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Published: Fri, 20 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0400

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GOP Senate Candidate Austin Petersen Wants You to Be Able to Legally Buy a Machine Gun

Tue, 03 Apr 2018 09:45:00 -0400

Austin Petersen, the 2016 runner-up for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination and current contender for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Missouri, has always believed in free possession of fully automatic weapons (machine guns) for American citizens. As he reminded me in a phone interview this week, one of his colorful slogans during his L.P. run was, "I believe in a world where gay married couples are free to protect their marijuana fields with fully automatic machine guns." "I've been saying this for years," Petersen notes. But he felt inclined to say it again in the past week because his most prominent rival vying for the GOP Senate nod, current state Attorney General Josh Hawley, "on the day he declared [for the nomination] also declared for banning firearms accessories via executive orders. He's to the left of Obama, and he made it important for me to differentiate myself." It's one thing for someone from the knowingly radical-for-freedom Libertarian Party to say that sort of thing. But such an attitude is rare among would-be candidates for the major parties. Still, Petersen is confident that doing so in the context of the fight for the GOP nod to run against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill will help, not hurt. "Not just Republicans, but even Democrats in Missouri are pro-gun," Petersen says. "The Missouri Senate voted to nullify federal gun laws in the state; we have permitless concealed carry as well as open carry." In "response to Democrats pushing hard left and saying we should repeal the Second Amendment," Petersen says that we should repeal the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA), which among other things placed strong licensing and tax requirements on machine guns, and also repeal the Hughes Amendment to the 1986 Firearms Owner Protection Act, which barred all possession of machine guns made after its passage. Second Amendment advocates "need to stop playing defense, and go on the offense," he tells me. "If they talk about repealing the Second Amendment, let's push in the opposite direction. The best defense is a good offense so let's talk about repealing the NFA and the Hughes Amendments." Petersen recently got himself into a Twitter squabble with gun control advocate Shannon Watts that dragged in television personality Montel Williams. Petersen thinks Watts made a fool of herself by prodding him about ordnance and nukes, which are matters not relevant to the NFA. Petersen doesn't think NFA repeal is that out-there a position, pointing to a petition to do so with over 285,000 signatures. "It's time to stop placating people having a conversation about how to limit our rights; let's get the conversation to where people are talking not about limiting gun rights but expanding them, and that's what I'm trying to do" by calling for NFA repeal. He's running Republican, Petersen says, because thousands of phone calls made to past supporters from his L.P. run showed that nearly all of them wanted him to wave the GOP banner. But that doesn't mean his fans don't have a hardcore radical streak when it comes to Second Amendment liberty. "Dollars talk. We had our single greatest fundraising day" after reiterating his support for private machine gun ownership. "We got a lot of 'attaboys' and as far as anger from the left, well, those people weren't going to support me anyway. Missouri is a pro-gun state, we don't have a lot of gun-grabbers." Petersen pushes back against the idea that advocating private civilian machine gun ownership is unbearably eccentric in the current gun control debate. "I want to bring the conversation back to our rights, rather than being about trying to justify why I need something, why don't you tell me why I can't?" When challenged about why he can't support "reasonable gun control," Petersen counters cheekily with his belief in reasonable new laws like the "Hearing Protection Act" (to allow for sale of suppressors without a tax stamp, basically treating suppressors the same as long guns when it comes to legal hoops) and national concealed carry reciprocity[...]

Libertarian Party Achieves "Major Party" Status in New Mexico

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 19:00:00 -0500

Thanks to a combination of native son and former governor Gary Johnson's extraordinarily high (for the Libertarian Party) 9.3 percent of the presidential vote in the state in 2016, and state Party registered membership reaching at least one-third of one percent of state voters (it is now at .62 percent, or 7,593), the Libertarian Party in New Mexico is now officially characterized as a major party just like the Democrats and Republicans in the state. The Santa Fe New Mexican explains what this good news means in practical terms for the L.P.: "The Libertarians had previously...had to collect a sometimes substantial number of signatures to get on the ballot....As a major party, candidates will still have to get signatures for the nomination process but not nearly as many, offering its slate easier access to the ballot. A candidate for U.S. Senate or governor, for example, would need at least 230 signatures from registered Libertarian voters." According to state law for retaining that major party status, "A qualified political party shall cease to be qualified...if two successive general elections are held without at least one of the party's candidates on the ballot or if the total votes cast for the party's candidates for governor or president of the United States, provided that the party has a candidate seeking election to either of these offices, in a general election do not equal at least one-half of one percent of the total votes cast for the office...." According to the New Mexico L.P.'s list of current New Mexico Libertarian candidates for office in 2018, no one is yet committed to running for governor with the L.P. in 2018. The state's filing deadline is looming, on February 6. Two prominent state politicians in the past month announced their defection from the Democratic Party (Sandra Jeff, a former two-term state representative) and the Republican Party (Aubrey Dunn, a current state land commissioner). Both are reported by the L.P. to be seeking office as Libertarians this year, Jeff as secretary of state and Dunn as U.S. senator. According to the national L.P. office, New Mexico now joins 22 other states (or the District of Columbia) in essentially having the same requirements for ballot access for the Libertarians as for the Democrats and Republicans. Those states are Alaska, California, D.C., Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. (State election ballot access law is complicated and nuanced and singular, part of what makes running for office without the protective coloration of a major party such a pain.) As reported at the indispensable Ballot Access News site, New Mexico's ballot access laws for non-major parties are among the most stringent in the nation. From 2016, a list of what states base ballot access on achieving certain percentages of the state vote for presidential candidates (or sometimes other statewide elections) for third parties.[...]

