KANSAS CITY, MO –
(4 min 48 sec)
About a hundred Midwesterners are milling around in the ballroom of the Intrigue Park Place hotel off Riverfront Drive. Some are delegates to next month's Libertarian national convention in Denver. Others are candidates for office. Still others are just here to support the only party they believe represents their views.
Sean O'Toole, from Kansas City, summed up the Libertarian philosophy.
"The government that governs best is the government that governs least. And the Libertarian party is all about governing less, while the two major parties are now all about governing more. One either wants to be in my bedroom or my boardroom," Toole said.
Dr. Cisse Spragins is the founder of Rockwell Labs. Her career motivated her to be a Libertarian.
"I'm a small business owner and I'm swimming in regulation and I'm swimming in taxation, and the government really is my biggest enemy," Spragins said.
Teddy Fleck, a candidate for Lt. Governor of Missouri, said he's a Libertarian because he appreciates less governing.
"Freedom. Freedom is another word for it. Less taxes, smaller government, freedom," Fleck said.
Patricia Tweedle is active in the party in Taney County.
"Privacy issues are big for me - watching our individual liberties being taken away, knowing that our constitution is on life support," Tweedle said.
Economic issues are the major source of Libertarian discontent - taxation, regulation and eminent domain among the concerns - with equal contempt for left and right. Every one interviewed opposes both gun control and laws that regulate abortion. And like the rank and file attendee, the five presidential candidates who spoke at the Heartland Libertarian Conference agreed on all the basics, but cited different issues as their number one priority.
Candidate Wayne Allyn Root, television personality and gaming and handicapping guru, says the number one issue is government intrusiveness.
"I want nothing from government and I ask nothing from government except to protect me from others who would like to hurt me. I don't want government to protect me from myself. And I think America is ready for a candidate who is kind-of a common guy who wants to help small businessmen and parents who are home-schoolers and parents who want to see education reform, and most of all, just Americans who want government and taxes off their backs," Root said.
Root and all the candidates at the forum would disband the IRS and end federal individual and corporate income taxes, replacing them with a system of sales and use taxes, including on medical and legal services. They would leave education and social programs to state and local governments. Some candidates cite a different top priority, including Mike Gravel, former Democratic U.S. Senator from Alaska.
"First is ending the war in Iraq," Gravel said. "The simple question is: Do Americans really want to be the self-appointed policemen of the world?' I think not. And the Libertarians are a lot closer to what Americans believe in than are the Democrats and Republicans, who are parties of war, parties of the military-industrial complex."
Though a Libertarian approach is not soon likely to see the light of day at the presidential or Congressional level, Patrick Wilbur, Libertarian candidate for the Kansas Senate in the third district, says the party does have a chance at state and local levels, particularly in areas like Lawrence, which has many young, issues-conscious voters. "The Republicans have basically, I think, lost a lot of their core small-government support over the last few years. And a lot of that support is coming over to us," Wilbur said.
Libertarians are so convinced that a vote for a Republican or Democrat is a vote for the status-quo that many of their speakers lump them together as "Democrat-Republicans." I asked Wilbur about the "spoiler effect," where a third-party candidate only gets enough votes to keep the major party candidate with the most similar views from winning.
"When you vote for the lesser of two evils, you're still voting for evil, and I'm not going to be a party to that," Wilbur said.
Wilbur says the major parties have lost so much support that the second-largest party in Kansas is "unaffiliated." And in that fact, he says, there is hope if the Libertarians can let enough people know what they stand for.
"When I go into a voting booth, if I see Republican, Democrat and Libertarian, I know the Libertarian candidate stands for smaller government and for increasing civil liberties for all people. And you can see that in the debate today: there's common ground there. Republicans and Democrats don't stand for anything anymore. Except for increasing the power of government, I'm not sure what values they even stand for," Wilbur said.
So the Libertarians continue their pursuit of offices from school boards and city commissions on up, scratching out grassroots campaign funding and relying heavily on the Internet for outreach. And they will nominate a presidential candidate -- next month in Denver.
Hear the debate between the six Libertarian presidential candidates who appeared in Kansas City.