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#NeverTrump Republicans Find Refuge in Libertarian Party

Created: 26 July, 2016
Updated: 17 October, 2022
3 min read

Ted Cruz’s infamous “vote your conscience” speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention raised a flag for “Never Trump” Republicans to rally around nationwide. This group of disillusioned Republicans, who still have not embraced the new face of their party, have already started an exodus from their beloved Grand Old Party.

Primary exit polls indicated the inevitability of this migration. Before Trump received the nomination, four out of ten non-Trump voters stated that they wouldn’t back him as their choice for president.

But where is this exodus leading them? Many remain politically homeless, but a growing number of Republicans are finding refuge in the Libertarian Party, the only third party to have ballot access in all 50 states. Since the nomination of Trump appeared to be inevitable, a new movement of Republicans have either changed their party affiliation or have outright endorsed the Libertarian Party’s presidential ticket of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld.

“[Cruz] did say vote for Gary Johnson, didn’t he?” Johnson joked on CNN. “And that was ‘vote your conscience.'”

All joking aside, several elected Republicans have ditched their party for the sake of their principles.

Frustrated with her party’s questionable commitment to civil liberties, Nebraska State Senator Laura Ebke announced in early June that she was switching her party affiliation from Republican to Libertarian.

“I got frustrated with some of my colleagues who don’t recognize civil liberties and don’t seem to agree with getting government out of people’s business,” she told the Omaha World-Herald.

In the days following the RNC, three state representatives also publicized their disillusionment with their party. Montana State Reps. Daniel Zolnikov and Nick Schwaderer and Utah State Sen. Mark Madsen all publicly endorsed Gary Johnson’s bid for president. (Madsen also switched his party affiliation to the LP.)

“We want a sane, intelligent government that lives within its means and governs according to the Constitution,” Zolnikov stated in his official endorsement. “Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are clearly the best choice to lead our nation toward prosperity and freedom, and we are proud to support them for President and Vice President of the United States.”

Though many critics will scoff at these endorsements as “small potatoes,” momentum is building toward endorsements from nationally prominent figures. As two of the leading figureheads of the “Never Trump” movement, former Republican nominee Mitt Romney and former GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush have not ruled out potentially supporting the Libertarian Party in 2016.

"I knew Bill Weld as the governor of my state, Massachusetts, and he was a terrific governor," Romney told CBS.

In the hunt for more publicity for this campaign, Johnson recently “crashed” the RNC, expecting to be greeted with angst and disapproval. “I didn’t really want to go to the Republicans’ convention,” Johnson told supporters via email. “It was their party, and I didn’t want to cause any trouble.”

Instead, Johnson was greeted by a bevy of media reporters asking him to comment on the event and supporters rushing to shake his hand. “It was overwhelming—literally,” Johnson continues. “I couldn’t go 50 feet on a sidewalk without a camera or microphone in my face.”

As media attention continues to swirl around Johnson's underdog campaign—and more disenfranchised Republicans become emboldened by the actions of their peers—we may see this "Never Trump" exodus accelerate during these next three months leading up to the general election.

Photo Source: POLITICO

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