Candidate Kicked Out of New Hampshire Libertarian Party Nonetheless on House Primary Ballot as a Libertarian
The controversy highlights how the party can benefit from its statement of principles, which were protected at its recent national convention.
Tom Alciere is a former Republican state legislator in New Hampshire who resigned under public pressure in 2001 after he made some public comments supporting the killing of police officers. He ran unsuccessfully for office two more times as a Republican (one time losing to a write-in). This year he appears on a primary ballot for the 2nd District's federal House seat, pursuing the Libertarian Party's nomination.
The party did its best to prevent that. In 1993, the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire (LPNH) booted Alciere. The party's executive committee renewed its stance against the candidate last month, noting in a resolution that "Alciere has a history of advocating violence" and "refused to take a pledge against violence as a means of obtaining political objectives." (Alciere was also arrested in 2009 for a misdemeanor assault on a 12-year-old female neighbor.)
For those reasons, former** state party chair Darryl Perry wrote in a petition to the state's Ballot Law Commission (BLC), the party "disavows, impugns, forswears and repudiates Tom Alciere as a Libertarian candidate." Perry requested the BLC "remove the name Tom Alciere from Libertarian Party's primary ballot" in accordance with a regulation that the "name of any person shall not be printed upon the ballot of any party for a primary unless he or she is a registered member of that party."
The State of New Hampshire, though, has a different definition of what it means to be a registered member of a Party. As far as it is concerned, it just means being registered to vote under that party's banner. Despite the LPNH's view of itself as a private organization that should be able to define its own membership, the state says Alciere can stay on the ballot for the September primary.
Under the law, the BLC wrote, "any legal voter" who tells the state "he intends to affiliate with and generally supports the candidates of the party with which he offers to register…shall be registered as a member of such party." Since "Mr. Alciere did so register," the commission concludes, he "therefore became a member of the Libertarian Party, as far as the statutory requirements of New Hampshire law are concerned." The BLC's decision is unappealable.
In its convention earlier this year, the LPNH endorsed Justin O'Donnell, also on the ballot against Alciere, for that House seat. Perry says they had no idea Alciere intended to take advantage of the party's freshly re-won petition-free ballot access until he did it.
Alciere's campaign website condemns the LPNH for aiming at his ballot access, insisting it has "chosen to imitate the model of the Democratic Party in how they treated Bernie Sanders; and the Republican Party, in how they treated Ron Paul for being too libertarian for them. Libertarians constantly cry foul when ballot access restrictions are used against Libertarian Party candidates, and now they use the same trick as a tool for their own political advantage."
When it comes to the politics of advocating cop-killing, Alciere said in a phone interview this week that he is the true "orthodox libertarian extremist" and the party has "watered down their message. Let's face it, [Gary] Johnson and [William] Weld [the party's presidential ticket in 2016] weren't exactly orthodox libertarian extremists," since they avoided talk of things like "getting the border open, drugs legalized."
"During a drug raid an innocent drug dealer is clearly justified in using deadly force against an intruder," even if that intruder is a police officer, Alciere says. Hence, his stance on the propriety of cop-killing.
"They claim I'm going too far in talking about the age-old principle that not only the exact same enemy pilot that dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor during that attack but also all the armed forces of a hostile government are the enemy for the duration of the hostilities. And I apply the same principles to police forces." People who choose to go to war against an oppressive government, he says, "are entitled to take out enemy officers, which is what the police force is."
When he won his Republican state legislator seat, Alciere says, "I had this false sense of some glimmer of hope of working through the system and making a difference. I resigned in frustration because it became obvious it's a complete waste of time trying to reason with all these crazy people" in politics. He adds that the abolitionists in their day were thought of as the crazy ones, because everyone around them "refused to be reasonable" in the face of the anti-slavery movement's moral correctness.
Alciere says he doesn't have the resources to campaign in any meaningful way for the L.P. nomination, but he hopes voters will seek out his website. Not just registered Libertarians, but voters unregistered with the other major parties, can vote in the Libertarian primary, according to Perry.
The question of the L.P.'s ability to distance itself from controversialists such as Alciere highlights the importance of things like the pledge the party insists all members sign on joining (part of which states "I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force") and the party's statement of principles defining what a Libertarian believes, which says in part that a party member agrees to "prohibiting the initiation of physical force against others."
As Alciere and other party members on the "extremist" spectrum, such as former vice-chair Arvin Vohra might insist, violence against government employees isn't necessarily initiatory force, but retaliatory force.
That statement of principles, for what it is worth in policing the acceptable frontiers of Libertarian thought, was protected by a vote at the L.P.'s convention earlier this month. Seven eighths of registered delegates must vote for any changes to the statement of principles; that requirement is now itself protected with its own 7/8 requirement.
Caryn Ann Harlos, newly elected secretary for the Libertarian National Committee, was an activist working to ensure that the statement of principles remained intact. In a phone interview after the convention, Harlos emphasized it more as a way to ensure the party isn't taken over by more centrist types who don't actually embrace the L.P. for being as radical as it is.
But as Perry and the LPNH say, having party members on record about the use of physical force ought to be a way to distance the party from certain advocates of violence, though the state of New Hampshire did not agree.
Alciere, for his part, thinks that non-Libertarian politicians are responsible for real-life violence against police. "They have got cops' blood on their hands, they are buying votes with the blood of cops" by sending them out to "get themselves killed trying to enforce blatantly unjust laws." Politicians and voters may not literally pull the trigger on police officers, he says, but "they are pulling the lever" as politicians and voters that can lead to their deaths.
**Correction: the post originally erroneously referred to Perry as current state chair.