A Long Fall From the Moral Mountain Top

charlottesville.jpg

 

A few days removed from the events in Charlottesville, most people find themselves shocked at what transpired. Over the course of 48 hours, the Unite the Right rally is responsible for the world seeing Americans give the Nazi salute, the death of a protester, a helicopter crash, numerous arrests, and dozens of injuries. No, the violence was not isolated to one side of the conflict, but the event and the climate around it were certainly contributing factors to all of the separate incidents surrounding the Alt-Right rally.

Was it a mistake for the counter-protesters to show up with such an angry approach?

Yes.

Was a clash between the two groups very predictable?

Of course, it was.

Antifa and other groups who opposed the Alt-Right event were baited into a fight, and they took the bait all too willingly. If the opposition had just kept clear, or kept calm, no one would be debating who has the moral high ground. One group was either mellow, or at home, and the other was obviously having a torch-led march filled with Nazi salutes and hateful rhetoric. If cooler heads had prevailed, it was basically the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals.

Easy W.

Turn the lights off when you leave.

Unfortunately, that’s not how events unfolded, and now there is an opening for debate about who is to blame for each separate incident over the tragic Virginia weekend. I doubt very few people are going to argue that Nazism is a reasonable political ideology and a positive direction for our country, but they are also likely to denounce communism, as well as violence, in all its forms. Today, many people are condemning both sides for a deadly event, when there could have been watercooler talk, about how crazy those tiki torch-wielding Nazis are.

Lives were lost.

The battle of ideas was lost in a bloody stalemate, too.

Don’t let it happen again.

Advertisements

Nobody Is Entitled To a Job

Entitlement.jpg

My junior year in high school I accepted my first job in the service industry.  I was a busboy at a restaurant owned by the local country club.  I was pretty excited for the opportunity; the restaurant was ten minutes from my parents house, the wait staff was made up of beautiful girls I’d grown up with, and the guys in the kitchen were willing to buy me and my friends alcohol.  As a 17 year old, I couldn’t ask for more.  The only problem was, I was scheduled to work till close every Friday and Saturday night.  I remember complaining about my schedule to my dad, telling him that working till 11 at every Friday and Saturday night left me with no time to hang out with my friends.  

In retrospect, his response was predictable; my dad comes from a blue-collar family, and the work ethic instilled upon him by my grandfather has allowed him to become successful in his career.  He looked at me and told me “it’s a job, people around here would kill for the opportunity you have, don’t blow it because you don’t like the hours.” This was in suburban Detroit at the onset of the financial crisis, the parents of my friends primarily worked in the auto-industry and were losing their careers left and right. My dad’s message was clear, nobody is entitled to a job. People on both sides of the aisle seem to have forgotten this.

This week Google fired James Damore, the author of a 10 page internal letter sent to his colleagues at Google about diversity in the workplace. While the left has called his letter sexist, the right has hailed his letter as brutally honest. In it he acknowledges that racism and sexism exists, but points out that society may be ignoring human nature. Men and women, black and white, etc. all have different psychological and biological make ups that make absolute equality nearly impossible, some groups are going to be better at some things than other groups. He states that our experiences help build who we become, and he rightly states that companies need a diverse set of opinions and experiences to thrive. In his opinion, Google has failed in that sense.  Google disagreed, and this week they fired him. Damore is now exploring legal action against the search  Damore.jpegengine.

Similarly Colin Kaepernick has been unable to find a job in the NFL following his actions last season with the San Francisco 49er’s. Throughout last season Kaepernick, who had previously led his team to a berth in the Super Bowl, took a knee during the national anthem; when the media started picking up on this story his actions became controversial, the right got upset at his “disrespect” while the left hailed his bravery. Kaepernick followed this up by expressing his political beliefs publicly. While talking on these issues, the quarterback pledged to donate $1 million dollars of his salary to various charities that he believes make a difference. As of June Kaepernick had donated $700,000 to 24 organizations. Kaepernick’s actions took bravery, and he had every right to speak out, but he had to know there would be backlash. But I doubt anyone realized that as of August 8th he would be unemployed. ESPN, which has moved further and further to the left over the last couple of years, has been outraged. He deserves a job, they clamor. The outrage has gone so far that multiple ESPN personalities have demanded that the NFL step in and force a team to sign him, much like how they kaepernick.jpgpressured the Rams to draft Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted.

