Libertarians miss the point of American politics, I think, because we often focus way too much on way too many things, and because we're absolutists in our thinking.
I'll use Miko's comment to illustrate my point [which is not to lampoon it at all; Miko is one of the most rational libertarians who comments here]:
This is a bit like complaining that a prison-reform group wants to free all falsely convicted inmates instead of taking seriously the idea of providing them with better meals. I can see pragmatists endorsing the gradualist strategy, but for those of us that believe war is murder, taxation is theft, and regulations are designed to keep a large under-class dependent on the corporate and statist elite for their survival, the goal has to be ending the corrupt system rather than redecorating it. Sure, we may end up with gradualism in practice, but there's nothing wrong with remembering what we're aiming at. Which, incidentally, is why most libertarians prefer engaging in grass-roots activity to the electoral farce of "which of these candidates is slightly less bad?" Even if it loses us a few votes, we have to admit that the electoral strategy hasn't been working well so far, as the deck is stacked against us by those who have power and want to keep it.
The problem, Miko, is that short of the singularity I can see only two routes to a state which is based on human freedom as Libertarians understand the concept: (a) via revolution; or (b) via election. Grass-roots activity may stop a local seat-belt ordinance, but it's not going to create a material increase in the overall level of freedom in our society.
Put it another way: if the government is still free to put people in jail for using natural analgesics to reduce their cancer pain, still free to spend trillions of dollars of money stolen from my children, and still free to use enhanced fragmentation Hell-fire missiles against Afghani civilians, then there is a limit to what a minor local victory over the parking nazis means....
Nor is the revolution going to arrive any time soon.
Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party platform covers the Earth, detail by ever-loving detail....
I keep wondering if maybe the answer is to approach electoral politics from a Libertarian perspective is the same sort of three-legged stool that the conservative movement used so successfully to rebuild the GOP after Watergate.
Please note: I am talking process here, not ideology.
The conservative movement that took over the GOP united social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and libertarians. William Buckley forged the marriage between the social cons and the libertarians; being hawks on defense kept the fiscal cons and the social cons together; resentment of the welfare state made the libertarians fellow travellers with the others. [All hideously over-simplified, but what the hell I only budgeted a paragraph here....]
A three-legged Libertarian stool would include economics, social issues, and foreign policy, but without proclaiming any of them as more than primus inter pares.
Could we build a tent wherein any one of the following three conditions might pertain?
(a) Somebody who is profoundly against the military-industrial complex and interventionist wars, as well as expecting the government to stay out of our personal lives, but who is willing to support a moderate level of taxation and social welfare spending ... might find more of a home with Libertarians than with the pro-war GOPers and the nanny-state Dems?
(b) Somebody who thinks there is a need to stay the course in Afghanistan, but who can't see massive deficit spending/high-taxation and doesn't want the government tellling his/her kids they have to wear a bicycle helmet ... might find more of a home with Libertarians than with the pro-taxing and spending Demopublicans?
(c) Somebody who has strong feelings about abortion as murder or gay marriage as the destruction of traditional family values, but who opposes heavy taxation and foreign wars might find more of a home with Libertarians?
A lot of my Libertarian friends decry the idea of playing to folks who only agree with, say, two-thirds of the Libertarian message. They refuse to accept the idea that greater freedom results from convincing large numbers of American citizens to vote for candidates because they believe in at least two-thirds of our message....