LP Veep Candidate Spike Cohen on Pragmatic Anarchy, Serious Satire, and Pronouncing GIF

TLR: This is Gary Doan of The Libertarian Republic talking to Spike Cohen, newly minted Vice Presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party under Jo Jorgensen, and former VP pick of Vermin Supreme. First off… congratulations… and thanks for talking to me.

SC: Thank you. I appreciate being on and, of course, as we both already know… I had been chasing getting you to interview me for a couple of months now. Even had to make a hashtag. #MakeGaryLoveSpike, which I even got your wife to agree to share. It did culminate in your apparently supporting me in the VP run. And now finally, finally, finally… the entire reason I was running… to finally get this interview with Gary Doan of The Libertarian Republic and I’m happy to be on.

TLR: I’ll just say that my support and talking to people about you is probably what pushed you over the edge beating out Monds, because, you know… it was so close, so… Haha

SC: Look, it was close. Listen, it could very well have been the difference. There could have been people sitting there with their hands trembling… well, I guess there weren’t any actual ballots they were writing, but their hands trembling on their phone trying to figure out which box to check and they went ‘oh, well, you know, Gary did say some nice things about Spike, and I do like that hashtag.’ Could have been what pulled them over and I’ll take it. If that’s what it took, I’ll take it.

TLR: And I’ll take full credit. I’m always willing to take full credit. So obviously my first question for you is how do you pronounce GIF?

SC: It’s GIF, because it’s a G.

TLR: Thank God. I believe I’m making some headway on that one, too. And I can push people over the edge into pronouncing it that way, the same way that I got you the Vice Presidential nomination.

SC: I hope that’s, I mean, that’s definitely, you know, I’m in a position of power and influence now. I’m a pretty big deal. So I would hope that… Now, the person who created the Graphic Interchange Format? Says that it’s pronounced JIF. And I find that disgusting. And, basically I’m chalking that up to senility. I personally believe that in his right mind he would say “GIF”.

TLR: Not only that, but I mean, I’m sure he has some kind of knowledge and probably degree in some kind of computer science, but not necessarily the science of linguistics. And, besides, I believe he’s British, so they pronounce everyth–.

SC: Oh, I didn’t know he was… if he is British? I don’t care. They can pronounce it however they want.
In America, we’re gonna say it the right way because it’s a G.

TLR: Yeah, we stopped listening to them 1776 or so.

SC: Exactly. Yeah, we’ve already had a debate over how to say “GIF” in 1776.

TLR: I’m pretty sure that was one of the reasons for the Revolutionary War. That and, um…

SC: Exactly.

TLR: All right. Maybe slightly more serious questions about, like, actual policies and politics and Libertarianism and all the rest. How would you rate Trump and Pence’s overall response to COVID-19? And what would your ticket have done differently if you had been in office instead?

SC: I mean, realistically, I don’t think I could rate it any lower. I mean, the only worse thing could be if they had, you know, police going around at gunpoint forcing doctors not to treat people for COVID. That’s probably about the only thing worse that they could be doing.

Looking at the history of what happened when COVID-19 came here—and recently as the, I think, second or third week of January, we knew that there were at least some cases here. And the reason we knew there were some cases here is because there were doctors, like Dr. Helen Chu at the University of Washington, in Seattle, and doctors in other parts of the country as well, who were effectively illegally testing for the COVID-19.

And the reason it was illegal was because the CDC had regulations in place that made it so. In order to test for a new virus, you had to go through this Byzantine process that took something like four to six months on average, to get approval for. And so the doctors knew that there would be no way for them to get approval in any reasonable time. And so when patients started coming in and saying, you know, I’m sick. I’ve been to, recently got back from Wuhan, China or Wuhan province and… And I have symptoms synonymous with this thing I’m hearing about on the news. So I just want to make sure, you know, that I’m okay.

They started making their own test kits Because apparently, the tests are not difficult to make if you know how to do such a thing. They started making test kits. They started testing them. And some of them started coming back positive. They went to the CDC and said, ‘Listen, we’ve already started testing and COVID-19 is… or, I think they were still calling it 2019 nCoV or whatever. But, you know, they were saying… ‘It’s already here, and we need do something about it.’

And the CDC’s initial response, was to say, ‘Great. Now, destroy all the test results. Don’t ever tell anyone, including the people who tested positive. And just stop testing. Stop doing anything.’ That was the initial response of the government was to tell the front line medical professionals who could have potentially tested widely and contained this at a time when it could have been fully contained.

Instead, they were hamstrung, and thankfully there were a handful of medical professionals like Doctor Chu, who said, once again, ‘No, I think that my Hippocratic Oath matters more than this piece of paper that you’re pointing at me with a regulation that says that it shouldn’t be testing without approval. And I’m going to now release it to the public.’ And thankfully, that bit of civil disobedience actually resulted in forcing the CDC’s hand, where they now are allowing testing with provisional approval.

