May 26, 2016

Guns, pot and choosing a presidential candidate: A preview of the Libertarian Party convention

Andy Lyman

While Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders trade insults and barbs in an attempt to gain momentum and supporters, a group of nearly  20 candidates will converge on Orlando, Florida this weekend to sell themselves in an attempt to appear on all 50 state ballots. They are the Libertarian Party candidates.

This year’s Libertarian National convention, where the party will nominate their candidate for president, seems to have more riding on it.

With Trump as the presumable Republican nominee and Clinton as the Democratic frontrunner, the Libertarian Party is ready to present the United States with a viable, third-party option.

See Also: How Gary Johnson went from ‘Governor No’ to third party icon

The Libertarian Party candidates currently in the spotlight are anti-virus software mogul John McAfee, entrepreneur Austin Petersen and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.

Reason TV Editor Nick Gillespie told NM Political Report that Americans are, now more than ever, anticipating more options for commander in chief.

“We’re reaching that point where people are like, ‘God, it’s like there are 10 varieties of Astro Glide sexual lubricant and there are 40 or 50 types of Pop-Tarts on the shelf, and you’re telling me we’re stuck with Hillary and the Donald,’” Gillespie said.

Hyperbole aside, Gillespie and other politicos are taking note of the polls that show Johnson polling in double digits when pitted against Trump and Clinton.

“Here is a legitimate, grown-up, alternative to Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein,” Gillespie said.

Still, while Johnson has received a fair share of media attention, the party nomination is far from guaranteed. The nomination process this weekend will consist of Libertarian delegates literally giving their token of approval to their choice for president.

According to the Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark, the party’s token system is pretty straightforward. Each delegate, selected by their respective state party, gives their only token to the nominee of their choice. Any candidate who receives 30 or more tokens is then eligible for the vote during the convention.

If a candidate receives at least ten percent of the tokens, they become eligible for the on-stage debate that takes place at the convention. To win the nomination of the national party, a candidate must receive a straight majority vote.

Complicating things, the unbound delegates have the choice to vote “none of the above.” If no one receives at least 51 percent of the vote, a portion of candidates are dropped and the process begins again.

Sarwark told NM Political Report there is “a little bit of a tier process” but also called it “super open.”

“If you can convince delegates to give you their token, then you can get in the debate,” Sarwark said.


Drinks and parties may be a part of Democratic and Republican national conventions, but according to both Gillespie and Sarwark Libertarian national conventions unapologetically enjoy themselves.

Gillespie told NM Political Report that Libertarians—“both capital L and small l”—truly embrace the idea they only live once.

“They have taken [Michel] Foucault’s and Philippe Petit’s advice to heart, which is to live their lives as a work of art,” Gillespie  said. “They really care about everything in their lives, whether it’s their politics, their culture or their job.”

Gillespie said not many Libertarians believe in an afterlife so they enjoy their time on Earth while it lasts, adding that they are also extremely serious about personal liberties.

“They are pleasure-seeking animals with also an incredible sense of rights and responsibilities,” Gillespie said.

By definition, the Libertarian Party advocates for and believes in limited government. Some libertarians, Sarwark said, may not completely acknowledge laws already on the books.

“Some of the laws that are in place are not laws that necessarily all or any libertarians respect,” Sarwark said.

That may raise the question on whether things will get out of hand this weekend in Orlando.

Sarwak said in his many years attending Libertarian events, he’s never seen a situation where law enforcement felt the need to become involved. He said it’s more likely that hotel staff may have a problem with “people either being noisy or smoking pot.”

Calling libertarians “self-regulated,” Sarwak said he’s not concerned about things getting out of control and there is little need for extra security.

“We’ve got a sergeant at arms,” Sarwak said. “Florida is a concealed carry state, we have plenty of security, just nobody in uniform.”

Editor’s Note: NM Political Report will be covering the Libertarian Party convention from beginning to end, because of the presence of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Johnson has a chance to be the first Libertarian Party back-to-back nominee and a chance to be the head of just the second head-of-the-ticket of a political party that will appear on most state ballots. Johnson’s 2012 Libertarian Party campaign was the first.