Libertarian Party

Candidates Vie to Represent the Libertarian Wing of the Libertarian Party

Jacob Hornberger becomes the latest back-to-basics libertarian to enter the Libertarian presidential race.


With all the news-news, let alone news specifically concerning Democratic and Republican candidates for the 2020 presidential election, you can be forgiven for not keeping up with the race to win the nomination of America's third-place political party.

But news there was this past weekend at the South Carolina Libertarian Party state convention. Author and longtime libertarian hand Jacob Hornberger, the 69-year-old founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation, formally announced his candidacy for president, immediately becoming one of the most well-known of the dozen or so names working actively to take the baton from two-time nominee Gary Johnson.

Hornberger, the third-place finisher in the 2000 Libertarian presidential race, portrays his candidacy as a way for the party to return to principle, an implicit critique of nominating former Republican elected officials in the past three cycles. In this, the friend-of-Ron-Paul shares a commonality with the other source of Libertarian weekend news from South Carolina, which was a debate I moderated between six of Hornberger's competitors.

Across multiple questions, including an open-ended query about lessons learned from Johnson's record-shattering 2016 campaign, the sextet of Adam Kokesh, Kim Ruff, Jo Jorgensen, Ken Armstrong, Dan "Taxation is Theft" Behrman, and Vermin Supreme made it clear that candidates are competing to represent the Libertarian wing of the Libertarian Party.

Ruff, who won the post-debate straw poll, volunteered her main takeaway from 2016. "We should not allow ourselves to be bullied," she said. "We should not allow ourselves to be put in a position where we're effectively told that if we don't elect a certain person, or nominate a certain person to represent us, then we're going to have the whole thing fall apart. We shouldn't buy into lies—because that's what we were fed—and we should stand up and have a fearless Libertarian as our standard-bearer."

Kokesh struck a similar note. "We've got to recognize that what we're giving [the nominee] is incredibly valuable, [so] it has to be someone who we can trust with that, who's going to use it to maximum impact, whose commitment to the cause is unquestionable," the early runaway leader in the fundraising primary said. Also: "We need a different message. We need a fundamental shift from playing their game, making this about politics. It's not. Freedom is about love, and ethics, and unity, and basic moral principles that unite us as a human family. When we put that forward, that's how we're going to win, not by playing their game."

Hornberger, who was in the attendance, later criticized the debaters for not being hardcore enough about abolishing Medicare:

The debate moderator…asked a simple and direct but critically important question to each of the candidates: "What would you do with Medicare?"

If I had been included in the debate, [I] would have responded, without hesitation, with a simple three-word answer: "Repeal it immediately."

Not one of the six candidates on stage answered in that way. All of their answers came in the form of some sort of reform, which, of course, leaves this socialist program intact.

In fairness to the other candidates, Armstrong did not answer the question directly, and Kokesh is campaigning on dissolving the federal government, which presumably would render Medicare a non-entity.

This is pretty much how the early nominating process has gone: candidates short on elected experience (Armstrong was to my knowledge the only such veteran on stage Saturday, with two stints on the Honolulu County Neighborhood Board) but long on libertarian activism, vying to more purely distill the party platform. (When asked to name the platform plank that made them most uncomfortable, five of the six candidates said there weren't any. The one exception was Jo Jorgensen, the party's 1996 vice presidential nominee, who suggested that the current pro-choice abortion language might be deleted so that it doesn't "keep some people from even considering us.")

In part, this focus on the salesmanship of first principles reflects available personnel and a jockeying for future position. If, say, Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.) were to enter the race, there will definitely be at least some market among the 1,000 or so party delegates who will choose the nominee next May for a message of "We cannot elect or nominate a former Republican…for the fourth cycle in a row." That's a direct quote from Kokesh, from a July debate in which all five candidates said they'd endorse each other before getting behind the most famous libertarian in Congress.

I also suspect that some of the reticence about going (in Ruff's July words) "Republican light" stems from a lingering hostility toward Johnson's running mate, former Republican Massachusetts governor and current Republican presidential challenger Bill Weld. Weld barely won a second-ballot vote at 2016's Libertarian Party convention, and then he vouched for Hillary Clinton's character on MSNBC a week before the election, and then he jumped ship for the GOP in January after having previously declared himself a "Libertarian for Life."

