Reprinted by permission of the Miller Politics, Ben Miller
Miller Politics exclusive interview with former 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate George Phillies:
MP: “Many traditional libertarians were unhappy with Bob Barr winning the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party. Do you feel Barr is libertarian enough and are you supporting his candidacy?”
Phillies: “As State Chair, I am extremely busy getting our U.S. Senate candidate, Bob Underwood, on the ballot for this fall. The same nominating papers also put onto the ballot a full slate of electors. Petitioning for Libertarians in Massachusetts is momentarily challenging. People do not know about our Presidential candidate, and that does not help petitioning or recruitment. I am also busy with Liberty for America, my State and Federal PACs, my new Libertarian magazine, and with efforts to engender local activism in Massachusetts. Historically, Presidential campaigns have largely run themselves–there are a bunch of campaign finance issues here–and I expect Barr/Root will do the same.
“I confess I would be happier if my contact to Barr/Root, asking how to reach their volunteer coordinator, had not more or less indicated that they do not have one. After all, the main value of a Libertarian Presidential campaign is strengthening the party, volunteer mobilization is the larger part of party strengthening, and no volunteer mobilization means that the major value of the Presidential campaign is missing.
“Now, Massachusetts has the technical difficulty that our Secretary of State has changed his mind about whether or not we have substitution. Last Fall, the Secretary of State said we could replace our candidate when the candidate’s name was determined. We chose President and VP
candidates, and started petitioning. At the moment we are petitioning for Phillies/Bennett rather than Barr/Root, because by starting early we collected lots of signatures. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State now says we cannot substitute. It is likely that this matter will be litigated. I advised the National Party they could keep petitioning and hope the lawsuit won in time, or they could start over. They chose to hope rather than to start over. If we prevail, Barr/Root is on the Ballot. If not, Phillies/Bennett is on the ballot.
“I view the outcome of our last national convention as a train wreck in process. Large parts of the party are disenthused about a Presidential candidate who was (probably correctly) afraid to debate his Libertarian opponents more than once. The Barr-Root deal (Barr has committed to
support Root’s 2008 nominating campaign) possibly will not sit well with the party’s radical wing. Running two ex-Republicans rather than, say, an ex-Republican and a conspiracy theorist did not anchor the party together.
“There are at least four or five fault lines causing our party to drift apart. We have a group of social conservatives, right-leaning Libertarians, conservatives who want to wreck the GOP… who line up with Barr-Root. We have an anarchist/radical/purist wing, attached to Mary Ruwart and Steve Kubby, who are very unhappy about things. We have the people who believe all the conspiracy theories from 9/11 to the Federal Reserve being privately owned to gold fringies on the flag means that the court must follow Admiralty Law. These people border with the Ron Paul people, the larger part of whom are not libertarians. Finally we have a party centrist wing, which did quite poorly at the National Convention, but seems to have more support elsewhere.
“I have done a moderate amount of travel since the national convention, and I am encountering very little Bob Barr support among Libertarians.”
MP: “You have launched a new website, LibertyForAmerica.com. On the site it says: ‘Liberty for America is not currently a political party.’ Down the road do you plan to start a new party?”
Phillies: “The statement as meant to be read literally, namely Liberty for America is not as I type this answer functioning as a political party. I could have omitted the ‘currently’, but then if anything happens and LfA becomes a party people could have raised ‘inconsistent’ lines. Happens? For example, LNC, Inc., the corporation behind the National Committee, has in the past decade repeatedly flirted with serious fiscal insolvency. If it had instead become insolvent, at some point a new organization with new leadership might have made more sense to many people. Historically, in Massachusetts we had a Libertarian State Party that did not do that the things activists expected, leading to formation of a parallel organization ‘Liberty for Massachusetts’ which started doing partylike things. LfM eventually absorbed the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts.”
MP: “Do you have any plans for running for office in the future?”
Phillies: “I might, though I very much doubt for 2012, run for a Presidential nomination again. That’s assuming that by 2012 or 2016 we have a functioning Libertarian Party, which is up in the air.
“As seems to be forgotten, in 2006 the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire decided to choose its own Presidential candidate, so that they would have time to do the needed petitioning. Why? They had the serious complication that New Hampshire does not allow substitution of
Presidential candidates, so they had to make their own choice who to run, and start petitioning early, or wait until after the National Convention, and probably fail to do petitioning successfully for lack of time.
“They invited everyone who was running to compete. I was chosen as the nominee. They did the petitioning. I filed the Declaration of Intent and paid the deposit. Barring unexpected events, I will be on the ballot in New Hampshire this November as a Libertarian candidate.
“Barr has also filed his Declaration. There will now be an attempt to petition for Barr/Root. The LPNH people question whether Barr will succeed. If he does, we have two Libertarian Presidential candidates on the New Hampshire Ballot, giving New Hampshirites unprecedented amounts of choice. If not, and this is the far more important outcome for the LPNH, no matter what happens they will have a Presidential candidate on the ballot this fall.
“The LPNH and the Libertarian National Committee discussed this matter last year, so the situation has been on the record for every Libertarian all this time. The LNC chose to take no action last year. None of my opponents for our Presidential nomination cared about the matter enough to make an issue of it. Mind you, when you jump into a campaign with a month or two to go, you lack time to get your ducks all in a row, but I was also running against fine Libertarians like Steve Kubby and Wayne Root, and they also said nothing.”