Both the Damore and Kaepernick stories are incredibly similar. Both Damore and Kaepernick took a public stance on something they believe in, both are now unemployed, and both have drawn criticism from those who disagree with their actions. But both must now reap what they sow.

Damore isn’t entitled to his job at Google just because the right believes he in his actions. Simultaneously, no NFL team must sign Colin Kaepernick just because the left found him courageous. Both Google and NFL franchises are businesses, neither is required to employ someone whom they believe may damage their brand. In Google’s case; many employees feel uncomfortable with Damore’s letter, and they have determined that their brand suffers from his presence. In the NFL’s case; owners, coaches, and GM’s have determined that their brand would suffer from signing Colin Kaepernick. It doesn’t matter how good these men may be at their professions, employers are always going to way risk versus reward.

None of us are entitled to a job. If you take a stand, or express an opinion that your employer disagrees with, or believes damages the brand, then they don’t need to keep paying you. Your bravery, right or wrong, does not entitle you to a paycheck. We all must accept responsibility for our actions.

5 Republicans To Watch in 2020

republican.png

Over the weekend, while out with my friends, I asked “what Republicans will run for President in 2020?” They all sort of looked at me with strange looks, one of them said “this is why we don’t invite you to things” while another asked “who wants to play Buckhunter?” Being a politico is difficult sometimes. After most of the table cleared out to go play Buckhunter, I was left with two others. Besides myself (a Libertarian) I was left with a Republican and a Democrat. While the three of us don’t generally agree on many political issues, we all agreed that Robert Mueller convening a federal grand jury to look into Russian meddling likely meant that Trump would either be impeached, resign, or not run for re-election.

Over the next half hour we came up with a list of five Republicans who we all thought could win the nomination in 2020.

 

Mike Pence

Pence.jpg

 

The most obvious choice for the Republican nomination is current Vice President, and former Governor of Indiana Mike Pence.

Nobody wants to be Vice President, the position has no purpose outside of breaking a tie in the Senate, and most find it to be an exceptionally boring, and possibly worthless job.  John Adams, our nation’s first Vice President stated:


“My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

Adams may have been the first to complain about the office, but he wasn’t the last. The office is generally sought by those who have higher aspirations, and appearances suggest that Pence wants to be President. While he has denounced rumors that he would challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020, he certainly has the pedigree for the position. Prior to being Governor of Indiana he served in the House of Representatives from 2001 till 2013, serving as the chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009-2011.  

On the issues Pence is pro-life, pushed for a balanced budget amendment to Indiana’s state constitution, opposed government bailouts, is against increasing regulations, is for “stop and frisk” policies, supports the war on drugs, and is a hawk on foreign policy issues.

Pence would have a leg up for the nomination, especially if Trump doesn’t finish his first term. If he were to audition for the office, it’s hard to imagine that Pence, an establishment favorite, wouldn’t seek the nomination in 2020.

 

John Kasich

kasich.jpg

The current Governor of Ohio sought the Republican nomination in 2016, and has been a staunch opponent of President Trump since the beginning. Over the last few years he has done as much as he possibly can to distance himself from Donald Trump, including skipping last summer’s convention, even though it was being held in Cleveland. Kasich, also an establishment favorite, served in the House of Representatives from 1983 till 2001, and supposedly turned down Trump’s offer to become Vice President.

When it comes to the issues, Kasich has been a staunch advocate for criminal justice reform; signing bills in 2012 and 2011 that make it easier for felons to find jobs, and advocating for shorter rehabilitation over prison for nonviolent offenders. Kasich favors “common core,” wants to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, and while he wants to cut corporate taxes, he also wants to raise taxes on oil companies, and move away from the income tax.

Governor Kasich has failed to rule out a 2020 Presidential run, and is planning several “policy forums” across Ohio and New Hampshire.