But there’s still, there are certain types of tests, like at home tests, that they’re not allowing to be bought. There have been many regulations that have already been in place that should have been lifted right off the bat, like certificate of need laws and other things. They have done some relaxing of regulations about doctors working across state borders and they’ve done some other things to relieve regulations that help increase the supply chain for food and for medical devices and things like that. But the bottom line is that they are still largely standing in the way with their boot on the neck of the market, and the people to be able to really to deal with the situation. And you know, these types of things, these kinds of poorly, centrally planned ideas will always lead to bad, inequitable and harmful outcomes. And we’re seeing COVID-19 is a perfect example of that.

RRH Elections on Twitter: "The Libertarian Party has picked Vermin ...

TLR: Are you the first self-described anarchist to ever be on an LP Presidential ticket?

SC: That’s a good question. I believe that there were some that are, were at least, anarchist at heart. But I don’t know if there were any that were openly anarchist. So I may be the first anarchist on a major presidential ticket. I guess that’s probably something I should look on Wikipedia. That’s definitely something to be added to my Wikipedia if nothing else. And I also found out that I am the first and probably only… I’m assuming that Joe Biden, from the picks that we’re hearing… is probably going to be someone in Gen Xer that he’s going to pick. I am apparently the first and only millennial to ever be on a major party presidential ticket. So I’m just breaking ground left and right. I didn’t even know that. I’m so busy trying to get a guy with a boot on his head to be the next president. But I didn’t realize I was making history on my own over here.

TLR: How do you square your preference towards something a bit more radical with Jo’s more pragmatic approach to politics?

SC: Absolutely. I mean, listen, I have billed myself as a pragmatic anarchist. I recognize that I can’t simply snap my fingers and make government go away. And if I did? The very first thing? If I could simply do that? If I could just make government go away? The first thing that would happen is everyone would look at me and say, ‘What the hell did you just do?’ And they’d go right back to work creating new governments.

Because in the minds of the people? The vast, vast majority of people? Even those who you know, hate the government and what they’re doing, the vast majority of people believe that we need a government. And obviously, there has to be some level of, dare I say… incrementalism… to the movement away from ever growing, ever expanding statism and what we in the Libertarian Party call ‘the cult of the omnipotent state’ that is in the hearts and minds of the vast majority of people who support it.

In moving the cultural conversation, on the cultural level… towards a conversation about dismantling government or at the very least reducing government. So, for example, I personally would like to have a completely free market concept of defense. I don’t believe that we need to have… I agree with the founders that we don’t need a standing army. With that said, Jo Jorgensen is pushing for what she calls having a giant… turning the US into a giant Switzerland, armed and neutral.

With the idea that we end all of the wars, and all of the foreign occupations… bring all of the troops home and maintain a military only sufficient to defend against aggression. With the idea that obviously we don’t see much, you know, aggression to have to defend against that means it’s going to be a pretty small military. I see that as an excellent transitional step. And if/when we get there, we find that that we’re all very happy with that and want to stick with it, that’s great. If we then did, when we get there, decide that we maybe don’t need that at all and want to move even further in a free market direction? That’s also great. But it’s a step in the direction that all of us—minarchists and anarchists within the libertarian movement—want.

TLR: You originally ran as a preferred running mate of Vermin Supreme. Most of your campaign there used satirical policy prescriptions in order to both gain attention, and often to make a larger point with the platform that was, in your words, ‘lit’. Are you bringing that type of approach to Jo’s campaign? Or do you plan to shift your messaging to something a little more… serious or pragmatic or whatever that doesn’t include, you know… time travel and ponies and killing Woodrow Wilson?

SC: Well, first of all, I think that any self respecting libertarian would be on board with the idea of killing baby Woodrow Wilson, if at allLibertarian Party Picks Spike Cohen as Its Vice-Presidential ... possible. If we could make that possible. I think that at least most of us would sign off on that.

With that said, I’ve always said that if I’m asked the question about immigration, trade, foreign policy, war, education, infrastructure… I can give answers to those questions that are befitting the question. If I’m asked about free ponies and zombie power and killing, going back in time and killing baby tyrants and free cheesy bread? Then I’ll give answers to questions that are fitting that. I’ve always been serious about the actual policy behind it.

Satire, as you said, has always been a tool to reach out to people and by the way, this is phase two of Team Supreme. I will continue to campaign with Vermin. I think he’ll he’ll obviously have a little bit of a lighter schedule now that he’s not, you know, running for the for the top of the ticket, but we will continue doing that. We will continue doing, you know, fun, satirical subversive stuff in those spaces. But I have always wanted to run eventually. And even during the time that we were doing on a more satirical scale, running serious campaigns. You know, I was perfectly serious in the debates. I was perfectly serious in the interviews and libertarian podcasts.

I always use satire in use with normy media when befitting—when it was the best way to get attention. And if it isn’t, when I find those situations, that it is the best way to get attention, I will do it. And it’s now sort of become part of my brand and persona. So I think it’ll always be a part of it. But in general, I’ve always wanted to run a ticket with a serious concept behind it. Now that Jo is the Presidential nominee, obviously, the messaging is going to largely be determined by her because she is at the top of the ticket.