Warning: The President Wants to Censor 'Fake News'! The President of France

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 13:45:00 -0500

President Donald Trump is commanding a lot of attention for his lawyers' attempts to scare Michael Wolff and Wolff's publisher out of releasing Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. This attempt to censor the press definitely deserves our attention and condemnation. But if their threats against Wolff stand out, it's not because there's something new about politically powerful people trying to suppress reports that make them look bad. The only norm Trump is breaking here is the one that says not to be so openly self-serving about it. If Trump had the sense to act as though his calls for censorship were about "preserving democracy," he'd be in much better shape. That's exactly what's happening in France. French President Emmanuel Macron, like Trump, is not happy about "fake news." Like Trump, he wants to stop it. But unlike Trump (so far), he's trying to use his power as president to actually censor the internet. Macron claims that he merely wants to protect the people from "fake news" during elections. The Guardian reports: In his new year's speech to journalists at the Élysée palace, Macron said he would shortly present the new law in order to fight the spread of fake news, which he said threatened liberal democracies. New legislation for websites would include more transparency about sponsored content. Under the new law, websites would have to say who is financing them and the amount of money for sponsored content would be capped. For fake news published during election seasons, an emergency legal action could allow authorities to remove that content or even block the website, Macron said. "If we want to protect liberal democracies, we must be strong and have clear rules," he added. Is it really liberal democracies that Macron wants to protect? The Guardian notes that Macron faced fake news stories during his presidential campaign that accused him of hiding funds in offshore accounts. Like many Hillary Clinton supporters in America, he claims that Russia-linked outlets spread propaganda to harm him. All this suggests that what Macron really wants to censor is "fake news" that threatens his political fortunes. Fake claims during political campaigns are hardly new. They're less a "threat" to liberal democracies than they are a natural, albeit frustrating, side effect of having campaigns in the first place. Meanwhile, there's not much evidence that "fake news" has had much of an impact on election outcomes. A new report from a trio of political scientists found that in the run-up to the presidential election in America, one out of four people who participated in their study had visited a site with fake news stories. But only a much smaller number, 10 percent, were regular consumers of fake news—mostly older, more conservative voters who weren't likely to vote for Hillary Clinton in the first place. While the report was not able to determine whether people actually believe the fake news the read, what did seem to be clear is that people's exposure to fake news seemed to track their desire to consume news about the candidate they already supported. The fake news was a complement to the rest of their news consumption. The fake news told them what they already wanted to hear, which probably tracks the experiences of anybody who has had a Facebook friend post a link to a report that was obviously false. There's something particularly reprehensible about trying to connect the preservation of democracy with the censorship of speech that makes a candidate look bad, regardless of whether that speech is true or false. Given the absence of evidence that fake news stories have been tipping elections, Macron's actions have the same whiff of self-preservation as Trump's. Macron is hardly alone. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has threatened to use her position as a lawmaker to force additional regulations of political speech on social media. By pure coincidence, Feinstein is running for re-election next year. Giving the government the power to censor fake political sto[...]

Are You Allowed to Vote While Wearing a 'Don't Tread on Me' T-Shirt? SCOTUS Will Soon Decide

