A Brief History of the Libertarian Party and Their Colorado Roots

Written By: Josh Speer

In the summer of 1971, out of disgust with the policies of the Nixon administration, meetings were held right here in Westminster, Colorado that would forever change the face of American politics. After initially receiving overwhelming support for their ideas, they decided to bring them to life. Early the next year, a press conference was held announcing the arrival of the United States Libertarian Party (LP) on the political scene.

Then president, Richard Nixon, had implemented wage and price controls that essentially got rid of the gold standard and made it easier for government to impose inflation. The Libertarian party would be born from David F. Nolan, politician and creator of the Nolan Chart which expanded political view analysis beyond the traditional left-right line, along with a small group of other liberty-minded people at the home of Luke Zell in Colorado Springs, to discuss their opposition to Nixon’s new policy. During the preliminary meetings in Westminster, some letters were sent out to a multitude of people. The supportive responses they received exceeded what they had anticipated, and they decided to proceed with the founding of the political party. Despite being made official in Colorado Springs, the city of Westminster passed a resolution in 1996 that commemorates the founding of the party in the city.

The motto of the LP is “the party of principle”, because we (I’m a registered member) stand firmly on them. Libertarians strongly oppose government involvement in the areas of personal, family, and business matters. Embracing what is known as the non-aggression principle, which basically means not harming people or taking their things. We advocate for reducing the size and intrusiveness of government, including cutting or even eliminating some taxes wherever possible. This also incorporates non-interventionist foreign policy.

It is important to note that the LP made history by nominating the first female to a presidential ticket in 1972 when Theodora (Tonie) Nathan was chosen as the vice presidential candidate of California philosopher and professor, John Hospers. Nathan would become the first women to receive an electoral vote during the 1972 election. Many people often attribute this accomplishment to the 1984 Democratic VP nominee, Geraldine Ferraro, however, she was the first to run on a major party platform. Nathan would remain involved in the LP, even announcing the nomination of former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson, in 2012. She also went on to found the Association of Libertarian Feminists (ALF) in 1973 and served as its chair. The organization seeks to “provide a libertarian alternative to those aspects of the women’s movement that foster political dependence and collectivism”. Again, embracing principles of individualism.

The party has come a long way since its inception. It now puts forth hundreds of candidates at the national, state, and local levels each election cycle. Despite not winning the presidential election or any seats in congress for the 2016 election, the LP has witnessed historic growth. Voter turnout reached the highest point in the entire 45 years of its existence. Former governors, Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, quadrupled the highest amount of votes ever received in a presidential election. Meanwhile, both major parties saw twenty-year historic lows for voter turnout. The Republicans saw their turnout drop from 28.3% in 2012 to 26.3% in 2016; and similarly, the Democrats watached theirs drop from 30.6% in 2012 to 26.5% in 2016.

The LP has seen exceptional growth and accomplishment. From its formation in Colorado, to nominating the first female candidate to receive an electoral vote, to the 2016 election cycle. We will have to see what the future has in store for Libertarians.

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