I just received the news that Libertarian Party activist Dr. Marc Feldman died earlier today. The LP posted the following press release:
2016 candidate for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president and newly re-elected at-large member of the Libertarian National Committee passed away on Tuesday. The cause of death is not known at the time of this writing.
Nicholas Sarwark, LP Chair, released the following statement:
“Members of the Libertarian Party are deeply saddened to learn of Dr. Feldman’s passing. He grew up cynical about politics and politicians, but found in the Libertarian Party a politics of empowering individuals that he could believe in. We will miss his dedication as? a member of the national committee and candidate for public office,? but most of all, I will miss a good friend. He was a delightful,? spirited, and dedicated Libertarian who inspired and won the hearts of? many. Our deepest condolences to his family on their loss.”
Fellow presidential candidates, with whom he shared the debate stage at numerous Libertarian conventions, expressed their condolences.
Libertarian presidential nominee Gov. Gary Johnson said, “I am saddened to hear of the loss of Marc Feldman. He was a true champion of liberty and a friend to many of us. His humor and wit will be missed.”
“God speed, Dr. Feldman,” said software entrepreneur John McAfee. “You were a gentleman and a scholar. Rest easy now. We’ll take it from here.”
“I got to know Marc over the last seven months in the campaign trail,” said radio host Darryl Perry. “We became friends and I respected his opinions. I send my condolences to his family and other friends. Shalom.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that Dr. Marc Feldman passed away,” said Libertarian Republic founder Austin Petersen. “He was a good man. He was very entertaining. He could have been a fantastic host of a Libertarian television show.”
To be honest, I don’t know who many of the players are within the Libertarian Party. Marc Feldman is not really a name that rings a bell. But then I saw his picture and I wondered: “Wait, is he that libertarian?” (Dr. Feldman has ‘one of those faces’ you remember).
The libertarian that gave that speech at the 2016 National Libertarian Party Convention before the delegates began voting for their party’s nominee?
I’m sad to report that yes, that libertarian is no longer with us.
Here is that speech:
That speech puts a smile on my face whenever I hear it. There’s something about that speech that makes me want to do a fist pump because we’ve all been that libertarian at one time or another (it seems Austin Petersen felt the same way).
Thank you Dr. Feldman for your efforts to make the world a freer place. Rest in Peace.
With the almost inevitable nominations of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to lead their respective parties, there is a heavy push for an option for the Presidency that gives voters a more palatable option. This kind of push is hardly unprecedented – it seems to come up every election cycle, and started in earnest in 2012 when the “Anyone But (Mitt) Romney” movement failed – but with this year’s nominees being disliked on an unprecedented level, the push is stronger than ever. Partly due to their standing as the stronger of the alternative parties, and due to Trump’s toxicity and statist policies in general, the Libertarian Party (“big L”) stands to make the greatest gains, with many predicting the party could break the 5% threshold that legitimizes a party and gets it ballot and debate access, bringing the libertarian message – “small l” – to the general population.
That would be great, if the Libertarian Party itself could be taken seriously. Nothing I’ve seen, in my time following politics or in this election in general – indicates a real change. Part of that is due to the nature of third party pushes, but a lot of that has to do with the party itself.
First, the nature of Presidential elections, and most importantly their coverage, shows that everyone’s focus will narrow as November looms. This is ubiquitous; media coverage will focus on polls and potential “November Surprises”. Non-partisan voters will realize they have to make a choice ASAP, and historically that’s been a binary choice. Party insiders on both sides will swing their weight around – it’s already happening, particularly on the Republican side as they stamp out #NeverTrump, but the Democrats are doing their level best to stamp out Bernie Sanders’ “revolution” as well – and voters who were upset with their preferred primary candidate losing will inevitably fall in line. Much as in life, when it comes to elections, people stop playing around the closer reality gets; in life, we focus less on a flighty partner who inspires us creatively but is riskier to our future, and settle down with a safe, stable mate. Most people will not seriously consider a third party candidate of any stripe, especially in swing states that will be barraged by advertising and appearances.