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 12:50:00 -0500

Does the Constitution permit state governments to create "speech-free zones" that ban political attire within 100 feet of a polling place on election day, even if that attire does not mention a candidate, a campaign, or even a political party? Or does the First Amendment protect the citizenry's right to wear such attire while casting a ballot? The U.S. Supreme Court will tackle those questions later this term when it hears oral arguments in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky. The justices agreed to take up the case yesterday. At issue is a Minnesota statute declaring that "a political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place on primary or election day." The ban applies to all apparel "designed to influence and impact voting" or "promoting a group with recognizable political views." Andrew Cilek, the executive director of the conservative group Minnesota Voters Alliance, ran afoul of the law in 2010 when he tried to vote wearing a t-shirt adorned with an image of the Gadsen Flag, the phrase "Don't Tread on Me," and a Tea Party Patriots logo. Cilek was also wearing a "Please I.D. Me" button from the conservative group Election Integrity Watch. Cilek and the Minnesota Voters Alliance, represented by the lawyers at the Pacific Legal Foundation, are now asking the Supreme Court to strike down the Minnesota law. "This Court has never countenanced speech-free zones at polling places," they argue in their briefing. "Rather, it has held that bans on First Amendment activity are unconstitutional, regardless of the forum." On the opposite side of the case is Joe Mansky, the elections manager for Ramsey County, Minnesota, along with several other state officials. They maintain that the law "is not overbroad but a reasonable and viewpoint neutral regulation of speech in the nonpublic forum of a polling place." The Supreme Court's key precedent in this area of the law is a 1992 decision known as Burson v. Freeman, in which the Court upheld the constitutionality of a Tennessee statute that created "campaign-free zones" within 100 feet of polling places on election day. That law prohibited "campaign posters, signs or other campaign materials, distribution of campaign materials, and solicitation of votes for or against any person or political party or position on a question." Mansky and his fellow state officials insist that Burson clearly cuts in their favor. But there is an important difference between that precedent and the present case. Burson dealt only with campaign-related speech. The Minnesota law goes much further, encompassing the far wider category of political speech, including speech that makes no mention of any campaign, candidate, initiative, referendum, or party. In other words, it's one thing to ban a "Vote for Bernie" shirt from the polling place; it's another thing to ban an "Occupy Wall Street" shirt. And that is precisely what is at issue here. The same reasoning that would allow Minnesota to prohibit "Don't Tread on Me" shirts from polling places on election day would also allow the state to prohibit AFL-CIO buttons or NAACP hats, to name just a few of the sort of everyday items that Americans wear in order to express their political beliefs or identities. In an amicus brief filed in support of the Minnesota Voters Alliance, the Cato Institute, Rutherford Institute, Individual Rights Foundation, and Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this website) argue that the law's extensive reach is a fatal flaw worthy of judicial rectification. "When a statute is written so generally that it could plausibly be enforced against vast swaths of speech," the brief notes, "this Court has applied the doctrine of overbreadth, invalidating the statute for placing too much discretion in the hands of government agents. Minnesota's law, which simply bans 'political' insignia, suffers from precisely this constitutional defect." We'll find out later this term where the justices stand on th[...]

Libertarian Party Wins More Than a Dozen Elections Across the Nation

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 15:45:00 -0500

The Libertarian Party participated in elections in 12 states yesterday: Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. The party's candidates won races (not always partisan ones) in the following states:

(image) • In Florida, party members were elected to the Altamonte Springs City Commission, the Coconut Grove Village Council, and the Cape Canaveral City Council.

• In Pennsylvania, party members were elected Rome Township auditor, Spring Township auditor, auditor of Upper Providence, Victory Township supervisor, Houston Borough judge of elections, Exeter Township school director, Lower Nazareth auditor and judge of elections, constable in Sunbury, and member of the Houston Borough Council.

• In Washington, party members were elected to the Long Beach City Council and the Covington City Council.

• In North Carolina, a party member was elected to the Carthage Town Board of Commissioners.

While nowhere near the spread between winning Democrat Ralph Northam and losing Republican Ed Gillespie, at least 29,000 Virginians voted for Libertarian Cliff Hyra for governor. Michelle Darnell won an impressive 32 percent in a Washington State Senate race in the Redmond area, though with only one major-party opponent, the winning Democrat.

Details on the L.P.'s results yesterday can be found on the party's website; some of the above were noted in this tweet from the National L.P.

Did 15 Years of War Win the Presidency for Donald Trump?

