If you believe that the government overtaxes its citizens and interferes with the free market, then you are probably a Republican. But wait, you also believe in the separation of church and state and that the government should not impose religious standards that limit individual freedoms, so that must mean you are a Democrat.
Instead of suffering through this political identity crisis, Dr. Tom Stevens suggests that, if you generally follow the fiscally conservative/socially liberal philosophy, you are most likely a Libertarian. It's a realization that has expanded exponentially in the past, politically charged year.
"We doubled our registered members since April 2012," said Dr. Stevens. "Most people don't have the time to sit and really think about their political parties. After I speak with them for 5 to 10 minutes, they find out they agree with our 'Live and Let Live' attitude."
As chairman of Pennsylvania's Libertarian Party, Dr. Stevens travels the state establishing county committees and adding to the party's membership.
Twenty members of the Bucks County Libertarians held their first meeting on a snowy Monday night in a conference room at the office of Doylestown plastic surgeon Brian Buinewicz. State party chair Dr. Tom Stevens sat in and watched as the group, made up of mostly college-age activists, elected Nicholas Hillman the Bucks County Chapter President.
Hillman also announced his intention to run for Judge of Election in Warminster's District 4, which encompasses the neighborhoods between Norristown Road and Henry Avenue, with Street Road bordering the north and County Line the south.
"That's a great stepping stone for getting into public office," said Hillman, a student at Bucks County Community College. "It's not a time-consuming position that will take over your life, and it gives you an opportunity to meet voters one-on-one on election day."
The past election was one of the most successful campaigns for the national organization. Presidential candidate Gary Johnson, formerly governor of New Mexico, appeared in 48 state ballots and earned more than one million popular votes, the most for any Libertarian candidate since the party formed in 1971. However, the .99 vote percentage fell way short of the 5 percent needed for the party to earn federal matching funds.
"It's hard to battle against people's fear that they are throwing their vote away if they go with a third party candidate," said Dr. Stevens. "However, voting for both major parties has given us the same outcomes year after year, how is that not wasting a vote?"
Another obstacle for Libertarians and all other alternatives, such as the Green Party, is gaining ballot access. When they are not holding fundraisers and knocking on doors, representatives from the Libertarian Party are in courtrooms fighting attempts to keep them off the ballot. In October 2012, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against the state Republican Party's motion to disqualify the Libertarian Party from the ballot because they didn't have enough proper signatures.
The party plans to keep building off its 2012 momentum in the 2013 off-year elections for state and local offices, where third party candidates historically have more success. Currently, there are 135 Libertarians holding elected office nationwide, with 27 in Pennsylvania, ranging from mayor and city council to town treasurer and constable. Dr. Stevens is counting on the young members such as those surrounding the conference table to keep the energy going.
"They don't have a lot of political experience, but that's why I am here to coach them," said Dr. Stevens. "And they make up for it with their incredible enthusiasm. We have commitees dedicated to reaching out to youth groups at college campuses. They are very receptive to the Libertarian viewpoint."