Mike Gravel Joins The Libertarian Party

Former United States Senator, and Democratic Candidate for President, Mike Gravel has, apparently, joined the Libertarian Party:

I just got off the phone with Libertarian Party Executive Director Shane Cory and he confirms the following information: Former US Senator and Alaska House Speaker Mike Gravel has joined the Libertarian Party. Cory says he’ll provide more in a media release to be expected over the next few hours.

And here’s the official LP Press Release:

Washington, D.C. – Mike Gravel, a former Alaskan Senator and Democratic candidate for president, has joined the Libertarian Party.

“I’m joining the Libertarian Party because it is a party that combines a commitment to freedom and peace that can’t be found in the two major parties that control the government and politics of America,” says Gravel. “My libertarian views, as well as my strong stance against war, the military industrial complex and American imperialism, seem not to be tolerated by Democratic Party elites who are out of touch with the average American; elites that reject the empowerment of American citizens I offered to the Democratic Party at the beginning of this presidential campaign with the National Initiative for Democracy.”

Gravel served in the United States Senate from 1969 to 1981. Most recently, Gravel was a Democratic presidential candidate, though forced out of national debates by Democratic Party leadership and the media. Gravel officially became a member of the Libertarian Party today.

Gravel is the most recent former member of Congress to switch to the Libertarian Party. In 2006, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr joined the Libertarian Party.

“It is a distinct honor to have another former member of Congress within the Libertarian Party,” says Barr. “Just as Senator Gravel believes Democrats have lost touch with the American public, I too concluded Republicans had lost their core principles, and could no longer associate myself with the GOP. While coming from opposite sides of the aisle, Senator Gravel and I definitely agree on the fundamental need for systemic change in our political system, and that the only way we have of effecting that change is by supporting and working in the Libertarian Party, which is the only political party in America that consistently works in word and deed to maximize individual liberty and minimize government power.”

While this move is interesting, I agree with the guys at Freedom Democrats that there needs to be some skepticism about what Gravel is actually up to here:

Not surprisingly, Gravel’s campaign team has already announced Gravel’s intentions to possibly seek both the LP and Green Party nominations, to run a “fusion” candidacy. As I obliquely alluded to in my original post, skepticism is warranted in digesting the possible motives of Gravel in making this move. Is this legitimately about Gravel identifying more with the Libertarians now or is this more about Gravel smelling some of that Ron Paul fundraising cash.

A fusion between the LP and the Greens ? How would that even be possible without one or both parties abandoning some of their core principles. The Green Party is unlikely to welcome economic liberty, and the Libertarians, unless they want to sell their soul, would seem to be unwilling to accept an agenda that says, among other stuff, things like this:

Consumers have the right to adequate enforcement of the federal and state consumer protection laws. Health and safety are of paramount importance, so we oppose lax or inappropriate regulatory actions.

a. Consumers should have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives and protect their interests, beyond simply voting on election day.

b. We support the creation of consumer advocacy agencies in order to protect the interests of consumers against corporate lobbyists who have too often successfully argued before regulatory agencies against consumer rights. We would require legal monopolies and regulated industries (including electric, gas, water, and telephone utilities) to set up statewide consumer action groups to act on behalf of and advocate for consumer interests.

c. We call for better information for consumers about the products they buy, and where and how they are made. We endorse truth in advertising, including the clear definition of words like “recycled” and “natural.”

d. We defend the rights of individuals to participate in class action lawsuits against manufacturers of unsafe products. We call for restrictions on secrecy agreements that may prevent lawsuits by not revealing damaging information.

e. We support laws to protect “whistle blowers.”

Or this:

We have a special responsibility to the health and well-being of the young. Yet we see the federal safety net being removed and replaced with limited and potentially harsh state welfare programs. How will social services be adequately provided if local resources are already stretched thin?

We believe our community priorities must first protect the young and helpless. Yet how will state legislatures and agencies, under pressure from more powerful interests, react? We believe local decision-making is important, but we realize, as we learned during the civil rights era, that strict federal standards must guide state actions in providing basic protections. As the richest nation in history, we should not condemn millions of children to a life of poverty, while corporate welfare is increased to historic highs.

The Green Party opposes the privatization of Social Security. It is critical that the public protections of Social Security are not privatized and subjected to increased risk. The bottom 20% of American senior citizens get roughly 80% of their income from Social Security, and without Social Security, nearly 70% of black elderly and 60% of Latino elderly households would be in poverty.

