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It’s Not The End of the World That Austin Petersen Is Running As A Republican. Nor Is It That Big A Deal.

An Opinion Piece by Avens O’Brien

I’ve been involved with the Libertarian Party for my entire life. My parents ran for office as Libertarians in the 70’s and 80’s, we supported Harry Browne in the 90’s, I volunteered for Michael Badnarik and Gary Johnson. I worked on the Ron Paul campaign in 2008, during the New Hampshire primary. I couldn’t stand the LP’s choice of presidential candidate that year (Bob Barr), so I also supported an alternative Libertarian candidate in protest against the LNC, causing much internal party drama during the 2008 election.

On the field, between petition-gathering and filing, sign-waving, fundraising, coordinating meet-and-greets, protesting without permits, executive committee experience, and trying to draft friends into running as Libertarians, I literally have 20 years of experience in Libertarian electoral politics, and I won’t even be 30 until October.

Let’s be clear: the Libertarian Party is my only political party. Flirtations with the Ron Paul Revolution aside, I’ve only ever had one party affiliation.

I don’t consider most Republicans to be that close to libertarianism. I really don’t – I think elected Republicans are fiscally irresponsible, utterly wrong on foreign policy, and terrible on social issues. I don’t see much they have in common with Libertarians, besides their lip service to the words “smaller government” and “low taxes” which none of them seem to actually be interested in acting on — oh, and a little lust for gun rights, unless the gun owner is a black man from Minnesota who gets murdered by a police officer.

But, in fairness, I do understand why Libertarians go to the Republican Party to try to impact it. I know Ron Paul is the cranky ironically cool grandfather so many young’uns adore, and I know the Republican Liberty Caucus thrills conservatarians.

I generally think the idea of joining the Republican Party to implement change is stupid, but I’ve come to the realization that I think pretty much all electoral politics is, and I don’t generally think liberty is going to be achieved through political means. I vote more often for ballot issues than for candidates, and yes, I put my vote towards the LP candidates when I can, mostly as a “screw you” to the government, though since most of the time I actually know the person running, it’s also like a high five to my friend.

Austin Petersen, in preparation for his Senate run, said he made a lot of phone calls and talked to a lot of people before making his decision to run as a Republican. I happened to be one of those people – he came over for dinner in Los Angeles this spring and asked me for my thoughts about his run, and which party. I told him to run as a Republican.

There’s probably a dozen reasons why.

Maybe it’s because I don’t like a pro-life candidate running under the LP banner. Yes, I know we have pro-lifers in the LP, I’m friends with some of the most vocal pro-life party members. That doesn’t stop me from preferring that the candidates that represent my party hold my views on abortion.

Alternatively, perhaps it’s because I know that Austin’s got a better chance of winning as a Republican (if he survives the primaries) and I fantasize that maybe someday the libertarian movement will have enough “sleeper candidates” that X number of years from now there will be a coordinated unveiling of a group of Republican (and Democrat) House and Senate members who switch to the LP on some 4th of July some year in the future, in a large enough group to impact things and screw with the duopoly.

Maybe it’s because Austin and the LP need some time apart. We all do, sometimes. To be perfectly frank, the Libertarian Party constantly frustrates me and I go back to it like a bad habit. There are absolutely incredible activists within the party I’m happy to call friends and to support in the ways I am able. There are others who attack one another endlessly, and I can say without a doubt that I’ve really never met a greater source of negativity than some LP members.

I know plenty of Republicans and Democrats who drive me crazy due to their commitment to their parties, whom I still love and respect as people and in their personal political fights, even when I don’t like the other people in their party.

Austin announced this week that he is running as a Republican. Naturally, many of the Libertarian Party loyalists are taking to Facebook angrily announcing their displeasure, saying he was never a Libertarian to begin with, good riddance, and other negative commentary about his resume, personality, and this very publication I’m writing in.

I have my disagreements with Austin both politically and personally, but I respect the man tremendously. He not only listens to people who disagree with him, but he amplifies them, as evident by the fact that he’s constantly encouraged me to write whatever I want here at The Libertarian Republic, no matter how much he disagrees with it.

He’s got some stupid on-the-record comments that may hurt him, and like our entire generation, he came of age on the internet where your words can be screenshot and haunt you forever. He’s made plenty of mistakes. Yet, I have had the pleasure of knowing him for the past two years writing for him, and three years as friends, and I’ve watched him mature in the field. His performance in the Las Vegas presidential debate was outstanding, and I saw an incredible improvement in him over the months of his campaign, as a political figure, speaker, and human being.

Austin has earned some respect from me. I know that irks a number of my friends, but I’m going to be honest about it. 

In the meantime, there are rumors of running a Libertarian Party candidate against Austin for Senate in Missouri, and though it’s entirely possible he won’t win the primary, and the LP candidate will be up against any establishment Republican and an incumbent Democrat, I really think the LP shouldn’t waste its time, money or resources running a candidate against him if by some miracle he wins his primary.

There are many other offices to run for, and it’s not like the Libertarian Party is overflowing with potential candidates. I doubt the LP really has the power to be a spoiler, and I totally understand the disagreements with his positions which call for the “libertarian alternative”, but I just don’t buy it. Give him his runway, and if he falls on his face, let it be his own fault.

Maybe Austin is naive to believe the Republican Party will have him. Probably. Let him figure that out on his own.

I wish him a ton of luck, and I hope he does well.

In the meantime, I promise, there are a million more productive uses of your time than participating in drama over his decision. He’s going to do things his way, and I think it’d be worthwhile to take a step back, not distract him or get in his way, and see what he does on his own.

We should all do productive things with our time, rather than tearing each other down.

Dear Austin, don’t forget your libertarianism in your pursuit of approval from Republicans. But I know if you start to, I trust you’ll take my call when I tell you to stop being an idiot. That’s why you’re great.

Good luck, my friend.