 

Nikki Haley

haley.jpg

The former Governor of South Carolina, and current UN Ambassador has never been a Trump supporter (despite serving in his cabinet). Her reputation is helped by the rumor that one of the key reasons she was chosen as UN Ambassador is because her former Lt. Governor in South Carolina, Henry McMaster, was a vocal Trump supporter. When Haley was named UN Ambassador McMaster became South Carolina’s Governor, the rumor is this was McMasters reward for supporting Trump.

Nikki Haley presents a unique opportunity for Republicans. Her Indian-American ancestry would essentially negate any perceived advantage Democrat Kamala Harris, another Indian-American, would have based on gender and ancestry alone. The fact that female minorities would have two qualified candidates to choose from would mean that they would be more likely to vote on policy issues, rather than following their heart strings.

While serving as Governor of South Carolina, Haley reduced unemployment from 11% to 4% and created 85,000 new jobs. She’s anti-Obamacare, pro gun rights, anti-immigration, and pro-life.

 

Rand Paul

rand.jpg

 

Another former presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul is among the most ideologically consistent members of the Senate who easily won re-election last year. Senator Paul is a favorite among libertarian leaning republicans. During his time in office he has been critical of the NSA and the surveillance state that is supported by many establishment leaders, he’s been critical of our foreign policy, he’s one of only a few Republicans who has recently advocated for a full repeal of Obamacare, he’s  co-sponsored legislation with liberal Senators like Kamala Harris and Corey Booker on issues like criminal justice and bail reform. He’s been critical of Washington’s spending problem, while consistently vocalizing his opposition to new taxes and regulations.

While Paul may have some issues with establishment republicans; his crossover appeal with both libertarians and (some) democrats, as well as his popularity with millennials could mean a well-run campaign leading up to 2020 could secure his nomination.

 

Ben Sasse

sasse.jpg

 

The freshman Senator from Nebraska has always been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump. In the lead up to the 2014 election, Sasse ran as the “anti Obamacare” candidate and ran as a strong social conservative.  

When it comes to Obamacare, he has consistently voted to repeal as much of the act as possible. In his short time in office, he has also taken a surprisingly libertarian view on foreign policy issues; joining Senator Paul in opposing additional sanctions against Russia, and opposing selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

When it comes to the economy, Sasse has consistently been against government regulations, while calling for more privatization and a revamp of the tax code.

Like Kasich, Sasse also hasn’t ruled out a 2020 run. In the last few months, Sasse has popped up across the state of Iowa; whether he’s talking policy, or just driving for Uber, the Nebraska Senator has made sure that Iowans know who he is.

 

As Republicans continue to distance themselves from President Trump, it doesn’t look like the party would have much difficulty in finding a better candidate in 2020.

A Brief Overview of the Major Players in the Syrian Civil War

Current military situation: Red: Syrian government, Green: Syrian opposition, Yellow: Rojava (SDF)/Syrian Kurds, Grey: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, White: Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as the al-Nusra Front)

 

To put it simply, The Syrian Civil War is a quagmire. There are alot of different factions at play here. It can be a little confusing to those getting into this topic to navigate. This guide hopefully will provide you with a brief overview of the situation down there as of today.

Turkey

Turkey seeks to quell its own Kurdish uprising and increase its influence in the Middle East

The Turks are against the Syrian Kurds and Assad and ISIS roughly in that order and nominally allied with the US however Russia has been recently trying to make friendly overtures towards them. The Turks mainly seek to quell the local Syrian Kurds to keep their own Kurdish separatist movement in check as well as gain a greater influence in the Middle East at the expense of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the other Gulf States as well as Iran.  They sent a military intervention into Syria with the goal of fighting both ISIS and the Syrian Kurds.  Recently, there has been an uptick in violence between the Syrian Kurds and Turkish forces as ISIS-held Raqqa nears collapse

Assad

Assad seeks to stop the rebellion with the help of Russia and Iran

Assad has, with the support of Russia and Iran, been focusing mostly on non ISIS rebels which are themselves a patchwork of different factions of shifting alliances running the gamut from hard core Islamists of a different ideological stripe from ISIS to secular militarists to straight up secular liberal democracy proponents. However the Syrian regime is also at war with ISIS but have largely let the US coalition fight them, keeping their military operations concentrated to the southern and western parts of Syria.  Until the Russian intervention Syria government forces were on the brink.  The Iranian militias supporting them “unofficially” were not enough to stem the tide. However the arms and military support from Russia allowed them to take the offensive and make considerable gains in the war.  They are trying to stay out of the Syrian Kurds way as the Syrian Kurds have been the main force fighting ISIS with the perceived strategy of letting them fight it out and taking down the winner.

