My initial perspective of Libertarians was based on a simple concept of the political spectrum. If Republicans favored government intervention on social issues and eschewed it for economic issues and Democrats wanted government out of the social sphere and in the economic sphere, then Libertarians wanted the government out of both. On the surface, it seems like a party with a platform of responsible government spending, except without the ultra-Christian minority adding tourettes-like bylines.
As someone who watches the political landscape, I was aware of Ron Paul's repeated run for the presidency as a Libertarian in Republican's clothing. I'd known that Republican support for Libertarians was strong, but had always assumed that those on the left had as much to gain from it as the right. After all, Ron Paul opposed foreign wars, wanted to draw down the military, favored a less authoritarian approach to our relationships with other countries, and loudly decried the post-9/11 erosion of civil liberties.
From this perspective, it seemed that Libertarianism could provide a viable third option to the binary election system which reduces political discourse to red and blue (or green and purple). Instead of third parties which have historically been extremist splinter groups that weaken their established parties, they could provide a fusion party that encompasses an ideology that seems to have become more prevalent since I've learned what to look for.
That's not how it works though. Organizations operate to new ideas by attributing qualitied according to those which gain the most traction within the group. For example, liberals by and large think of Libertarians as selfish, rich jagoffs who would court anarchy because anarchy is quite comfortable for the powerful. Another example would be the Libertarian impression of liberals as selfish idiots one step below dolphins on the scale of integrity and intelligence.
Obviously, neither of those stereotypes are true, but it only matters that each group thinks it's true. Neither one can see the middle ground. There are exceptions of course, but Libertarians as a political party can't possibly think that they can carry any political weight drawing from a well that isn't even 50% of the population. The left as an ideological demographic conceivably be satisfied with the Democratic party apparatus; their most prominent member is willing to kill individuals overseas with little to no oversight and completely slient on protests at home about the systemic flaws that hung an albatross around his neck for the last four years, while the rest looks on silently out of loyalty.
So long as there are only two parties, national politics are a zero-sum game; every loss by one side is a win for the other. A third party that believes (Truly believes, beyond their own self-interest) in the principle of leaving every American with their civil liberties and stands ready to question the existence of the structure of government enriches every part of the government.
I'm not saying Libertarians--or Freepublicans--are the right party for that. I believe they could be, with a liberal touch.