It’s hard to remember even just four years later, but much of the vitriol people are throwing Clinton’s and Trump’s way is similar to that thrown Mitt Romney’s way then. “We’ll never vote for him!”, said so-called “true” conservatives. “We’ll go third party!” “Mitt is evil!” Today, he’d be called a “cuckservative” and Jesus Christ I can’t believe I had to type that out. Much the same happened after Barack Obama upset Hillary in 2008; Hillary’s partisans – mostly activist women – swore they would go third party. The two liberal alternatives for voters – independent Ralph Nader, and Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party – combined for less than a million votes, .74% of the total vote. They didn’t even get 1% *combined*.
Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party did do better in 2012, amidst all that Romney hate… getting all the way to just over 1.2m votes, around 1% of the total vote, which is the second highest percentage the Libertarian Party has ever had1. This, despite all the “could Johnson make an impact on the race!?” think piecesof the day. It’s sad, because he had some good libertarian credentials, and had a successful record as the Republican governor or New Mex– wait, did I say Republican? That’s right, he was Republican. As was both parts of the 2008 Libertarian ticket.
This leads to my main issue with the big-L party: They’re not really libertarian. They’re almost all just failed Republicans.
I’m 36 years old, and the 2000 election was my first that I could participate in. Here is a run-down of every candidate for President in my adult life:
2000: Harry Browne, ran his second straight campaign. Ran a principled campaign, but it would go downhill from here.
2004: Michael Badnarik, member of the Free State Project and 9/11 Truther.
2008: Bob Barr, a former Republican who came into Congress in the 1994 Gingrich revolution, and who had an authoritarian voting record while there. Voted for the Patriot Act. His running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, is an Obama “birther” who our colleague Doug Mataconis rightly called out for being a scam. Both Barr and Root have since left the LP and gone back to the Republicans.
2012: Gary Johnson, who in this same election ran for President as a Republican but had a moment of clarity when his candidacy crashed and burned. His running mate, Jim Gray, was also a Republican that decided to join the LP after losing a Republican candidacy.
In 2016, the Libertarian Party has no fewer than 18 people listed as Presidential candidates, though only three are considered legitimate:
* The favourite, Gary Johnson, who since losing in 2012, has taken over as the CEO of Cannabis Sativa, a medical marijuana company. This has led to many viewing him as a one-issue candidate regarding marijuana legalization.
* Austin Petersen, a 35 year old whose main claims to fame are his campaign of “I’m not those guys!” despite emulating much of Trump’s tactics, and his somewhat less than libertarian positions. Internally, his focus has been on Johnson being a “drug dealer”.
* John McAfee, the founder of McAfee Associates and antivirus pioneer who is batshit fucking crazy.
When the best shot you have is the guy that got around 1% the last time he ran, a mid-level internet troll, and whatever John McAfee is, you can’t be taken seriously in any election.
In the end, furthering your ideals only gets you so far; you have to win elections to make real progress. Even with a system fundamentally set up to discourage third party candidacies, one would think they’d have at least a few small victories under their belt, but nationally, they’ve completely failed: Libertarian Party candidates have never once won a national or statewide race. In fact, they’ve never been close; the only times they’ve gotten a decent share of the vote in a national or state election was when they were running in races without a contender from one of the two major parties, usually a Democrat. Congratulations, Joel Balam, for winning 32% of the vote against a Republican for the US House, but there is no participation medal here.
This is before I get into the legitimate kooks, dingbats and wingnuts that associate themselves with the Libertarian Party for want of attention, if nothing else. Truthers, birthers, and alt-right personalities who couldn’t even find a home in the Republican party have a home in a party that is desperate for numbers.
In the end, the Libertarian Party is little more than the AAA farm club of the Republicans. If someone can’t play in the big leagues, they can simply go down to the minors, work on their swing-state pitch, and eventually be promoted back up to the real show. Even Ron Paul, the patron saint of libertarian thought to many, had to become a Republican in order to actually accomplish something. Not only does this hurt the legitimacy of the party, it turns off people like me, former Democrats who care about social rights and liberties every bit as much as conservatives care about economic freedom and who can see common ground on the overlap. When Stephen points out the issues with the Party taking on refugees, this is the main concern brought up. He indicated his confidence that libertarians would expose the frauds, but again: a Patriot Act supporter and a Birther were the Libertarian Party nominees in 2008.