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 13:35:00 -0400

Did the promise of peace deliver the nuclear button to Donald Trump? A recent study by Douglas L. Kriner, a political scientist at Boston University, and Francis X. Shen, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, argues that Trump's victory last November can be directly attributed to "the casualty divide"—their term for the division "between communities whose young people are dying to defend the country, and those communities whose young people are not." Specifically, they think the evidence shows a significant and meaningful relationship between a community's rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump. Our statistical model suggests that if three states key to Trump's victory—Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House. Exposure to the costs of war is not equal across America, as Kriner and Shen note: "seven states have suffered casualty rates of thirty or more deaths per million residents. By contrast, four states have suffered casualty rates of fifteen or fewer deaths per million. As a result, Americans living in these states have had different exposure to the war's human costs through the experiences of their friends and neighbors and local media coverage." The varying effects get more pronounced on the county level: "more than a quarter of counties had experienced a casualty rate more than 3.5 times greater [than the national average], and 10% of counties had suffered casualty rates of more than 7 deaths per 100,000 residents. Voters in such communities increasingly abandoned Republican candidates in a series of elections in the 2000s." The authors believe they have found a robust association between a state's casualty rates and Trump's excess votes over Mitt Romney's four years earlier. Had Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin all had casualties rates equal to the lower ones in nearby New York, they conclude, then Trump's narrow victory margin in those states would have disappeared and Hillary Clinton would be president. Doing the same analysis on the more granular county level leads to even stronger-seeming support for their thesis. (They see a similar historical pattern going back even further: "in the Civil War, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, constituencies that have suffered the highest casualty rates have proven most likely to punish the ruling party at the polls.") Kriner and Shen controlled for some obvious possible confounding variables, including income and educational level, ethnic mix, rural/urban population balance, and percentage of veterans. "Even after including all of these demographic control variables," they write, "the relationship between a county's casualty rate and Trump's electoral performance remains positive and statistically significant." Before you rush to assume that correlation indicates causation, there's a mystery you have to consider: What exactly did voters know (or think they knew) about Trump's foreign policy, and how important was that to them? In Michigan, for example, only 13 percent of voters in a CNN exit poll rated foreign policy as their most important topic, and only 34 percent of those privileging foreign policy went for Trump. In Pennsylvania those numbers were a very similar 12 percent and 31 percent; in Wisconsin, they were 11 and 38. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that military casualty families were overrepresented in those small percentages who both privileged foreign policy and voted for Trump, but the authors don't know this for sure. As for what voters believed about his foreign policy: Many of a non-interventionist bent were excited about those portions of Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric that suggested he had strong doubts about the wisdom of some past U.S. wars, such as the one in Iraq, and might be less inclined to get us into new ones. Writing here at Reason, Matt We[...]

Trump Ads Were More Policy-Focused, Less Negative Than Clinton's 2016 Election Ads, Find Wesleyan Researchers

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 06:30:00 -0500

Say what you will about Hillary Clinton, but at least she wasn't the candidate turning the 2016 election into a policy-light, personality-driven circus...right? Not so fast. Conventional wisdom may hold that Clinton ran the more serious and substantive campaign, but a new analysis out of Wesleyan University suggests otherwise, at least when it comes to campaign advertising. "Clinton's message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests," according to the Wesleyan Media Project, which analyzed election ads that ran between June 8, 2016, and election day. For the analysis, Wesleyan researchers coded Clinton and Trump ads—including those from their respective campaigns and ads from political action committies and allies—as being driven by policy, personality, or both. They found that more than half of Clinton's ads focused on Clinton's positive personal qualities or Trump's negative personal qualities rather than on policy matters, compared to a little over 10 percent of Trump's ads. Campaign advertising for Trump, meanwhile, was both more likely to focus on policy issues alone and to focus on a mix of policy and candidates' personal qualities, as you can see in the chart below.* The Wesleyan researchers also compared Clinton and Trump ads to those run in previous presidential election cycles, dating back to 2000. Clinton's personality-driven ads far outpaced those of either her Democratic or Republican predecessors in these past races. The candidate who comes nearest is Barack Obama in 2008, when around 15 percent of his ads lacked a policy message entirely (compared to around 10 percent of rival John McCain's ads). Throughout the period, Democratic campaigns were more likely to use personality-driven ads than were Republicans with the exception of the 2012 election, when Mitt Romney ran more personality-driven ads than did Obama. In general, the biggest proportion of campaign ads focused on policy messages. Check out more of the Wesleyan Media Project's analysis in the latest issue of The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics (open access through mid-April 2017). Interestingly, the 2016 election cycle saw less negative advertising than the last one, according to the paper. "For all of the vitriol in the 2016 presidential election (in rallies, the debates, on cable news programs), the tone of political advertising was actually less negative than it was in 2012," it states. "The 2016 election did, however, earn the distinction of the second most negative in the last decade and a half." Also notable: Nearly half of all Clinton campaign spots were negative, whereas more than half of Trump ads were "contrast spots, which discussed Clinton negatively but also provided information about Trump." Clinton's anti-Trump ads also emphasized her opponent's negative personal qualities rather than questionable policy positions, while "about 70 percent of ads from Trump and his allies that attacked Clinton contained at least some discussion of policy, and when there were contrasts drawn between the two candidates, those contrasts were almost all policy-based." * This post previously mistated the degree of difference and has been updated.[...]

