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Libertarian Party gaining momentum

Libertarian Party gaining momentum

It’s a great time to be a Libertarian, according to Brian Irving, the party’s North Carolina chairman.

The Libertarian Party of North Carolina has 25 county affiliates, including an active branch in Haywood County and another one getting started in Macon County.

The Libertarian Party hasn’t had the best luck in past elections of turning enthusiasm into registered voters, but Irving said this election cycle might be different. As more people become disillusioned with establishment candidates — polls show Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with historic negative numbers — more people have been seeking out other options. 

Irving admits that it’s sometimes frustrating when Libertarian candidates don’t get the same media attention others are afforded. But the growing interest in Libertarians this year has given him a renewed sense of enthusiasm. 

“This is very encouraging to me personally because I’ve been involved with the party since the late ‘90s, and every once in a while you get burned out,” Irving said. “As the establishment party primaries started heating up and candidates started throwing mud at each other, that’s really when I started noticing an increase in interest.”

In fact, Irving said the Libertarian Party was the fastest-growing party in North Carolina. Since 2010, the combined total of registered Democrats and Republicans has declined 1 percent per year. At the same time, the total number of unaffiliated voters has increased 4 percent per year, with the number of registered Libertarians up 25 percent. 

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Windy McKinney, a founding member of the Haywood County Libertarian Party, said it’s only a matter of time before the Libertarian Party gets the same recognition as the established parties — though this year’s presidential candidates did push the Libertarian causes forward.

“I definitely think the party would have gotten more interest this year anyway because we’ve been growing every year, but the unpopularity of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is doing us so many favors,” McKinney said. “Also, it’s hard to imagine two candidates can represent all of Americans.” 

Irving said so many people say they don’t like Trump or Clinton, but will vote for one of them anyway so they don’t “waste their vote.” 

“They say they’re voting for the lesser of two evils, but that’s exactly what they’re going to get — the only wasted vote is a vote against your conscience,” Irving said. “People vote their fears and not their hopes — we have to fight that. We have an alternative and if Gary Johnson is allowed in a debate that will be clear. He’d be the only reasonable person in the room.”

Besides fighting to get their presidential candidate in a debate, the Libertarian Party of North Carolina is working toward getting its candidates elected to the General Assembly. The party has 13 candidates running for state representative or senator. 

“If we can get just a few candidates elected to the General Assembly, it will shake up the establishment parties and give them a run for their money,” Irving said. 

 

Western chapters

Organizing more county affiliates is another goal the party will focus more on after the election is over. While new county affiliates have popped up to the east and in the middle of the state, Irving said it’s been hard for Libertarians to the west to gather enough people and support to be able to officially start a local chapter.  

The Libertarian Party has 250,000 registered voters nationwide. Haywood’s local affiliate has 191 registered members, which is quite a feat in and of itself. McKinney said Libertarians in general don’t like to sign up for any group or give out any personal information. 

“I’m working really hard to get them organized in Macon County, but it can be difficult to identify Libertarians because they don’t really want to be on a mailing list or give up personal details about their lives,” she said. 

McKinney ran as the first Libertarian-endorsed candidate for Haywood County commissioner in 2014. She lost the commissioner election but is still active in the local party and state party. She grew up as a Libertarian just like her father, but really didn’t get involved in politics until college. 

“There was nothing going on in Haywood so I took it upon myself to get it started,” she said. “The Edward Snowden stories had just started coming out so I put an announcement in the newspaper for a discussion meeting saying, ‘Snowden — traitor or hero?’ and people came to the meeting to talk about it, so that’s really how it got started.”

Even though the group has grown over four years, McKinney said the party’s meetings are still very much focused on discussing important issues and hearing from many different sides. She said Libertarians, Democrats, Republicans, unaffiliated voters and even anarchists attend the monthly meetings. While everyone is welcome to attend, McKinney said only registered Libertarians and unaffiliated voters are allowed to vote at the local meetings.

The Libertarian Party has a stance on a broad base of issues, but McKinney said the Haywood chapter has mostly been focused on issues that tend to get a lot of traction with local residents — Second Amendment rights and property rights. She said the goal for next year is to have discussions about other important Libertarian platforms — marriage equality and other civil rights issues. 

“We are not Republican-like and we’ve been working hard to get away from that image — civil rights issues are at the core of the Libertarian platform,” McKinney said. 

 

Libertarian platforms

So what do Libertarians believe? Here is a list of key platforms from the party. For a complete list, visit www.lpnc.org.

Self Defense — the party acknowledges every individual’s inalienable right to choose to own and carry firearms or other means of self-defense, without government licensing, registration, monitoring or interference of any kind.

Death Penalty — The party opposes execution of prisoners. State-sanctioned revenge never serves the cause of justice.

War on Drugs — The party calls for the end to the policy of drug prohibition and calls for the legalization of all recreational drugs and the pardon of individuals convicted solely on nonviolent drug charges.

Marriage — The party calls for the immediate repeal of all laws that encourage or discourage any consensual sexual or family relationships and calls for the state to leave marriage and domestic relationships to religious institutions or private contracts.

Immigration — The party welcomes immigrants and migrants. People who are not U.S. citizens should enjoy equal treatment under the law, regardless of their immigration status. 

Taxation — The party recognizes that all people have the basic right to keep the fruits of their labor and enterprise. Taxation is by its very nature a coercive and destructive act against the people. The costs of government should be paid by voluntary means only.

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