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Bill Weld: ‘I’m Going To Stay L.P.’

Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee is still bullish on the party (and NY gubernatorial candidate Larry Sharpe), has no regrets or apologies about 2016, and hasn’t ruled out another run for office

Bill Weld on Election Night, 2016. ||| Matt WelchMatt WelchWilliam Weld, the blue-blooded former two-term governor of Massachusetts, was controversial among Libertarians a good decade before becoming the most high-profile and numerically successful vice presidential nominee in the party's 45-year history. (The reticence is a long story; start here.)

Then came a highly contentious, razor-thin victory on the second ballot of the Libertarian Party National Convention; a deluge of national media attention, a hard stumble out of the gate on CNN where he referred to Hillary Clinton as an "old friend" and "nice kid" (which he later walked back), speculation (hotly denied) from Weld's friend Carl Bernstein that he was thinking about dropping out to support Clinton, a report from Weld's hometown newspaper (also denied) that the L.P. VP candidate "plans to focus exclusively on blasting Donald Trump over the next five weeks," a special message to non-third-party voters that they should vote against the "unhinged" Trump, and then—most controversially of all, by far—an appearance on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show show, one week before Election Day, in which he said "I'm here vouching for Mrs. Clinton."

By that time, Libertarians and libertarians alike were fed up enough that the party chapter in Weld's neighboring state of Rhode Island chose to cancel a campaign event rather than deal with the fallout. To the end, and even beyond, Weld was not just a lightning rod, but a hotly disputed symbol: If you thought that the L.P. finally punched above its weight, he was proof that the party was now attracting impressive Normals. If you thought 2016 was a historic face-plant given the opportunity, he was the avatar for principles-free, ex-Republican centrism.

On Saturday night, Weld gave his first major political speech since the election, at a Students for Liberty (SFL) regional conference in New York. A week before, he had generated a headline or two by giving the Boston Globe a playful "Who knows?" when asked about whether he'd run again in 2020. "The most I've said is I'm still a ­Libertarian, and as the years roll by I'll probably want to be involved in the discussion leading up to 2020, and supportive of the Libertarian Party," he told the paper.

The L.P. right now is in a curious place vis-à-vis high-profile candidates: It is the third party in America, yet just about every major 2016-election figure not named Weld has stepped away from third-party politics. The 2012/2016 nominee has checked out (headline from David Weigel's interview last week: "Gary Johnson is back, and he's never running for office again"). Nomination runner-up Austin Petersen is running for U.S. Senate in Missouri as a #MAGA-curious Republican (and is a distant second so far in fundraising); third-place finisher John McAfee these days is mostly talking publicly about crypto-currencies.

Arguably the party's biggest national figure—who has been working the state-L.P.-convention circuit in a way that Weld decidedly has not, hyping a bottom-up, seven-year plan for the party's success—is 2016 V.P. runner-up Larry Sharpe, currently running for governor of New York. "He's a real good candidate," Weld tells me. "I told him I'm going to do whatever I can for him in New York." In 2018, anyway!

I caught up with Bill Weld just before his SFL speech Saturday, to talk about whether he was still as bullish on both the L.P.'s future and his role within the party as he was a year ago, and how he feels about various 2016-related controversies. The following is an edited and shortened transcript of our conversation:

Bill Weld and Gary Johnson at the 2016 Libertarian Party National convention ||| Matt WelchMatt WelchReason: So, the last time I saw you—correct me if I'm wrong—was about 45 minutes after we knew Donald Trump was going to win on election night…the world was sort of in shock at the moment. We'd had some idea that you guys had won around three percent, I don't know how much we knew the numbers, but we knew it wasn't going to be five. And you were walking to the elevators and I stuck that phone in front of your face, and you were—surprisingly, to me—very buoyant. You were like, "Great night, I fully expect," the quote was, "the Libertarian Party to be the biggest party in the country within 8 to 12 years." Perfectly set up. And you were not disappointed at all, at least that's how you expressed it at the time. So I guess the first question is—

Weld: I thought I didn't know that Trump was going to win until I got upstairs with Leslie. Did we know that downstairs? […]

[Note: Weld's memory was more right than mine; Trump had won Florida, and was looking solid, but the national race had not yet been called.]

Reason: Broader point was that you were upbeat in the moment, like you felt like that the results, the campaign, had gone well; the L.P. was well-suited, and you were, to take advantage of where American politics were going, and that you intended to be part of it in the next 8 to 12 years.

Weld: That's how it's panning out.

Reason: In what way is it panning out?

Weld: Well, I'll talk about it tonight, but I see the Libertarian Party as being perfectly positioned to fill what's a growing need in the country, which is either a third party or a different party. There are crevices in support for the duopoly;…more and more time has gone by where the two parties in Washington are simply trying to kill each other. And they have one thing in common: They want to perpetuate their duopoly, and that's not efficient. Monopolies are not efficient, they have no incentive to be. And duopolies are not really efficient, either.

It's the guild mentality of the Middle Ages: Let's exclude everyone who isn't already inside the clubhouse. It's an ugly picture, and I plan to make a certain amount of noise to try and persuade people that that's the case.

Reason: Now, you guys ran very much as a kind of, there's a six-lane highway in the center of the road kinda thing.

Weld: Yeah.

Reason: And you had, I think, a very plausible kind of executive-competence claim as well, that I thought would in fact do better than it did, or be more persuasive than it was. But looking at that concept that yes, people are tired of the duopoly and the bickering and all that—there's different clusters of different humans who are out there responding to that. Bill Kristol has a very similar response as you, but Bill Kristol is nobody's libertarian. Is the place to be then the center of the road? Or is looking at it ideologically, is that in itself kind of the wrong response to what has been more of a kind of populist cultural moment?

Weld: Well, one place to be is on the ballot in all 50 states.

Reason: There's that.

Weld: That's where the Libertarian Party will be. And people who want to start these third parties from scratch—I take my hat off to them, but it's simply a lot more trouble than going with one of the three parties. And there are three, not two, who are going to be on the ballot in all 50 states.