It's not necessarily that Libertarians feel jilted, though Weld had spent a year-plus prior to his latest party swap doing the spade work of endorsing Libertarian candidates, raising money, and even debating Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.) in these very pages about whether the GOP is a hopeless vehicle for positive change. But there is a mixture of shame and resentment that someone whose foreign policy views were perceived as interventionist was too freely given the job as vice-promoter of the Libertarian brand. (For a long argument on that subject, listen to September's SoHo Forum debate between Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark and comedian Dave Smith.)

Hornberger, notably, is a longtime antiwar activist. (See my 2011 interview with him on the topic.) The candidates at both forums I moderated were uniformly and enthusiastically in favor of bring the damn troops home now. ("If elected president," Jorgensen said Saturday, "I would turn America into one giant Switzerland, armed and neutral, but enough forces to protect and defend American soil.")

Even Ken Armstrong, a former NATO commander, said this when I asked him whether he was really ready to dissolve the North American Treaty Organization:

Well, NATO's a treaty, and I believe in treaties and contracts between willing participants. I'm just not sure that the American people really know what they bought into with NATO. Yeah, honestly, I think that we need to back away from NATO. The only reason I believe we should stay in the United Nations, to tell you the truth, is because being a permanent member of the Security Council we get that precious veto on the Security Council, and I don't think we want to give that up. But these global organizations are not globalist, they're corporatist, and I think we need to get as far away from them as we can.

That is a far cry from where Bill Weld is at nowadays.

So it's perhaps no surprise that when I asked the six candidates on stage to name a single declared presidential candidate from the two major parties that they would most welcome into the Libertarian Party, not one of them volunteered the party's most recent vice presidential nominee. Instead, two of them (Armstrong and Ruff) chose antiwar fave Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii). Jorgensen said Mark Sanford ("He's libertarian at heart"), and the other three either joked or declined to state, though Kokesh had previously name-checked Gabbard as his "favorite socialist running for president."

Will this uncompromising anti-war message and adherence to libertarian principle sell comparatively unknown candidates to an audience larger than the half-million or so registered Libertarian Party voters? Will any other big name actually jump in, given the seemingly unfavorable circumstances for third parties at this political moment? It's too soon to know the answer to either question. Consider that Gary Johnson only announced his candidacy last time around in January 2016.

But the fundraising race so far is a far cry from the $12.2 million eventually amassed by Johnson/Weld. According to Federal Election Commission filings, as compiled on Wikipedia, Kokesh as of the end of September far outpaced the field, with $201,000 compared to $34,000 for Behrman, $19,000 for Vermin Supreme, $13,000 for Armstrong, and $6,000 apiece for Jorgensen and Ruff. And the burn rate is close to 100 percent—the most cash any candidate reported as having on hand was Jorgensen's $5,000.

When I asked the candidates how they expected to match the Johnson/Weld haul, perhaps the most honest answer came from the political satirist on stage.

"Well, that's a pretty inconceivable amount of money, it's a whole lot of money, it's money I can't even begin to imagine," said Vermin Supreme. "So I would say, yeah, sure, of course I'm going to. We're going to get fundraisers, and we're going to crowdsource it, and we're going to get like 12 million people to send me a dollar. So that's going to happen; that's a no-brainer, we're going to make that quick. So yeah, definitely. We're going to spend it, too."

NEXT: Stupid Federal Shipping Regulations Will Prevent Alaskans From Buying Alaskan Natural Gas

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  1. Let’s see one-million-and-one ways reason undercuts Libertarianism this year.

    Funny that ENB did a “rundown” of Libertarian winners Election 2019 but reason never covered these candidates or any Libertarian candidate running election 2019.

    1. I wasn’t aware that there was a Libertarian wing of the libertarian party.

      It sounds a lot like the false balkanization with which the media portrayed the GOP as being doomed by or uses to portray the Democratic spread as both batshit socialist *and* appealingly centrist.

      Except, not being aware of the various factions and given the party’s size, it’s presumable that the ‘other’ wings of the libertarian party just aren’t libertarians.

      1. I’m not sure what that means either.

        I’ve had many a conversation with Tony where he characterizes liberty as something to be imposed. That a lack of imposition is somehow an imposition.

        I’m guessing that the cool libertarians who get invited to cocktail parties must be aiding with some imposition or another. Like forcing bakeries to make cakes or something. I dunno. I’m just not that cool.

        1. I am that cool, so I will explain the idea behind “imposing” liberty. It can be summed up pretty easily: Libertarians are quietly plotting to take over everything and then leave everyone alone.

