Tag Archives: John McAfee

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: Can John McAfee Change the Game?

The 2016 presidential election cycle got a lot more interesting on September 8 when John McAfee announced his candidacy under the banner of a newly formed “Cyber Party.”

McAfee, whose eponymous computer security software made him a multi-millionaire, sports a long record of public eccentricity that I need not waste words on here — you can look up if you’re interested. What’s important about his eccentricity is that where it touches on politics, he generally supports two important values: Freedom and privacy.

I’m definitely down with those twin emphases, and so far McAfee seems like the only bright light in a pretty dark and dismal presidential field. If the election was held today, he’d have my vote from among the declared candidates. But the election is 14 months away, and I have a few suggestions to offer McAfee for making the most of those months.

First, I hope he’ll forget his plans for a new political party. If he’s serious about freedom and privacy (and I believe he is), there’s already a party ready-made for his candidacy: The Libertarian Party.

Libertarians substantially agree with McAfee on the issues he cares about.

The Libertarian Party has a long record of securing ballot access for its candidates in all, or nearly all, of the 50 states. That alone would save McAfee millions in campaign costs versus establishing a new party (I speak from experience — in 2006 I founded a new political party; that party was only able to get on the 2008 presidential ballot in four states).

Additionally, the Libertarian Party will run hundreds, if not thousands, of down-ticket candidates in 2016 — candidates who also substantially agree with McAfee on the core issues. He doesn’t need to create a new movement. There’s a movement already in place and awaiting his leadership.

Beyond affiliating with the Libertarian Party instead of going it alone, I hope McAfee will identify freedom as the core issue and clearly mark out privacy as an emergent property of that issue, not a separate issue per se.

A well-known, reasonably well-financed Libertarian candidate who takes the US government to task for its depredations — in particular warrantless searches and wiretaps, wholesale eavesdropping on telecommunications, and imprisonment or exile of heroic whistleblowers who expose government abuses (Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, to name two) — could tear this presidential race wide open. And that’s something we desperately need.

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.