The Libertarian Party is more congenial to me, dogmatically, ideologically, than either of the other two parties, because the Democratic Party is not fiscally responsible and the Republican Party is not socially tolerant. So I'm one for two in each of the other two parties.

I hear a lot more conversation now than I did two years ago about, hey, maybe it would be a good idea if there was something a little different, a little bit different [kind of] party. And as you recall, I spent a lot of last year predicting that the Republican Party was going to split in half like the Whigs in the 1850s. And it didn't quite happen then, but you could argue that it's kind of happened with the Republican Party this year, in that you have the party of the president and those who follow him, and then you have many people who are Republicans who differ with the president, either on program or on style, for want of a better word.

Reason: One such person would be a Jeff Flake figure. Do you think the future of a Jeff Flake character, whether it's that person himself or the person who is like him, is in the Libertarian Party going forward?

Weld: I would hope so, I would hope so. I intend to have conversations with people: Really now, why not? Why not? Is being against the legalization of marijuana so important for you that you don't want to be in the Libertarian Party, given that A-B-C-D-E? Or tell me the one issue.

Reason: Not to go too far down that rabbit hole, but you used to be a prosecutor, you used to not be on the perfect Libertarian ground on the legalization of marijuana, and [then] you're running with a pothead, and I say that with affection, as you know.

Weld: I'm running with a cannabis executive.

Reason: Thank you. How did running as a Libertarian change your views on that issue in particular, if at all, and on any other issues?

Weld: Well, that one was a special issue because it was so important to Gary. It was the signature issue of his candidacy, so I wasn't about to pick a scab on that issue. I did support the ballot issue in Massachusetts last year to legalize marijuana, and my friends in the D.A.'s offices were not pleased with that, but I think it was the right thing to do. My argument is, get it out of the shadows. I just hope they don't put the tax too high or they're going to drive it right back in the shadows.

Dartboard material for the Ohio L.P. ||| JohnKasich.comJohnKasich.comReason: Sounds like you're kind of all-in here. If [Ohio Gov.] John Kasich and [Colorado Gov. John] Hickenlooper start some Third Way party tomorrow, are they going to compete for Bill Weld's affection with the Libertarian Party. or are you L.P. through and through?

Weld: Oh no, I'm going to stay L.P.

I've supported Governor Kasich for president either two or three times. I supported him back in 2000, the first time he ran, early on, and raised money for him. And did a lot with him in the mid-'90s when he was chair of the House Budget Committee. And I happened to be in his office on a work matter when Sheryl Stolberg from The New York Times was interviewing him about possibly running last time, and gave her a long interview about why he'd be great and how he could do it. So I was very interested in that Kasich-Hickenlooper hitch-up or matchup. I don't know that they're still doing it, but in 2008 I supported and was quite active in an organization called Unity 2008, whose premise was we needed a president of one party and a vice president of the other party. And I think that just systemically would make a difference.

Reason: Now, you're familiar enough with libertarians to know that they hate—especially in the party—they hate John Kasich with the fire of a thousand suns.

Weld: Oh, I know. And there's some Ohio politics in that, too.

Reason: Yeah, right. In fact, I was asking someone before, What's the one question you want me to ask Bill Weld? And he said, "Did he call Kasich about ballot access in Ohio?" So: Did you?

Weld: I called someone in Ohio. I'm not sure I reached Kasich, but I made a call. […]

Reason: Kasich also is kind of a classic Mitch Daniels-style fiscal conservative from the early '90s and early aughts, but his foreign policy is very promiscuously interventionist. He was talking about—

Weld: Yeah, I've really come off that. If I had to talk about an issue where the campaign changed my thinking, it probably would be interventionism. I do consider myself an internationalist, but that's different from being an interventionist. I don't like it when I see the body bags coming back. An air strike is maybe something a little different, to project U.S. military power, and Libertarians do believe in a very strong defense, so rattling the saber from time to time is not a bad thing. But U.S. land wars, it'll be a cold day in July before I could think of a U.S. land war that was worth starting. […]

And Afghanistan leaves me totally cold. We can't ever leave? Tell that to the British Empire and the Russian Soviet Union: It bled them both to death, and they both got out. […]

Bill Weld vouching for Hillary Clinton one week before running against her. ||| MSNBCMSNBCReason: As you know, the last week in particular of the campaign, a lot of Libertarians were upset with your appearance on Rachel Maddow's show and some other things. Do you have any regrets about—

Weld: No, no. I chose the word "vouch" on purpose. I thought it was a soft word, but apparently many people interpreted it as an endorsement. […]

So, the previous month or two, everyone in the United States had been dumping all over Hillary Clinton in criminal terms—she's a felon, lock her up—and that's not the person I know. And I don't share her politics. […]

But I did not intend that as an endorsement. I intended it to—I think what I said is, I wish there was someone besides members of the Democratic National Committee who would vouch for Mrs. Clinton, even if only to say she's not so bad. That's what I was saying. […]

She was not impressed. ||| Fox Business NetworkFox Business NetworkReason: But the L.P. activists have a point when they say, "Look, it's a week before the election, and this is your competitor, and you're on Rachel Maddow of all places, that not only has a large audience but has a large audience of younger people who are probably going to lean more left than not, and you're telling them"—

Weld: Well, I did get the question the last week of the campaign, "Are you saying that people should vote for Mrs. Clinton?"—not from Rachel Maddow, but from a number of other people. And I said, "Hell no, vote for Johnson. I want us to get over five percent."

Reason: I'm sure you've run into this as well—I still don't have a good answer for it—but when people look back at your campaign, the words that you'll hear are, "it was a historical success" and "it was a historic failure." You will oftentimes hear that in the same sentence.

[You] tripled the size of the previous record for votes; it's pretty amazing to see that happen. You had candidates that were taken seriously by the media in a way that used to never happen. There's a lot of metrics—[ballot access in] all 50 states, beat the Green Party in every state, super successful. But! The two most reviled major party candidates in history, by a lot; polls right before Election Day were saying 4.8 percent, you get 3.4 [actually 3.3], and it feels like this was a squandered opportunity. So how do you look at it in terms of results, expectations and all that?

