As “Third Party Week” continues at Colorado Pols, today Norm Olsen, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, joins us for a Colorado Pols Q&A. The party is holding its annual convention in Montrose on May 7 and Mr. Olsen's term as Chair will be expiring. Since he's not standing for re-election, we're glad to have the opportunity to ask him some questions before he steps down as Chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado.
As with our Q&A on Tuesday with Dave Chandler, Chair of the Colorado Green Party, we think Colorado Pols readers will appreciate the opportunity to hear a different take than the R or D perspective on politics in Colorado.
Mr. Olsen will be answering your questions throughout the day, so read through the first 11 questions and then ask your own in the COMMENTS section. We do ask that you follow a couple of quick rules:
1. Please be courteous. You may disagree with Mr.Olsen, but if you can't do so in a respectful way your comments will be removed. Mr. Olsen is gracious enough to take time out of his day to answer your questions, and the least we can all do is be respectful towards him.
2. If you want to discuss something Mr. Olsen has said but do not want to ask another question, please comment in the OPEN THREAD above. We'd like to keep the COMMENTS section in this post reserved for questions and answers to make it easier for everyone to track both.
So, without further delay, on to today’s Colorado Pols Q&A with Norm Olsen, which begins with a brief statement from our guest:
Before I get into answering questions, please allow me to establish some conventions. A libertarian (small l) is an individual who believes in the libertarian philosophy of individual freedom and individual responsibility. A Libertarian (big L) is a member of the national organization, simply called the Libertarian Party (LP), or a member of the Libertarian Party of Colorado (LPCO) which is the
1. In a nutshell, what is the history of the Colorado Libertarian Party? How many Colorado Libertarian Party members are there currently?
The LP was founded in
With this heritage, the LPCO is the oldest minor party in the state. The LPCO is also the largest minor party in the state (and the nation); our current registration count is 5,260 Libertarians following the post general election purge of the registration roles by the SOS.
Libertarians, Judd Ptak in particular, were instrumental in getting the original Minor Political Party law passed in 1996(?), which recognized minor political parties and enabled voters to register as affiliated with such. Judd and several other Libertarians were major players in achieving the extension of this law to include ballot access for minor political parties in 1998(?). Prior to this improvement in the law, we might have one candidate on the ballot. In 1998, we fielded 26 candidates, 84 in 2000, 71 in 2002, and 34 in 2004. We feel that our efforts in this regard are somewhat responsible for the fact that minor parties are no longer totally ignored by the major media.
2. Briefly, what is the Colorado Libertarian Party platform? What makes Libertarians different from Republicans or conservative Democrats?
The platform of the LP serves as the platform for the LPCO. Contrary to most political platforms, it is concise and very specific. It is also very clear and specific as to what it proposes, and what it opposes. There is virtually no evasion or obfuscation in the document. This is, for many Libertarians, the biggest difference between the Libertarians and Republicans and Democrats (liberal or conservative). The LP likes to call itself the Party of Principle and the platform supports that assertion. All 64 planks of the platform are contained in a 20 (or so) page document; it can be read in an hour or so. (www.lp.org)
In case you haven't noticed, since the Republicans have gained control of the White House and the Congress, the national government is growing faster than it was when the "tax and spend" Democrats controlled
I want to make this very clear: Libertarians are not anarchists. We do recognize the need for a limited form of government. Limited to what? The concept has been around for centuries, but probably most eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence: ". . . to protect these rights, governments are instituted among men . . . " Thus, libertarians and Libertarians are immediately skeptical of any political measure whose primary purpose is other than protecting the inalienable rights of citizens.
3. Legalization of medical marijuana is an issue that is commonly associated with Libertarians. Why is that an issue that you have taken the lead in? What other particular issues do Libertarians champion that Democrats and
As a principle, Libertarians believe that what you put in your own body is your business, not the government's, or anyone else. (Most rational people will ask for the advice of an expert, such as a doctor, before they introduce an unknown substance into their body.) The validity of this principle is substantiated by the "War on Drugs". Like other prohibitions before and after, it has not worked and has produced results which are worse than the original problem. Consider: half of all crime in this nation would disappear almost overnight if the use of drugs was decriminalized.
Most citizens consider this position to be very radical. They believe that drugs must be illegal in order to prevent their use, even though drug use has been increasing on a continual basis ever since the War on Drugs was initiated. The Medical Marijuana issue is one that most citizens can relate to, and our supporting of it (which is totally consistent with our basic principles) is not considered extreme. So, the politics makes this a very good issue for us to support and make noise about.
Our national platform (www.lp.org) has 64 planks, which just about everyone details a difference we have with the Republicans and Democrats. Of the issues being ignored by the R's and D's, perhaps the biggest is healthcare. Both major parties are ignoring the fact that government involvement in healthcare is not only destroying the healthcare system in this nation, but will without a doubt eventually destroy the government itself.
4. What are the most common misconceptions about the Libertarian Party?
First, that Libertarians are anarchists. It is certainly true that, at the national level for example, government should be about 20% of its current size, perhaps even smaller. But, as stated above, Libertarians fully acknowledge the need for government and that government has some (albeit not too many) legitimate purposes. The primary purposes are those outlined by the founding fathers: protect rights, provide for sound money, administer justice, provide for the common defense.
Second, that Libertarians are a bunch of pot smoking junkies. In all my activities over six years in the LP and the LPCO, I have only met one person who used drugs; he was a casual pot user. We advocate the decriminalization of drugs because of the basic principle described above, and because of the damage the War on Drugs is doing to our society. In addition to the crime, the corruption, the disease, there is the severe loss of our privacy and individual rights which are justified as essential to "fight the war on drugs". The war is being lost, it is unwinnable. Lets declare a truce and eliminate 50% of the crime in this nation now. Let's spend the $30 billion on helping those who are afflicted with a proclivity to use drugs.