          That’s what’s imposed: the NAP while everyone does their own thing.

      2. Those who support coercive monopolies like a limited state obviously do not support a free market or freedom of association.,

        People like Gillespie who even claimed ALL libertarians support limited coercive monopoly governments.

        He is only partially libertarian at best.

        1. Free markets depend upon enforcement of property right and contracts. As distasteful as it is, some group of me using organized violence and funding themselves with plunder in order so secure these things is the best we got.

          1. ” some group of me

            What! The! Fuck!??

            1. Typo… my kingdom for an edit button.

              1. I kind of figured that, but it was too funny to let it slide.

                1. And it wouldn’t be a group. It would be an ARMY!


            2. “I contain multitudes.”

              1. “My name is Legion, for we are many”.

          2. If the violence is retaliatory and the funding non coercive.

            1. ^ This.

      3. There’s only one wing which explains why it flies around in (cocktail party) circles.

    2. Well, they had a link to all the Libertarians who were elected to government office in the election.

  2. I like Hornberger. I like Kokesh too, that dude has balls. Unfortunately, his balls outweigh is brain sometimes. But he is a good guy. Vermin is funny. I like him as well. Hell, I would probably like all these candidates if I learned about them. My kind of people.

    1. Is he the naked one, the one in the stupid hat, or the one dressed as Jar Jar BInks?

      1. “the one in the stupid hat”

        Which stupid hat? The canary yellow top hat, or the other stupid
        (and indescribable) hat?

        1. It’s a boot.

  3. “Freedom is about love, and ethics, and unity, and basic moral principles that unite us as a human family.”


    1. We know you don’t understand any of those things, Lizardman’s Constant constituent.

      1. Aww, Eunuch is upset that his (personally necessary) ideal of dickless libertarianism as bitch to progressives doesn’t receive the collective approval he is ever so desperate for

        1. Why be shitty? Really. It’s just someone with different ideas about what’s important. What’s the point of being a dick all the time?

          1. Shouldn’t you be asking eunuch that?
            He chose to try to dunk on me, I chose to jam it back in his face.
            Why do you insist on being offended on behalf of the most contemptible people and positions all the time?

  4. Reason is very kind to the conservatives in libertarian clothing. The fact that the ruiners of the comments haven’t been banhammered is testament to the magazine’s dedication to liberty and the freedom to be a total tool.

    1. Awwww, did you accidentally encounter something to the right of Mother Jones at a ”””””libertarian””””” website? Poor sad SJW. You should jack your sad micropenis with the lube of your tears.

      1. wtf is mother jones?

        1. You have seriously never heard of Mother Jones?

          1. Wikipedia article on Mother Jones

            Mother Jones (abbreviated MoJo) is an American magazine that focuses on news, commentary, and investigative reporting on topics including politics, the environment, human rights, and culture. Its political inclination is variously described as either liberal or progressive.[3][4] Clara Jeffery serves as editor-in-chief of the magazine. Steve Katz has been the publisher since 2010; Monika Bauerlein has been the CEO since 2015.[5][6][7] Mother Jones is published by The Foundation for National Progress.

            1. Mother Jones has been around since 1976.

              1. I tend to ignore magazines. Except this one.

    2. “ruiners of the comments”

      sarcasmic does not include spammers, socks, and trolls.

      “Conservatives in libertarian clothing” are the devil though and are ruining this place!

    3. I keep waiting for all these idiots to find somewhere else to troll, but I am continuously disappointed

      I still look fondly on my memories of the days where the Reason comments were a bastion of snarky good sense, and we only had Shrek and Tony to bother us.

      Now we have a cohort of imbeciles who constantly whine that Reason isn’t “libertarian” because they don’t fondle Trump hard enough, and reliably accuse anyone who disagrees as being a sockpuppet or a pedophile. It’s gotten really, really fucking old.

      1. They mostly left because reason staff sucks Hillarys dick and allow trolls like you to drive new readers away.

  5. Will this uncompromising anti-war message and adherence to libertarian principle sell comparatively unknown candidates to an audience larger than the half-million or so registered Libertarian Party voters?

    No. But that doesn’t seem to be the point either. All these ‘candidates’ seem to think the LP already has far too many registered voters. At minimum, all those who voted to nominate those ex-R’s are suspect at best. And all those who aren’t even registered but still voted L in 2016 — well those voters are all complete stalking horses for the state. We probably need to contemplate whether an Inquisition (though obviously a NAP one) is in order for them.

