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Libertarians at CPAC 2015

4 Mar

Your humble blogger started going to CPAC back in 2007 (or maybe 2008?) and has attended every CPAC since.  Both in 2008 and 2015 I ran exhibit hall booths, which limited or changed my perception of what went on at CPAC.

My early CPAC attendance was due to my participation in a local DC metro Ron Paul meetup.  Mitt Romney dropped out of the Republican primaries the day before that CPAC, and the young woman who had spent a huge amount of time organizing volunteers and supplies for his booth was very angry with him.  And Ron Paul was her second choice.  So she told us to take over the booth, which we did with less than 24 hours notice (Ron Paul had, amazingly, not secured one — he was a CPAC virgin only 8 years ago).

I showed up with the only thing I had, a small business card sized brochure I was distributing for Ron Paul door to door in Maryland, and a reason magazine with Ron Paul on the cover as my only graphic for the wall behind me.  By the end of the day a full booth of volunteers had showed up and they had brought more than enough flyers, buttons, bumper stickers etc.  (A comely 22 year old man/boy asked me for that copy of reason, and when I told him I had subscribed to it since I was younger than he, and that only a few years earlier it had been a mimeographed zine, he cocked his pretty head quizzically at the word mimeograph.)  The then libertarianizing George F. Will strolled near our booth and I was able to hop out and thank him for his recent column praising Ron Paul.

CPAC has now moved out of DC, to the Gaylord National Resort on the Potomac River in Oxon Hill, Maryland.  (Allegedly it outgrew the DC hotel, but the straw poll vote remains in the 3000s, down a little from its peak the last year it was in DC.  Behind the scenes people say it moved because SEIU union ‘crats were paying homeless people to hold protest signs in DC (Andrew Breitbart famously went out to confront them at his last CPAC before he passed away), but the leftover groups now can’t figure out how to transport paid protesters out to the Gaylord, where there is no subway stop.)

Back in 2008, when we did not know Rand Paul would ever run for office, Ron Paul traveled about the Wardman Marriott hotel (back in DC, where CPAC used to be, and where the International Students for Liberty Conference is now) with an entourage of Governor Gary Johnson, Judge Andrew Napolitano and constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein.  This year there was a little friction between the Rand Paul and Gary Johnson peeps, as Johnson said Paul is not a libertarian and the Libertarian Party posted an anti-Rand graphic  (below).

Since then I’ve covered CPAC – what the gays were up to, what Ann Coulter said, who won the straw poll, what the libertarians did – in my old tea party blog (which I actually started originally to cover the divisions at CPAC).

This year I was in charge of staffing a booth for Gary Johnson’s Our America Initiative, so my experience of most of CPAC 2015 consisted of running the booth and watching the actual speeches on Fox and YouTube.  (CPAC 2015 also created an app you can download, which would allow you to follow what was going on in multiple panels, happy hours, receptions, workshops and parties.) Though I did talk individually with hundreds of attendees and made it to four parties (those of the Republican Liberty Caucus, where Julie Borowski and Governor Johnson spoke, the Leadership Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Rand Paul’s Young Americans for Liberty event, where Rand Paul took photos with supporters, though a third walked out when Ted Cruz spoke).

At the booth I got mainly three responses: people coming up to tell us they were libertarians (including young people who said they voted for Romney but since became libertarians and wish they had voted for Johnson), a few people critical of libertarians, and libertarians from Rand Paul’s booth coming over to give me static over the so very well timed meme posted on the Libertarian Party facebook page (and produced by the gay group Outright Libertarians), comparing Rand Paul to Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

No one had much interest in the particular items Our America had wanted us to push, about the law suit Gov. Johnson has against the presidential debate commission (I killed a tree for nothing), though LP News, Gary Johnson books and buttons, and libertarian bumper stickers were popular.  The Libertarian Party itself has not had a booth at CPAC since 2011 (see video h/t Wes Benedict). (At my first CPAC the LP booth was organized by a not fully ripened Austin Petersen, a lowly intern in the Libertarian National Committee office.)