5. Why is it so difficult for a Libertarian candidate to get elected to an office as high as the state legislature? Realistically, how soon do you think it will be before we see a Libertarian member of the state legislature?
It was not until 1996(?) that the State of Colorado officially recognized the concept of a minor political party; i.e. a party other than the TWO majors. For 125 years, all politics in the state was officially divided between the two major parties. Not only do the two major parties have incredibly large and well funded organizations, they also have a heritage of loyalty. Individuals who grow up in a Republican/Democrat household are very likely to continue this allegiance for generations. Thus, almost two thirds of the voters in Colorado are registered as affiliated with one of the two major parties.
Over this period of 125 years, each of the major parties has developed its own constituency. That is, a solid group of special interests which it caters to. If you want to know who belongs to who, simply look at the FCPA reports; they make it very clear. These constituencies are very loyal, and they get treated very well by their beneficiaries. Thus, there is a major Catch-22 situation. If you have no power, you do not have a constituency. If you do not have a constituency, you cannot obtain political power.
Of course, there are almost one million unaffiliated voters in Colorado. Can not these voters be attracted to our political philosophy? That is likely, and we are trying to accomplish that. The major problem here, though, is that those who are unaffiliated are not likely to be politically active. Those who are not politically active are not likely to be financial contributors to a political party. A minor party will always have a major hurdle to overcome, financially. The campaign finance laws which the R's and the D's pass to police themselves don't help at all, either.
Without what most people would call luck, it will be four or five decades before there is a Libertarian (or any minor party) representative in the legislature. However, I consider luck to be "preparation meeting opportunity." Thus, as long as we are prepared with good candidates and maintain our presence in the media, it is not out of the question that an opportunity will coincide with that preparation before the next decade is out.
6. What areas in the state are particularly strong areas for Libertarians and would give a Libertarian candidate the best chance of winning?
Our research show that rural areas, where the major political parties are not that strong in terms of the number of actual activists, and where the funding is a bit thinner is where will encounter our initial success. As demonstrated by our 2005 annual meeting being held in Montrose, we will be trying to encourage the development of affiliates and electable candidates in these areas.
7. Who is the most successful Libertarian in
Sheriff Bill Masters of
You used the big L form of Libertarian in your question, but can I mention one very successful little l libertarian: Ron Paul? Ron Paul is a physician who was first elected to the US House of Representatives in the late 1970's. He became a Libertarian and was the LP presidential candidate in 1988. Of course, I'm sure everyone knows he did not win that election. However, Dr. Paul returned to being a Republican, won a difficult primary against the established Republican organization in his district, and has been serving as the representative of the 14th district of Texas since 1994(??). Ron has been one of the very few voices (if indeed there is more than one) in the Congress which regularly and consistently speaks up for the constitution, sound money, and limited government. Surely, Dr. Paul is a major hero of every libertarian and Libertarian in the nation.
Please note that KBDI,
8. Michael Badnarik, the 2004 Libertarian candidate for President, is in
Given the humble origins of his campaign, the campaign was fabulous. I was in
While most parties in
Every American should be proud of this campaign. Consider: given the humble origins of the campaign as described above, Michael was on the ballot in 48 states plus DC.
9. In the immediate future, for a Libertarian candidate to succeed in a run for federal office (Congress or higher) will he or she need to follow the lead of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who ran for President as a Libertarian in 1988 but then ran for congress as a Republican in 1997?
Dr. Paul's strategy worked for him; it is unlikely that the same strategy will work for anyone else. The joke is that Dr. Paul delivered (as an obstetrician) half of the voters in his district, and the other half were the parents of the babies he delivered.
Our success at the national level will come when we can develop local organizations which are strong enough which will attract a "Dr. Paul" to run as a libertarian. All politics are local. Politics is organization. When we have organizations strong enough to elect a candidate, strong libertarian candidates will seek us out; and we will then elect Libertarian candidates to Congress.
10. How do you convince people to vote Libertarian when there is a perception that has been created by both Democrats and Republicans that a third-party vote is a wasted vote? In a particularly tight election, where third- party votes might make a real difference (such as CD-7), how can you counteract that sentiment?
Look at the national government today. Is there any difference between the Republicans or the Democrats? There is none. Neither party is addressing the important issues of our time: 1> deficits, both fiscal and trade; 2> healthcare; 3> education; 4> war; 5> energy; 6> outsourcing; 7> immigration, 8> ad nauseum. There are individuals here and there that are trying to make a difference, such as Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo, but in general they are all "going along to get along"; or more precisely, "getting along to re-elected".
The competition between Republican and Democrat is not about philosophy or agenda; it is simply about who gets to wave the flag as they lead us all down the road to perdition. Either one will get us there just as fast with the same degree of certainty. If you do not vote for what you want, you will not get it. When you vote for the lesser of two evils, guess what you get? EVIL. What else can you expect?
This is the message we must get out to voters; thanks for letting me get it in here. In the seventh, people need to realize that there is/will be no difference between the two major party candidates. Who ever wins, will go to
11. You mention Kurt Russell and Trey Parker on your website among
Uncle Nasty (Greg Stone) has been a big supporter, has spoken at our convention, and has provided exposure on his radio program. Michael Corbin produces a great radio program, two hours a day syndicated on several stations. (www.4acloserlook.com) Michael has interviewed several Libertarian candidates on his program and has been a great supporter of our ideas.
There are some libertarians, and some Libertarians, that I personally would like to see less active :>). Fortunately I don't know that any qualify as celebrities. In any case, I would probably not want to given them any additional celebrity by mentioning them here :>).
Do you have a question for Mr. Olsen? Ask away...