Interview and commentary by Gary Doan
Joshua Smith is a libertarian activist and founding member of Think Liberty, who is currently running for Chair of the Libertarian National Committee. I decided to seek out an interview with him once #StickWithNick seemed to include #StickingWithArvin for many delegates who will decide at convention who will head the LP. Recently, it became closer to a two man race once his closest non-Nick competition dropped out of both the race and the party.
He was sporting a black “Taxation is Theft” tee underneath an otherwise respectable suit, and one of those crooked, cocky half-smiles that could be seen as either smug or charming in someone as young as him. In other words, his self-presentation is kind of a less composed Austin Petersen, complete with meme war veteran status and sprinkled name drops of influences such as Ron Paul, Rothbard, and Hayek. Compared to Nick Sarwark, he seems somewhat less packaged and prepared, but his enthusiastic energy speaks towards his ambitious and confident run.
The following was edited solely for clarity and length:
TLR: Had you been chair during the recent vote on Arvin, would you have voted to remove him?
JS: I probably would have voted yes. And that’s after a year of torment. Like I’ve told many people, this is my eighteenth state that I’ve been to in the last nineteen weeks. I’ve worked with and been around hundreds of candidates, campaign teams, activists… and it’s the same story. People have lost members of their campaign teams because of Arvin, directly. While I like Arvin enough in person, he’s a nice guy, he’s personable, it’s doing a lot of damage to our activists, I think. And a strong leader should have taken care of the problem.
TLR: Do you believe this race is in part a referendum on that decision?
JS: For me?
TLR: I mean, between you and Nick, do you think it’s largely a referendum on him?
JS: I think that some people will be voting because of the Arvin vote, I do believe that. But as far as the blood between me and Nick, look… I like Nick. I think Nick has been a great torch-bearer for this party. He’s implemented some great ideas, he’s moved us along. But I’ve seen us stagnating. And I saw us stagnating back in September when I announced. This didn’t have anything to do with Arvin Vohra when I announced. I’m not running a campaign against Arvin Vohra, I’m running for the office of Nick. But yeah, I believe there will be several people voting because of Nick’s leadership and the Arvin Vohra piece.
TLR: Obviously, you think you can do a better job than the current chair, or you wouldn’t be running. However, what has Nick accomplished, or what successful strategies has he used that you’ve learned from or would like to emulate?
JS: Well, I think his focus on ballot access for some states like Ohio. We dumped like a hundred thousand dollars into Ohio last year to try and get ballot access there because the state’s changing the rules. So I think his focus on that has been done well. He’s done a pretty decent job messaging himself, but I’ve seen some inconsistencies. That was another problem that I had. You know, the fights with Tom Woods. The arguments with Jason Stapleton, and telling people that maybe you’re not the kind of people we want in the Libertarian Party. I think that was a huge ball drop. But outside of that, I think he’s done pretty well on media. He’s gotten himself on Kennedy a handful of times, and… he’s done some really good things for the Party. He’s brought a lot of people into the party. But like I said, I just think it’s time for a new vision.
TLR: Some people have accused you of appealing to or dog whistling to the alt-right. Where does that accusation even come from? And–
JS: You know, this one’s kind of funny. Let me just look at the camera and say—I do not support white nationalism or the alt right. But let me move on from there. Look… I’m half Israeli. You know, my dad’s side of the family is from Israel. They’re Jews who have been fighting fascist regimes for generations. I have no inkling of support for white nationalists or the alt right.
I think a lot of that came from the initial platform that I put out, I said the socialist caucus didn’t have a spot at our table. I still believe that socialists who want to subvert our platform, and use our party as a vehicle for their violent collectivism don’t have a place at our table. I believe that for the left or the right. If you’re a peaceful person, and you want to have your own voluntary commune and be a socialist on your voluntary commune, and you don’t want to go take other people’s private property and you don’t want to kill landlords or hang them or whatever people are talking about these days, that’s fine… I’ll work with you. But when I put that platform out, I believe that they thought that they could drag my name through the mud by saying I was sympathetic to the alt right.
Although, they didn’t realize I had put out a video speech after the Charlottesville riots condemning the alt right and white nationalists and saying that as libertarians, we shouldn’t be caught rubbing shoulders with these people.
Fast forward to my run, and here back a couple of months ago, I went to the Libertarian Party of Florida, I went to their state convention. I had heard nothing but that this state affiliate itself was subverted by white nationalists and completely taken over by white nationalists. I know a lot of this has to do with Augustus Invictus. I’m not a big fan of Augustus Invictus. In fact, I was at one point writing a hit piece about him, and then just decided to do an interview where he hung himself on my show.