Gary got his main publicity for faking a heart attack when debating a former, one term, Congresswoman, who said 1 in 5 pot smokers are more likely to have a heart attack from using pot.  (I wonder:  Are 1 in 5 people, those with the worst cardiac health, more likely to have a heart attack from drinking coffee, eating sweets, having sex. or walking up stairs?)

But there was other fun to be had.  reason magazine created a Grindr account to interview the gays, whose organizations (Log Cabin and GOProud) were forbidden from being sponsors – though American Atheists did sponsor CPAC – and Log Cabin director Gregory Angelo was on a panel on (gays in) Putin’s Russia.

The coverage of CPAC by conservatives typically emphasizes how “unfair” and unrepresentative it is when Rand (or Ron) Paul win the straw poll, given that many of their voters have no money and crashed in cheap hotel rooms 4 and 6 to a room and paid only $25 for a student ticket, unlike the more representative Jeb Bush or Scott Walker voters, who are older and rented a $400 a night hotel room for 3 or 4 nights and bought a platinum level $800 CPAC ticket that gets them into fancy dinners.  (Sponsors who have booths also tip the voting in that booth volunteer passes are also voting credentials.  I am pretty sure the Our America Initiative booth created 6 votes for Rand Paul.)  There is a big age divide between Rand (or Ron) Paul fans and those of the other candidates, and the Rand people are willing to walk out, boo, etc. the other politicians.

CPAC has lots of pricey or exclusive parties.  You can buy a VIP pass that gets you into everything; I bought one in 2011 and was constantly shocking the young door keepers at the more silk stocking events, when I would show up in jeans, under 60 years old, plastered with Ron Paul and libertarian buttons, looking like someone they were sure did not belong in the front row or the annual Reagan Dinner ($450 a la carte without the VIP pass).  (I used my old VIP lanyard this year with my booth pass and the CPAC 2015 staffers kept thanking me and giving me a thumbs up.)  Other exclusive events include the annual Breitbart party on Capitol Hill (I was invited once, it’s Breitbart and other bloggers, minor Fox News contributors, and anyone they thought was pretty) and Reaganpalooza, the annual party for young conservatives and conservatarians.  Rand Paul supporters and other libertarians have their own after party at a DC metro area libertarian group house, the Casa de Liberte, which isn’t strictly invite-only but does require a cover charge and ideological litmus test.

Most of what I think is interesting about CPAC this year is the tension between the Rand Paul and the LP libertarians, so I’m just going to end with quotes from around the net this week, some occasioned by the Outright meme, along with photos of people and swag from the exhibit hall (I will be adding comments and photos all week, so check back later):

Bruce P. Majors 
Washington DC

It’s sloppy and wrong. You can criticize Rand Paul for not being libertarian enough or Ron Paul for not being your kind of libertarian without saying they are like the Clintons. The posters on the LP page completely rip them for this idiocy. Someone keeps deleting my comments there.




Jeff Olson
The Midwest

I’d say he’s about 70% libertarian, versus RP’s 95% libertarian. He certainly isn’t less “anti-immigration” – something that RP in recent years has totally de-emphasized and Rand sends me emails daily protesting about (Obama’s “amnesty”). To give one illustration – Rand thought Snowden should’ve gone the “legal route” while Ron declared him to be a hero. That’s a huge litmus test right there. Rand is much more soft-spoken about the USG involvement abroad, where Ron just straightforwardly says it’s bullshit….

All that said, I like Rand a lot compared to anyone else out there.



Gregory Contreras
Baltimore MD

 It’s a false flag operation. Actually, the “libertarian party” has been infiltrated by the far left, I saw it first hand during a recent stint in NYC.


Shawn Quinn 
Lusby MD

I saw the post as the three biggest liers in the upcomeing race and all will hurt our freedoms.