 

The Gulf States

The Gulf States seek to fight ISIS with the nominal help of the US coalition but also seek to check Iranian and Turkish influence.

The Gulf States (UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc) generally back support and arm various rebel groups within Syria shifting their support as the map and battlefield changes. They tend however to support the hardcore Islamists as a way of staying “tough on seculars​” They are also nominally allied with the US as ISIS and Iran are common enemies. They do this mostly to maintain their local hegemony over the region and to prevent Iran and non Gulf Muslim States (like Turkey and Iran) from gaining the upper hand, influence wise. Also as one of ISIS’s stated goals is the utter destruction of those states they must work with the US to prevent that.

Iran

Iran seeks to maintain its influence in Syria as well as fight ISIS in nominal cooperation with Russia

Iran seeks to maintain its last foothold of influence in the Arab world (Iranians are Persians) and thus supports Assad as the Syrian regime was one of the few that had a pro Iranian policy. They are nominally allied with Russia as the two share similar goals of keeping the Syrian regime alive. They also are against ISIS as their special brand of Islam is not ISIS’s special brand of Islam so they fight their own completely separate battle against them.  This is done mostly through unofficial militias as well as “Iranian volunteers.”

Russia

Russia continues its quest for warm water ports and increased influence in the Middle East on the side of Assad and Iran.

Russia also seeks to maintain its last foothold in the Middle East. Continuing it’s long-standing policy of warm water ports, it seeks to preserve the military base in Tartus that it has in Syria ( the Syrian regime has granted them military access and a base there) as well as gain new bases in Syria to continue its bid for control and access to the Eastern Mediterranean and the trade routes that pass through it. It also is against ISIS largely out of an outgrowth of the Chechen conflict (many former Chechen rebels went to ISIS after they lost.) As such they back the Syrian regime to the hilt against the Syrian rebels, ISIS, and the US and Gulf state interests roughly in that order and nominally work with Iran.

Syrian Kurds

The Kurds seek to form their own nation and are the main ground force against ISIS

The Syrian Kurds are straight up fighting for their own country. Kurds are the largest and oldest “Stateless Nation”. They haven’t been able to form a state as traditional Kurdish lands straddle Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq.  (Guess which countries in the Middle East are against the Kurds!)  They are the main ground force fighting ISIS as the territory they control is right smack dab next to ISIS controlled territory. The US backs them against the protests of Turkey and they are nominally allied to the Iraqi Kurds in the east.  The Iraqi Kurds are the ones who actually sent an artillery force to help relieve Kobani a couple years back. The Syrian Kurds are leftist while the Iraqi Kurds are right wing which makes for some tensions but are still united in the idea of a Kurdish state. After ISIS though the Syrian Kurds are opposed to Turkey. The US has been trying to keep Kurdish and Turkish forces apart but once ISIS is gone all bets are off.

US led Coalition

The US seeks to keep ISIS from launching attacks on its homeland as well as to limit Russian and Iranian influence in the Middle East

The US led coalition is primarily interested in the defeat of ISIS as a way of keeping them in the Middle East and busy so as not to conduct terror attacks on domestic US soil. They are also against the Assad regime for human rights violations but also to limit Russians and Iranian influence in the Middle East.  They try to back the various rebel groups but their support is limited as they are trying to find the ever rarer secular democratic rebel group (there are a few but they are teetering.) Recently, they’ve ended their support of the anti-Assad rebels, causing uncertainty over their role going forward.  They are nominally allied with the Gulf States but behind the scenes work at cross purposes in terms of Rebel support but coordinate closely in terms of fighting ISIS.