If that’s the kind of future Gravel would bring to the Libertarian Party, he would, effectively, destroy it as an advocate for individual liberty.

Update: The New York Times has picked up the story and reports that Gravel intends to run for the LP’s Presidential Nomination:

Fed up with being excluded from the debates and otherwise marginalized, former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska announced today that he will seek the Libertarian Party nomination for president.

That’s right, we said Mike Gravel, who had been running as a Democrat – not Representative Ron Paul, who has run on the Libertarian ticket in the past, but recently submitted his name to appear on the ballot in the remaining Republican primary contests.

Skyler McKinley, a Gravel spokesman, said that Mr. Gravel would try to pursue the Libertarian nomination at the party’s convention, which will be held in Denver on May 22-26.

Whether or not some of our delegates will accept Mike Gravel with some of his positions, that has yet to be seen,” said Andrew Davis, a spokesman for the Libertarian National Committee, adding that Mr. Gravel’s advocacy of universal health care, paid for with a national retail sales tax, could turn off some Libertarians.

Frankly, the fact that the LP is even welcoming this crypto-socialist into the party is strong evidence that it no longer deserves to be taken seriously.

  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict

    If this hastens the implosion of the Libertarian Party, so be it. It wasn’t exactly doing gangbusters in the first place :\.

  • UCrawford

    If that’s the kind of future Gravel would bring to the Libertarian Party, he would, effectively, destroy it as an advocate for individual liberty.

    You mean as opposed to the bang-up job the LP has been doing of destroying itself?

    Oh well.

  • Ben

    The LP excommunicates actual libertarians for much less. No way there is a fusion candidacy. I think this is much more about Gravel trying to stay relevant.

    And I also can’t really see any Ron Paul supporters heading to Gravel. Its not like he hasn’t been in the Presidential race for a while already.

    “Gravel served in the United States Senate from 1969 to 1981.”

    I didn’t even realize he had served that long ago. How is he even relevant?

  • TerryP

    First off there is no reason why he should be excluded from joining the party.

    To gain anyones votes, however, he should have to show that he is willing to push for individual liberty over socialism, which I do not think he will be able to do.

    If he does, however, gain enough votes to secure the nomination then the LP party will have outlasted it’s usefulness in pushing for freedom and we can move on to other things. as Nitoradict said it would just hasten the demise of the LP party.

    If they do not go for Mr. Gravel as I expect then maybe the party still has some usefulness.

  • TerryP

    I also saw on a Reason post that Mary Ruwart is throwing her name into the pot for running for the LP Presidential nomination. Now she, opposed to Gravel, makes for a far more interesting candidate. If given the chance I think she could stand toe to toe with the rep and dem candidates and come out looking very good. She may be one of the LP’s most credible candidates in quite a while that doesn’t come off as looking like a complete kook.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org Doug Mataconis


    What use is there in pretending that a crypto-socialist who supports a government take over of the health care system is a libertarian ?

    At least Bob Barr admitted that his previous policy positions were incorrect when he joined the party. Gravel hasn’t.

    Added to that is the fact that, on the kookiness scale he ranks right up there with Dennis Kucinich (D., Andromeda Galaxy)

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org Kevin

    Who is Mike Gravel?

  • Peter

    Despicable-just despicable. Mike Gravel is no Ron Paul.


  • http://poppychop.net/ Nitroadict

    This Just In – Michael Clayton joins the Libertarian Party. News @ 11.

  • http://fpffressminds.blogspot.com/ Stephen Littau

    No way in hell will the LP choose Mike Gravel as the nominee (there has to be more to being a libertarian than being anti-war and against the war on drugs right?)

    Speaking of the war on drugs, wasn’t Bob Barr against the idea of legalization/decriminalization of drugs? Has he changed his stance since joining the LP?

  • TerryP


    I never said there was any use in pretending Mike Gravel is a libertarian. In fact I think he is far from it. But who gets to determine who can become a LP party member. You. Lord help us. We might end up with two members. If the party stays true to what they say they believe in then he wouldn’t have a chance in an election and he shouldn’t even bother running as it would just cost him time and money. However, if the LP party is going down the wrong path then maybe this would be a good way to quicken its demise.