A Walt Whitman Poem for Election 2016

Tue, 08 Nov 2016 17:15:00 -0500

Bitterly fought elections are actually not uncommon in American history. Consider the election of 1800 when Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied among Electors. In words that some might think could be applicable to a certain contemporary orange-haired presidential candidate, Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist, explained why he preferred Democratic Republican Jefferson: Mr. Jefferson, though too revolutionary in his notions, is yet a lover of liberty and will be desirous of something like orderly Government – Mr. Burr loves nothing but himself – thinks of nothing but his own aggrandizement – and will be content with nothing short of permanent power [struck: and] in his own hands – No compact, that he should make with any [struck: other] passion in his [struck: own] breast except [struck: his] Ambition, could be relied upon by himself – How then should we be able to rely upon any agreement with him? Mr. Jefferson, I suspect will not dare much Mr. Burr will [inserted in margin: dare every thing in the sanguine hope of effecting every thing –] ... In a choice of Evils let them take the least – Jefferson is in every view less dangerous than Burr. And perhaps even more apropos, there was the election of 1884, which the U.S. History website notes: The campaign was extremely bitter and focused on the candidates` shortcomings. [Democrat Grover] Cleveland, years earlier in Buffalo, had fathered an illegitimate child. He had taken full financial responsibility for his offspring and publicly acknowledged that he had made a mistake. Republican opponents, however, kept the matter in the public mind by chanting, "Ma, Ma, where`s my Pa? Gone to the White House. Ha, ha, ha." [Republican James] Blaine, on the other hand, was a good family man, but had apparently engaged in questionable investment schemes while on the public payroll. Much of the campaign furor revolved around the difference between private and public misdeeds. Democratic partisans used the refrain, "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, the continental liar from the state of Maine! Similar sorts of taunts echo through Election 2016. In response to the distempers of that 19th century presidential contest, Walt Whitman penned "Election Day, November, 1884." Focus particularly on the last four lines. ELECTION DAY, NOVEMBER, 1884. If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show, 'Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado, Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser- loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing, Nor Oregon's white cones—nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes— nor Mississippi's stream: —This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name—the still small voice vibrating—America's choosing day, (The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,) The stretch of North and South arous'd—sea-board and inland —Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California, The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and con- flict, The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict, Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all, Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross: —Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows: These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships, Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.[...]

If Johnson Gets 5 Percent of the Vote, Would the Libertarian Party Take FEC Money?

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 14:20:00 -0400

If current polling numbers hold, the Libertarian Party could surpass an important vote share threshold come November. If Gary Johnson and Bill Weld receive at least five percent of the popular vote, they'll be officially classified as a "minor party" by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). If that happens, the Libertarian Party's candidate in 2020 would qualify for public matching funds based on how much of the vote they receive. At RealClear politics, Bill Scher takes note of the possibilities: If Johnson snags 5 percent of the national popular vote, the Federal Election Commission will classify the Libertarians as an official "minor party," granting the 2020 nominee a lump sum of cash for the fall campaign, courtesy of the American taxpayer. (And don't you think for a second that the vehemently anti-big-government Libertarians won't cash that big government check in a heartbeat.) The exact amount of federal funds depends on the size of his vote, but Green Party officials – who have been chasing 5 percent for years – estimate that meeting the threshold would yield about $10 million. That may seem like chump change compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars major party presidential nominees routinely raise. But Johnson has gotten this far after raising only $8 million through August. The prospect of knowing the Libertarian Party's nominee is guaranteed $10 million will allow him or her to hit the campaign trail running, improving the odds of getting into the debates, winning an even larger share of vote and fortifying the party's place in the American political landscape. Isn't it a little bit odd for Scher to assert what the Libertarian Party would do in a snarky parenthetical aside rather than simply contacting them to ask? Scher's hardly an objective observer of the election from his home at That's certainly no sin (read about my own lack of objectivity here), but it took me no time at all to contact the Libertarian Party and talk to party chair Nicholas Sarwark. The reality is, according to Sarwark, members of the Libertarian Party are not in agreement over whether to take the money, and it will have to be something hammered out if Johnson actually reaches the threshold. (Keep in mind this FEC fund Scher describes is made entirely from voluntary donations from taxpayers. The FEC notes in its guidelines "Money for public funding of presidential elections can come only from the Presidential Fund. If the Presidential Fund runs short of funds, no other general Treasury funds may be used.") "We would be delighted to have that conversation," Sarwark told Reason. "Right now we're just entirely focused on the election and having Johnson do as well as possible." In the event Johnson reaches the FEC vote threshold, Sarwark believes the most likely outcome will be that delegates to the Libertarian Party's 2018 national convention would need to hammer out a possible bylaw about whether a potential candidate should be permitted to accept the money. As a legal matter, Sarwark notes, it's the candidate who decides whether to take the money, not the party. So the bylaw would serve the purpose of attempting to bind a future candidate to the party's attitude toward whether to accept the grant. Another potential concern is that accepting the grant actually imposes a limit on fundraising by the candidate as part of matching these funds. While it might, at the moment, appear to be a boon for whoever comes after Johnson (it certainly was for Pat Buchanan following after Ross Perot with the Reform Party), if this Republican Party crack-up continues and more people see the Libertarian Party as an alternative, it actually might not be in the party's interest to tie themselves down this way. There's a reason the Democrats and the Republicans don't avail themselves of this money anymore. Neither pa[...]

