The 2016 U.S Presidential Election featured two of the most hated major-party candidates in history. On one side was a reality star and businessman who had a history of changing his political positions and making inflammatory remarks; on the other, a career politician with a reputation of corruption. Optimism was high throughout the Libertarian Party; many thought this would be the year that Libertarians would finally be included in the debates and maybe even win a state or two. There were dreams of scenarios in which Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson would reach the White House in a situation where neither Trump nor Hillary reached 270 electoral votes.
As we all know, this didn’t happen. Instead, the two major parties dominated the political landscape once again. Even with Americans clamoring for an alternative, many reluctantly voted for the “lesser of two evils” instead of throwing their support behind Johnson and his running mate, Bill Weld.
There were many reasons for this, some of which were out of our control, such as general reluctance to vote for a third party candidate, the Republican/Democrat stranglehold on the debates and media coverage, and the fact that the Libertarian Party was simply outmatched in terms of money. But even many of those who voted for Johnson did so not because they believed in the principles he espoused, but because they couldn’t stand to vote for Trump or Clinton.
I have nothing against Gary Johnson; in fact, I think he seems like a good man. A Gary Johnson presidency would likely have been vastly better than what we’ll encounter once Trump takes office or what we would have seen with a Hillary victory. But would anyone really say that the Johnson campaign inspired a revolution, as many said about Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns? Support for Johnson could usually be described as more lukewarm than hot, a far cry from the intensity of support many had for Dr. Paul. Johnson’s run was somewhat similar to Rand Paul’s failed attempt at the Republican nomination, in which many supporters of his father lost interest due to Rand’s often wishy-washy brand of libertarianism.
Johnson and Weld watered down the message of libertarianism. Rarely was there talk of self-ownership, the non-aggression principle, or other fundamental tenets of anti-statism. These ideas were replaced by the slogan of “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” While this philosophy is still better than that of the average politician, it does not describe what libertarians truly believe. Libertarians were represented by the Johnson/Weld campaign as being “moderates.” This implies that rather than being a distinct ideology, we are simply the aggregate of the two parties we despise. This is not an inspiring message, but rather one of compromise. Compromise does not inspire radical change; instead, it furthers reinforces the notion that the ideologies of the two major parties are acceptable. The Presidential candidate of a party that requires signing an oath against the initiation of force should not be describing Hillary Clinton as a “wonderful public servant,” as Johnson did in a CNN town hall.
In 2020, members of the Libertarian Party, as well as non-party members who believe in liberty, need to learn from the mistakes of 2016. Instead of watering down our message in order to achieve mainstream acceptance, we must nominate someone who can create as many new libertarians as Ron Paul once did. We need someone who can teach libertarianism to a new audience and motivate supporters. We need someone who understands that inspiring a lasting movement based on sound philosophy is more important than the results of a single election.
That person, I believe, is Adam Kokesh. Adam has spent years expressing the message of freedom, whether it be through his radio show, his television show, his YouTube videos, or his years of activism, and he has had success winning converts.
Adam has announced plans to run for President (or as he likes to say, not-President) in 2020 on the platform of an orderly dissolution of the United States Federal Government. This means that his campaign could appeal not just to anarcho-capitalists, but also to non-anarchists who recognize that the Federal Government is out of control.
We must take advantage of the fact that an unpredictable authoritarian has been elected President; now is the perfect time to introduce the idea that the Federal Government is not needed into public discourse. Rumblings about secession movements have already started soon after the news of Trump’s victory. Never in recent history has there been a better opportunity to teach the public about the evils of the state and have them be receptive.
Opponents of nominating Kokesh may bring up the fact that he’s never held political office, but this is entirely irrelevant due to his platform. He is not running to rule us, but instead to abolish the institution that does. The concept of experience only applies if he were looking to spend a term in office, not in a situation where he wants to eliminate the office itself.
In the end, this run is not about him. It is about freeing us from the chains of government. He will be effective as a messenger, but his experience, personal life, or anything else about his life history does not affect his ability to end the Federal Government once elected. In fact, it is entirely possible that he could run successfully without even obtaining an electoral victory. A critical mass of secession movements, whether they be by individuals or states, could render the Federal Government obsolete.
Some anarchists are against voting on principle and see it as an act of aggression. In most cases, I do not blame them. But this campaign is different. Those who vote for Adam will not be voting to impose a ruler on others, but instead to free themselves and their fellow human beings. It will be the near-equivalent of voting for “none of the above” and actually having it be counted.
Barring some sort of catastrophe, I do not anticipate Adam Kokesh winning the Presidential election in 2020. But this campaign and the movement associated with it is about much more than just 2020. This is about stimulating a paradigm shift, not an improved electoral showing. The next election will not occur in a vacuum; the message of freedom can be carried on by Adam or others in the future.
I fully intend on voting for Adam in 2020 and believe so much is riding on this that I have volunteered to help with his campaign. I hope that others will see the necessity behind it and do the same. Together, we can defeat statism and bring about real freedom within our lifetimes.