Weld: Well, you know, we had $15 million to spend, and they had billions. If we'd had $100 million I think we could have shown enough strength early on so we would have been in the debates. And if we'd been in the debates—you know, Gary was at 13 percent just a week or two before the Commission on Presidential Debates was going to make their decision and they had nailed their own fists to the planks saying that whoever was at 15 was going to get into the debates. And around that time, I believe, one of the major parties dumped a lot of negative advertising on us, and we went down to 5.

Reason: Yeah, that was the September when Tom Steyer and all of that was happening.

Weld: Unanswered negative advertising takes a toll. So, I think that's partly a money thing.

Reason: Do you have any kind of regrets? Do you look at any moments and think "Ah, we screwed that up," or "I screwed that up" or "Gary screwed that up"?

Weld: Not really. Gary and I served together as governors and really got along very well, and I was a self-identified libertarian even before I met Gary Johnson. But I remember we weren't particularly ideological at Republican governors meetings, we just had a good time, so there was never any friction. And we did all our [campaign] rallies together. We could have given each other's speeches by the end, and sometimes did.

Reason: Have you been in touch? Or is he still off skiing the Continental Divide?

Weld: No, no, I talked to Gary last week. He's in a very good frame of mind. [...]

Reason: Briefly on the money thing: That was part of the attractiveness of Bill Weld, is not only that you have a resume, but you know how to talk to rich people. What did you learn rattling the tin cup for a third party as opposed to the Republican Party?

Weld: A lot of people just said "No way." And some people, particularly in New York, said yes who were not members of the Libertarian Party, but they were exactly in the same place as I was politically, and they said "OK, we'll give you a shake, here's a hundred grand or here's two-fifty. Your voice deserves to be heard." But that's a far cry from what the other parties were getting, even in their campaign committees, let alone their 501(c)(4)s and their Super PACs.

Reason: There's a lot of different kinds of heated debate in the party right now about how to go forward and take advantage of the moment and keep the momentum. Do you have a working theory of how the L.P. continues to grow going forward, or a thing it should do that it hasn't been doing? What's your sense?

Weld: Well, you want to get out more candidates like Larry Sharpe in New York. He's a real good candidate. He came very close to winning the VP nomination at the convention. I think if the motion to adjourn had been successful—I told Larry that today—he would have been the V.P. nominee. And that wouldn't have been so bad; he was strong then. And I told him I'm going to do whatever I can for him in New York. My friend Dan Fishman from Massachusetts is going to be a very strong candidate for auditor, and he's off to the races. And I will try to help within the limits of my time, given my law practice and business interests, to help the party raise money. Headlining events and making calls.

Reason: Do you have any interest in being a candidate again for anything?

Weld: That's too far off. I like the way things are right now.

Reason on Bill Weld here.

Photo Credit: YouTube

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  • Libertarian||

    I'm just like Weld. I didn't leave the Libertarian party, the Libertarian party left me. Wait, I guess that's the exact opposite. Never mind.

  • ThomasD||

    The distaste for Weld only magnifies the irony. It's not like he's the first hard core statist to seek cover in the LP, only the first of his ilk.

  • Benjamin J. Thompson||

    That's a good point. Bob Barr was a stupid choice too. I think the feelings are more intense this time because 2016 felt like a real opportunity. Nominating two squishy Republicans who've never heard of Rothbard pissed that opportunity away.

  • creech||

    Who would you have nominated to avoid "pissing that opportunity away?" And what, exactly, was the "missed opportunity?" More votes? More publicity for real libertarian ideas?

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Yes, mentioning Rothbard would've brought in the votes.

  • Eric Bana||

    The solution has been staring us in the face all along.

  • Mitsima||

    Should mention Hayek instead ... she looks great in a bikini.

  • BJT||

    Nobody asked him to mention Rothbard, but familiarity with the ideas underpinning what was supposed to be his platform would have helped. What could possibly be more bland and uninteresting than, "fiscally conservative, socially liberal?" Dissembling about how DC sorta kinda maybe spends too much puts everyone to sleep. These creeps are spending your grandkids' futures and they aren't even sorry!

    Ron Paul would mention Lysander Spooner and talk about the Fed, completely off-topic stuff for 2007 but it got people to pay attention, and now the Fed features in financial coverage. It didn't before Ron.

    Lesson from the Trump campaign: you can make whatever topic you want the topic du jour if you piss off enough people by bringing it up.

    Voters had an appetite to hear some kind of crystal clear message defended no matter what slings and arrows were thrown at the messenger. LP has been waiting in the wings for 40 years to be that messenger, but instead they nominated a guy on a perpetual pot brownie high, and let a Reform Party chameleon bluster his way to victory, opposed only by the most corrupt person in DC.

  • Robert||

    Where've you been? Financial reporters have watched the Fed like hawks for decades, because big investors have long been very interested in what's happening to $.

  • 1234||

    "and now the Fed features in financial coverage. It didn't before Ron."

    lol, ok sure.

  • Glen 69||

    So wrong. Rothbard left the party to embrace a more singular ideology, one which was more like an post-apostolic version of atlas shrugged. Instead Johnson tried to return the party to a balanced view that it once had.
    Bringing Rothbard up would have opened the door that the liberal media prayed for, a clear idealism they could target as being elitist and even farther to the right than trump. Even now when you post anything in social media progressives tie Libertarians to the mentality of Ayn Rand and Rothbard.

  • Tyler R||

    This mentality really bothers me. Do you want the Libertarian Party to be an actual political party, or do you want it to be an ideological club? I would much prefer it be an actual political party, which will mean appealing to centrists, too.

    Look... I'm a libertarian all the way through. I understand the distaste for warming up to big government policies. But I'd so much rather be a real party than be an ideologically consistent 100% of the time and only appeal to 5% of the population. The constitution that we all love set up a system where we elect people through a democratic process, and the truth we all need to accept is that the majority of the population does not have the disdain for government that we do.

  • Just Say'n||

    Sure, but then shouldn't they change their tag line ("The Party of Principle")? And then what really makes them different from the Republican Party other than they would support big government in social questions ("bake the cake, bigot").