But I also have been greenlit to be able to continue doing the stuff that made us so successful as an insurgent, subversive campaign. And to kind of marry those things together to present a fairly, you know, a radical and pragmatic interpretation of the 100% of the Libertarian platform. In a way that is amenable to different groups. And you know, there are different ways to present to different groups. And now we’ll be exploring all the different ways of doing that.

TLR: Circling back just a little bit to the millennial, history making part of your candidacy? First off, just, you know, a quick answer on this one… how old were you when Joe ran with Harry Brown in 1996?

SC: I would have been 15 at that time.

TLR: All right. So, given your runningmate’s age and appeal compared to yours, not to mention your styles… how do you plan to reach out to younger and hipper voters on her behalf? Especially the ones that may have gone to, you know, Bernie or Tulsi or Yang—or any of these other candidates running that may not have been necessarily libertarian, but brought in a lot of younger audiences that at least have some overlap with some Libertarian Party messaging.

SC: Sure, absolutely. First of all, I think Jo’s already helping with that. We saw the excitement that has been gotten from her announcement to abolish the ATF and to eliminate all laws against private firearms ownership. So interestingly enough, even though she, definitely has a more kind of, I guess, traditional way of presentation, she is presenting some pretty radical stuff.

In terms of of using the kind of messaging that we used during the Vermin/Spike campaign to reach out to those to those groups of you know, disaffected young people and disaffected people on the left who have been the so-called Bernie bros and the Yang Gangers and so forth. We’re going to continue doing exactly that. We’re going to continue using satire, guerrilla messaging, guerrilla marketing, More subversive messaging, and that type of stuff. That’s not really going to end. What’s happening now is that we are marrying that also to a more pragmatic style that may, you know, sell better in Rotary Clubs. And you know, the more traditional kind of settings for politicians to canvass in. And that’s a good thing.

I think that it’s going to be a very interesting experiment. But I think we’re already seeing the results of that working. We raised over $50,000, since I was announced as the nominee. We have had thousands of people that are signing up to volunteer. We’re actually going to build out just our volunteer onboarding team just to deal with all the people coming in to volunteer. So it’s an exciting time, but I think it’s going to work out because we’re using sort of a dragnet approach of different styles of marketing that are all going back to the same basic concept… of the same basic message… of pushing the entirety of the Libertarian Party platform as our platform.

And I think that is a huge victory for the radicals—and even some of the pragmatists—who were incredibly disappointed in the last cycle. We were saddled with, you know, two former Republican governors, one of whom wasn’t even remotely Libertarian… to now transitioning from that to a fairly radical pragmatist with her running mate who is an anarchist. That has been a huge moral and actual electoral victory for our side of saying that we want to present the entirety of the Libertarian Party platform. This is a Libertarian unity platform, and it’s also a libertarian philosophy platform. We’re pushing a philosophically consistent, Libertarian platform.

TLR: Favorite Star Wars movie.

SC: Return to the Jedi, I think it’s probably Return of the Jedi.

TLR: Empire and Jedi are, you know, the only two acceptable answers in my opinion.

SC: I was sorta going between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and everything else after that has just become increasingly terrible. I actually haven’t watched whatever the last one is called.
I forget even what it was called. That’s how uninterested I am in it.

TLR: Well I would suggest, despite what Disney did with the movies and honestly what Lucas did with the prequels, I would suggest the Mandalorian. It’s kind of got the feel of the old ones. But…

SC: That’s what I’ve been told, yeah.

TLR: I think you’ve even got something on you and Vermin’s website about Baby Yoda.

SC: There’s a promise. If I did not fulfill, if Vermin and I were elected, all of the promises I made… free cheesy bread, legalizing recreational plutonium, forcing all police to wear Barney outfits and soforth, that I would resign within the first 100 days and be replaced with Baby Yoda.

TLR: You brought up some of the former nominees. The last couple LP nominees were former governors and congressmen. How do you and Jo’s resumes stack up, and do you think elected office experience is necessary to be taken seriously as a presidential ticket?

SC: Well, we just found out that that’s not the case. So our most recent President is a man who not only has no electoral experience, but going towards the you know, the idea of respectability politics, or you know, electoral only politics as being respectable. Our current President is a bright orange man who speaks at a low scream and gold plates everything. He has no electoral experience prior to winning the Presidency. And he has been the butt of pop culture jokes for the better part of 40 years.

He presented himself as bold, fearless, caring about the concerns about the people that were… who he was marketing to, I guess, for a lack of a better word. That he was campaigning to, and that he was the only one who had the bold solutions that would fix it. Being Libertarians, we have the advantage of actually having bold solutions that will fix these problems instead of making them worse.

But with that said, Jo has experienced running a multi-million dollar company. I had experience starting and growing a company… and I sold it a few years ago so that I can focus on libertarian messaging. But we have a history of business ownership, and she also has experience as a Professor. So we have experience in in directing things and owning things.

With that said… there is no one who has the true qualifications to be given the kind of authority that is currently being centralized into the office of the White House. No person can claim to have the kind of qualifications necessary to rule over people in such a manner. Which is why we as Libertarians believe in greatly reducing those powers at the very least.

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