Party Politics

On June 24th, Vice Chair of the South Carolina Libertarian Travis McCurry unexpectedly resigned. As a developing party, one might expect such a resignation to obstruct growth, outreach, and the business of winning elections. An experienced observer of Libertarian behavior might even assume fractures and schisms within party ranks because of our instinct to cling to minor points of logical argumentation and our on-again-off-again love affair with philosophical purity.

When I discovered the newly minted was Executive Committee Member C. James Brandmair, I expected there to be some riveting tales of Libertarian drama.

  1. James Brandmair was the single dissenting vote on the Executive Committee in early June when the SCLP voted 8-1 on a resolution of censure and disassociation against LNC Vice Chair Arvin Vohra following Vohra’s controversial remarks on current and former military members of the armed forces of the united states.

Having taken a principled and absolute minority position against the strong resolution, I imagined the debate over Brandmair and his opponent Alex Thornton (who was unable to attend the vote because of prior work commitments) to have been intensely contested.

What happened was in fact a reasoned and fruitful debate of ideas. While unable to speak herself, Thornton, a former Libertarian candidate in Charleston, was represented by members of the Executive Committee, including the state chair, Stewart Flood.

In the end, the race was decided during the second round of voting which Brandmair won 5-4, the first ending in a 5-5 tie.

Brandmair is clear in his vision for the South Carolina Libertarian Party.

“Our focus is on recruitment. Our numbers in South Carolina have been stagnant and I’ve been building a team to correct that. We will maintain C. Michael Pickens and his Libertarian Leadership Academy for mentorship and coaching of our party leaders and candidates. The State Party is currently developing five county affiliates and organize them in enough time they can be represented at the state convention.”

Brandmair’s outreach tactics have been effective for the SCLP.  In his recruiting trips across the state, he has been able to enlist young, passionate communicators for liberty.

JP Wilson, 18, of York County has been a registered Libertarian for 10 months. As the South Carolina State Coordinator for the Libertarian Youth Caucus, Wilson’s focus is on youth outreach.

“Right now, we are organizing five campus caucuses for the South Carolina LYC. These caucuses    will hit the ground running at the opening of the school year organizing youth outreach in South Carolina for the Libertarian Party.”

When I asked him how he became involved with the state LP, he told me he came from the Democratic Party and it was James who brought him into Libertarianism.

  1. Harper Sharp, 20, has only been a Libertarian for roughly 3 months and like JP Wilson, was brought in by Brandmair himself. For him, the election of Brandmair is an indication that the youth of South Carolina will have representation in Libertarian leadership.

“I’m looking forward to November and I’m looking forward to being the change I want to see in the party. We’re focused on our goal of 35 new members, new delegates, by November.”

Another young and passionate Libertarian member, Shane Sweeny, 25, likes to contrast his experience with the Libertarian Party while in college to his experience currently.

“While I was on the University of South Carolina campus, there was no outreach by the Republicans, but we know the Democrats worked for outreach on campuses across the nation and reaching young folks. Unfortunately, the Libertarian group on campus didn’t start up until I left. But meeting people like J.P., an 18-year-old working towards liberty up here even though he’s about go to college in Florida, seeing guys like Harper and James and people in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s actively reaching out to people shows me that it’s not just a club for old-white haired people. It’s a continuous and growing movement to be a part of.”

Shane has spent much of his career as a liberty activist on his own. As with both Wilson and Sharp, it was Brandmair acting independently to bring in an ardent, principled individual.

State Chair Stewart Flood expresses confidence in his state party and looks to goals already met as evidence of their success.

“The goal we set at the November 2015 convention when I was elected chairman was to double the number of counties this term. This required involvement by all of our party members, and they have been stepping up to the plate and working to accomplish our goal.  We are now at thirteen organized county [affiliates]…and [our goal] is to have all forty six counties organized and active before the 2020 presidential elections.”

The results in South Carolina are encouraging for a growing party. Despite differences in ideology and tactics, the Libertarian Party of South Carolina has been able to unite behind a vision of outreach and an electoral strategy to paint the entire state gold.

OpinionParty Politics

As many in the liberty movement are aware, the rise of Donald Trump has resulted in an influx of alt-right ideology into libertarian circles. I discussed this extensively in my recent article, Trump Libertarians: Rise of the Anarcho-Statists, but this time I’d like to focus on one individual in particular. This individual so perfectly exemplifies the problems brought on by the recent trend of anarcho-statism: a perfect storm of fascism, general authoritarianism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism. His name is Jared Howe.

Howe, who calls himself an “austro-libertarian”, was once a run of the mill anarcho-capitalist who even supported open borders. However, a look back at his work from the past few years shows a gradual descent into the dark corners of authoritarianism, a label which he no longer rejects. He has even gone as far as to advocate for fascism as a means of bringing about a libertarian society, an idea ludicrous to anyone who understands the true nature of government.