ISIS

We won’t be displaying the ISIS flag. They hate everyone and everyone hates them.

Finally ISIS. ISIS hates everyone. Everyone hates ISIS.  ISIS’s ideology and expression of said ideology puts them at violent odds with literally everything around them that does not adhere to their very specific sub-branch of Wahhabi Islam.  As such, they have no real allies or backers on the international scene.  Their funding largely comes from the sale of artifacts looted from archaeological sites, crime, and taxes from conquered territories.  With the loss of Mosul and other territories, their income has been reduced dramatically in the past year.

CalExit Will Never Happen

CalExit.JPG

After the election of Donald Trump, many people got irrational, particularly Governor Jerry Brown, and the people of California (who ironically opened an embassy in Moscow in protest). Since then, many people, both in California and across the country, have pushed for the Golden State’s secession. Last Tuesday, California’s Attorney General decided to humor the #CalExit organizers.

Last Tuesday, California Attorney General  Xavier Becerra apparently finished his scotch, said “what the hell,” and gave his stamp of approval for a group of people to begin gathering the more than 585,000 signatures needed to allow a ballot initiative that would allow a ballot initiative calling for secession to be put on the 2018 ballot. If the ballot measure were to somehow pass, a commission would form to explore how the state could secede from the United States, unfortunately, this will never happen. calexit dos.jpg

Secession isn’t a new idea, outside the Civil War, the idea pops up every couple of years, normally in Texas, and at that time realists endlessly mock these attempts, and for good reason, the fact remains that there is no way to secede from the Union written in the Constitution.  Article IV Section 3 of the Constitution deals with how to admit a new state into the country, but the reverse is never discussed, and has been dismissed outright by plenty of respectable legal scholars.

In 2006, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was asked by screenwriter Dan Turkewitz if a group of people suing the government for the right to secede would be a good plot point. Scalia responded saying that state’s do not have the right to secede. In his letter back to Turkewitz, Scalia said that such an issue would never even reach the Supreme Court:

“To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. … Secondly, I find it difficult to envision who the parties to this lawsuit might be. Is the State suing the United States for a declaratory judgment? But the United States cannot be sued without its consent, and it has not consented to this sort of suit.”

Scalia.jpgWhat Justice Scalia pointed out in that first line is something most people don’t realize.  In the eyes of the United States government, there no such thing as the “Confederate States of America.” The southern states, in their mind, were just occupied by hostile citizens. This line of thinking was pointed out in the 1869 Supreme Court case Texas v. White.  This case argued that Texas’s Confederate state legislature had illegally sold bonds that were owned by Texas, and issued by the United States government as part of the compromise of 1850. While ruling on this case, the justices wrote;

“The Constitution, in all its provisions… looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States.”

So while Jefferson Davis and his friends may have seen themselves as an independent country, the United States hadn’t given them the go-ahead to secede, so they had no sovereignty. The Civil War was a war for independence, much like the American Revolution was a war for independence. We had to defeat the British before getting the go-ahead to secede; if we had lost, we’d have socialized medicine and a government that doesn’t respect individual rights, and do we really want that?

While it amuses us to think that a state that disagrees with our own core ideologies could soon be gone, it is unlikely to happen. So unfortunately it looks as though referring to San Francisco as a “foreign country” will remain hyperbole.

calexit dos.jpg

Is History Repeating Itself?

NxonTrump.jpeg

 

In 1973, former Attorney General Elliott Richardson was assigned a task; appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into the Watergate Scandal. Richardson turned to his former Harvard Law Professor, Archibald Cox. Appointing Cox as special prosecutor, as it turns out, was the beginning of the end for President Nixon.

Drunk on power, Nixon saw himself as untouchable, he felt as though he had the support of his party, and that he had loyal men working to clear his name. As he started to doubt that loyalty, it all came crashing down on October 23, 1973. On what later became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” the White House announced the dismissals, and resignations of special prosecutor Cox, Attorney General Richardson, and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, abolishing the office of special prosecutor all together, and handing the investigation over to the Justice Department.

