The Gonzo Fourth Estate And The Libertarian Party National Convention Of 2016

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“I believe that the eighties have never ended, they are still with us today. We have never repudiated. They are still here, making more money than ever.”  John Carpenter

This writer is a proud member of The Libertarian Party. I had the honor of representing Iowa as a delegate at the 2016 Libertarian Party Convention in Orlando, Florida. I am going to tell you what I saw and heard over the past four days. I was present when the stage was being erected until the stage was dismantled. If you wish to take the convention in from the cameras of C-SPAN, you may, as they presented the convention live. The party gathered to discuss their principles, platform, and to elect their officials, including our 2016 President and Vice President nominations. I could feel that this was going to be a big year for the party. We had just seen membership doubled, and revenue quadrupled. The two larger parties are arguably more divided than they have been in years, and they have arguably weaker candidates leading in delegate counts than they have had in years.

On the flights from Iowa to Florida, and back, I read a couple of books written by our state’s 2014 candidate for Governor, Dr. Lee Heib, needless to say it was quite the Libertarian Memorial Day weekend. The theme of the 2016 convention was #LegalizeFreedom. Upon arriving at the convention, one of the first people I encountered, was Presidential candidate and computer programmer, John David McAfee. I chatted with John a bit, at which point I thanked him for the work that he had put in campaigning, he told me that he intended to remain with the party, and to continue to help candidates from outside of the two largest parties get on ballots and into debates.

On May 26th the presidential candidates Marc Allan Feldman, Gary Johnson, John McAfee, Darryl W. Perry, and Austin Petersen participated in a political debate at the convention.

On May 27th We spoke on potential changes to the party platform.  Some things that I noticed were that I would be free to speak my mind and to address the floor, provided, I adhere to Robert’s Rules of Order, which is, parliamentary procedure that is based on the consideration of the rights: of the majority, of the minority (especially a large minority greater than one-third), of individual members, of absentee members, of all of these groups taken together. Anyone on the floor was free to do so, at a gathering of over one thousand people streaming on live television. I also noticed that there was no party security, no armed guards, no riot gear, and for the most party every member of the party in attendance felt like equals, with open access to the microphones, and to the candidates. It was easy for me to speak with all of the candidates running for any position. The majority of the time the event was led by National Committee Chair, Nicholas Sarwark. Mr. Sarwark maintained order over a large crowd of Libertarian’s, there were over a thousand people present during much of the event, and over nine hundred delegates,  including the members of the party that identified as anarchists, I can’t imagine that keeping order over a crowd of this size would be an easy feat for most people. This evening a debate between the Libertarian candidates seeking the vice presidential nomination was held. On the same day, the candidates for chairperson of the LNC debated. During this time I encountered a gentleman of whom I had interviewed for the Iowa Free Press prior, Mr. Adam Kokesh. Mr. Kokesh is considering a future run for a party position. I was curious if Ron Paul would be able to attend the convention so I asked around regarding this matter. Paul could not be present due to family obligations but he did send a really nice video that was played at the convention. Ron Paul is a lifetime member of the party. It is notable that he paid his dues in gold.

On May 28th another debate between the Libertarian presidential candidates was held. The debate was televised live by C-SPAN. It was moderated by Larry Elder. The debate started at 8:00 PM EST and ended at 10:00 PM EST, and is available to listen to for free on the C-SPAN Radio App. Prior to this debate I had conversations with Gary Johnson, William Weld, and Mr. Vermin Love Supreme. I might add that no one was keeping anyone from eating or drinking any type of food or beverage on the floor and as far as I can tell, this did not cause any problems. The pizza joint near the main ballroom had a locally brewed organic beer which I drank periodically over the course of the convention. It was called Alligator Drool and it was a rather delicious American Pale Ale. It is brewed by the Florida Beer Company out of Cape Canaveral. Over the course of the convention there we many amazing speakers, but,  I will redirect you to the C-Span video, as  I have all of their names but it would fill up a page to type them out.

May 29 the vote and nomination of the Libertarian President and Vice President was held and televised by C-SPAN. Gary Johnson won the Presidential nomination on the second ballot with over fifty-five percent of the delegates supporting him. On both ballots Austin Petersen finished a strong second with over twenty percent of the delegates supporting him and John McAfee came in a distant third on each ballot. Prior to vice presidential balloting, Marc Allan Feldman endorsed Gary Johnson’s running mate William Weld, and Austin Petersen endorsed Alicia Dearn. Judd Weiss, who John McAfee had selected as his running mate, withdrew his name from consideration and endorsed William Coley, who had been Darryl Perry’s running mate. Consequently, McAfee endorsed Derrick Grayson, who had received a write-in vote in each round of the presidential contest but had not campaigned for either the presidency or vice presidency prior to the convention. Candidate Larry Sharpe gave William Weld a run for his money, receiving over thirty percent of the support to Weld’s forty-nine percent on the first ballot. No candidate achieved the majority on the first ballot, so there was a second ballot vote. Due to finishing last of the five nominated candidates, Dearn was excluded from the second ballot. Dearn then endorsed Weld. Additionally, both Coley and Grayson withdrew their names and endorsed Sharpe. However, Grayson withdrew his candidacy after the second ballots had been handed out, and therefore his name remained on the ballot as a valid candidate. William Weld won the nomination on the second ballot with over fifty percent of the delegates supporting him.