    It seems like if Weld is the future of the LP than the party deserves to die and fast

  • Tyler R||

    I think the tagline is fine. It's an advertising slogan.

    What makes them different than the republican party? Are you serious? Foreign policy, federal government spending, criminal justice reform... not exactly small issues.

    I used to have the same general opinion as you, until I became involved with the bitcoin community... basically a group of like minded people, who it turns out can't actually agree on much of anything. It sort of changed my philosophy because I now accept how impossible it is to get a large group of people to agree on anything, even if they're generally like-minded. Any political party is going to have a huge amount of disagreement, it's unavoidable. But even a watered-down, compromising version of the Libertarian party would be so much better than the two options we have right now that it's not even remotely close. That's my take, anyway.

  • Just Say'n||

    Republican states like Texas have lead the way on criminal justice reform and there is now a strong non-interventionist strain within the Republican Party and Johnson/Weld were no less non-interventionist than your average Republican. The LP is more non-interventionist, but not Johnson/Weld.

    A watered down Libertarian Party is just Rockefeller Republicans, which is basically how Johnson/Weld ran. That sounds absolutely terrible.

  • Tyler R||

    Texas has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. And you are telling me you really believe the republican party is moving towards a non-interventionalist platform? I realize there's a Rand Paul strain within the party, but they're no where close to having the numbers to control policy.

  • Just Say'n||

    You may not be familiar with the criminal justice reforms instituted in Texas, but they are being used as a national template.

    Regardless, with Weld at the helm no one can say the Libertarian Party is for 'small government' anymore.

    I'm not a party loyalist. I'm not going to vote for people who I don't agree with. I wish the new Reform Party all the best, but I'm sure they'll share the same fate as the old Reform Party. Which is good

  • Tyler R||

    "I'm not going to vote for people I don't agree with"

    To what extend do you have to agree with a politician to vote for them? You have to completely agree on every issue? This is the crux of the debate right now.. can we pull new people into the party without alienating the current support. I say yes, I think there will be a lot of complaining and people threatening to leave the party, but at the end of the current support will stay because most libertarians cannot actually vote for a R or D, and won't sit out voting. But am I wrong?

  • Tyler R||

    Johnson/Weld ran on the idea that Department of Defense spending cut be cut 20%. Johnson literally said that. You think they're no less non-interventionalist than your average Republican?

  • Just Say'n||

    Johnson also endorsed the idea of troops in Niger in 2012 and endorsed the notion of humanitarian wars. In 2016, Johnson said little about foreign policy other than his Aleppo moment (which the media exaggerated) and that the US needs to work with Russia to end the conflict in Syria.

    Johnson is too ignorant of foreign policy to have a position, whereas we know that Weld is the complete opposite of a non-interventionist. This myth that they were the non-interventionist alternative is bogus. They were as non-interventionist as Bob Barr.

  • Just Say'n||

    Jill Stein was the only major non-interventionist candidate in 2016. The rest were variations of interventionism.

  • Tyler R||

    I understand that. My argument would be that when it comes to foreign policy, degree matters. If we reduced our military role by say, 20%, that would still mean a flawed interventionist strategy. But it would still be an improvement over our current policy of no reductions, ever, and two parties that are fighting it out to see who can increase military spending more.

  • Eek Barba Durkle||

    Johnson/Weld were no less non-interventionist than your average Republican


    Hahahahahah Libertarians say A LOT of stupid and uninformed things about that ticket, but this is top-shelf derp.

  • Just Say'n||

    Perhaps you should read Gary Johnson's interviews with the Weekly Standard and the Daily Caller where he endorsed the notion of humanitarian war, endorsed a military base in Afghanistan, and troop deployments to Niger.

    And have you ever even heard of Bill Weld? In what possible way is he even remotely a non-interventionist?

  • Eric Bana||

    A watered down Libertarian Party is just Rockefeller Republicans, which is basically how Johnson/Weld ran.

    This is completely wrong. Rockefeller Republicans would not have campaigned on cutting 20% in federal spending as Johnson/Weld did. You can criticize a lot of things about their campaign, but calling them Rockefeller Republicans is inane.

  • BYODB||


    A watered down Libertarian Party is just Rockefeller Republicans, which is basically how Johnson/Weld ran. That sounds absolutely terrible.

    That...is not far off base if you ask me.

  • Qsl||

    The principle is always navigating government in a more libertarian direction. As Munger puts it, the distinction is destinationist vs. directionalist, and unless the destinationalist have a plan to achieve their aims, it is essentially unicorns farts, full of sound and fury, and accomplishing nothing.

    There is probably a healthy debate to be had as to whether Weld is the type compromise the LP should make, but short of getting the rest of the world to march lockstep with uh, right libertarian ideals (I always like how the ancaps always think they are the true libertarians), you're going to have to deal with socialists, democrats, republicans, the religious right, etc.

    Not to mention most libertarians have their pet peeves and fail the purity tests, so the fascination with holier-than-thou is a joke.

    The role of the party faithful should be to keep the party from descending into outright debauchery and keeping eyes on the prize.

  • Glen 69||

    What party? Before Gary Johnson ran in 2008 the Libertarian party was taken less seriously than the greens. Until Gary and Bill ran in 2016 the public exposure was that people still thought Perot was a Libertarian.
    Right now the party is growing by leaps and bounds and it it isn't because of anything that existed before 2008. People still think it is the party of Ayn Rand and other idealists that had nowhere else to go.
    Ron Paul was a great man, for a republican. He knew that the Libertarians were not a party so he didn't run as one. He knew it was just a lose gathering of ideologists of varying degree of fanaticism.
    The party is and can still be a "Party of Principals" without being a party of blind idealists. That is the problem with the other two parties, Ideology over reality.
    (P.S. I am an old Bill Buckley Libertarian rather than a Rothbard follower)

  • Brother Kyfho||

    Bill Buckley was Skull & Bones and National Review is a Deep State operation designed to infect the Liberty movement with the disease of foreign intervention because we have to stop Communism (statism)!!!!!! Buckley admitted that he was in favor of creating a giant bureaucracy if it was to "fight Communism".

