The Good & the Bad: Austin Petersen’s Campaign In Review


imageIt’s time I review everyone’s favorite freedom ninj… I review most libertarians’ favorite freedom… I review the freedom ninja who was loved by over 50% of liber… I review a guy popular with a solid 20-35% of the liberty movement and identifies as a freedom ninja, Austin Petersen. This list will serve to show what I feel his campaign did right and what it didn’t do correctly. Why I feel it came in second and managed to beat out the doctor, the anarchist as the wanted tech mogul for the coveted spot of second.

I’m going to state a few basic things. I thank Austin Petersen for running. He wasn’t my first choice for the nomination and I didn’t end up voting for him in Orlando, but I did like parts of the dynamic he brought to the table. The biggest part was the guy actually challenged Gary Johnson and turned out to be a pretty solid competitor. As a libertarian, I recognize competition as a good thing. Gary had none of that in the 2012 LP primary and for that, he didn’t really build up the same conversations in the movement, didn’t get as clear of a media team and didn’t really even set up proper campaign groups in key states. Petersen actually turned this into a real primary, made this a bigger media spectacle, reminded a lot of libertarians the LP existed and created a new bit of media attention. It worked and honestly did help the Libertarian Party.

I’ll also note I actually grew to really like Austin in this process. Anyone who reads my articles regularly (my mother, one ex-girlfriend and about four friends of mine) can know I was originally pretty hostile to Austin. And sure, he looks like he could be cast as Robin behind Ben Affleck in the next Batman film, but once you get passed that, he’s a pretty good guy. He does manage to speak pretty well, he can clearly lead a team of people and he holds a brand which is sort of fun. It wasn’t enough for me to vote for him, but I ended up putting him mountains above John McAfee when I made my final choice (granted, McAfee doing a video saying the South American cartels have guys trying to kill him sort of helped that). He did run a serious effort and for 2020, if he chose to run, I’d like to take a call with the guy, see his campaign and I might back him.

Time to get into the good and the bad. What made his campaign great and, well, what didn’t.

The Good

  1. He actually kept the Ron Paul movement alive and alive better than Rand Paul.

I donated about $1,500 to the Rand campaign for 2016. Thinking of the fact I could have spent that on a new patent, a moderately okay four day vacation to a middle income resort zone or just gone to town at a strip club, this sort of upsets me. Rand Paul was a guy who in early 2015 I wanted and believed could be president, but the man just ran the poorest campaign possible. The marketing was terrible. He focused on issues such as Planned Parenthood. He completely ignored the anti-war and anti-Fed message of his father. His campaign was essentially just a more boring version of the Steve Forbes 2000 campaign. It was a joke and in many ways killed that movement.

Here comes Austin Petersen, however… He ran basically a carbon copy of Ron Paul’s campaign and brought in a ton of the same people. The guy sort of kicked ass at that. He also did so in a way Gary Johnson didn’t. Where Gary has always been more of a libertarian focused on this sort of western image of entrepreneurship and a business approach to libertarianism, Austin Petersen came in with a more Southern constitutionalist flare to it. He focused more on dealing with Republicans and judging by his Glenn Beck semi-endorsement, it clearly worked for the dude.

  1. The guy actually ran to win (well, the nomination).

In my previous article I did a review of Darryl Perry and said he was someone who never really reached potential due to not giving the vibe he could win. The same for the late Dr. Marc Feldman who also never gave a strong idea he could do it. Deep down, I’m 100% sure Austin knew he had no shot. In fact, I’m pretty sure he ran originally just to become an Internet meme, but if you were to talk to his supporters, they seemed pretty set on the idea he could do it. They were energized… They were happy… They were ready to fight… They lost by over 2 to 1, but still it was this idea he could win that Austin captured so well.

Even going on Facebook today, I’ve seen some comments from people such as “I like Adam Kokesh in 2020, but Austin Petersen can actually win!”. Now, reading a comment like that, I wonder what bowl the writer smoked to believe Austin could actually win a general election, but holy shit, people believe he can win a general election. That’s actually something to be proud of. It’s that vibe which gets donors, rallies and more. That is something he managed to create.