The entire ordeal unfolded because Nixon thought he was untouchable, he refused to turn over documents and tapes related to the investigation, and when challenged he demanded that Richardson fire Cox. When Richardson refused, Nixon pressured Richardson to resign. Upon the resignation of Elliott Richardson, William Ruckelshaus was promoted to acting Attorney General and given the same orders, when Ruckelshaus refused, Nixon forced him to resign.  The law states that when there is no Attorney General, the Solicitor General – in this case Robert Bork – becomes the acting Attorney General. Unlike his predecessors, Bork followed Nixon’s orders and fired Archibald Cox. As if that wasn’t enough bad PR, the scene got even uglier when word got out that the FBI, at the request of the White House, had sealed off access to the offices of those that had been forced out.

Soon after the “Saturday Night Massacre” support for Nixon within Congress began to erode. The House Judiciary Committee announced they would move ahead with impeachment proceedings, and the Supreme Court ordered the White House to turn over all the tapes and documents they had in relation to Watergate.

Elliott Richardson and Nixon.jpg

Elliott Richardson and Richard Nixon

Within 10 months of the entire ordeal Nixon resigned.

It is impossible to look at President Trump, and the way he has handled himself, and not draw comparisons to Nixon. Like Nixon, Trump is being investigated by a special counselor, Robert Mueller, who is looking into possible Russian involvement into the 2016 Presidential election. Like Nixon, Trump has demanded absolute loyalty from those he works with. Former FBI director James Comey has testified to this. Comey testified that Trump had demanded loyalty from him, then ordered him to drop an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia.  When he refused to comply, James Comey was fired. Like Nixon, Trump is frustrated with his Attorney General, publicly humiliating him on numerous occasions. President Trump probably sees the fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any investigation into Russia as a personal betrayal. After all, being named Attorney General was a reward to Sessions for his early support as he sought the presidency.

The recusal of Sessions has left Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge of the investigation into possible Russian meddling, and for over a month now, it has been widely reported that Trump wants to fire Mueller. The problem is, he doesn’t have that power, only the Attorney General does, and since Sessions has recused himself from this investigation, that means only Rosenstein has that power. What Trump can do, however, is pull a Nixon; request that Rosenstein fires Mueller or face the consequences, which would probably mean he would be fired.

JS

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

In my mind it seems that Trumps public temper tantrum against Jeff Sessions is his way of acting out in frustration. Trump probably believes that if Sessions hadn’t recused himself, he would be willing to fire Mueller and put an end to this investigation. Instead he is stuck with a Deputy Attorney General that isn’t as loyal to Trump as Sessions had been.

Power corrupts. In both the Watergate scandal, and the Russia investigation, a paranoid President that demands absolute loyalty has gone out of his way to control an outcome. Sally Yates, Michael Flynn, Preet Bharara, Katie Walsh, James Comey, Michael Dubke, Walter Shaub, Sean Spicer, and Michael Short have all either been fired or resigned since Trump took office on January 20th. The Trump administration has gone out of their way to prove that loyalty is the only thing that matters. While it’s impossible to know what Trump’s legacy will ultimately be, it’s hard not to see that history may be repeating itself.

2018: A Make It or Break It Midterm for Libertarians

Libertarian_Party_Porcupine_(USA).svg

 

Logging onto Facebook this morning I was met with a pleasant surprise – a message reminding me that it had been a year since I had signed on to the Gary Johnson campaign.  The public declaration that I was done with the Grand Ole Party meant absolutely nothing to the people on my friends list, let’s be honest most people don’t give a damn about your political leanings unless you’re constantly flaunting your beliefs.  The announcement did, however, mean a lot to me.

Prior to last July I was a Republican who had gradually lost faith in the Republican Party.  I was sick of the hypocrisy, the blatant violation of our civil liberties, the lack of fiscal conservatism, and the message of the Republican nominee for President. I felt, at the time, that Gary Johnson could legitimately carry a state in the general election.  My optimism turned out to be wrong; Johnson/Weld did not carry a state, nor did they receive an electoral vote.  Despite that, the ticket received nearly 4.5 million votes, carrying 3.27% of the vote, while appearing on the ballot in all 50 states and Washington DC. Disappointing according to my own expectations? Yes. But the election was monumental for the Libertarian Party.