    Buckley was no libertarian. He was a Deep Statist through and through.

  • ||

    It's tough because to be a political party you have to compromise. Is it possible to say, maintain the NAP while being a political party?

    Libertarians are by far the most reasoned, informed and principled group but it if they want to make that leap to real power it comes with all sorts of ugly strings attached.

  • Tyler R||

    Yes, exactly. Being a real party will not be painless, at all. But, in my opinion, it will be worth it if we can have a real party who is generally advocating for a new foreign policy. Or a party that actually wants to reduce federal spending, even if only by a small amount. But can other Libertarians make their peace with it? That's the real question here.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Any party that thinks it can balance the budget by effectively just cutting defense spending instead of the welfare state (20% vs. less than 1%) isn't serious about cutting spending. Even that 20% cut in defense was a joke. Johnson seriously thinks that cutting 20% of bases cuts the budget by 20%. And libertarians pride themselves on being the smart ones...

  • Tyler R||

    Huh? The DOD budget is about $700 B per year. Veterans Affairs is about $200 B. Between the two of them defense spending accounts for more than 20% of the federal budget.

    As for the "welfare state", it all depends what you're counting. Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid are obviously huge, (almost half of federal spending) but if you're talking about Section 8 housing, food stamps, and that kind of thing they're not all that significant - less than 5% of federal spending. I have no idea what your 20% vs. less than 1% thing is about.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    "Do you want the Libertarian Party to be an actual political party, or do you want it to be an ideological club?"

    You mean the part where the LP candidate endorses Hillary "Stalin" Clinton?

  • Tyler R||

    That bothered me too, for sure. But the struggle Libertarians face, as a party, is we have a voting base that is fiercely independent and cares deeply about policy. We don't have cheerleaders like the R's and D's do. That could actually turn into a liability, because if a Libertarian ever gets elected to a high profile position, we're all going to find things we don't like about how they vote or what they say. That's inevitable. Right now we're sort of equivalent to the backup quarterback on a football team that sucks.

  • JFree||

    the struggle Libertarians face, as a party, is we have a voting base that is fiercely independent and cares deeply about policy.

    Yes and no. I've actually knocked on doors in my nearby precincts - in a city where L registration has increased a lot. Mostly among 25-34 year olds (that age group is now just under half of all registered L's here). And the thing that has struck me is that they are sick of policy and sick of ideologues - and they really don't want to 'talk politics'. Yes they are aware enough of its importance to a)register and b)register as an L rather than 'unaffiliated' and c)'oppositional' enough to not register as D (R is irrelevant and now dropping fast). So they likely aren't future non-voters. But there's a huge gulf in mindset between that age group and the older long-time LP 'party activist' - and between that group and the typical suburban LP activist that is the donor base of the party.

    The issue as I see it is - LP needs to move WAY beyond teaching/preaching at this point. That strategy is now nothin but the older suburban LP crowd trying to maintain its party incumbency/power.

  • Tyler R||

    Very interesting. Never thought of it in those terms, but I can see how there would be a lot of truth to that. As a young libertarian, I do think I think very differently than the old school libertarians.

  • ThomasD||

    Frankly your mentality bothers me equally as much.

    Libertarianism (small l or large L) should not remotely be defined as tolerating big government so long as it is permissive big government.

  • Qsl||

    Fine. Monarchies all the way around.

  • Tyler R||

    It's inevitable, man. There's just not support for the limited government that most of us would see as ideal. But there IS support for steering the government into a more libertarian direction, in some ways, especially at the federal level. We have support for cutting federal spending. We have support for ending a lot of the cronyism. We have support for a change in foreign policy and major changes in our justice system. You really think it's worth squandering all that for an unrealistic vision?

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Cutting federal spending. That's hilarious. You have support from some of the population for cutting defense spending (until it results in a base closure or plant closure in their town...) but that dame group demands that that money be spent on welfare instead. They're called democrats and they already have someone they can vote for who has a good chance of getting elected.

  • ThomasD||

    "It's inevitable, man."

    If so then why all the fuss about trying to turn the LP into a viable party rather than standing on principle? To what end? Having a 'libertarian' stamp of approval on each and every velveted iron fist?

    Pass.

  • Tyler R||

    What's inevitable is having a government that is larger than most libertarians would prefer. It's entirely possible to move things in right direction from where we're at now, and if R's and D's refuse to incorporate some of our ideas into their platform, we very well could get elected on a watered down libertarian platform.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    You're right. The real way to win is to adopt a platform in the here and now that can get traction. then use the incrementalist approach the progressives have used to destroy our country. Except instead of destroying the country, we will save it.

    Essentially incremental reverse progtardation.

  • JFree||

    The only way the LP can become a real political party is to focus on local organization. Everything national means playing the two-party game with the media/bigmoney/messaging/topdowners. There can never be room for three parties at that level - and the same is true in almost every country.

    Where there is a freaking huge opportunity is locally - because in this country local politics is almost everywhere a long-term monopoly not a duopoly or even competitive. But that also means a different kind of politics - retail in neighborhoods not wholesale with messaging. And it means local empowerment re local issues - not ideological adherence to 'issues' that national topdowner groups deem 'local. And that bottom-up orientation will inevitably create intra-party arguments

  • Qsl||

    Even that is iffy, as local politics are notoriously corrupt (at least where I'm at), and short of certain key positions, libertarians are unlikely to affect much change. Not to mention libertarians are even more fragmented going against established parties than they are nationally.

    It might be things like the FSP are the best means to consolidate libertarianism into something more viable. A test case if you will that a libertarian state is capable.

  • Tyler R||

    I'm a huge fan of the FSP, in theory, but why in the world did they pick New Hampshire? That doesn't make any sense, at all. From the 2016 exit polls we learned that there are more "city" and "suburban" libertarians than rural. But the Free State Project is based on the idea people were going to move to an extremely rural state, with little diversity, in the very corner of the country? It was doomed to fail from the start.