Shawn McElhinney 
Oceanside CA

[In response to the claim that Rand Paul is not libertarian] Neither was Gary Johnson…until he failed to get any traction in Republican primaries in 2011.



Dan Ust
Seattle WA

…I think they’ve both been good gateway drugs, but that can go either way… I mean I’ve talked to people who’ve gone on a journey from either Paul to more radical libertarianism, but I’ve also talked to those who merely reinforced their basically conservative views, just with a wee less mainstream corporatist stance. That probably there are more of the former is either due to a sampling error (on my part) or the tone of our times (where I believe more newbies are more likely to not embrace conservatism).


Nicholas Sarwark
Denver CO

The former Governor of Florida is part of a famous Republican political family. The former Secretary of State is part of a famous Democratic political family. The junior Senator from Kentucky is part of a famous Republican political family.





David Silvers
Alexandria VA

I got their point. Rand inherited power from his father, and his father was a congressman from Texas whose high water mark was chairing a subcommittee after a few decades in office. But okay, I guess that’s just like having your dad be president




Arlington VA

Dear LP. This is how you kick yourself in the nuts.


The Woodlands TX

Rand Paul has his roots in the Libertarian party…. I will drop this page before I drop him!


Nacogdoches TX

How dumb do you have to be to include Paul with Clinton and Bush? This … has gotten childish.



Auburn ME

What are you? Stupid or something? No one would even know about the Libertarian Party if it were not for Ron and Rand Paul. In fact, childish antics like these—alienating the very liberty-minded people you need to grow your party—are the reason why no one will ever take the Libertarian Party seriously.

As a State Senator, I am the highest-elected libertarian in the state of Maine, and right now, I am ashamed to have this organization appropriate the name of my political philosophy.

Shame on you.



*******************************************************************************
By the way thanks to booth volunteers Juanita Billings, Seth Ryan Levy, Connie Harrigan Frank, Virginia state senate candidate Carl Loser, J. Todd Martinson, former Virginia Congressional candidate Jeffrey Carson, Ashley Edwards, David Valente, Diana Castillo, Kirby Myers, Libertarian National Committee vice chair Arvin Vohra, Arvin’s friend whose name I don’t know, Jason Amatuci, and Charles Peralo.  And to booth cheerleaders/lunch partners Chenelyn Barker and Krista Kirlew.

Brady Bill extended to cover apps, gay sex, smartphones

6 May
Police: Philadelphia man, 25, killed after using social app | 6abc.com

A sad story.  But it shows we can’t allow people to own private cell phones.

The argumentS about gay marriage: why traditional marriage is unConstitutional

21 Jun
In a few days or weeks the Supreme Court will issue some decision about gay marriage, in the form of a decision about California’s Proposition 8, a popular 2008 initiative that outlawed the same sex marriage law that had existed briefly in California.

Gay marriage is one of several current political topics (like marijuana decriminalization and surveillance of American citizens) that fracture the simple left-right political spectrum, with conservatives, progressives, moderates, libertarians and others finding themselves with new bedfellows.

In listening to many badly wrought arguments for and against same sex marriage, I discern at least 8.  The taxonomy is four for (the egalitarian, the libertarian, the social conservative, and the Constitutionalist) and four against (the religious, the teleological, the fiscal, and the nominalist).
Some of these I don’t think need a lot of consideration, some are more original or more worthy.  Since I am  for gay marriage, and am entertained by one of the more original arguments for it, and by my innovation on that argument, I’m saving them for the end and running through the arguments against first.

The religious argument is what it is:  G-d said no.  And that’s great for many but I don’t think that without a separate parallel argument it can be the basis of law in the United States, nor should it be anywhere else.  (I also note that in many religions G-d took a very long time to get married.)  It may be a guide for people about who they should marry and how they should live, but not for law they can impose on others.

