Election 2016: Will You Take a NAP With Me?

With the next US national election only a little more than ten months away, you’ll soon be hearing from, and about, candidates of all parties. America’s third largest party, the Libertarian Party, will likely run more than a thousand candidates for local, state and federal office. Some of them, mostly at the local level, will win. As a voter, you owe it to yourself to know what the candidates asking for your vote are all about. So here, in a nutshell, is what the Libertarians are all about.

New members of the Libertarian Party, at the national level and in most state party organizations, must sign a pledge as part of their enrollment: “I certify that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.”

That pledge is reiterated and expanded upon in the Libertarian Party’s Statement of Principles. In shorthand, we refer to it as the Non-Aggression Principle or the NAP.

It means exactly what it sounds like it means. It means exactly what you were probably — hopefully! — taught as a child by your elders and instructors: Don’t assault others. Don’t threaten others with violence to get your way. Don’t steal other people’s property. The only moral use of force is in defense against those who START a fight.

These are the most basic rules of any sane society, and most of us carefully follow those rules in our daily lives. At some point, however, the institution we call “government” successfully carved out an exception for itself.

If you or I demand money at gunpoint from another, it’s called “armed robbery” and treated as a crime. If government agents demand money from us, and abduct and cage us if we refuse to cough up, it’s called “taxation” and somehow magically becomes “legitimate.”

If you or I break into a neighbor’s house and rifle through his medicine cabinet, it’s called “burglary” and treated as a crime. If government agents burst into that neighbor’s house, find medicines they don’t approve of and haul the neighbor off, it’s called “drug enforcement” and somehow magically becomes “legitimate.”

And so on and so forth.

But aggression is never “legitimate,” even if the aggressors carry shiny badges and receive government paychecks.

Next year, the “major party” candidates will offer up all kinds of excuses and justifications for aggression. They’ll try to convince you that they’re running your life and taking your money — at gunpoint and on pain of imprisonment for resistance — for your own good.

Only the Libertarian Party’s candidates will assure you: “We certify that we oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.” And that’s why only Libertarian candidates deserve your vote.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


McAfee 2016: Libertarian For Real?

In September, after computer security pioneer John McAfee announced his presidential candidacy under the “Cyber Party” label, I publicly suggested that he should consider seeking the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination instead.  On Christmas Eve , McAfee announced he’s doing exactly that.

No, I don’t think my suggestion changed his mind. I have no reason to believe he reads my column (or that he even has any idea who I am). But heck, maybe I’m wrong. So here’s another suggestion:

Get very libertarian, very quickly and very convincingly.

McAfee really doesn’t have that far to go. He clearly has libertarian instincts on issues like free speech, privacy, Internet censorship, immigration and foreign policy.

But in other areas, his positions are either too vague to really pin down, or else default to a naive technocratic progressivism that puts far more faith in government than Libertarians are comfortable with.

My working theory is that McAfee allowed the non-specificity and naivete to creep in on issues where he doesn’t have strong opinions, and that if he pays them more attention he’ll get more libertarian on them. At least I hope that’s the case, and that he’ll make the effort.

Why should he re-think? Does he really need to? Maybe not.

The Libertarian Party HAS nominated non-libertarians before. In 2008, big-government “conservative” Bob Barr fooled us into thinking he’d changed his stripes, then went back to his big-government “conservatism” as soon as he had what he wanted from us.

And based on my past experience with the Libertarian Party’s internal politics, a little bit of fame, fortune, glitz and glamour goes a long way.

Maybe McAfee can just waltz into our national convention in Orlando, Florida next May and walk out with our nomination because he’s famous and because he has more personal charisma in his left little finger than  previous (even though unannounced) front-runner and 2012 nominee Gary Johnson — who clings to some un-libertarian positions of his own — has in his whole body.

Then again, maybe not.

McAfee tells USA Today that none of the other Libertarian contenders have “personality.” I don’t know about that, but some of them do have a sincere and visible dedication to the principles the Libertarian Party stands for. That kind of dedication doesn’t always beat out personal fame and charisma, but sometimes it does … and the best outcome would be to get all of those things rolled up in one candidate.

If McAfee is willing and able to be that kind of candidate, the Libertarian Party, and America, could be in for an interesting election cycle. And let’s face it — on his worst day he’s a better pick than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Election 2016: Busted Ain’t Such a Bad Thing

RGBStock.com Vote Pencil

Let me alert you to three facts:

Fact #1: Donald Trump has a ceiling of support among Republican primary voters.

Fact #2:  While it’s hard to tell exactly how high that ceiling is, it’s almost certainly short of an absolute majority in any state.

Fact #3: The Republican National Committee’s 2016 rules require state and territorial Republican parties holding primaries and caucuses prior to March 15, 2016 — that’s 29 of them — to allocate delegates proportionally rather than in “winner take all” schemes.

Assuming Trump remains in the race for his party’s presidential nomination, he will almost certainly arrive at the GOP national convention without enough delegates to win on the first ballot. Which means the Republican Party faces the prospect of a busted (party poo-bahs prefer the term “brokered”) convention.

Party establishments generally view that prospect with horror, and who can blame them? In 1924, the Democratic National Convention voted 103 times before coming up with a nominee.  The parties have massaged their convention rules over the decades to turn the end phase of their nomination processes into convivial coronations. The last true major party “brokered convention” happened to the Democrats in 1952, although the GOP came close in 1976.

But while busted conventions almost certainly bode ill for parties in the short term — that is, the particular election cycles in which they take place — they’re actually a great thing for both the parties and the public in the long term.

When George Wallace, whom I’m otherwise no fan of, asserted in 1968 that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicans and Democrats,” he was uttering a truism that has only become more true in the 48 years since.

Over time, the Republicans and Democrats have come to take for granted their ability to stack up constituencies and, whether those constituencies consider themselves well-represented or not, get the vote out to win elections. After all, where else do those constituencies — of particular interest to me, civil libertarian Democrats and economic libertarian Republicans — have to go?

It’s about time American political parties started having real debates again instead of just stacking hostage constituencies and handing out favors to the people who can deliver those constituencies.

And hey, no time like the present. Since the Republicans seem determined to lose the 2016 presidential election anyway, why not turn that loss into an opportunity?

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.