For the longest time the biggest hurdle facing the growth of third parties in this country has been ballot access.  A lack of ballot access ties up a third party’s limited resources, forcing them to focus on things other than campaigning.  Heading into the 2018 midterm elections, the Libertarian Party will have ballot access in 37 states.

What’s more important than ballot access, however, is that the Libertarian Party has incumbents that need to win re-election; Nebraska State Senator Laura Ebke, along with New Hampshire State Representatives Brandon Phinney, Caleb Dyer, and Joseph Stallcop all ditched their former parties, and registered as Libertarians in the last year. Now they all face re-election bids without the backing of the powerful two party duopoly. 

phinney.jpg

Brandon Phinney is one of 3 libertarians in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives 

All the aforementioned candidates had their own reasons for ditching their former parties. Joseph Stallcop, who serves in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives representing Cheshire 4, was elected as a Democrat. His decision to switch to the Libertarian Party, he told Authentic Liberty, was based in part because of the disrespect his ideas and views were generating among Democrats. Stallcops colleague, Brandon Phinney, explained his decision to switch parties as frustration with the direction, and leadership  of Republicans, a familiar sentiment. When Authentic Liberty asked Senator Laura Ebke why she switched parties, she pointed out several moments where she realized that the Republican Party no longer represented her values. Senator Ebke told us that “the recognition that the Republicans were going to nominate Trump, and then a “call out” for not being an adequately “platform Republican” at the 2016 State GOP convention by the Governor–when he called out a number of us by name” appeared to be the last straw. Like many people, Senator Ebke realized that the GOP didn’t care about policy, but party.

While Representative Stallcop is unsure if he will be running for re-election next year (he is set to graduate from college), the state of New Hampshire presents an interesting scenario for Brandon Phinney and Caleb Dyer, his colleagues in the only libertarian caucus in the nation. New Hampshire is one of a handful of states that allows for “fusion tickets,” which allow one candidate to run under multiple parties. Both Phinney and Dyer, former Republicans, could choose to seek both the Republican and Libertarian nominations for their districts,and in a comment to Authentic Liberty, Phinney stated that this is his intention; in doing so they would eliminate potential rivals while having their names appear multiple times on the ballot.  That scenario could be interesting, and increase their odds of reelection, but could also make them beholden to the whims of two different parties. A victory on a fusion ticket would also minimize the importance of the Libertarian Party; if, in this hypothetical situation, both candidates win both the Republican and Libertarian nominations, then win the election, outsiders could say that they only won because of the Republican Party, marginalizing the importance of libertarians.

Senator Ebke’s situation in Nebraska is also interesting. She serves in the only unicameral state legislature in the nation, and in Nebraska, all state elections are

Laura Ebke.jpg

Senator Laura Ebke is up for re-election in 2018

nonpartisan, when voters step into the ballot box in 2018 they will see a list of names with no party affiliation. Senator Ebke believes the nonpartisan nature of Nebraska’s state elections probably helps her, as she explained to Authentic Liberty “while many people will know the affiliation, the fact that it isn’t listed on the ballot, nor do we organize by party in the legislature–probably helps me some.” Senator Ebke says that the biggest difference she has noticed during her re-election bid is her ability to effectively raise money; “Libertarians–as a whole–seem to be far less likely to part with their money–whether $25 of $100. Republican (and probably Democrat) activists are used to being asked for cash, and attending fundraisers.”  With that said, she has had some success raising money for her re-election, and she will continue to need our support, if you’ve got $10, you can make a donation here.

Winning re-election to these offices should be the focus of the Libertarian Party. As we move forward we cannot simply be content with the occasional officeholder quitting their party out of protest, and registering as a libertarian.  Libertarians need to learn how to win elections; we need an effective, proven blueprint, and we need to show the Republicans and Democrats that we can do more than just steal a few votes. The best way to do that is by continuing to seek support from the party at both the state and national level. If we cannot support our candidates and win elections as libertarians, then party members really need to question if there is any advantage to running for office as a libertarian.