    How about Indiana? We have a major city, suburban areas, and rural areas, so pretty much anyone could find an area that is conducive to their lifestyle. Plus we have over 5% LP support in every election. AND we boarder Illinois, the poster-child for big government gone wrong.

    Seriously... libertarians, move to Indiana. We could have a huge say in state/local politics.

  • JFree||

    local politics are notoriously corrupt (at least where I'm at)

    But that's exactly the foundation for an opposition party to gain traction. My city has had a D mayor for 60+ years, the entire city council leans D (technically the job is non-partisan - but you can tell). The R's here are pure country-clubbers - love cronyism, exclusivist to their bones, and their sole function in R politics is to finance races in other places not to do anything locally. If you can't find ways to undermine those two, then you're not trying very hard.

    L's are the only party here that could really tap unaffiliated voters (who just passed D's as the plurality). But that means NOT just parroting 'national' LP issues that have been deemed to be 'local'. Parrots don't get elected to anything.

  • Qsl||

    Fair enough. That's how Johnson eventually broke the bro system of New Mexico.

    Oh wait.

  • Brother Kyfho||

    Local politics is hard work.Really hard work. Many, many hours of canvassing. How many Libertarians gonna do that?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I did a lot of that in Michigan, until I finally concluded in the late 90's that the system had been sufficiently rigged that it was a waste of time.

    Didn't help seeing the Harry Browne campaign close up. That really soured me on the LP.

    But Gary? Even ruined the LP as a protest vote.

  • BJT||

    Rothbard was right on strategy and I think he gets ignored because the LP is brimming with people who are terrified of success or doing anything difficult.

    Sure, accept politically achievable compromises, but we don't make progress toward the ideal unless we demand the ideal as our opening offer. The left has been doing that for ages. If LP candidates stood up and defended capitalism as morally superior, defended private civil society as morally preferable solution to social problems vs the state, including churches, private clubs, families, etc. If LP candidates doubled down on that when attacked instead, if they didn't try to smuggle libertarianism in underneath the cover of a progressive ethos, I think they'd actually get noticed instead of being panned as the RC Cola of political parties.

  • Brother Kyfho||

    I love you, man.

  • All Seeing Eye||

    You can't sell out your core principles and elect an authoritarian so you can be a "real party". At that point the LP is no different from the other two - making claims of liberty while betraying them in grandiose fashion at the exact same time. That will lose you all of the true libertarians and the term libertarian will completely lose its meaning. LP will end up being even less relevant and will lose its essence of being

  • Brother Kyfho||

    I love you, too, man.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The LP is on the verge of making to the majors. It's in exactly the same inner turmoil as the Big Two.

  • tlapp||

    Shouldn't we call him a LINO?

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    I don't care how he leaves, just get him out of here.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    You mean he leave town riding on his horse, or slung over the back of it?

  • Azathoth!!||

    The party is LINO.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Well, liNO, anyway.

  • Radioactive||

    I prefer dipshit...

  • Rebel Scum||

    Bill Weld: 'I'm going to stay L.P.'

    He has some shilling for Hilldawg's 2020 campaign to do.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    He was already promised that cabinet position.

  • Al Bendova||

    The LP should throw the gun-grabbing, socialist, Hillary supporter out on his ass.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    "William Weld, the blue-blooded former two-term governor of Massachusetts"

    Translation?

  • Radioactive||

    another shining example of one of our most important exports...absolutely fucking useless former govenors...in case anyone is interested we also carry a fine line of hack congress shits in both senator & representative styles

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    You breed the best sexual predators too.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    I think Hollywood has that one covered.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    "Bill Weld: I'm going to stay L.P."

    *YAAAWWWWNNNN*

  • Tom Bombadil||

    L.P. : Literally Pathetic

  • Tom Bombadil||

    There's a lot going on in the world, but I'm glad Welch took the time to keep us abreast of what Opie's up to.

  • ThomasD||

    There indeed is a lot going on lately. None of which Reason wants to comment on, lest they risk getting ahead of the narrative and having to backtrack later.

  • Cy||

    Trump is technically a Republican....

  • ThomasD||

    You don't pay much attention to the LP, do you?

  • ||

    "Not to mention his support for Hillary"

    Even Canadian libertarians never recovered from that!

  • Radioactive||

    loves me some long playing albums...not so much the EP though...

  • Longtobefree||

    Still a little confused on how candidates get to 'run' as a member of a party without the party actually agreeing to it.
    Should the LP maybe look at the republican party that let Trump run, and NOT let whats-his-name run as LP?

  • rudehost||

    I look forward to his endorsement of Elizabeth Warren in 2020.

  • Radioactive||

    I'd love to be Sara Palin's butt plug...is there a sign up sheet?

  • Cy||

    Why do any Libertarians even talk to this guy? Why is he getting any Libertarian attention?

  • Tom Bombadil||

    I guess because Libertarians ain't libertarians.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Great--now the LP needs to start working on getting Sanders and Warren!

  • ThomasD||

    Sanders and Warren wouldn't join, too many competitors already in the LP.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Yeah, Jeb Bush needs room to get his LP on too.

  • ThomasD||

    Now your just piling on.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Aha. You got me.

  • Jerryskids||

    Weld's a believer in a libertarian government - the government should be free to do as it pleases as long as it extends the courtesy of that privilege to all other governments.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Sure, why not. I hope he runs for and wins the nom.

  • Just Say'n||

    I for one look forward to Bob Barr's campaign. Wait- who are we talking about again?

  • gbear||

    I miss Harry Browne more than ever.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    The guy looked like a child molester and delivered a message like a television evangelist. His views were certainly more consistent with libertarianism, but he was about as persuasive as a fart. You guys remember his Rosemary's Baby commercial?

  • SparktheRevolt||

    I would have loved to see a follow-up to this claim--

    Weld: I'm running with a cannabis executive.

    Reason: Thank you. How did running as a Libertarian change your views on that issue in particular, if at all, and on any other issues?

    Weld: Well, that one was a special issue because it was so important to Gary. It was the signature issue of his candidacy, so I wasn't about to pick a scab on that issue.