    What we need is a teeny group of Cathari Perfect. Small enough so that no true Libertarian ever need fear going to sleep at night wondering if someone else will become an improperly converted Libertarian.

  6. This is clearly not “news news.”

  7. Sounds like a small tent party.

    1. That’s what she said.

    2. Tents are for wusses. Real libertarians sleep under the stars.

      1. Or on top of them.

    3. Sounds like a convention in a phone booth

  8. Funny hats are always the best way to get into America’s heart.

    1. Did a bang up job for pussy but American’s may have embraced pussy before the hats so what do I know.

    2. At least none were tinfoil. But the campaign is young….

      1. I’m like 90% Vermin’s boot is lined with tinfoil in most of his appearances. Might be hard to tell from that picture though.

    3. The canary yellow “Taxation is Theft” top had is kind of amusing.

      The rubber boot worn as a hat is just sad & pathetic.

      1. Vermin Supreme is a national treasure.

        1. The boot for a hat is still sad and pathetic.

  9. ” return to principle, an implicit critique of nominating former Republican elected officials in the past three cycles. ”

    And a signal not to choose the claimed libertarian Amash who said only independents were capable of repressing all the people.

  10. Have the convention endorse them all and let each state LP run whichever they want to.

  11. and Vermin Supreme


    1. [glitter bombs Unicorn Abbatoir]

      1. Unicorn farts are glitter bombs. One would think Unicorn Abattoir would have appropriate safety gear.

    2. I think he’s a fantastic way to explain the difference between us and the major parties at a glance. The red and blue teams would never let that guy anywhere near a debate stage. The libertarians have a dedication to principle, and a sense of humor.

      Sawark claims this kind of thing makes us look unprofessional. I agree, but I think that’s a good thing; the LP is people, not politicians. That makes it hard to get elected, but it makes them worth electing.

      1. Having a sense of humor and being a joke are very different things.

        humorly Ripping Joe Biden for being the piece of shit that he is signals a good sense of humor. Wearing a boot on your head makes you a joke.

        1. Neither of those things you mention is humor.

          You posting them is humor

  12. (L) running for president is laughable.

    1. To me it’s not about having a realistic chance at winning but about having other ideas out there. Any wins for libertarians will come at lower political levels.

      But when all you have are people not taking it seriously and the lunatic fringe of the party, it accomplishes nothing.

      1. yeah the second part was my point. the people who appropriate (L) to run for president don’t seem to be the types of “Libertarians” who are going to help anyone but themselves

        1. You can hear when they talk.

          Non-Libertarians really believe that Libertarians cannot pick out Libertarian positions from Conservative and Lefty talking points.

          It’s hilarious really.

          Forcing people to bake gay cakes is NOT Libertarian, unless you have a contract. Even then, you cannot force them. You can get damages for breach of contract.

          1. *you cannot force them physically….

          2. exactly.

      2. Any wins for libertarians will come at lower political levels.

        I agree. But for a party that can only win at the local level, it sure doesn’t seem like a party that either cares about local issues or has the slightest clue about what they are really advocating –

        eg from their platform on education – Parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children’s education Really? So ‘libertarian’ is to take from one group to give to another to spend on a third as if they are property – with no accountability even to the group whose actual property is being taken? That’s just being a tool for imposing a national top-down ideology. No wonder libertarians can’t even get elected to school board.

        1. libertarians can’t even get elected to school board.

          Dave Kelly, Illinois, District 205 School Board.

      3. Vermin Supreme claims to be anti-state, anti-war, and anti-authority, but he wants to make not brushing your teeth a criminal offense and to spend tax dollars on zombie apocalypse awareness, time travel research and a free pony for every American.

        This guy isn’t the lunatic fringe of the Libertarian party, he’s just a lunatic

  13. The “Libertarian Wing” of the LP? Is this like a euphemism for the “Purity Caucus”? Seems to me that many people obsessed with purity in the party aren’t very libertarian themselves. They just want their particular brand to trump [sic] all others.

    1. It’s a way to distinguish the folks who believe in philosophical libertarianism (a la Robert Nozick) from the ones who are merely for limited government for other reasons (a mix of the voluntarists, the classical liberals, and the ever-hated “pragmatists”) and those who are philosophically opposed to government in all forms (the anarchists, in short, and they come in a lot of flavors all their own).

