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By Amber Loveshe
On January 7th, 2017, a single photograph, uploaded on the official Facebook page of Austin Petersen, caused an immediate uproar within the libertarian community. That photo? A vague campaign graphic that read: Petersen 2018 U.S. Senate. The debate that would soon ensue would not be a question of whether or not Petersen is capable of running for a senate seat, rather, which party ticket he should run on for this position. For many, the answer has been simple: the libertarian party. After all, Petersen has proven to be an outstanding public figure for the liberty movement, and he has a substantial following from his presidential run to show for it.
But others, like myself, hope to use this possible campaign opportunity to push liberty into the Republican party. At an era in our political history in which GOP Senators like Rand Paul are forcefully blocked from the drafting process of major bills, such as the replacement for the Affordable Care Act, the voice for liberty is needed more than ever. Yet, many in the liberty movement have expressed an extreme unwillingness to support Petersen if he pursues a republican ticket. I’m here to tell you why you’re wrong.
One of the first arguments crafted in opposition to AP for GOP states that running on a Republican ticket automatically equates to selling out. As libertarians, it makes sense why a ticket change may be seen as a red flag. After all, we can all agree that there are some shady, unprincipled people in politics, but Austin Petersen has never been one of them. In fact, one of the main reasons why I admire Petersen is because he is so unwaveringly principled. Throughout the entire election cycle and to this day he does not back down from speaking his mind and calling out hypocrisy as he sees it. Don’t believe me? Have you seen his twitter account? For me, Austin Petersen is the ideal principled politician. I would argue that libertarians who value identity politics over individual candidates are the unprincipled parts of the equation.
If that point still has you questioning a ticket change, it’s probably because of your lack of faith in Washington as a whole. My question to you would be, what better way to create a change than by infiltrating the system? The answer is not simply to give up and find alternative means to advance change. Rather, the alternative means should be supplemented with entering Washington directly, and what better way to do that than running for an electable position? Austin has proved that he can appeal to voters through his popularity, especially with millennials. During my four days at the Conservative Political Action Conference, I kept hearing from my predominately conservative peers about how they would have voted third party if Petersen had been on the ticket. Not only does this mean that Austin can rally the support of members of the Libertarian party, but he has the ability to sway others to embrace true liberty ideals. Denying him this opportunity on the sole basis of party ticket politics will only divide and further sets back the libertarian movement as a whole.
We all admire Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, etc. for advancing liberty through the GOP, and there is no valid reason why we shouldn’t continue to grow our influence by following in their footsteps. Rand Paul shouldn’t be denied access to the republican replacement for the ACA, and if we become a stronger force in the Senate, the GOP will have no choice but to compromise with us if they want to accomplish anything on capitol hill. The choice is clear: run on the GOP ticket and join the ranks of these liberty heroes or remain on the libertarian ticket to appease the ‘true libertarians’ while anticipating an uphill battle to grow the liberty movement.