    Perhaps my memory is failing me but I don't remember GJ pushing legalization in any meaningful way or hammering it home in every stump speech. It was more or less a squishy "Fiscally conservative, Socially tolerant nee liberal" speech. I think if Gary ran as a one issue candidate like mass legalization, he might've hit 6 or 7 percent nationally. Then again, as the Mcluhan saying goes, 'the medium is the message'. Gary certainly was an imperfect medium for any message, yet was the best option to have that message heard. A Catch-22 that will need to be solved before 2020.

  • Just Say'n||

    Oh boy, Weld is going to stay in the Libertarian Party and a Dave Weigel article!

    None of this stuff about less government means anything anymore, right?

  • ThomasD||

    Libertarianism is being reformulated to mean kinder gentler statism.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    and a Dave Weigel article!

    Seriously, you're not embarrassed by this?

  • Just Say'n||

    Should I have said "David"? What did I do?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    You can't spell poLIte without the LI from LIbertarian.

  • Benjamin J. Thompson||

    If the LP can't nominate someone who will give the libertarian message *at least* at a Harry Browne level, they shouldn't nominate anyone at all.

    We (the LP, I am a member of the Mises Caucus) should be holding up an ideal. That ideal is that state coercion is an unnecessary evil. We should be holding up the Misesian/Rothbardian/Hoppean view of political economy because it is better in every way than the current common wisdom.

    Bill Weld

    Don't bother with Bill Weld. He doesn't have a clue about any of this stuff. He won't serve that ideal. He's basically Mitt Romney. He's the sort of person the DNC will nominate when they finally recover from communism.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    You will get exactly 5 voters with that message. You're talking over everyone's heads. The american people are simply not ready for the nanny state to go away. At least not while everybody is fat and happy. The state needs to be altered in a way that is less damaging than it presently is, but to peddle libertarianism to the masses in its purest form is a complete waste of money and energy. What's more, trying to do it from within the system is a hilariously bad idea.

  • Benjamin J. Thompson||

    The far left seems to get a lot of mileage out of an arcane Marxist ideal that makes no damn sense (rich people exploit you by employing you voluntarily! there is no social or moral cost to loads of free stuff extorted out of the taxpayers!).

    Why should it be so hard to articulate ours in a way that sells? Obviously you boil it down to concrete policy goals. The communist-adjacent statists on the ballot don't wax poetic about Gramsci or Stalin, they demand concrete things like nationalized health care or the abolition of homeschools.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Because the left is also notoriously willing to compromise their principles for political gain. For example, they still give the patriotism crowd what they want (as we're hearing this week, they're among the most ardent "let's celebrate our veterans for keeping us free!" group). They still grease the wealthy to an astounding amount despite being "against the rich". They've decided to prioritize the fights they're willing to fight, and they do a pretty good job of selling it to the American people. Having charismatic politicians like Obama helps.

    Libertarians have none of that. They're unwilling to listen to the american people's grievances, they don't have charismatic spokespeople, and they haven't clarified their positions well enough -- so you have insane articles that link the alt-right and libertarianism. The perfect example is the complete an utter failure of libertarians to clearly elucidate their stance on health care and how poor people will retain access in the absence of government intervention.

  • JFree||

    Why should it be so hard to articulate ours in a way that sells?

    Then DO that.

    Make your 2 minute elevator pitch for Libertarian politics. Starting here:

    Boil it down to 25 seconds and/or 200 characters for the media talking point. Starting here:

  • Just Say'n||

    Quick question:

    Which is worse: Bill Weld or anal cancer?

    And yes, there is a difference between the two.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Anal Bill Weld cancer has got to be the worst.

    Not only do you have a tumor you cannot get rid of but it advocates for you to get anal Hillary Clinton cancer too.

  • Radioactive||

    LP is still in single digits...IIRC, any actually in office? asking for a friend...

  • Longtobefree||

    Just the one, your friend.

  • Radioactive||

    truth be told, he's not really my friend. I just say that to keep hi from crying all the time.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Yes. We got same digits as the 9% spoiler vote commie populists in 1892 used as a springboard for getting Congress to enact a federal income tax by 1894. One digit is the same as the Prohibition Party 1.4% vote average for the 11 campaigns leading up to the 16th Amendment. For 14 years beer, wine and sauerkraut felony narcotics until the economy completely collapsed. Our 0.01% of the electoral vote in 1971 is arguably less than a single digit, but it pressured the Republican Suprema Corte into enforcing the individual rights of women and their physicians. We got no electoral vote this time, but libertarian votes spanned the gap between the looter parties in 11 states casting 90 electoral votes. Casting spoiler votes that increase freedom is winning. Letting the looter kleptocracy destroy our freedom is losing. This is binary, either-or, simple and true.

  • ||

    Matt shoulda axed if Weld still thinks Hillary is a 'fine public servant'.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I have never heard of any Libertarian named Bill Weld.

  • Bra Ket||

    Weld did make Johnson look good (by comparison). Kind of a Dan Quayle maneuver.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    He's a one-dimensional chess jedi.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    "jedi" is being very generous. More like padawan.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Goddammit. Will you stop commenting on my jokes? The joke is the "one-dimensional'. It is a riff on the nth dimensional chess supposedly practiced by Trump. To be a one-dimensional "jedi" is to still be a retard. Therefore, the "jedi" adds to the joke. Ok? Got it?

  • I can't even||

    'I'm going to stay L.P.'

    Labour Party?

  • PaulTheBeav||

    Weld is a good Republican and a poor Libertarian. I don't think I can forgive him for endorsing Hillary.

  • Warren||

    FUCK BILL WELD TO HIS DEATH WITH A SPOON

  • GILMORE™||

    I see your spoon, i raise you, "backhoe"

  • Just Say'n||

    I can't believe some people are defending Bill Weld. Defend Gary- fine. There is good reason to defend Johnson. But, Weld? Are you kidding me?

    The same people who mock the team sport mentality of the two parties are engaging in the exact same mentality

  • Hank Phillips||

    So Billie is Welded to the LP? Well, well... It certainly looks like Nicholas Sarwark was right about God's Own Prohibitionists driving its supporters into the arms of the Libertarian Party.