But, I showed up to the Libertarian Party of Florida and I saw one of the most diverse state affiliates I’ve seen, probably the most diverse state affiliate I’ve seen. There was a Cuban chair named Marcos Miralles, who is amazing, by the way. He’s a young guy, he’s kind of like me, came out of the woodwork when a lot of people didn’t know who he was, and he busted ass, and now he’s running a very successful state affiliate. They have Venezuelans, they have Dominicans, they have gay, straight, black, white… it was so amazingly diverse. And there’s one gentleman there named Ryan Ramsey. If you’re familiar with who Ryan Ramsey is, he was a friend with Augustus Invictus, he does have a past in that. But now he’s working on a campaign team for a Dominican, or… a black gubernatorial candidate. You know what I mean? He’s started eight new regional affiliates there for the Libertarian Party of Florida, all of which are just as diverse as the state party. I mean, the guy’s not a white nationalist. He may say a few crude remarks here and there, he may offend a couple of people, but I’ve never seen anything personally that makes him look like a white nationalist. Maybe other people have different experiences. I would like to see that, personally, because I’m not the kind of person who just throws out, you know… faulty accusations. But I took a picture with him, as I do with people at all these state conventions. As I said, I’ve been to eighteen states, so…
TLR: Speaking of faulty accusations. Probably best to just move past it, but it’s recent news, so, uh… Dearn. When she stepped down, she gave some parting shots. She called you incompetent. She called you childish. My question is, does it take one… to know one?
JS: Here’s the thing about Alicia Dearn. Before she even decided to announce, I had a lady named Angela Owens, and I’m sure some of your viewers would be familiar Angela Owens. She came to me and said ‘hey, you and Alicia Dearn should work together to take down Nick’. And I said… ‘ahhh… that doesn’t really sound good to me’, you know what I mean? I don’t think I need to work with somebody to take down Nick. I want to run my own campaign. I had been running a relatively clean campaign to begin with against Nick.
You know, I’d been going around the country, building up this support, and showing that my ideas were better. And that’s what I want to run on. And so, they got a little upset about it… Alicia would start taking some pot shots here and there… we started doing debates… and I don’t think she was really happy with how the debates were panning out, a lot of people were saying I was winning the debates or whatever, you know… it’s all a battlefield of ideas. Recently we had a debate, me and Nicolas and Alicia, and during the debate they asked a question… they said ‘if you weren’t running, which of the other two would you vote for’? Nicolas gave a very politician-y answer, said that ‘I’d trust the delegates to do whatever they think is right’. I’m not a politician.
I’m an activist.
It’s exactly why I’m running to advance this party. I believe that activism is the way forward for us now. Maybe once we get more of a footing after the hard fight, we can have a politician running the party, but I think we need an activist. So, being the activist I am, I said ‘on pure experience alone, I would vote for Nicholas Sarwark’. And she took it to heart, she messaged me right after. She told me, you know… ‘you’re playing right into his hands… now he’s now going to win… he’s going to win handedly…’ and I said, ‘I don’t believe that. Have you see the support I’ve been able to get?’ I didn’t say anything else to her. And to be honest, that was the only time I’ve had any interaction with Alicia in the past month and a half or more.
And then she decided to start going in on me hard, and she teamed up with the socialists and the audacious caucus and they’ve all been going at me as hard as they can, and I’ve been doing my best not to respond. I’m trying to run a clean campaign. She took it to heart that I wasn’t responding, then blocked me, then dropped out of the party, dropped out of the race, ended her delegate status, now she’s working with the United Independent Party. I put out a nice message. I said I appreciate the things she’s done for ballot access. She has helped, and through litigation… I wish her well on her future endeavors. But I have a goal. I have a focus. I’m not going to lose focus on the goal. So good luck to her, and I hope she does alright in the Independence Party.
TLR: You talked about Nick giving a politician-y answer about letting the delegates decide. Do you have an opinion on Bill Weld?
JS: Bill Weld is not my first choice for Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party. I think we’ve got a really unique opportunity right now in this political climate to become a very driving force for liberty in the United States, and I want somebody who is going to stay on principle. I don’t think we need to be inflammatory like the Arvin Vohra, but I do want somebody who’s going to go out there say that ‘this is wrong, and this is how we fix it’. As chair of the party, if Bill Weld got the nomination, I would be bound by the delegates to support him. And that’s fine. And I would. I would put all of my energy into Bill Weld to hopefully get us that magical five percent number… though I’ve set a goal of twenty percent. I would put all my efforts into getting that magical five percent, because it’s important for us to get ballot access. It’s important for us to get on the national debate stage. So, I would. But he’s not my first choice, and we could look at other candidates that we think might be better as well.
TLR: Alicia also called you a liar. Have you been lying to me this entire interview?
TLR: Yes? OK.
TLR: No? Are you lying there?
JS: Make up your own mind.
TLR: Well, my words may not mean much, but if you want my endorsement, you’ve got it. Thanks for your time.