  • http://gravelkucinichpaulnader.blogspot.com/ GravelKucinichPaulNader

    DNC/RNC have exposed themselves.
    Clintons v McCain = Clintons.
    Dynasties & Coronations.
    Not this time –
    not even as VP…

    gravel kucinich paul nader
    cynthia mckinney too

    dare speak truth
    demand peace

  • http://www.lp.org Jay

    No one is born into the LP. We all came from another tribe. I welcome The “G” Man to the LP. No one questioned my intentions or rejected my money when I joined the LP. Why should we question his? jay

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  • Lou Perrotta

    While I see Gravel as being too ideologically different from a true Libertarian to want to support him as a presidential candidate (Both Barr and Ruwart make his candidacy obsolete to me anyway), I welcome his support. I hope some of the LP members will introduce him to Mises, Rothbard, Hazlitt, and other champions of freedom, so that he can learn about a truly pro-liberty philosophy.

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  • uhm

    He wants direct democracy.

    I’d rather have anarchy.

  • http://www.myspace.com/libertarianmike Mike A. Bozarth

    I guess I don’t understand why so many here are critical of Sen. Mike Gravel.

    The very issues that would seperate Sen. Gravel from right-leaning libertarians should be the ones that freedom Democrats would support him on.

    As a Libertarian Party member for 21 years, local and state officer, delegate to two presidential nominating conventions, I think I at least have a basic understanding of the LP.

    I became a “Libertarian Democrat” four years ago because 1) I was seeing very little electoral success by the LP in partisan races, 2) I was disgusted with our country becoming a police state thanks to Bush’s Patriot Act, the Wars, the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, Real ID etc. and it has been Democrats like Mike Gravel, Jon Tester and Jim Webb fighting back. 3)I have a stronger desire for a social safety net than the average LP member–I support a manditory retirement plan, unemployment insurance, more affordable health care. 4) I see a need for the FCC, FTC, FDC (tho it needs overhauled),and several other agencies the LP doesn’t like.

    These are be the issues that would seperate right-Libertarians from so-called left-libertarians.

    Those, and tax policy. Most libertarians agree with abolishing the federal income tax. Do we replace it with nothing, as Harry Browne suggested? Do we replace it with a flat sales tax as Mike Gravel and some others advocate? Or do we replace it with a land value tax advocated by the Democratic Freedom Caucus and the Libertarian Democratic Caucus?

    Let’s look at qualifications. Mike Gravel spent several years in the Alaskan House of Representatives–two years as Speaker of the House. He was elected to 12 years in the United States Senate. That’s more experience than Hillary or Obama…

    It was said that” he would destroy the LP as an advocate of individual liberty.” Mike Gravel has vocally advocated marijuana for medicine and legalizing marijuana for recreational use with regulation. That’s pretty libertarian if you ask me.

    He said he believes marriage is a contract between two people who love each other, regardless of sex. That’s pretty libertarian.

    He was largely responsbile for ending the draft. Hmmm, no manditory servitude…that’s pretty libertarian the last time I checked.

    He is against starting wars and police actions all over the world. He said America should treat other nations as equals instead of trying to dictate policy by force. No initiation of the use of force–I think that is an important LP plank.

    It was said that Gravel would “hasten the demise of the LP.” How so? The best vote the LP ever got was with the Clark-Koch ticket and it polled 900,000 plus. I’m pretty politically astute, and I honestly believe Mike Gravel could get a few million votes.

    “Despicable..Mike Gravel is no Ron Paul.” I first met Ron Paul in 1987 and followed him into the Libertarian Party that year. I worked hard, circulated petitions, notarized thousands until I had hand cramps, donated strongly, worked door to door and did about every thing you can do in a campaign. When Ron Paul returned to the GOP and ran for Congress, I continued to donate to him because I did and I do strongly belive in him. I donated, worked door to door, worked phone banks, wrote newspaper columns, gave speeches, was on talk radio–all these last two years and I’m not even a Republican. But I consider Ron Paul to be the greatest politician of this century.

    It’s true. Mike Gravel is no Ron Paul. There is only one Ron Paul. But despicable? I think not.

    I got the opportunity to meet Mike Gravel and spend a couple of days with him while he was in Kansas City April 4-5,2008 attending the Heartland Libertarian Conference. I was a panelist of elected Libertarians. Let me tell you, I was extremely impressed with Mike Gravel. And I wasn’t alone.