The First Presidential Debate in 3 Minutes

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 08:45:00 -0400

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met for the first presidential debate last night at Hofstra University in New York. The major party candidates hoped to make their case to the record number of American voters expected to watch. Meanwhile, third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, despite pulling a combined double digits in national polls, were locked out.

The lack of an alternative viewpoint to the Republican-Democrat status quo led to some familiar discussions. On security, Trump emphasized his support for bringing back and expanding New York City's defunct stop-and-frisk policy while Clinton focused on the need for more restrictions on gun ownership. Trump's failure to acknowledge that stop-and-frisk was both unconstitutional and ineffective in reducing crime was only matched by Clinton's failure to mention that gun violence is at historic lows despite soaring gun sales.

For libertarians in particular, the most egregious parts of the debate may not have been the disagreements, but the times when the candidates were aligned. They nodded in agreement when it came to opposing free trade accords, increasing spending and debt, and denying gun rights to people placed on government lists without due process.

Also, NBC's Lester Holt made a brief appearance as moderator.

Reason TV boiled down 90 minutes of agony to give you the three minutes that count. Watch the video above to see the candidates discuss these issues and more, along with some of the more egregious consultant-crafted zingers they delivered.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Justin Monticello. Music by Polyrhythmics.

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Norwegian Black Metal Artist Elected to Local Office Against His Will

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 13:05:00 -0400

(image) Elections by their nature bring out shameless self-promotion from politicians. From Hillary Clinton's constant touting of her own "historic" significance as a candidate to Donald Trump's egomaniacal ravings, many Americans could be forgiven for desiring more self-effacing office seekers.

So Norway may offer a ray of hope for humanity. In the small town of Kolbotn, just outside of Oslo, political neophyte and international black metal sensation Fenriz (founding member of the band Darkthrone)­ has been elected to the town council as an alternate representative—despite having run a campaign urging people not to vote for him.

In an interview with the music website CLRVYNT, Fenriz (birth name Gylve Nagell) explained that he reluctantly accepted an offer from Norway's Liberal Party to stand in the local election, despite having absolutely no interest in winning office. "Basically, they called and asked if I wanted to be on the list" of backup representatives, he told CLRVYNT. "I said yeah, thinking I would be like 18th on the list and I wouldn't really have to do anything."

Perhaps concerned that apathy and total lack of experience wouldn't be sufficient to thwart his chances, Fenriz then ran an outreach campaign consisting entirely of posters with him and his cat accompanied by a plea that people not support him.

Unfortunately for this founding father of Norwegian black metal, the plan backfired spectacularly. The residents of Kolbotn were apparently so taken with his self-denying attitude that they promptly voted him into office, much to Fenriz's chagrin. "I'm not too pleased about it. It's boring," he said. "There's not a lot of money in that, either, I can tell you!"

One potential fear is that his party affiliation could alienate his core musical constituency of rabid Darkthrone fans. Norway's underground metal scene has had a sordid history of virulent anti-Christianity, with some fans going so far as to actually burn down churches. Fenriz's Liberal Party, in contrast, advocates the more moderate position of peacefully abolishing the Church of Norway as the country's official religion.

Still, Fenriz's apathetic attitude toward government arguably makes him a natural fit for the Liberals, who want a smaller, less burdensome state. The party's website calls for a number of libertarianish policies from reducing regulation to abolishing Norway's inheritance tax.

Whatever comes of Fenriz's time in office, the level of popular support for someone who's this unenthusiastic about the prospects of wielding is cause enough for celebration.

Utah State Sen. Mark Madsen Switching Parties from Republican to Libertarian, Endorsing Gary Johnson for President

Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:17:00 -0400

At a press conference at 1:30 this afternoon in Salt Lake City, sitting state Sen. Mark Madsen, a Republican in Utah, will be announcing that he's switching his Party affiliation to Libertarian and endorsing Gary Johnson for president.


In an emailed press release announcing the planned press conference, Madsen is described as "a sitting two term state senator [Madsen actually in his third term, first elected in 2004] and former city council member from Eagle Mountain. His legislative record bears out his dedication to individual liberty. He has observed that the interests of bureaucratic agencies and the people rarely align. He believes in choice in health care and education. He is a champion of free trade and free market solutions."

At the press conference, the release says, Madsen will "discuss his experience at the GOP convention, his goals and priorities now, and his support for Libertarian nominees for president and Vice President, Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld."

