Q: What are the lessons for the Libertarian Party from the loss of its presidential candidate Gary Johnson in 2016?
A: We need better organization from the first to the last step. Johnson never had a chance in the Sunshine State because our grass-roots game remained weak. Ultimately, the Libertarian National Committee is likely to focus more on smaller states, like Montana and South Dakota, so we need to realize that we will be on our own in 2020. We’ll need to set up field offices throughout the state, we’ll need a much stronger outreach to the Hispanic community, we’ll need to start an actual absentee ballot plan, and we’ll need to put our volunteers to work. Thousands of individuals signed up in Florida to volunteer in 2016, and the great majority of them were never to be seen. It all comes down to organization.
Q: Libertarian members have been described as split between “pragmatist converts vs. stalwart radicals.” How would you describe the party’s core philosophy?
A: If you look deeply into our philosophy, you’ll see that Libertarians have a rational and unwavering distrust of all government actions, and we will always look for free-market solutions to each problem in society. But our message resonates with both liberals and conservatives to some extent, and given our considerable support from independent voters last year, we have the potential of being the real middle-of-the-aisle party that dissatisfied voters can come to.
Q: What would Libertarians have concentrated on in the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, if they had representation in Congress?
A: If we had Libertarians in Congress, we would have focused on tax reform. It’s clear that President Trump is en route to clash with Libertarians every week of his presidency, but in some occasions, we could work together. Nobody from the Republican establishment dared to touch tax reform in the first 100 days, and this is where we would have come in.
Q: Does the party have a national database of members, or those who contribute financially?
A: Yes, and yes. That database grew exponentially thanks to the 2016 presidential campaign.
Q: How does party membership in Florida and nationally stack up against figures before the 2016 vote?
A: Our membership numbers are just a fraction of what we could have if all 2016 Libertarian voters registered with our party. Although we barely cover 0.1 percent of statewide registered voters, we could be a major party by 2020 if all those who voted for our nominees registered with the Libertarian Party. And that needs to be our first and foremost focus by the end of the 2018 mid-term season.
Q: Libertarians seem to focus on the national level. What is the party doing to recruit candidates on the state and local level?
A: We’ve actually just launched Operation: First Step, which focuses on recruiting candidates in each county of Florida to run for community development districts, soil and water boards, and other similar special districts. We’ve focused for a long time on large elections, but if we want to be realists and be successful, we need to start from the bottom and involve ourselves in the smallest level of government. Only then can we create leaders within our society who — with time, rapport and a good understanding of their community — will one day step up to win those seats at the national level.
Q: What are the party’s top policy goals for Florida?
A: Ideally, we would love to see an end to the war on drugs, work toward the demilitarization of police, a complete end to civil asset forfeiture, and budget trimming and severe tax cuts. However, there is only so much that Libertarians can accomplish without any presence in Tallahassee. So we’ll need to first focus on policies that can help the party become an established presence. We want to see a change in the state’s determination of what constitutes a major party. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re giving up on other potential reforms. Just this year, our team introduced, thanks to the collaboration of state senator and currently a candidate for Congress, Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Coral Gables), SB 1750, a bill to reform special taxing districts and to give residents the power to abolish them.
Q: Without any Libertarians in the Legislature or in statewide offices in Florida, how does the party stay relevant?
A: It’s a humbling realization to see how much work we can accomplish regardless of having no elected officials in the Legislature. Ultimately, all politics is local. Nebraska, Nevada and New Hampshire all have state legislators. Our turn will come. Meanwhile, we’re confident we can show Floridians what Libertarians can do with our multitude of local elected officials that we currently have and will add on by November 2018.
Q: Who is jockeying to be the party’s presidential nominee in 2020?
A: I’ll let the potential candidates to their own bidding for now. But what I can guarantee you is that whoever the Libertarian delegates pick in 2020, that candidate will have a better result than Gary Johnson had in 2016 and will have a real chance at unseating the current president.