  1. He attacked conspiracy theorist

This is something that he was willing to do which has been needed for years now. Actually going out and saying “9/11 truthers are utter and complete morons!”. Embracing rationality and saying things such as GMOs, vaccines, trade and other things are good things, not just part of the mentally unstable fantasies of Alex Jones viewers who label as libertarian purely to try and stop the chemtrails. This is a base which everyone besides Austin would quietly make fun of, but not start fights with. Austin outright made fun of them and for that, he has my respect.

This being a revelation the liberty movement won’t want to admit. There is a portion of the base which I personally don’t believe is mentally well and will just label as a libertarian due to them wanting to find themselves in this extreme conspiracy to feel important. The fact is they are just people on the Internet who need to go and see sunlight, but nobody in the LP besides Austin and a select few others had the balls to go after. This is just something needed to make the LP a real thing.

The Bad

  1. He ran the most negative freaking campaign on Earth.

Let’s see… He accused Gary Johnson of booking all the hotel rooms in a giant hotel saying he has the money of powerful people. He called Steve Kerbel “filth” on Facebook and said he’s glad he quit. He heard John McAfee was running and called him a murderer/drug addict. He also kind of accused Gary and John of being drug addicts despite me not being able to find a single Austin Petersen video where I don’t think he was drinking.

There was no need to be this negative in a race and it just flat out wasn’t professional. It hurt Gary Johnson as the nominee and Austin attacking him did nothing to really benefit his own campaign that running a positive effort couldn’t have done.

  1. He became the anti-Civil Rights Act candidate.

Austin worked on the Ron Paul campaign so I’m going to just assume he knew about Rand Paul in 2010. I’m going to assume he can go back in time to six years back when Rand nearly had his campaign destroyed by just saying he wasn’t sure if he supports saying businesses can’t discriminate. It is a politically doomed issue and at the end of the day, it hurts the liberty movement. Also, this nonsense where Austin claimed he could have had the Civil Rights Act pass without that provision in it was just flat out insane. It was also him admitting he wants to be the candidate on the ballot in all 50 states who says he wouldn’t have signed the Act. Saying this when one third of Bernie Sanders supporters are open to voting third party.

Plus, people made Gary Johnson’s gay Nazi cake stance seem like the end of the world. Well… I suppose the world ended five decades ago. He was supporting a law in place now for over five decades and has shown absolutely zero negative impact of any metric. It’s really something for which we can ask “Who the hell cares?” It became this purist attack on Gary Johnson which hurt our own movement over something that doesn’t matter.

  1. Austin didn’t pick a running mate.

Simplest truth… The current way the Libertarian Party picks VPs is humiliating. It’s literally a method for Gary Johnson to become the nominee, but someone such as Will Coley can become the VP if the race actually went that way. Which to just understand that, think of this:

“Johnson/Coley 2016! Should government exist? We aren’t quite sure!”

It’s insane and with Gary Johnson picking Bill Weld and John McAfee picking Judd Weiss, I was happy that it seemed the LP was finally done with this old approach. However, Austin didn’t pick a VP and sort of just encouraged the same backdoor deal making and convention drama with the VP race that has plagued the LP for years and made people such as Wayne Root the VP pick in the past.

Plus, Austin  hurt his own campaign with this. If he could have gotten an established economist in the liberty movement or a more popular online media personality to run with him, Austin would have done far better. Picking a Bob Murphy or perhaps someone representing a different communication method of libertarianism to him could have shown him as electable. He passed on this, however.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, I’m going to say Austin’s run was a good thing for the liberty movement. While it created a lot of negativity, it did at least remind people the LP was around in this election and did help get a greater ground game. However, some of his stuff was flat out immature and not needed. Also, a lot of the ways he presented were just not my ideal method for growing the liberty movement. In this, I’m mixed if he was the right guy to primary Gary Johnson, but someone had to do it.

Austin had the balls to do if and for that, I’m happy the guy tried.

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