More on this story as it develops.

Matt Welch reported earlier today on the defection of two sitting Republican state representatives from Montana, not to the Libertarian Party per se, but to endorsement of that Party's candidates, Gary Johnson and William Weld. They are "Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings), a 29-year-old two-term state representative known for his civil libertarian work on surveillance and free speech" and "fellow State Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (R-Mineral County)."

Welch with a complete list of known sitting legislators, Libertarian and Republican, publicly for Johnson/Weld. Madsen will now be the third sitting state legislator who switched Party affiliation in office to Libertarian, after Nevada's John Moore and Nebraska's Laura Ebke.

UPDATE: See this post for reporting on Madsen's press conference this afternoon.

Can Gary Johnson Be the New Ross Perot? The New Yorker Thinks So

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 21:10:00 -0400

For better or worse a thought leader of sorts for middle and even some highbrow American smartypants, the New Yorker (more or less the ur-source of why everyone you know hates the Koch Brothers) tells their readers this week that they should have some serious respect and regard for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson this year. Some highlights and summations from a piece by political journalist Ryan Lizza. He starts by laying out a best-case reason for hope for a strong showing with the same sort of linking Libertarian partisans have been doing this year: the unpopularity of Clinton and Trump has created an opportunity for Johnson to at least match Perot's impressive showing... For anti-Trump conservatives still searching for an alternative, Johnson may be the only option. On the left, anti-Clinton Democrats, including some determined supporters of Bernie Sanders, would prefer a candidate who is more socially liberal and noninterventionist than Clinton. Johnson's own explanation as to what's so bad about Clinton and Trump: "Hillary has to go out and she has to appeal to this 'everything's free, government can accomplish anything, what can you give us' constituency. She's doling it out as fast as she can. Trump is appealing to this anti-abortion, anti-immigration, 'bomb the hell out of them, lock them up, throw away the key' constituency." Reporter Lizza finds Johnson "charming and more transparent than most politicians—sometimes to a fault" with "a knack for putting a happy face on the rougher edges of libertarianism." He quotes Johnson crediting a lifelong vision of himself as a libertarian to a book (whose name he can't recall) he read when he was 18 "about what it means to be a libertarian." (The book specifically called What it Means to be a Libertarian, by Charles Murray, didn't come out until Johnson was already governor of New Mexico in 1996, so it can't be that.) He gets Johnson (part of the charming transparency Lizza eludes to) to say (perhaps jokingly) that he could illegally hook up Lizza with a marijuana product the company Johnson was CEO of between his Libertarian presidential runs, Cannabis Sativa, wants to sell. Lizza shows a Libertarian ticket happy to hype each other, with vice presidential candidate William Weld, former governor of Massachusetts through much of the 1990s, saying of Johnson that: "I thought he was just so cool that he would do these giant slaloms after doing an Iron Man triathlon and ski five hundred feet in the air and then land in a pail of water," Weld told me. "I mean, he is a serious daredevil." Lizza follows with a decent discussion of how and why third parties have been significant in the past, including Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, Strom Thurmond in 1948, and Ross Perot in 1992, a discussion that alas casts doubts on the idea that the L.P. will shake the world too much this year: what is the distinct issue that the Libertarians can expect to bring out giant percentages of the vote in 2016, analogous to Perot and the deficit, Thurmond and segregation, and Roosevelt and the progressive reform agenda? As Lizza sums up Johnson's agenda: Johnson wants to raise the retirement age for Social Security and to limit Social Security benefits for the wealthy. He wants to get rid of the I.R.S. and replace most of the tax code with a single consumption tax. He wants to abolish the death penalty, expand vouchers for private school, and drastically pull back the American military from its commitments around the world. "The unintended consequence of when you put boots on the ground, when you drop bombs, when you fly drones and kill thousands of innocent people—this is resulting in a world less safe, not more safe," he told the crowd. Sensible, and one coul[...]

Gary Johnson/William Weld: Can They Win Over Disaffected Republicans, Even in Weld's Home State?