  • DC_36||

    Forget Bill Weld - he's not libertarian, just willing to say things to remain politically relevant.
    Forget Gary Johnson - he was possibly the biggest disappointment in competency I've seen. He blew every interview, missed every opportunity to effectively advertise the LP agenda, was on the wrong side of many idealogical issues, and ended up being an incredibly-unelectable candidate.
    LP must get ok with compromising internally within the party, in order to grow and be effective.
    LP members need to get ok with choosing the best candidate available, that will do the most good in real life.

  • NoVaNick||

    Weld has not aged very well. Until he ran with Gary last year, I hadn't seen the guy since he was governor of Mass. 20 years ago. He has an aging alcoholic look to him and a lot of what he says suggest he might have early stage dementia. Case in point-he doesn't seem to understand what Libertarian means.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    "He has an aging alcoholic look to him"

    That's how you can tell he's from Mass.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    He's a pretty reasonable guy, even if I don't like his politics. That's more than you can say for the two major party candidates, and perhaps more than you can say for Gary Johnson who seemed more like a clown than a candidate. On the list of politicians worth bashing, Weld doesn't exactly appear at the top, although you'd never know it listening to Libertarians.

  • GILMORE™||

    So, not wet dogshit, but more like 'dried rabbit shit' then.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    More like how we sometimes give Rand Paul a pass on some of the shit he does.

  • GILMORE™||

    So now we have to give Weld a pass on *everything*?

    he was opposed to drug legalization, thinks prostitutes are 'victims' that need protecting from themselves, pro-gun-control, and is a big-spending asshole.

    He endorsed *hillary*, for fuck's sake.

    The LP isn't going to win elections by being 'major party lite'. at best it draws the major party toward libertarian policies by staking out positions that they are forced to co-opt. Idiots like him neuter the LP of even that minor utility.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Why is it so bad to accept someone admitting they made a mistake and are willing to change? NOW he's pretty clearly in favor of mj legalization (even if it was Gary who convinced him of this), ending regime change, and wants to reduce the deficit by reducing spending. I don't care what he did in the 90s if he now rejects those older stances. Unless you're suggesting it's all a ruse, it's totally irrelevant.

    I also don't think he endorsed Hillary, and I think he explained what he meant in this article. Which is exactly what I thought he meant when he came out.

    I think he does the party and the movement a service because he's one of the few libertarian spokespeople who isn't retarded.

  • Headache||

    "He's a pretty reasonable guy"

    Yeah, he doesn't drink and drive. But he does drink. A lot.

  • GILMORE™||

  • Mitsima||

    Trans-sexual, trans-racial, and now trans-political. Whatever. I've got a case of Mike's Hard Lemonade and the original BSG on DVD, screw the rest of you lunatics, I'm good.

  • BYODB||

    Weld is a piece of shit; full stop.


    And this has nothing to do with anything he did as GayJay's running mate. He has a long and storied past of being shitty.

  • Unemployed Armenian Tranny||

    Fuck you, Bill Weld.

    Seriously, do we just join parties now because we find the people of other parties distastful? Is agreeing with/practicing the partiy's platform and principles, not the major criteria anymore?

    Fuck you, Bill Weld.

    Fuck you.

  • dunce||

    You can tell he is a liberal no matter what he tries to peddle himself as because he is lying about republicans. He does not cite one example of what he is accusing an entire party of because he can't.

  • dmoney||

    Nope. Not falling for that shit again. Just go to the Democrat party and rest easy. When you throw your Libertarian ticket under the bus to basically stump for Shady Hillary, you can kick rocks.

  • Glen 69||

    I've been a Libertarian since I watched William F. Buckley as a teen with mom. I always saw it as a party that embodied freedom and an adherence to a constitutionalist mentality. That faded as the party went from being about challenging the system to a gathering of assorted philosophical and ideological separatists. It had moved into the realm of the greens where no one takes you seriously but hey your still making a statement. I mean people honestly still think the Perot was a Libertarians rather than an independent.
    People talk a lot about Ron Paul. Ron was a republican, not a Libertarian.
    Then Gary Johnson showed up and began to give the party a center. He gave a bit more credibility to the group calling themselves libertarians. That was proven by the fact he took the party to a record braking million votes (one of which was mine).
    When Gary came back on the scene in 2016 he did what no other Libertarians candidate did. He threatened the two parties enough they worked and paid millions to ruin his chances. He raised more money, and raised more awareness than all the other so called candidates ever had. People took Gary, Bill, and the Libertarians seriously for the first time in history.
    So we need to start thinking. Are we a political party or are we a collection of ideological idealists that hope to raise the awareness of the masses.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    We're mice.

  • Sevo is my bitch||

    All libertarians have to do is get ONE candidate who represents most of the libertarian ideals elected in an executive office (governor or mayor) and then actually implement and tout libertarian successes.

    Harry Browne is not coming back, and you do need a purity test up front.

    The reason libertarianism fails to make a mark is because it only spouts.

  • All Seeing Eye||

    Are you kidding? This guy is an infiltrator and a fraud. LP will never live up to its principles with this guy running anything. Goes to show you that party officials in the LP are just as corruptible as those in the Dem and Repub parties.

  • Sevo is my bitch||

    The LP is not libertarian any more than reason.com is libertarian.

    But there is a good reason to vote for the candidate who did not know what Aleppo was. They'd be less inclined to be neo-cons and have half a chance of trying to cut down spending.

    And they are the most socially liberal of the lot. That alone is a plus over the alternatives.

  • Kosanke||

    If Weld were to bind himself to the platform, he would stand a real good chance of gaining the LP nod for POTUS - particularly if he endorses the measure. Stay tuned to the 2018 National Convention. The Party loves celeb-status candidates, but is weary of the potential for a rogue politician. Libertarian activists are spending far too much time and energy to settle for just another third party, and politics as usual.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Weld literally threw his own ticket under the bus right in the middle of the campaign. The fact that the Libertarian party will have anything to do with him makes abused spouses look like pillars of self-respect by comparison.

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