As evidenced by the growth of the United States government over the past hundred years, once you give a government the power to do something, it is almost impossible to turn back the clock. When thinking about granting a new power to a government, one must always remember that social security was supposed to be a temporary measure. Today, it has morphed into what most in politics view as a sacred cow that cannot be taken away, even if many believe that it is completely unsustainable. The idea of giving government, a group of people that most libertarians would not trust to babysit their kids, the absolute power that accompanies fascism is frankly absurd. Those in power, especially those engaging in totalitarian rule, are not typically apt to relinquishing it. Just as we rejected George W. Bush’s idea that we must abandon free-market principles to save the free-market system, we must reject Howe’s idea that we must abandon our libertarian ideals in order to bring about libertarianism.

The existence of people like Jared Howe in the dark corners of the internet is not new, nor is it surprising. What is special about this situation, however, is his presence in mainstream libertarian circles. Howe contributes to Liberty Hangout, a popular right-leaning libertarian website. Until recently, he was the assistant multimedia director for Being Libertarian, one of the largest libertarian websites on the internet. Calls for his removal from his position became louder recently after what can only be described as his rampant anti-Semitism seemed to intensify, or at least become more public.

One does not have to look far to find an example of this; in his letter announcing his resignation (which he described as a decision that “wasn’t exactly mutual”), Howe called out his critics for using “out of context screenshots” of his social media posts in order to damage his reputation. Ironically, he showed his true colors only two paragraphs later, when he accused his detractors at Being Libertarian of silencing “right-wing perspectives” on “the Jewish question.”

This, of course, is far from the only recent instance of anti-Semitic rhetoric from Howe. His social media accounts feature frequent disparaging remarks toward people of Jewish origin, as well as the use of the “three parentheses” used by neo-Nazi groups to identify Jews.

Jared’s hatred does not extend only to Jews; he has also expressed a preference for racism in general. In a Facebook post on March 10, Howe wrote “Being a leftist is worse than being a racist.” When pressed by one of his followers who contended that there is nothing wrong with racism, Howe wrote, “Being a rapist is worse than being a husband. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to be a husband.” Howe also frequently complains of immigrants from Somalia living in his home state, writing “These people need to be deported.”

This hateful collectivism is everything the liberty movement is supposed to stand against. People are to be judged as individuals, not for the actions of others who may have the same skin color, religion, or national origin as them. As the great libertarian Ron Paul once wrote, “Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans only as members of groups and never as individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike; as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups.”

Howe and others who share his worldview would dismiss my critique of judging people collectively instead of as individuals as “virtue signaling,” although Howe himself is often guilty of virtue signaling to the right. Instead of saying that it’s wrong to judge people based on the color of their skin, Howe’s virtue signaling is based upon cultural conservatism, such as his incoherent Facebook status below:

The idea that the cultural conservative (i.e. heterosexual) version of the “monogamous, pair-bonded family” is the “first and last defense” of private property is nonsensical and only serves to throw a bone to the far-right groups he attempts to appeal to. There is no reason that a homosexual couple or two (or more) people living together as roommates would not be able to defend their private property as well as or better than a traditional heterosexual family. This is not to disparage monogamous heterosexual relationships in any way; I’m in one myself, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But to say that having a preference for traditionalism is inherently libertarian is incorrect; this would be the case even if Howe’s statement above about defense of private property was true. Having a preference for something that you believe will create a better outcome is not inherently libertarian, nor is the opposite true. There’s nothing “inherently libertarian” about supporting any type of consensual relationship between adults over another; it is simply a preference. What is libertarian is believing that consenting adults should be able to do as they please, as long as they are not aggressing upon anyone else.

I sincerely applaud those at Being Libertarian who were involved with Jared’s removal from the leadership of the site, and I believe that the rest of the liberty movement should follow suit in condemning his beliefs and actions described above. I hereby call upon Justin Moldow and the rest of the Liberty Hangout team to speak out against Jared’s more incendiary and hateful beliefs. I ask the same of anyone who cares about liberty. When I started doing the research for my original Anarcho-Statists article, it hit me that I did not want prospective libertarians and the rest of the world to think that our movement is about hate, collectivist thinking, and pandering to fascists. I feel the same way today. We are a movement of people who share a common belief in self-ownership, non-aggression, and freedom, and we must never forget that.

This article originally appeared at and appears here with permission.

NewsParty Politics

The South Carolina Libertarian Party (SCLP) executive committee recently voted 8-1 to reject NLP Vice Chair Arvin Vohra as their representative in the LNC, to censure him for his comments regarding veterans and active soldiers, called for his immediate resignation, and, in the event he does not resign, called on the LNC to remove him before their next scheduled meeting.

