LP03: Presidential Hopefuls Make Their Case
by Ari Armstrong, May 7, 2003
Either Gary Nolan or Michael Badnarik would make competent, run-of-the-mill Libertarian candidates for president. Neither is particularly qualified to be President, and neither has the characteristics likely to attract serious attention. As R.W. Bradford points out in the May Liberty (page 13), at least potential candidates like sci-fi writer L. Neil Smith or California Judge James Gray offer a new strategy.
But running for president as a Libertarian is an exhausting and thankless job, and one that doesn't pay very well. So I suspect Nolan will get the nod.
Nolan didn't spend much time rubbing elbows with the potential delegates, perhaps in part because he was tired. He had some trouble with his flight, and (shocker) his luggage got lost at DIA. He said he almost decided to come in his casual clothes, without his luggage, but he feared the empty suit would end up running for office as a Republican or a Democrat. Okay, so the guy gets points for humor.
"I may have been raised a Republican," Nolan said at the April 5 meeting, "but I was born a Libertarian." He added the main problem with the LP is, "Most people don't know what we stand for... By and large they don't know you exist!"
Nolan has a two-pronged strategy. First, he wants to use his media contacts to earn a national voice. Second, he wants to use earned media to assist local candidates. "The way to succeed for Libertarians is from the bottom up."
"We need to talk about how wonderful life is," Nolan said, not about how terrible current policies are. Still, we'll be "even better if we return to the Founders' form of government." Unfortunately, I don't think Nolan has the presence to pull off Reaganesque optimism.
Nolan went through several of the big issues. Property owners best protect the environment. Steel tariffs are bad. Social security is worse than letting people invest on their own. The war in Iraq wasn't warranted, but once it started it was important to "follow through."
Nolan struck me as a well-spoken guy who is comfortable in the lime light. I'm not sure how he plans to integrate the two prongs of his strategy, though. If he moves to D.C. in order to get national media exposure, as he said he plans to do, how is he also going to get local media for local candidates?
As I have noted previously, Badnarik makes me a little nervous because he supported Rick Stanley. But, even though John Berntson attempted to bait him (Should select U.S. Senators be "hung for treason"?), Badnarik didn't say anything too crazy. I kind of liked the guy.
He said "if they're not writing nasty things about me" that indicates he's not making enough waves. "I make statements the press finds outrageous," he said. For instance, on the issue of mandatory vaccinations, he said he once quipped, "You bring your syringe and I'll bring my .45, and we'll see which one makes the bigger hole." That's kind of funny, but I'm not sure it will get him very far.
I'm not entirely sure where Badnarik was going with his introductory story about how he cut out an image of Lincoln when he was in kindergarten. I think it had something to do with how patriotic Badnarik is (though Lincoln isn't exactly a libertarian hero). He was "lucky enough to be born in the freest country in the world."
But his patriotism didn't cause him to swallow the government line, he emphasized. He shared the skepticism of many of his peers about the Vietnam war. He began to wonder "how the Constitution has anything to do with anything our government is doing." He eventually found the answer about the connection: "There is none... Most of what congress does is unconstitutional."
Badnarik's campaign slogan is, "Lighting the fires of Liberty, one heart at a time!" During his talk he said, "The libertarian philosophy will not fit into a soundbite," so he plans to "go out and talk to the people, as much as I can, one on one." However, he'd have to win quite a few hearts to make a dent in presidential politics. He also said he wants to get college students involved.
"I've been an instructor most of my life," Badnarik said. Indeed, he currently teaches an eight-hour class about the Constitution. He intended to conduct a class the Monday after the convention, but I couldn't schedule the time to go.
Badnarik blasted "Homeland Security" and the so-called PATRIOT legislation. He said those who voted for the law are "guilty of perjury" because they violated their oaths to uphold the Constitution.
Badnarik touched on several other issues. "I'd love to privatize the space program," he said. "My number-one issue is the Second Amendment." He also wants to fundamentally question the legitimacy of the IRS.
Badnarik said he would like to see "tripling or quadrupling our membership" within the LP. The LP's membership has heard such big promises before. But Badnarik thinks he'll be able to energize a grass-roots movement: "I explode in a blinding flash of truth and understanding," he said. Alrighty, then!