Tue, 05 Jul 2016 19:11:00 -0400

Part of the theory behind why nominating two former Republican governors for the Libertarian Party presidential ticket was such a no-brainer idea for 2016 was that the Republican Party, theoretic home of a lot of American desire to see a small, affordable, Constitutional government, was about to nominate a maniac who many GOP faithful could not in good conscience support. The Boston Globe, from the land of L.P. vice presidential pick and former two-term Massachusetts Republican Gov. William Weld, does some reporting today trying to find some truth to that, and finds one former Weld chief of staff and a former state GOP chairwoman willing to go on the record as very glad to have an alternative to voting Donald Trump they can get behind. Then it deflates the presumption by mentioning that Weld's "political protege" and current Gov. Charlie Baker has not said he'd vote Johnson/Weld, and in fact says he'll be joining the likely near-majority not voting at all in November for president. And while the campaign has not yet provided specifics publicly, they told the Globe that Weld's promised fundraising prowess was, according to the Globe, going well. Then there was this sad quote, which might well represent many more voters than the quoted: "I think half the country has problems with either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, so a third-party alternative has appeal to them and to me," said Rob Gray, a Republican consultant who once worked for Weld. But he won't be voting for Weld. He doesn't want to waste his vote and fears that Johnson could serve as a spoiler who helps get Clinton elected. "I love the guy," he said of Weld. "But ultimately you have to make your choice between the two candidates who have a chance to win." Actually, collective choices about who to vote for defines who has a chance to win, and the winner would have won whether you vote for them or not. But those truths are hard to sell to American voters. In another bit of the surprisingly continual major media attention the L.P. ticket continues to earn, The Washington Post this morning gave a semi-comprehensive look at Johnson's issue stances for its readers, after noting two unusual things about Johnson as a Libertarian: his surprisingly high polling so far, and his willingness to shift away from a libertarian hardcore in some of his stances. Author Max Ehrenfreund highlights Johnson's belief in regulation over tort law as a solution to some environmental harms (though the article later points out Johnson is not currently supporting any specific federal action targeting global warming), and his willingness to use executive authority for some goals. That latter point is not necessarily a libertarian sin if the goal is to restrict government size and scope, though a respect for the constitutional structure of distinct executive and legislative powers is often called upon by the libertarian and libertarian-leaning, generally as a means of making sure one or the other does not overstep its bounds in a non-libertarian direction. The rest of the article does a decent job summing him up on the budget, taxation, abortion, criminal justice, and immigration, though foreign policy is ignored entirely here by the Post.[...]

Gary Johnson: America Gets to Know the Libertarian Candidate's Policy, and Family

Tue, 07 Jun 2016 19:15:00 -0400

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's media campaign continues, as he fights to get himself so well known and discussed in political media that the polls can no longer justify ignoring him. (And getting into the polls, and getting at least 15 percent in five of them as chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates, will be key to getting into the debates, what Johnson often calls the "Super Bowl of politics.") Two big interviews this week in political-junkie journals The Hill and Politico highlight different parts of Johnson; the first more the radical policies, the second more the history of the man. In The Hill, Johnson discussed big elements of the federal government he intends to chop, from the National Security Agency to the Internal Revenue Service: "The NSA is a complete executive order as it is under [President Harry] Truman," Johnson said. "We could turn those satellites on what is supposed to be the enemy. The fact that they're pointed on us right now, doesn't that cause everyone a bit of concern? It should. Look, there's due process for spying, but due process is not blanket collection of all of our data.".... Johnson also said he would eliminate the IRS and lower taxes. "If I could wave a magic wand, we would eliminate income tax; we would eliminate corporate tax; we would abolish the IRS; and we could replace all of it with one federal consumption tax," Johnson said. "If we had zero corporate tax in this country, tens of millions of jobs would get created in this country for no other reason," he added. Johnson also suggested he would eliminate numerous other federal agencies — including the Department of Commerce, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Department of Education — if presented with legislation to do so. In a long interview with Politico, he got into great detail about his parents and his siblings (after the usual great, great, perhaps too great, emphasis on Johnson as the presidential candidate who is honest and direct about his appreciation for marijuana).  He praised his mother for, according to Johnson, being responsible for balancing the books for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. His father was in the 101st Airborne Division in World War II: He paratrooped into Normandy before D-Day....--you know, the Band of Brothers?...That was my father....Saving Private Ryan. That was the 101st. I mean, my father got bayoneted in the back at the Battle of the Bulge....He went through all of it. He was Band of Brothers. That was the story of the 101st, all the way through the war. His brother Scott is "the best cardiothoracic surgeon in the world, and I know that for a fact because he tells me that all the time....the head of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Texas at San Antonio, a big, big medical center." His sister is a retired schoolteacher. Johnson suggests in this interview (after much discussion of Trump's offensive foolishness on immigration) he might not have signed NAFTA, being for more pure free trade than the crony capitalism often embedded in international trade deals. He agreed with getting Osama Bin Laden, and suggests that should have been the core goal post 9/11 as opposed to starting more than one multi-year war.  Johnson also said one of the things that makes some libertarians doubt whether he instinctively goes for the no-government-action, leave-it-alone answer to policy questions, suggesting (after aptly pointing out that government intervention in the student loan market likely bears a great deal of responsibility for how expensive college is): I would really take a hard look at how students might, I don't know, receive some sort of benefit or redu[...]