Libertarians Meet in Worcester; Set Sights on 2014

By Joshua Evans
Libertarians Meet in Worcester, Set Sights on 2014

For many, the political process is a time when commercials between television shows start being wedged out by political ads, campaign fliers outnumber the falling leaves, and the threat of being overrun by signs replaces being overrun by weeds. But, put up with all of the intrusion, and the light at the end of the tunnel is just a few months away. For others, the political process is a lengthier struggle, filled with thankless hours, behind-the-scenes responsibilities, and no clear end in sight. For Libertarians, it goes even further, and that’s just an average day.

The Libertarian Association of Massachusetts, the state branch of the Libertarian Party, met in Worcester last week to continue their struggle to have a voice in state politics. Meeting in Tweed’s Pub Restaurant, party enthusiasts picked new leadership and national delegates, heard speakers from across the spectrum, and laid out plans for 2014.

Author Michael Isenberg discusses his newest novel.
Author Michael Isenberg discusses his newest novel.

While far from what David Blau, the Party’s Chairman, had hoped to see, roughly two dozen participants attended the convention. Attendees ranged from young to old, new to experienced, college professors to small business owners, but all were together under a common idea of how the Government should function. Joining them were author Michael Isenberg, who was showcasing his newest dystopian novel “Full Asylum”, Benjamin Selecky, Massachusetts director of “People Against the NDAA”, and teenager Andrew Barndt, a recent participant of the National NCFCA debate tournament who spoke about dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane.

Members intently listen to speaker Andrew Barndt.
Members intently listen to featured speaker Andrew Barndt.

With focuses geared on recruiting more candidates, locating other elected members, organizing party structure, and clarifying the party message, much debate was discussed regarding what direction was best for the party.

Daniel Fishman, who in 2012 ran against former Republican Minority Leader Richard Tisei and Democratic Representative John Tierney, pressed for a more engaging approach to politics. Addressing the need of Libertarians to be more open and aggressive, Fishman openly addressed that members need to be as active as they can, wherever and whenever that may be.

“We need to combat demagoguery against libertarians” Fishman preached. “A fight for liberty anywhere is a fight for liberty everywhere.”

WPI Professor George Phillies questioning PANDAA director Benjamin Selecky.
WPI Professor George Phillies, with Robert Clark to his right, questioning PANDAA director Benjamin Selecky.

Robert Clark, an elected Library Trustee based out of Berlin, echoed Fishman’s point to get involved wherever you can. “In the decisions I make [as a Trustee], I’m injecting a little libertarianism in the road”.

For others, like Billerica Town Meeting Representative, and self-identified “Left-Libertarian”, Mary-Anne Wolf, it was equally important to clarify what the Party publicly stands for, and addressing the danger behind being “smeared with the brush of Tea Party kookery.”

“We want to replace government programs with a non-government equivalent. We don’t want to just shut down public schools. We want to give you a choice” Wolf explained.

A brief intermission for lunch and the casting of ballots for State Committee might have stopped the speeches, but it definitely didn’t stop the political discourse that defined the day from still taking place.

Party activists mingle over lunch.
Party activists mingle over lunch.

Mingling in the audience, newcomers Lawrence and Jackie Shea, of Springfield, discussed how they see the future of the Libertarian Party developing more at the state level. Lawrence, who first worked on Congressman Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign for President, claims that “bringing in more people power” is what will trigger that development. “We could do more”, Lawrence said.

Jackie, a former Democrat and once supporter of President Obama, also believes that the future lies in both the power of people, as well as building relationships with others. “We’re all people.” she stressed. When asked about working with other movements and grounds, she added “[It’s] worth investing into. Same with charity organizations.”

A future in politics isn’t completely out of the question for the Sheas. When asked about considering the idea of local office, Lawrence added “I would see where it leads.”

Kenneth Van Tassle, Lawrence Shea, Jackie Shea, and Chairman David Blau listen to Trent Sullivan, candidate for the 5th Middlesex House seat.
Kenneth Van Tassle, Lawrence Shea, Jackie Shea, and Chairman David Blau listen to Trent Sullivan, candidate for the 5th Middlesex House seat.

Sitting across from them, newly elected State Committee member, Kenneth Van Tassle, looks forward to the future. “Plenty of major party candidates are libertarian on one or two issues and the public majority are libertarian.” However, like everyone else, he still sees a lot of work to be done within the party before anything can happen. “We need to call ourselves the [Libertarian] Party” Tassle explained, addressing the issue of calling the party the “Association” versus “Party”. “Linking up our social media presence would bring people in [and] is key to fundraising.”

After half the day, the convention finally drew to a close with the election of national delegates, who will represent Massachusetts at the 2014 Libertarian Party National Convention, set to take place in Columbus, Ohio. As party activists filed out of the banquet hall, the mood was high and enthusiastic. However, the work is never finished, and for the newest Committee-members, it has only just begun.

The Libertarian Party was founded in Colorado in 1971, and is dedicated to “Minumum Government and Maximum Freedom.”

Western Mass. Republicans meet in Pittsfield; elect delegates

Originally published on May 2nd, 2012.

Western Mass. Republicans meet in Westfield for 1st Congressional district delegate caucus
By Joshua Evans

Almost two month ago, registered voters from three different political parties filed into their local voting booths to make their pick for who they would prefer to see lead them come this November. For most people, the primary was the extent of the nomination process in Massachusetts, but to the devout politicos, it was only just the first phase.

