Whether the Republican Party controls the Senate during the first two years of the Biden administration depends on what happens in the Georgia Senate runoffs in January.
One of those runoffs, between Republican incumbent David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, is happening because Libertarian Party (L.P.) candidate Shane Hazel, formerly of the Marine Corps and currently the host of the Radical podcast, got over 114,000 votes or 2.3 percent. The gap between leader Perdue and second-place Ossoff was about 90,000 votes, and Hazel kept either of them from getting over 50 percent, hence the runoff. (The other Georgia Senate seat will also be decided in a runoff, making the state pivotal for determining which party gets control of the Senate, and with it, whether we have divided government.)
What would Hazel say to angry Republicans who accuse him of ruining not only this election but also possibly the chance for GOP control of the Senate? "Give me your tears. They are delicious," he said in a phone interview yesterday. "I come from special ops in the Marine Corps and I am thick-skinned. I don't really care what most people think of me as long as I'm standing on principle, that on my death bed I can look my kids in the eye and say, 'I gave it everything.'"
"I can take the slings and arrows. It doesn't bother me." When it comes to Libertarians fighting against the two major parties, "I hope people understand that creating a runoff should be the primary mission until the party is much stronger."
If an outcome more consistently resistant to big government were desired, Perdue should have been the one to drop out, Hazel argues, pointing to Perdue's low 20 out of 100 ranking for this year on the New American Freedom Index, which measures the constitutionalist bona fides of elected politicians. (Perdue's career ranking by that same measure is higher, but still only 47.)
Hazel, in his first L.P. run (he made a swing in the primaries for a U.S. House seat in 2018, running as a Republican, and got 28 percent against incumbent Rob Woodall), earned a bit fewer than twice the number of votes earned by L.P. presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen in Georgia. Hazel, it seems, was pulling more than just disgruntled voters who didn't want to support either major party, who might have been likely to vote Libertarian for other spots on the ticket.
He might have stood out, Hazel says, because "I didn't pander, and I think that is a big thing we as Libertarians need to understand. We have principle on our side, we have a great understanding of economics, of peace…and when we articulate those things" firmly and with no compromise "outside our echo chamber, we can do amazing things."
Hazel thinks he's a particularly convincing presenter of the message as well. "I hate to say it, but I think being one of those guys who has been in the service," makes it so he can deliver his message "with a resonance, an ability to command a crowd."
"Having a presence where you don't have to read off notecards and can speak straight from the heart with authenticity−those are things the Libertarian Party really needs going forward."
That message delivery had to be nearly all via his podcast, since personal appearances rarely happened due to COVID-19. Hazel wasn't really able to campaign, except via podcast and social media, and indeed told people not to donate to his campaign once lockdowns set in and he realized he couldn't do much traditional campaigning.
He told them he'd prefer they "send money to neighbors that need it, [and to] local businesses—they are the ones being hurt most." He pulled in $5,200, he says, but hardly spent anything. He just encouraged his fans of the podcast or his social media presence to just "share the heck out of anything we put out."
His message, when he could get it out, made the liberty-destroying injustice of the lockdowns supported by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, front and center. "Ending wars was my cornerstone" when he started running, he says, but he "switched gears" after seeing true domestic tyranny in lockdown orders, and even organized an armed protest "where we went out and assembled against the executive orders from Kemp" which Hazel saw as "the government revoking our rights." Being anti-lockdown, Hazel thinks, "should have been a much larger message for Libertarians in 2020. You don't get to lock down our right to travel, to do business, to operate commerce, to gather."
Beyond the special issue of the lockdowns, Hazel notes Libertarians should be able to outflank Democrats with a consistent and radical criminal justice reform message, and the Republicans with a stronger vision of free markets and restrained, peaceful foreign policy.
He got almost no local earned media, outside one virtual debate he was invited to, which Hazel attributes to the fairness of the Atlanta Press Club, which hosted it. Hazel thinks that debate appearance did some good with people who saw it, watching his opponents "arguing like children in the debates, and then see [him], a calm, reasonable person who could cite the Constitution and talk policy." Hazel thinks that once a voter did get wind of him through social media, a sense of outrage over how his campaign was generally "blackballed" by normal media might have made them more inclined to help him spread his message.
Hazel considered himself part of the Mises Caucus wing of the L.P., which roughly considers itself the most hardcore libertarian, especially resistant to what it sees as leftist identity politics heresies.
Though Jorgensen wasn't his first choice for the party's nomination, Hazel doesn't much like factionalism and thinks Libertarians "need to stop tearing each other apart. Everyone 'liberties' in different ways." He learned to appreciate zany L.P. presidential hopeful Vermin Supreme, Hazel says, by really talking to him and getting "past the schtick to the real personality. He comes to liberty from the progressive side. I come from a neocon background, and everyone's pushing liberty in their own way and we should let them do it."
He'd like Perdue and Ossoff to come on the podcast of the man who ensured neither had an easy victory, so they can talk policy in depth. He says an endorsement is not inherently out of the question, but that a long discussion would have to happen first. He sees so little difference between them in terms of moving government toward restraint in foreign policy and spending that those politicians would have to "persuade me, show me, tell me I'm wrong" in thinking that neither major-party candidate deserves a Libertarian's support.