On October 22, of this year of our Lord 2017, I saw something that was… peculiar (A little word play there). Libertarian-minded GOP Senate hopeful, Austin Petersen, started a series of tweets deriding those in the Never Trump movement as being “warhawks” that were supportive of Hillary Clinton.
I found this… weird (for lack of a better description).
Though never professing himself as a member of the movement, to say the majority of libertarians in the US do – in fact – identify that way would not be entirely inaccurate.
Indeed; the most libertarian-minded member of our legislature, Justin Amash (R-MI) has been practically the unofficial leader of this group of like-minded individuals.
Still, I wanted to be open-minded. There is no libertarian I agree with 100% of the time. It’s one of the best parts of libertarianism: the diversity of thought.
So I tweeted back, hoping Mr. Petersen would possibly engage and explain further. He did, sort of, in a roundabout way, but we will get into that later.
I expressed how I was, in fact, a “Never Trumper” who had never supported Hillary Clinton and that Congressman Amash had never supported Hillary Clinton… no response.
I asked if I was a Trotskyite (a word he used in his tweet) for calling Trump on his big government nonsense… still no response.
Eventually, he made tweets that sort of elaborated.
He offered little clarity however and only stated that most members of the Never Trump movement did in fact fall within the confines of the description he offered.
It was here that I realized something: Austin Petersen doesn’t know the difference between “Never Trump” and “Resist,” and in the words of our eccentric President, that is “sad.”
Sure, there were neocon warmongers who made it clear that they didn’t like Donald Trump simply because he wasn’t their type of big government conservative; but these people were (in my personal opinion) the minority.
Being critical of Donald Trump and refusing to normalize his man-child approach to interacting with people isn’t shameful.
Calling him out on his immature behavior and refusing to accept spending bills that should be making Democrats turn vermillion with carnal delight is not a bad thing – it’s something we should laud any politician (brave enough to do it on our behalf) for, especially if we desire small government.
The whole thing seemed like a greasy butt-kissing effort. Was it to possibly win over the Trump supporters of Missouri? Maybe he was even seeking the endorsement (or at least the acknowledgment) of Trump, himself.
As an avid critic of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, casting an image as the non-establishment candidate in a primary race that has a way to go could be a smart move.
But if Petersen is, in fact, trying to get the GOP nomination to challenge Democrat incumbent Claire McCaskill, I do not believe this is the way to get it.
Trump won Missouri. That could mean he has a huge base of support there… or it could just mean that the majority of Missouri’s more conservative-leaning voters hated Trump less than Hillary.
Given his current approval rating, I am going with the latter.
Another problem is the question of gains versus losses.
Is the amount of support gained by appealing to Trump going to be more than what is lost by losing the base that has lifted him up his entire career? Aside from being compared to Hillary, few in the liberty movement want any association with Donald Trump.
Another factor that could be problematic for Mr. Petersen is that this opens up the hypocrisy attack.
Throughout much of 2016, Petersen had no problem criticizing Trump over any number of his big-government campaign promises (which was hard to keep up with given how much he flip-flopped).
I don’t know this because I was following Austin Petersen on Twitter during the campaign (I wasn’t).
I know this because his own followers quickly posted screen shots of previous tweets showcasing him giving these very criticisms. The same criticisms most in the Never Trump camp were giving.
Criticisms; not rioting, not obstructing, not being unwilling to listen (for a faint hint of compromise), just good old fashion criticism (and a refusal of support without significant change).
All that other stuff is from the whole resistance crowd. nce ange). All that other stuff, that is the whole (and ical libertarian who nyway. tabl
The truth is, it doesn’t matter. Trump appears reluctant (for the first time ever) to endorse anyone in the Missouri Senate race, though on a side note, he could be biding his time until after the primary.
With only the most liberty-minded politicians in Washington giving any support to Mr. Petersen, his win will come from grassroots campaigning – not warming up to a man who holds a majority of views that run contrary to his own.
Austin Petersen’s appeal is in his brash, nonconformist (yet eloquent) way of “calling it like it is” when it comes to the principles of freedom and liberty.
I believe I am not in the minority on this one.
Petersen barely lost the Libertarian Party presidential nomination.
Trump-supporting libertarians were not the ones that almost got him that honor, and they won’t get him to the Senate floor either.
If this article is published, I hope Austin Petersen reads it. I hope he returns to the ideals that made me first think “yeah, we should have nominated him instead.”
I hope he returns to being the man whom I tweeted recently to say I was going to send a check in support of his campaign.
I want to make that investment in the hopes that he will stand alongside people like Rand Paul and Mike Lee and truly start building a wall (no pun intended, Trumpers) that blocks unconstitutional, big-government lawmaking.
I hope he reads it, and I hope he considers everything I said in this article. After all, the chance to make a difference as a senator only comes along once every 6 years… and I don’t want to wait 6 years to have another ally on the Hill.
* Bryce Jackson is a writer and libertarian activist from Woodstock, Vermont. When not working his “civilian” job as a cook, Bryce writes semi-autobiographical stories and blogs (found @BryceJacksonBlog on Facebook) and is also a contributing author at The Libertarian Vindicator. He takes care of two special-needs rescue dogs (Brigit and Dozer) and his father, Arthur.
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