    Friday night, April 4th, six of the candidates present gave speeches in the Hospitality Room. Senator Gravel took his record in the Senate and law by law, bill by bill, issue by issue and explained how he has been a libertarian all his life. He got a standing ovation. Still not convinced? After the Libertarian presidential debate Saturday morning, and after former Congressman Bob Barr flew in and keynoted the five-state convention, they took a straw poll of the dozen or so LP presidential candidates. Nevada businessman Wayne Allyn Root (who won Missouri LP’s primary on Super Tuesday) narrowly won the poll, with Bob Barr a close second and Mike Gravel a close third. Dr. Ruwart was 4th, and the others trailed.

    Still not convinced? Saturday night was the Ohio State LP Convention. Bob Barr won the straw poll there with Mike Gravel a competitive second.

    Mike Gravel’s signature issue for the last two years has been a National Initiative. This would allow citizens to become lawmakers. That too has been criticised. But Missouri has had the initiative for many years and it has worked very well here. Many worthwhile laws have been enacted, including a tax and spending lid promoted by former Congressman Mel Hancock(R-MO)–with my help and active support.

    Let me add this up. Mike Gravel stands for peace and freedom. He would rather empower us than imprison us. Sounds pretty damn good to me!

    Mike A. Bozarth
    City Council Member, St. Joseph, MO

    Chair, Libertarian Democratic Caucus

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis


    With all due respect for your experience…..

    What part of Mike Gravel is a socialist who doesn’t believe in the free market don’t you understand ?

    Not only wouldn’t I vote for him if the LP nominated him, I’d actively campaign against him.

  • http://pith-n-vinegar.blogspot.com/ Quincy

    Mike –

    Gravel believes in citizen empowerment and economic regulation. Both expressly run contrary to the a limited government that protects the liberty of the people.

    The problem I’ve got with left-libertarians is that they don’t acknowledge economic liberty as the root of social liberty. You support economically destructive and repressive policies, and then try to assert you’re a libertarian because you support social liberty. That never works.

    Put simply, if I live in a highly regulated economy where I have to interact with the state often, I am not free to do things the state doesn’t like. Sure, they may not be enshrined as laws, but they will affect what I get from the state dependency machine.

    Each too much? Too hefty? No health care for you. Produce too much smut? No FCC license for you. Refuse to quit working at age 65? No retirement for you.

    For citizens to be free, the economy must be made up of a system of voluntary, non-coercive transactions. Government simply doesn’t do non-coercive. Left-libertarians don’t acknowledge this. In my book, left-libertarians aren’t libertarians. That goes for you, and that goes for Gravel.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Mike Bozarth,

    From Mike Gravel’s issues page on his website:

    Healthcare: Senator Gravel advocates a universal healthcare system that provides equal medical services to all citizens, paid for by a retail sales tax (a portion of the Progressive Fair tax).

    This alone is reason enough for me to oppose him. You claim to abhor the police state, but what better way to create a police state than to give the government control over our doctors, our medical decisions, and by extension our bodies? Not to mention that this summary on the end…

    Citizens would pay nothing for health benefits.

    …is blatantly false as every nation that has ever instituted socialized medicine has found out (since “free” healthcare encourages overuse and eventually leads to more and more taxes). I wrote a post about my own experiences with Britain’s NHS as well


    As for his other “plusses”:

    He was largely responsbile for ending the draft.

    So was Milton Friedman, and Friedman didn’t advocate horrible economic policy. Not enough of a reason to vote for him.

    Mike Gravel spent several years in the Alaskan House of Representatives–two years as Speaker of the House. He was elected to 12 years in the United States Senate. That’s more experience than Hillary or Obama…

    Neither of whom I’d vote for because they advocate bad policy. “Experienced” does not automatically equate to “good”. And considering that Alaskans are still voting for the long-tenured Don “That’s My Money” Young and Ted “Bridge to Nowhere” Stevens, I don’t consider the endorsement of the people of Alaska to be particularly swaying.

    I also oppose his positions on federal government involvement in abortion, global warming, NAFTA, and education…all of which will hinder our economic prosperity. Gravel, like many socialists, is on the correct side of a few civil rights issues, but honestly having the government not wiretap us means fuck-all if we’re poor and have no decent healthcare because government decided to get involved and run it into the ground while taxing us into poverty.


    I have a stronger desire for a social safety net than the average LP member–I support a manditory retirement plan, unemployment insurance, more affordable health care.

    With all due respect, that economic policy you support indicates that you’re a liberal with socialist leanings, not a libertarian.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford


    I’ve got to second Quincy’s assertion that left-libertarians who reject free markets are not libertarians. The economic policies advocated on the principles page for your organization, the Democratic Freedom Caucus, are a recipe for more government intervention in our lives, not less.