Last weekend I had the privilege to attend the Libertarian National Convention in Denver both as a delegate and credentialed member of the press. This is where the Libertarian Party elects new party officers, modifies its platform and selects its nominee for president and vice president.
Before I get into the details of the convention, I feel that I must explain some of the Libertarian Party's internal politics. There are two rival factions inside the party; both factions are sincere and have the best interest of the movement at heart. There are the "radicals." This faction is made up of anarchists and purists who give off the impression that their goal is for the libertarian movement to be more of a political social club. The other faction is the "reformers," folks that believe in presenting a platform that can be understood by mainstream America and making the party a viable political party.
Reformers swept the weekend without much opposition from radicals. I will admit that I cast my vote with the reformers about 90 percent of the time. In the end, the party gets a more mainstream platform that is in line with libertarian principles. I'll spare you most of the details, but I should add that the process drove me to the point of drinking. I don't want to hear the phrases "point of information" or "division" for a long time.
Special thanks goes to Libertarian Party Communications Director Andrew Davis for keeping the media room stocked, especially on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon during the presidential nominating process; you'll figure out why in a moment.
I was fortunate enough to meet Sharon Harris, the president of the Advocates for Self-Government. Some of you may have heard of the Advocates due to "The World's Smallest Political Quiz," a libertarian outreach tool. Meeting Mrs. Harris was a highpoint for me over the weekend, as was getting the chance to meet Steve Kubby. If you haven't heard of him, Google his name and read his story.
Saturday evening was the "debate" between seven of the eight candidates for the presidential nomination (video of this can be found through Google). The frontrunners for the nomination were former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, Dr. Mary Ruwart and Las Vegas odds maker Wayne Allyn Root. Other candidates were Professor George Phillies, former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel, Mike Jingozian and Steve Kubby.
There were some veiled shots at Barr by other candidates, and there was plenty to take shots at. While in Congress, Barr voted for the U.S. PATRIOT Act, sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act and was one of the leading drug warriors in Congress.
Barr pointed out that since his exit from Congress he has spoken out against the PATRIOT Act and made every effort to see the restoration of privacy rights. One of the lines of the night had to do with what he would do to the PATRIOT Act.
"[I would] take the USA PATRIOT Act, drive a stake through its heart, shoot it, burn it, cut off its head, burn it again and scatter its ashes to the four corners of the world."
The next day during his nominating speech, Barr apologized for mistakes he made while he was in Congress - something many delegates were holding out for.
Throughout the convention he said he would continue to work to restore privacy rights and basic civil liberties that have been under attack by the Bush administration, repeal of the Barr amendment - dealing with medicinal marijuana - and seek repeal of the federal portions of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The general consensus was that Kubby and Barr were the winners of the debate. Root impressed many delegates with his energy and enthusiasm and Ruwart was somewhat of a disappointment due to playing the gender card, a move that one of my fellow delegates from Georgia called, "intellectually dishonest."
Delegates went through the presidential nominating process on Sunday. It was nothing short of a dogfight. The Libertarian Party's nominating process is different from the two major parties. We do not get a public primary, not that I am advocating for one, I like the way we do things. A candidate must win a majority of the delegates in order to the receive nomination. The vote will go as many rounds as it takes for this to happen.
Two low-tier candidates, Mike Jingozian and Christine Smith, were eliminated in the first round. Jingozian endorsed former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel, who joined the Libertarian Party after previously running as a Democrat. Smith, who was clearly looking for airtime, classlessly bashed Barr and was booed off stage.
Kubby, a medical marijuana activist from California, endorsed Mary Ruwart after being eliminated after the second round of voting. Kubby would later run for the vice presidential nomination.
Phillies, a college professor from Massachusetts, was eliminated in the third round and gave a unity speech to the body, reminding us that the enemies to liberty were Republicans and Democrats.
Gravel was eliminated in the fourth round. No one expected him to make it that far. I had the chance to meet him during the weekend. He seemed like a great guy and he was very sincere; however, he could not convince the body that he is a Libertarian.
After the fourth vote, Barr and Root left the floor together, along with advisors to discuss an endorsement. While the two were meeting the results of the fifth round of voting were announced, Ruwart had a slight lead over Barr. Until that point, Barr had either led or tied Ruwart.
Root was eliminated after the fifth round. He spoke to the body with Barr by his side and said that he was endorsing Barr for the nomination and he wanted to be part of a Barr/Root ticket. That, my friends, was game, set, match. Barr won the sixth and last round of voting and the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party.
Immediately after the presidential nomination, the body chose the nominee for vice president. Root and Kubby were added to the mix of candidates. Kubby ran in the name of party unity and balance. His supporters lobbied hard for him, and he had the support of Ruwart. But Root took the majority in the second ballot and the ticket was complete.
This column would not be complete without mentioning the fantastic job that the Georgia delegation did in lobbying for Barr on the convention floor and the outstanding leadership of state chairman Daniel Adams.
On Sunday evening, after the dust had settled, I talked with Mrs. Harris about the last year that I had spent in the political wilderness.
I told her that I felt at home during the convention. I didn't have to hide any beliefs on certain issues. It was liberating.
I am proud to be a member of the Libertarian Party. We have the strongest ticket in our history, and we are on the way to proving that we are a viable political party that appeals to Americans with a philosophy of less government, protecting civil liberties and capitalism.
Jason Pye, a Newton County resident, is a columnist for The Covington News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.