the USA. So while the political system remains firmly “two-party” in the USA, the case of Jo Jorgensen confirms that when the conditions are right the third candidate can act as a decider and tip the balance in an election.