Until the big-L Libertarian Party fixes these issues – an admittedly tall goal, even in this election – they will forever remain a fringe party, the land of the 1%, little more than an impotent protest vote.
1 – Ed Clark and David Koch did slightly better in 1980, but that’s more or less a rounding error
Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.
With the primary phase of the 2016 campaign coming to an end, there’s little doubt that many rank and file Republicans and Democrats are not very pleased with their party’s presumptive nominee. For Republicans who actually care about principle, Donald Trump is a non-starter. Many if not most will ultimately decide to vote for him anyway because of the idea that Donald Trump is the lesser evil when compared to Hillary Clinton. Other primary voters who were serious when they said #NeverTrump meant it before May 3rd and mean it now after May 3rd. They have reached the conclusion that Hillary is actually the lesser evil when compared to Trump or at best see them as equally evil.
What are the anti-Trump Republicans to do? Join a third party? Register as independent?
Die hard supporters of Bernie Sanders find themselves in a similar situation. While I haven’t followed the Democrat race for the White House as closely, there does seem to be some angst about Hillary Clinton. Will they decide that from their point-of-view that Hillary is the lesser evil compared to Trump? I’m thinking most will but at least a fraction of the Bernie Sanders voters will make a different choice.
What are pro-Sanders, anti-Hillary Democrats to do? Join a third party? Register as independent?
Here in the Libertarian Party, we are friends of refugees…those fleeing war torn countries, those fleeing desperate poverty, and also those fleeing despotic candidates such as Mr. Trump and Sec. Clinton.
We welcome former Republicans and Democrats who value “liberty and justice for all” to find a new home in the Libertarian Party.
Libertarianism is the idea that you should be free to make your own decisions in all aspects of your life as long as you don’t infringe upon the rights of others.
I find the idea of a flood of political asylum seekers coming to the LP both exciting and terrifying.
If the LP were a nation, it would be a small nation of immigrants. Sure, there are indigenous Libertarians but they are surely the minority. Most Americans grew up in Republican and Democrat households – to the extent Americans are politically active at all. Most Libertarians came to either the party or the philosophy over time and after realizing the party they thought represented them didn’t. I too am a political refugee. The leading candidate for the LP presidential nomination and 2012 nominee, Gary Johnson was a refugee and he’s hardly the first.
The real question is, what do these refugees want?
If they simply want a temporary visa and support the LP nominee for president, even if simply as a “protest vote” most native Libertarians would welcome and encourage that. For those who want citizenship, more would be expected.
What specifically am I talking about? Allow me to address any would-be asylum seekers:
Some of these groups don’t even like each other. Its also quite possible that some of my fellow Liberty Papers contributors might object to listing some of these groups and/or failing to mention another. The point is there is a great deal of philosophical diversity within the broader libertarian movement and, therefore; cannot be pigeonholed into the caricature of libertarians Salon wants you to believe. One thing libertarians of all stripes believe (whether its called the Non Aggression Principle or something else is a debate in and of itself) are the individual rights of life, liberty, and property. Explained another way: Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff.
As Tom Petty likes to say, you don’t have to live like a refugee.
Refugees who actually value the individual rights as described above – having them join the LP would be a great help. For those who want to come in yet hold on to the customs of the party they just left, they need to find asylum elsewhere.
Pivoting back to the original question, should libertarians worry about a bunch of posers coming in and transforming the LP into another Republican Party?*
I believe this would only be a problem if the LP actually started achieving significant electoral success. The reason the LP has been able to stay true (for the most part) to its founding principles since 1971 is because LP candidates haven’t been elected and, therefore; haven’t had to govern. For 45 years, voting/running for the LP has meant never having to say you’re sorry. “Don’t blame me, I voted Libertarian!” Once Libertarians are elected, then we find out how principled they really are.
Until that time comes, I’m very confident that libertarians will expose the frauds. In the LP and/or the greater liberty movement there’s no such thing as “The 11th Commandment.” If you have called yourself a libertarian and another person who calls himself/herself libertarian hasn’t questioned your street cred, you haven’t been a libertarian very long. The intramural battles between Team Cruz and Team Trump or Team Sanders and Team Hillary are mere child’s play by comparison.