On May 30th the rest of the positions were filled and the remaining business was addressed,  including the ballot on which, incumbent chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, Nicholas Sarwark was re-elected to the position. There were two major bits of controversy that were picked up on in the media of which I would like to address as I was actually present. This items were rather inconsequential from my vantage point. One candidate running for vice-chair of the party decided to use his speaking time to put on a Chris Farley inspired strip tease. The man was quite large and got down to a rather small bit of underwear. I personally felt that this was upsetting mainly because many individuals have given their blood, sweat, and tears to get this party the chance that they may finally get in 2016. The chance to debate with the other two larger parties and get equal media coverage to the two larger parties. However, the party decided not to punish this individual, which I agreed with, and we moved on. If anything this goes to show that in this party you can say and do anything non-violent on stage. It was very obviously a free speech convention. The second bit of controversy seemed to be the emotions between the Presidential nominations and their supporters coming to a head. John, Austin, and Gary all ran impressive campaigns and at times things did get tense especially between Petersen and Johnson. Austin Petersen gave Johnson a replica flintlock pistol. I spoke to an individual whom said that he saw Johnson throw the pistol in the trash. I did not see this first hand and Johnson looked very happy when I saw him receive the pistol. It all seems rather trivial to me considering history. I mean when Hamilton and Burr had a beef they had an actual duel and Hamilton would up dead. I suppose this shows that we have progressed as a country. I learned while on the trip back to Iowa that among those to already endorse Johnson for President are, former Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura, Nirvana Bassist, Krist Novoselic, and his opponent for the nomination, Austin Petersen. I will take this opportunity to officially endorse Gary Johnson for President of the United States of America. In respect to transparency, I will tell you that I voted Marc Allen Feldman and Larry Sharpe for President and VP on the first ballots. I did this to reflect the concerns that I had been hearing from those that I was representing and to help vet the candidates for President and Vice President.

I would like to wrap up by giving some background on the 2016 Libertarian Party candidates for President and Vice President. I will conclude with the Libertarian Party principles of which both of these individuals agreed to uphold. Gary Earl Johnson served as the 29th Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003 as a member of the Republican Party, and was nominated by the Libertarian Party as its candidate for President of the United States in the 2012 and 2016 elections. In 1976 he founded Big J Enterprises, which grew from a one-person venture to become one of New Mexico’s largest construction companies. During his tenure as governor, Johnson became known for his low-tax libertarian views, adhering to policies of tax and bureaucracy reduction supported by a cost–benefit analysis rationale. He cut the 10% annual growth in the budget: in part, due to his use of the gubernatorial veto 200 times during his first six months in office.Johnson set state and national records for his use of veto and line-item veto powers: estimated to have been more than the other 49 contemporary governors combined,which gained him the nicknames “Veto Johnson” and “Governor Veto”. Johnson successfully sought re-election in 1998. In his second term, he concentrated on the issue of school voucher reforms,[8] as well as campaigning for marijuana decriminalization and legalization, and opposition to the War on Drugs. Term limited, Johnson could not run for re-election at the end of his second term. He endorsed the Republican presidential candidacy of Congressman Ron Paul in the 2008 election.