I spoke with three individuals within the SCLP about the issue: executive committee member and the single dissenting vote on the resolution C. James Brandmair, Greenville County Chair and Marine combat veteran Matt Wavle, and SCLP member J. Harper Sharp. All disagreed with the resolution and attempted to offer language changes to soften the tone of the resolution and remove language asking for Mr. Vohra to resign, but none were passed.

When I asked Mr. Brandmair why he was the single dissent to the resolution because he has seen Vohra do more good than harm.

“This may have just been a mistake and we all make mistakes. [Arvin] is doing what he thinks is best for the Libertarian Party, as we all do.”

Mr. Brandmair, an anarchist and member of the Radical Caucus of the Libertarian Party, believes that while Arvin’s unique method of crafting arguments for maximum controversy may cool the passions of some moderate Libertarians and minarchists, his articulation of anarchist positions serve to “educate and open the eyes of many that the mission of the military has been corrupted and that the people should take accountability for that. It’s our responsibility to turn that around by voting and speaking our minds.”

Greenville County Chair Matt Wavle traveled an hour and a half to attend the meeting in Columbia, SC where the resolution was passed. While not a member of the executive committee, Mr. Wavle spoke at the meeting against the resolution. “The desire to censure someone for speaking their mind is something that belongs in the Republican or Democratic parties, but never in the Libertarian Party,” Mr. Wavle said. “We win by presenting a better option, a better solution. What we did in that resolution was an attempt to silence a voice we disagreed with.”

Arvin Vohra during a presentation
Arvin Vohra gives a presentation promoting his book: Lies, Damned Lies, and College Admissions.

Mr. Wavle was clear that when he says “we”, he uses the term loosely.

“This decision was far from unanimous within the state party. I spoke against this resolution because people don’t have the right to be unoffended. The Libertarian Party is great because we have diverse opinions. As a 12-year combat veteran in marine corps, silencing opinions is something I can’t support. I’ll stand against it every time. How can we even communicate if everyone needs a safe space?”

J. Harper Sharp, a new Libertarian, attending the meeting as well. It was his first state meeting and attended not just because he was interested in the process, but also because C. James Brandmair is a friend and Libertarian mentor.

“The decision was to reject Arvin’s representation of South Carolina. South Carolina is not a member of any region, so the representative duty falls to the Vice Chair. Furthermore, the state decided to push national to remove [Arvin] from his national position. I don’t think that’s what we should be doing. I don’t agree.”

In response to the resolution, Arvin Vohra said, “The fact that not a single state, and not the LNC, have put out resolutions opposing military policy says enough about where they are. They believe it’s their job, and mine, to pander. They are wrong. Our job is to fight the government, including the enforcement and propaganda arms.”

When reached for comment, State Chair of the SCLP declined to expand on the cover letter attached to the resolution. Both the cover letter and resolution can be found here.

Party Politics

This is an exciting time for the Libertarian Party, coming off of its most successful presidential campaigns in the party’s history. Gary Johnson, though uninspiring and clumsy as he could be, was enough to engage a large number of people that were previously independent or uninterested. Paired with the two lackluster, scandal-ridden major party candidates, the LP was able to look reasonable, and even attractive. With more media attention than usual and an acceleration of the social media campaign opportunities, The Libertarian Party and its candidates were able to convince over four million voters that they had a chance to make history.

The LP’s success was historic, but the future may be looking even brighter. One must examine the social climate of America, and abroad, to understand the collective consciousness shift that has been taking shape to understand the full implications and opportunity presented to such a minor actor in the current political sphere. Where do Americans place their beliefs? What are their expectations in a candidate, or a party? How does a candidate address the gravitational pull of populism? How can the party appeal to the common man in meaningful ways, and generate an identity of its own? First, we must examine the events leading up to the election.

In 2014, presidential nominees were already showing interest, hinting at bids, and making campaign preparations. I have no faith in either major parties to represent the people. Thus, I was almost certain that we would see the most expensive consent ever manufactured, with a 90’s re-run of Bush vs. Clinton. Since my entrance into the liberty movement in 2007, I had conceded that the major parties have a will of their own. They serve to protect the politically and economically elite. The country, just four years prior, had equally moderate shades of status quo. I thought it would be nothing short of a money-slinging showdown of two equally terrifying candidates. Then, in 2015, the world was introduced to two wildly extreme choices, and I was proven completely wrong about the power of collective activism and a uniquely American desire for radical change.

