Could a scrappy, sideburns-sporting, chainsaw-wielding, former rock star Argentinian become the world’s very first libertarian president? If current reports are any indication, it very well could happen. Javier Milei, a libertarian economist, shocked the nation by winning the most votes in the primary elections Sunday. His candidacy has already made an impact on Argentina, but it could also reflect a paradigm shift that might benefit Libertarians in America.
Milei’s victory has sent tremors through the international community, and the stage is now set for what might just be one of the most disruptive elections in the country’s history:
In a surprise result that has upended Argentina’s political universe, the libertarian candidate Javier Milei took 30% of the vote on Sunday with his Liberty Advances party, outpacing the hard-right candidate Patricia Bullrich of United for Change, who came second with 28%.
The Peronist candidate Sergio Massa, hand-picked by the current vice-president and former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, came a disappointing third on 27% despite middle-of-the-road, business and International Monetary Fund-friendly credentials.
It seems unlikely that Massa could win the October election in the first round, suggesting he might face an unbeatable formal or informal alliance of Bullrich and Milei in a second-round poll.
Since 2021, Milei has served as a lawmaker in the lower house of the country’s legislature. The 52-year-old candidate has become known for his exuberant rallies and his pugilistic rhetoric towards authoritarian regimes, including the Chinese Communist Party. He has positioned himself as a liberty-minded outsider in a political landscape dominated by elites.
Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Milei was raised in an environment that exposed him to the economic struggles faced by many of his fellow countrymen. His family support, which he highlights frequently in speeches on the campaign trail, shaped his economic philosophy. His upbringing instilled in him a vast understanding of Argentina’s challenges related to corruption, crime, inflation, and poverty.
Much of Milei’s appeal is tied to his unconventional approach to politics. One of his most famous idiosyncrasies is his penchant for carrying a chainsaw during rallies and vowing to use the instrument to metaphorically slash government spending on various programs.
The economist has vowed to dismantle Argentina’s central bank and dollarize the economy by abandoning the peso. The candidate has also advocated for making it easier for Argentinians to own handguns. His politicking style has drawn comparisons to former President Donald Trump, despite Milei branding himself as an “anarcho-capitalist.”
The candidate’s rhetoric reflects a populism-infused libertarian flair.
“Liberalism was created to free people from the oppression of monarchs converted into tyrants,” Milei said in 2021. “It’s logical that the more people are against the ropes and the less they are favored, the more they will embrace the ideas of freedom.”
Milei’s rallies in the streets have attracted hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have waved yellow Gadsden flags bearing the iconic black rattlesnake and the “Don’t tread on me” slogan. He has vowed to “give back” freedom to the people of Argentina and allow them to become “the architects of their own destiny.”
Despite his primary success, Milei still faces a grueling battle ahead in the general elections set to take place on October 22. Record low turnout hit the country’s traditional parties hard, but the general could bring out more people to cast their votes. It is possible that an increased voter turnout could benefit the established parties.
Still, the fact that Milei performed so well in the primaries indicates that a significant number of Argentinians are searching for something new. Perhaps they have grown weary of the longstanding establishment and are ready to shake the boat.
It is also worth noting that Milei’s performance might already represent the beginning of a sea change even in the United States. Americans appear to becoming increasingly disenchanted with the Republican and Democratic parties. Polling shows that more voters are becoming willing to consider a third-party candidate.
The results of a Quinnipiac poll published in July showed that 47 percent of respondents would consider supporting a third-party candidate. A NewsNation and Decision Desk HQ survey revealed similar findings, with 25.67 percent of respondents saying they would consider a third party, if President Joe Biden and Trump are the nominees in 2024.
Milei’s story could translate to more momentum for the Libertarian Party even if it means winning more seats at the state and local levels of government. Milei’s campaign could provide a template for Libertarians in the United States to follow, as Americans become more fed up with the uniparty. Regardless of how the general election goes, one thing is abundantly clear: People are moving closer to thinking outside of the entrenched systems of government and are becoming more open to trying something new.