San Antonio—John Jay Myers, the Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, is sitting in the shade of a booth at something called Activist Appreciation Day in downtown San Antonio. Somebody on the stage is complainingly, loudly, about the drug war and Myers is sweating after playing a couple songs on stage with his staff. Of course, everyone is sweating because it’s 101 degrees in the early afternoon.
Before we start the interview Myers motions to one of his five volunteers, all young men in their early 20s.
“You want to do to this in the AC of the RV?” he asks.
With my ice-cold New England blood not agreeing with the extreme dry heat I gladly retreat to the cool comfort of the rented campaign vehicle that Myers has been traveling around the state in. Myers and Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson are on the second to last day of their swing through the largest cities of Texas: Odessa, Dallas, Waco, San Antonio, and Houston. Myers is Johnson’s opening act at every event, warming up the crowd with a stump speech against foreign intervention, social conservatism, the drug war, and corporate welfare.
Johnson passed on the San Antonio event in favor of local media appearances but that did not stop Myers, the owner of a restaurant and a printing business, from going on his own. Myers is convinced that his two opponents in the race, former Republican Solicitor General Ted Cruz and former Democratic State Representative Paul Sadler, are really just big-government conservatives. The most recent poll between Cruz and Sadler had Cruz up by 10 points. Myers won the Libertarian Party nomination for U.S. Senate on the first ballot at the state party convention in June.
He thinks that his libertarianism can attract disaffected Texans from across the political spectrum.
“I sat at the Green Party table and talked about my issues. They were like ‘Those sound like our issues’ and I am like, well they actually are. The only difference between our issues and their issues is I don’t believe you should ever force someone to take someone else’s stuff and give it to them,” he said, as we walked to his RV.
Myers thinks of himself as the opposite of a Wayne Allyn Root libertarian.
“At a time when we should be embracing the Ron Paul ideology and sticking to that, along comes this guy toning down our message,” he said, referencing Root’s 2008 rise in the party.
“We obviously shouldn’t be toning down our message. Toning down the anti-war message is a huge mistake for this party. Until drugs are legal, they’re a big issue. Until people are allowed to live their lives as we see fit, it’s a big issue,” said Myers.
Fiscal issues matter to Myers but he’s uncomfortable with people that try to make them more important than social and foreign policy matters.
“I didn’t join this party to be a Republican. If I wanted to be a Republican I would have joined the Republican Party,” he said.
Having run for local office before, Myers has some electoral experience under his belt. But he is in for a tough fight. Many libertarians who would be a natural fit for his candidacy have flocked to Ted Cruz because of his endorsements from Ron Paul and his national political organization.
“The real problem with Ted Cruz is he’s a social conservative, not a libertarian,” he said.
Myers thinks Cruz’s position on immigration doesn’t make any sense either.
“You couldn’t immigrate from Mexico to here if you tried. Ever. His parents couldn’t have, he couldn’t have. You just couldn’t. His entire position is hypocritical and it will never work,” Myers said, adding that he favors a more relaxed national immigration policy.
Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father and an American mother.
Myers recognizes that his odds of winning in Texas are slim but he thinks he wins even if he loses.
“It’s not my job to win the race. All I’ve got to do is be right,” he said, noting that Ron Paul didn’t win his two bids for the presidency but he still did more to spread libertarian ideas than anybody in decades.
During his stump speech Myers emphasizes his belief that the campaign is a vehicle to educate people about libertarianism.
“We have to end corporate welfare and the only way to do that is limit what government can do. Every ounce of power you give government, you’re giving them more power to do something to you,” he said, moving quickly to focus on social issues and the drug war.
“I am a libertarian, a real libertarian. People should be able to live their life as you see fit. You should be able to do whatever you want with your life. You should be able to smoke what you want, drink what you want, eat what you want, drink whatever size object you want,” he said, speaking fast with Cosmo Kramer-like mannerisms, as he has throughout this Texas trip.
Despite the tough odds, Myers is optimistic.
“We get a lot of emails from people that say, they’re voting for Cruz in the primary and voting for John Jay in the general,” he said.