First, Donald J. Trump, a real-estate mogul with zero experience holding public office. A flamboyant millionaire television personality with a seemingly genuine disgust for both parties. His campaign, and his nomination was nothing short of spectacular. He faced some of the most powerful and popular conservative republicans. He showed no shame in saying whatever it took to win support, often contradicting himself in the same day. His views were never in line with true conservativism, and quite often it seemed he went out of his way to embrace, and embellish, the stereotypical Republican, as seen from the left.

Second, Bernie Sanders, the independent Senator from Vermont. A self-professed socialist, targeting millennials with unrealistic promises such as outrageous minimum wage standards, tuition-free secondary education, and higher taxes on the rich. Bernie ran against, arguably, the most powerful public figure in America, Secretary Hillary Clinton. Not even the Democratic Party was ready for the following he would garner. Bernie successfully captured the bleeding hearts in the young and old, while offering solutions to those financially struggling, regardless of how unrealistic his promises were.

Two things they each had in common, was a rabidly aggressive, public disdain for the “establishment in DC,” (I’m sure we can find a reference to that in almost every speech both candidates,) and promised radical change. To me, those are the ideas that won the election. The same can be applied to Brexit. That’s what’s selling right now, radical outsiders, rebellious warriors, antiheroes of the people.

Bernie’s controversial defeat, paired with Trump’s failures and puppet-like behavior since the victory, have even further shattered the confidence of Americans that the answers they need will come from Washington, or the two major parties. They are correct, and it’s about damn time they wake up. Rule number one, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Rule number two, never trust a politician when he promises the state will care about, or for, the people.

Then we have the Libertarian Party, and Johnson/Weld. Two former republican governors, moderate republicans, moderate liberals. Self-identified as Jeffersonian Classical liberals. Their campaign, and nomination were also unprecedented. Gary Johnson narrowly won the presidential nomination after two contentions, and Bill Weld’s VP nomination was also contended, defeating Larry Sharpe in a second vote by only a few delegates. The anarchists were furious, feeling the party had traded principles for pragmatism, prompting James Weeks II to strip down to a thong, live on C-SPAN, assumingly in protest of the moderate candidate that would be representing him.

As the election race continued, Clinton struggled to garner the youth and minority vote that Bernie inspired. Gary Johnson continued to distance himself from the hardline, and traditional, Libertarian beliefs, even distancing himself with the conservative libertarians that got him elected. Meanwhile, the “Trump Train” turned the volume up to 11, promising to build a massive wall, crush Islamic terrorists (all of them), and jail Secretary Clinton if elected. Gary limped to the finish line with a disappointing, yet still record number, 4% of the vote. Clinton won only in the small pockets you would expect a Democrat to win. Trump, meanwhile, seemed to have united the country in a crushing electoral victory.

Now here we are in 2017, and it seems that the Trump revolution will be nothing more than a few tax breaks, lavish vacations, and WWIII. The Berniecrats are busy creating gender pronouns and microaggressions, and the Republican conservatives have been reduced to observers and obstructionists within their own party. We essentially have much of the people feeling politically homeless.

This is what the Libertarian Party has been waiting for. I know 2016 was sold as the best chance the LP would ever get at success, but I can’t disagree with that enough. We were woefully unprepared. I’m not talking about the infighting, and I’m not talking about the on-camera Gary-gaffes and blunders. I’m talking about, in my best Gary voice, BOOTS ON THE GROUND! State and local affiliates were either unorganized, unwilling to participate, or non-existent. There is no chance of winning without community presence and outreach. ZERO! Without the R or D stamp of approval, the only way to get a large enough number of votes is organically, through advertisement, marketing, and putting a local face on the LP brand.

The good news, it’s happening. Currently, there is a massive influx of members and support, and it’s shaping into an entirely different brand of Libertarian than we’ve ever seen before. Growth is not always peaceful, friendly, or smooth, however. The growing pains can be seen most recently as the infighting and arguing over branding and message continue to evolve. One thing that is happening regardless of the Party and its members, is libertarianism is becoming cool. The ideas of self-ownership, free markets, and individual empowerment are sweeping through college campuses. Young Americans for Liberty, in ten years, has gone from hosting speeches to be heard by dozens, to thousands. It seems the most extreme, or disenfranchised, of them have found the Libertarian Party as a vessel for activism.

The LP can position itself as a dominant force in politics, but it must shed its moderate/conservative skin. The people are clear, they want a radical, and they want that person far removed from the current business-as-usual model. They don’t need to be eased into accepting freedom. They need to be exposed to it, in an open and honest way. They need to be invited to it, by having the party and its members actively engaging individuals currently ignored. They need to have reason to vote, and pure, unadulterated liberty offers the reason for everyone. Liberty is logic. Liberty is honesty. Liberty is anti-establishment. Liberty is change. Liberty is cool, and it’s about time the Libertarian Party presents itself as an outlet for intelligent, virtuous, rebellious, and open minded individuals of all walks of life.