The teleological argument is that the purpose of gender differences and reproductive organs is to reproduce the species, and the purpose of the family is to produce and raise children.  A slightly more respectable argument, to which some religious texts (including Genesis) allude.  I was actually listening to Rush Limbaugh fret about the next (fiscal) argument on the radio while biking through Senate Park on Capitol Hill this spring, on my way to the protests for and against same sex marriage outside the Supreme Court.  I was surrounded by Washington’s ubiquitous cherry trees and their blossoms, something “intended” to reproduce more cherry trees that has been reformed by human beings for another very different, purely aesthetic, purpose.  Likewise both the family and body parts (e.g., the male nipple) serve many new and salutary purposes that are not simply about producing the next generation.  But beyond this the argument fails because the central practical reason supporters of gay marriage advocate it is that it is for the children, children gay people have biologically, or children abandoned by heterosexuals domestically or abroad, who the gays wish to adopt.  And tangential arguments about the superiority of the traditional heterosexual family are irrelevant, since gay people’s children either wouldn’t exist if we denied gays the right to have children or wouldn’t have parents if we didn’t allow gays to adopt.

I first heard the fiscal argument at a debate sponsored by America’s Future Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina weeks before that state passed a state constitutional amendment in 2012 outlawing same sex marriage.  The man articulating it. Fergus Hodgson, director of fiscal policy studies at the John Locke Foundation,  seemed troubled by his own argument because he was a species of libertarian.  He was basically against same sex marriage, as many are against free immigration or the legalization of drugs, as long as we have a welfare state.  Too many newly minted gay spouses would be making demands on the government treasury.  It is difficult to take this argument seriously.  Why should gays alone be excluded from adding to our exploding debt?  Gays and lesbians have been paying FICA taxes for decades, yet only their surviving spouses and their children have been denied survivor benefits.  Why must they continue to be taxed for what are in effect heterosexual welfare queens?

The nominalist argument is that “marriage” just means a legally recognized coupling between a man and a woman (perhaps even just one man and one woman).   Two men or two women cannot be “spouses” since the law does not define the word that way; they are only lovers.   It’s common among a few Objectivists (Ayn Rand fans – though only a minority of them) who like to think some kind of tricky leftist epistemological shysterism is behind trying to change what the word means.  Sometimes nominalists even make Burkean or Hayekian arguments about how if we change the definition of marriage we don’t know what will befall us.  It’s all new and unexplored territory, social engineering where the government redefines words and institutions.  But in reality gay and lesbian couples, and sometimes their friends and families, have always thought of themselves as married, and being few in number they hope to assimilate to wider and traditional social norms of marriage.  The only difference being that a gay marriage may be more inclined to gender equality, something heterosexuals have been changing about “traditional” marriage on their own, since in “traditional” marriage even as recently as the 1970s a traditionally married woman could not get a mortgage to buy a house or a loan to buy a car without her husband.  It is the State that took marriage, which in reality is passionate and committed permanent coupling, often with an eye to raising a family, and defined it as only being state approved couplings.  Would the nominalists, especially those among them often critical of government intrusion, agree that the definition of being a “parent” is sending your children to State approved schools (wars, etc.) so that if you home school or use alternative non-State forms of education, you are not a “parent,” but only a sire or mare?

The use of terms like “social engineering” by opponents of gay marriage is interesting in the American context, since the American Founding is a species of social engineering in that before 1776 (or 1789-1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified) the idea of not having a state established religion was unprecedented.  (This becomes very relevant in considering some of the arguments for same sex marriage, below.)  But it is in fact a form of social engineering that is new and radical in limiting the power of the state to engineer society and interfere with the emergence of spontaneously and voluntarily evolved institutions and traditions.

Turning to the arguments for gay marriage, the least interesting is probably the one most gay people and most professional gay activists find most compelling, the egalitarian argument.  They should be equal, the 14th Amendment etc., etc.  Of course men and women are clearly different and two men or two women are different from a man and a woman.  Same sex marriage opponents often retort that every gay and lesbian American has equal rights, the same right they do, to marry someone of the opposite sex.  (Though not the equal right to marry the person they love.)  One wonders if the gay political class were not “progressives” who would like to eliminate the 10th Amendment from the Bill of Rights, if gay marriage would have made progress faster – if they had sued to have the federal government accept any state recognized marriage including state recognized same sex marriages, and extend federal tax and immigration laws to those state recognized marriages.