William Floyd Weld was born in Smithtown, New York. His ancestor Edmund Weld was among the earliest students (Class of 1650) at Harvard College. He would be followed by eighteen more Welds at Harvard, where two buildings are named for the family. General Stephen Minot Weld Jr. fought with distinction in many major battles of the Civil War. Weld’s mother, Mary Nichols Weld (1913–1986), was a descendant of William Floyd, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
In 1981, William Weld was appointed as the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. During Weld’s tenure, the Attorney General’s office prosecuted some of New England’s largest banks in cases involving money laundering and other white-collar crimes. In 1985, the Boston Globe said Weld “has been by far the most visible figure in the prosecution of financial institutions.”Weld gained national recognition in fighting public corruption: he won 109 convictions out of 111 cases. In 1983, the Boston Globe stated: “The U.S. Attorney’s office has not lost a single political corruption case since Weld took over, an achievement believed to be unparalleled in the various federal jurisdictions.” In 1986, President Reagan promoted Weld to head of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department in Washington, where Weld oversaw 700 employees. Weld was responsible for supervising all federal prosecutions, including those investigated by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as the work of the 93 U.S. Attorneys (who by then included Rudy Giuliani in Manhattan). During this time, Weld worked on some of the Reagan administration’s most significant prosecutions and investigations, including the capture of Panama’s Manuel Noriega on drug trafficking charges. In March 1988, Weld resigned from the Justice Department, together with United States Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns and four aides, in protest of improper conduct by U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese. In July 1988, Weld and Burns jointly testified before Congress in favor a potential prosecution of Meese for his personal financial conduct, following a report by a special prosecutor investigating Meese.Meese resigned from office in July 1988 shortly after Weld’s and Burns’ testimony. In March 1988, Weld resigned from the Justice Department, together with United States Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns and four aides, in protest of improper conduct by U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese. In July 1988, Weld and Burns jointly testified before Congress in favor a potential prosecution of Meese for his personal financial conduct, following a report by a special prosecutor investigating Meese. Meese resigned from office in July 1988 shortly after Weld’s and Burns’ testimony.Governor of Massachusetts. The business community reacted strongly to Weld’s leadership. In a 1994 survey of chief executives conducted by the Massachusetts High Technology Council, 83% of those polled rated the state’s business climate as good or excellent—up from only 33% at the beginning of his term. Weld received grades of A in 1992, B in 1994, and B in 1996 from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, in their biennial Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors. After cutting state spending year-over-year for his first two years, the Republican Party lost its ability to sustain a veto in the legislature due to losses in the Massachusetts State Senate, forcing Weld to make greater concessions to Democratic legislators.In 1994, Weld won reelection with an impressive 71% of the vote in the most one-sided gubernatorial contest in Massachusetts electoral history. Weld carried all but five towns in the whole state, even carrying Boston.

In July 1997, Weld was nominated to become United States Ambassador to Mexico by President Bill Clinton. His nomination stalled after Senate Foreign Relations committee Chairman Jesse Helms refused to hold a hearing on the nomination, effectively blocking it. Helms was also a Republican and their party held the majority in the chamber, but Helms objected to Weld’s moderate stance on social issues such as his support for gay rights, abortion rights, and the legalization of medical marijuana. This refusal to hold hearings was also rumored to be at the request of former United States Attorney General and friend of Helms, Edwin Meese. Meese reportedly had a long-standing grudge against Weld stemming from Weld’s investigation of Meese during the Iran-Contra affair. Weld publicly criticized Helms, which the White House discouraged him from doing, but Weld relished the opportunity, saying: “It feels like being in a campaign. I feel newly energized. I love to stir up the pot. I seem to click on more cylinders when the pot is stirred up.” Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said that Weld’s chances of being confirmed weren’t “very good, and that he hurt himself by attacking the chairman unfairly and with political rhetoric that was just uncalled for.” There was speculation that the White House would let his nomination “die”, but he refused, saying that he hoped President Clinton “does not plan to give in to ideological extortion” and that “I wanted to send a message that I wanted to be captain of my ship [the nomination] even if it’s going to bottom.” Some speculated that attacking the more conservative Helms was a way to position him to pick up votes from fellow moderate Republicans in a potential run for President in 2000, but he rejected this, saying that “I’ve had a lot of people come up to me on the street and say, ‘Give ’em hell. That’s the Bill Weld we know and love.

Weld resigned the governorship on July 29, 1997, to devote his full attention to campaigning for the ambassadorship, even though few thought he would be successful; there was speculation that he was really resigning because he had tired of serving as Governor. A bipartisan majority of Senators signed letters demanding that Helms advance his nomination, but Helms refused.After an intensive six-week battle,Weld conceded defeat and withdrew his nomination on September 15, 1997. He commented sarcastically, “I asked President Clinton to withdraw my name from the Senate so I can go back to New England, where no one has to approach the government on bended knee to ask it to do its duty.”

I would like to close by providing you with the statement of principles of the Libertarian Party, of which both Johnson and Weld agreed to uphold.

STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES

We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.

We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.

Governments throughout history have regularly operated on the opposite principle, that the State has the right to dispose of the lives of individuals and the fruits of their labor. Even within the United States, all political parties other than our own grant to government the right to regulate the lives of individuals and seize the fruits of their labor without their consent.

We, on the contrary, deny the right of any government to do these things, and hold that where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual: namely, (1) the right to life — accordingly we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others; (2) the right to liberty of speech and action — accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge the freedom of speech and press, as well as government censorship in any form; and (3) the right to property — accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.

Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of individual rights, is the free market.


Photo Credit:  Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Burke said that there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate, more important far than they all.“ Thomas Carlyle

Marco Battaglia writes for the Iowa Free Press and is a proud member of The Fourth Estate