In the final analysis, its my belief that the LP will continue to be the LP as we know it only larger. The refugees who want to bring Sharia Law** to the party platform will lose patience dealing with people who actually have principles and self deport.
This isn’t by any means an exhaustive analysis of the second part of the Stossel LP presidential debate but I wanted to share the video now before too much time passes and this becomes irrelevant.
In this second part, Fox News hosts Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera each posed a video question regarding drugs. O’Reilly said he had a question for “the libertarian geniuses” which it seemed that he thought he really had a question that would stump them. As it turned out, O’Reilly’s question made him look like a fool. What he thought was a fast ball was actually a hanging curveball that any libertarian worth his or her salt would have hit out of the park (It’s clear that either he doesn’t watch Stossel’s show because he crushes these kinds of questions on a regular basis). All three candidates indeed did hit it out of the park (bonus points for Petersen for calling O’Reilly a pin head).
Geraldo’s question was a bit more nuanced: Should government have programs to help drug addicts? Among the three candidates, I thought McAfee had the best answer. Treatment cannot be forced on those who don’t want it.
From there, Stossel addressed more of the issues in which libertarians are outside the mainstream.
Combining the two parts of the debate together, my opinion hasn’t changed much. I feel like Austin Petersen “won,” I liked much of what John McAfee had to say (he has a great voice too; he should get into broadcasting), and if anyone “lost” it was Gary Johnson.
All of that being said, any one of these individuals is lightyears better than what the blue and red teams are offering.
In case you missed it, the first half of the Libertarian Party Presidential Debate aired on Stossel on April 1st (the second half will air on Friday, April 8, 2016). The three participants were 2012 Libertarian Party presidential nominee and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, software developer John McAfee, and the founder of the blog The Libertarian Republic Austin Petersen.
After watching some of the GOP debates and the first Democrat debate, watching the Libertarians debate was refreshing. No name calling or commenting on the appearance of the other candidates. No scolding the debate moderator for asking questions the candidates didn’t like. To the extent that one candidate challenged or disagreed with another they were on the substance of the issue at hand (more on that in a moment). There seemed to be more areas of agreement than disagreement (and even a kiss on the cheek) among them. This debate was more about presenting to a national cable audience the case for Libertartian policy alternatives to those of the Republicrats.
Did any candidate “win” Part 1 of the debate or help/hurt his chances with the LP faithful or viewers who are open to supporting a third party candidate?
I can only answer for myself. I enthusiastically supported Gary Johnson in 2012 all the way back from when he was running for the GOP nomination to election day as the LP’s nominee. Of the three, he’s the only one I was all that familiar with. I took the Isidewith.com survey on the issues (mentioned in the debate) several weeks ago and found that I sided with Austin Petersen 97%, Gary Johnson 92%, and Ted Cruz 77%. I’m not sure why John McAfee wasn’t among those I sided with because I found myself in agreement with much of what he said in the debate. Due to these results, though Gov. Johnson is sort of my default favorite I watched with an open mind.
To my surprise, indeed I did find myself agreeing more with the thirty-five year old Austin Petersen than the other two. For libertarians looking for “purity” of libertarian principles, Petersen is your guy it seems (based solely on one half of one debate). When asked about whether a cake decorator should be forced to make a cake for someone based on personal or religious reasons, Johnson (to my profound disappointment) said they should while Petersen said the market should decide making the freedom of association argument (an argument every good libertarian should have down pat).
The second strike against Johnson and for Petersen was the question of the so-called gender pay gap. Johnson sounded like a progressive echoing the “equal pay for equal” work line but said he would be hesitant to sign any equal pay legislation because “the devil is in the details.” Petersen on the other hand skillfully explained why the gender pay gap is a progressive myth. McAfee, for his part argued that if a person doesn’t like how much they are being paid they are free to look elsewhere.
There’s certainly more in the debate that I didn’t get into here. My conclusion as far as my opinion goes: Petersen helped himself, Johnson hurt himself, and McAfee is intriguing. In a world where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are looking to be their party’s nominee any of the three would be hands down a better choice.