One also wonders how long the movement for gay equality has been retarded by justifiable fears that gay progressives would use it as a way to interfere with other people’s lives via law suits and regulations.  This is a real fear – in 2010 EHarmony was forced to pay half a million dollars in a class action law suit brought by a gay egalitarian because they did not cater to gays.  The ridiculousness of this law suit is obvious when one considers how many gay dating (and “dating”) websites there are, from Grindr to Manhunt to Silverdaddies, not to mention how many, from Chemistry.com to J-Date, are completely open to gays.  This suit basically announced that some gay statist will in fact be out there to interfere in all aspects of your private and business life; one can only wonder if pregnant women wishing to give their children up for adoption would be denied the right to pick a heterosexual (or homosexual) couple, but would instead be forced to give the child up to a randomized adoption process — and denied the right to abortion if they then opted for that when denied any choice in placement.  A recent CBS poll shows that a majority now favor gay marriage and oppose affirmative action, which may be the beginning of a death knell for the statist model of “civil rights.”

What I am calling the libertarian argument for gay marriage is also not that interesting:  people should be free to marry whom they wish (as long as that person is deemed to be consenting by the law).  Since being free to participate in a State defined institution is paradoxical, libertarians sometimes have fruitless squabbles  about whether they are for same sex marriage or no marriage, or no marriage except marriage contracts.  Paleolibertarian Justin Raimondo has made this argument in The American Conservative and elsewhere.  Of course libertarians favor marital contracts and minimal State regulation of what one can contract to do.  It is also not obvious why that means libertarians should not favor allowing (not compelling) gays and lesbians the freedom to enter into whatever limited range of marriage licenses or contracts the state allows at any point in time, rather than excluding them from them.  Anti-marriage libertarians often align with new left and Marxian critics of marriage and the family, arguing that gays should retain their freedom from a regimenting state defined institution.  Since no one is arguing that they be forced to marry, the freedom to contract supports extending marriage to same sex couples as an option they can choose.

The social conservative argument is a better argument, elaborated eloquently and soberly by Jonathan Rauch in his books (Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America) and before conservatives at forums like the American Enterprise Institute over the years.  Marriage is, as conservatives have said, a good and even necessary institution, and its civilizing influence should be extended to the feral wilderness of gay (male) sexuality, celebrated by Raimondo and the 60’s left, and decried by neocon queen Midge Decter in her famous 80s Commentary screed, “The Boys on the Beach.”  We would all be better off if more gays and lesbians settled down, took care of each other, raised kids in stable homes, and spent less time partying and bed hopping.  Wonky, but probably all true.


But my favorite argument in the debate, and one of the newer ones, was elaborated by blogger Cynthia Yockey (A Conservative Lesbian) just a couple of years ago.  Ms. Yockey notes that some churches (synagogues, etc.), like the gay oriented Protestant denomination, the Metropolitan Community Church, perform gay marriage.  So if the government defines a church sacrament, marriage,  to mean only one set of churches (and their sacraments) are recognized in the law, and other churches and their sacraments are not, the government has established a church (or set of churches) as approved State churches.  This is a violation of the First Amendment.  Ms. Yockey concludes that gay marriage must be legally recognized because of the First Amendment clause supporting freedom of religion and prohibiting the establishment of a state church.

While I wholly agree with Ms. Yockey, and take delight both in her original argument and in the fact that I am friends with someone who has produced an original argument, I also would like to emphasize my corollary to her argument:  traditional marriage (at least state establishment of traditional marriage) is unconstitutional.  Tea partiers should be furiously campaigning for same sex marriage, on both 1st and 10th Amendment grounds.

Traditional marriage violates the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court must strike it down.

Christopher Dorner vs Manhunt

13 Feb
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