      1. I think you can believe in philosophical libertarianism and also believe that politically, incrementalism is more likely to eventually get you to that goal than going for broke and making yourself unelectable every single election.

  14. Why is the white-bearded man on the left wearing a boot on his head? WHO does he want to give the boot to?

    1. You’ve never seen Vermin Supreme?

        1. Are you kidding me? This is a party that wants to be taken seriously?

          1. The Italians elected a porn star as a political star, so why not?


            Politicians are stupid, venal, pornographic sluts, and clowns to boot! So why NOT elect stupid, venal, pornographic sluts and clowns to office? At least, then, we are HONEST about what we as voters (ass voters) are doing! We’re just pulling crap out of our asses anyway, so why not? Can we do any worse than what we are doing now? Trump is your case in point!

            1. easy Italian chicks too numerous to exclude from potential political ranks

          2. This is a party that wants to be taken seriously?

            I remain unconvinced.

            1. Seriously but not literally.

          3. The current President is a reality TV star who got famous by bragging about how rich he was.

            The bar isn’t high.

            1. Yet the LP still falls woefully short

          4. He’s still better than Howard Stern.

          5. Have you seen Nancy Pelosi?

  15. Meanwhile, in other news news…

  16. The “Libertarian wing” of the Libertarian Party?
    What the fuck is that?

    1. It’s the wing that takes every damn thing so literally that they can’t grasp the way people actually use language.
      Here’s a hint: it’s the part that doesn’t include Bill Weld or Bob Barr.

      1. Words have meanings. Anarchy means something already.

        Libertarianism means something already.

        1. And yet, there are many anarchists who are members of the LP (for practical purposes, which is sort of hilarious by itself really). Hence, if you wanted to describe the part of the LP which is specifically committed to philosophical libertarianism rather than being in the party for other related reasons, you would most naturally describe them as “the libertarian wing of the Libertarian Party.”

          1. Or the Anarchical wing of the LP.

  17. Ideology aside, continuing to serve as the shuffleboard facility for the GOP’s retirement home is just bad _branding_.

    Yeah, there may be some name recognition and existing fundraising bases there, but ultimately it’s just a sugar high. Long-term success requires the Libertarian Party to quit trying to be Lemon Coke to the GOP’s Coke Classic, or Crystal to the Democrats’ Pepsi, and forge its own clearly separate identity. Every election cycle that’s put off is an election cycle in which the LP isn’t even bothering to get started.

  18. I’m gonna run for VP. All the perks, none of the responsibility.

  19. James Weeks, Jr turned us into a laughing stock at a hugely mismanaged Libertarian National Convention. Silly hats and clown personas won’t help. Being infiltrated, undermined, and divided by Socialists, Anarchists, and liberals makes us feeble and flaccid. Bringing in non-libertarian candidates like Bill Weld to increase or circle of influence is ridiculous.

    Taxation is not theft. I, as a Minarchist, am totally against taxation without accurate representation and transparency, but Voluntaryism doesn’t get much done for long. Too many people are only out for Number One.

    Too many libertarians are fiercely independent and don’t get involved. We need to find candidates who will engage them.

    1. One major flaw with those currently on the Libertarian side is that natural aversion to political office.

      Supporting a Tiny and limited government position means someone has to serve and if Libertarians dont someone else will.

      The 5th columnists just realized that Democrats wont legalize drugs so they need to join a party that will. Turns out Libertarianism does influence elections and policy.

      1. “One major flaw with those currently on the Libertarian side is that natural aversion to political office.”

        Those who desire authority/power are unworthy of it.

        Proposal for selecting the next LP nominee.

        Each local LP will take all the names of their dues paying members and toss them in a hat. Draw one name at random. That name gets passed up to the state level.

        The state takes the names received from all the locals and puts them in a hat. One name is drawn and passed up to the national party.

        At the National Libertarian Party convention the 50 names from the 50 states will be tossed in a hat and two names will be drawn.

        The first name drawn is the LP Presidential nominee and the second name is the VP nominee.

        The people whose names are drawn are running for President/VP on the Libertarian ticket whether they want to or not.


        1. +1

    2. Too many people are only out for Number One.

      Some are out for Number Two.

  20. Wayne Allen Root has proposed war with Mexico because of the 9 Mormons killed a few days ago.

    He was the LP VP candidate in 2008.

    Not a word about ending Prohibition.

  21. Hornberger is my fave minarchist

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