This past weekend was the next step, as Republicans from Charlton to Pittsfield crowded into the North Middle School Cafeteria in Westfield to participate in the new 1st Congressional District delegate caucus.

That word may not be too new. Remaining major Presidential contenders; Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, along with their previous rivals, have faced off in about one dozen caucus races and countless primaries so far this year in the race for the Republican Nomination and while the State of Massachusetts has legally bound it’s delegates to Mitt Romney based off of the March 6th primary results, a caucus is still conducted to decide who will be representing the Massachusetts delegation this August.

Over 200 participants, a high turn-out for this kind of event, decided between two slates of candidates, The Mitt Romney for President Slate and, representing Massachusetts Ron Paul supporters, The Ronald Reagan Liberty Unity Slate. But while a total of six candidates for delegates and six for alternate delegates from these two slates wanted a win, only three of each would be allowed to go to Florida for the Republican National Convention in the Fall.

Voters mingling in a cafeteria, awaiting delegate speeches (Original photo)

After a series of short speeches and a single round of voting, Ronald Crochetiere and Marcel Burque of the Ronald Reagan Unity Liberty Slate and Rich Berrena of the Mitt Romney for President Slate had secured enough votes to be sent down to Tampa. Even then, it’s still far from over for some, as those results might change between here and the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office in Boston.

Rick Berrena narrowly beat out Joseph Cavallaro of the Ronald Reagan Unity Liberty slate by two votes. In compliance with the rules established beforehand, 13 provisional ballots, or votes that need further verification from the Secretary, won’t be counted until later this week, and the results could flip the third spot from Berrena to Cavallaro.

“If I’m meant to be there, I am. If not, not. ” said Cavallaro, who was “patient but anxious” over the results of the 13 provisional ballots.

The second round of voting, for the alternate delegates, was conducted shortly afterward, and it was a clean sweep for the Ronald Reagan Unity Liberty Slate.

Those familiar with the caucus system this year might recall how it’s been a consistent source of tension and riddled with problems, and while there was only a single outburst during today’s events, caucus-goers still did not escape the air of animosity that seemed to come with the process.

Caucus voters cast ballots such as these
Caucus voters cast ballots such as these (Original photo)

“There’s an element perverting the process”, explained Michael Case, a candidate for delegate representing the Romney slate, “There are a lot of people I’ve never seen before here. ”

Mike Valanzola, a candidate for an alternate spot, also from the Romney slate, noted that there was a “significant faction here to send a message that they’re not supportive of Governor Romney. ”

But not everyone saw all of these new faces as a bad thing. “The Republican Party is changing”, said Caucus Chairman and Mayor of West Springfield, Greg Neffinger, “At least half of them would have been brought up Democratic before. We’re changing the idea that Republicans are in fact People [for the] People. ”

But amidst the high tensions of today’s events, there was a mutual agreement that the whole procedure was managed smoothly and efficiently. “I was very pleasantly surprised with the Moderator and the Parliamentarian and their professionalism” said presumed alternate delegate Paul Kleinwald.
Even Michael Cavallaro, who’s fate hangs on the results of 14 provisional ballots, shared that sentiment explaining the caucus process is “transparent and positive” and found it “alive and well.”

The Republican National Convention will take place on August 27th to the 30th in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Tiffany Briscoe, 2012 Presidential Nominee of the Boston Tea Party

Originally published on January 24th, 2012.

In continuing coverage of the many different candidates in the 2012 presidential election, I was fortunate enough to conduct a question and answer session with Ms. Tiffany Briscoe of the Boston Tea Party. Tiffany Briscoe is a small business owner and philanthropist from the state of Maryland.

Image
Photo courtesy of the Maryland Gazette

 The Boston Tea Party, formed in 2006, supports reducing the size, scope and power of government at all levels and on all issues, and opposes increasing the size, scope and power of government at any level, for any purpose. Following their December 21st nominating Convention, Tiffany Briscoe of Maryland and Kimberly Barrick (née Johnson) of Arizona now represent the party going into 2012. In 2008, their presidential nominee, Charles Jay, appeared on the ballot in three states and was a recognized write-in candidate in a dozen more.
Ms. Briscoe’s site can be located here.

Evans:
Thank you for taking the time to do this with me, it’s very appreciated.
Before we get into this, I just want you to know that there’s no rush and answers can be as long or as short as you’d like.
I’m also okay if you want to add links in with your answers. If it helps your message or if you answer something but there’s still somewhere where you have it in more detail for anyone curious, I encourage it.
Starting off with formalities, tell us about yourself.
Who are you and why are you seeking the Presidency of the United States?

Briscoe:
I am a small businesswoman. What else can I say? I respect my community, work for my local church and nursery and I am the proud owner of two small businesses that have been acknowledged in the past. These are the three facts that I like people to remember. But I am also a concerned citizen, shocked by the level of the federal government’s involvement in our private lives and voluntary associations. Never has the government been so large in the United States, an union that was based on decentralization. This is why I am running for the highest office in the United States: to bring back the White House to the reality of the 21st century and the need for Washington to get away the road to success that our economy desperately needs to take.

Evans:
What kinds of businesses do you manage and what challenges have you faced with this economy?  Do you see a background in business as a vital plank in a Briscoe Presidency?

Briscoe:
I manage a small retail store. However, punitive taxation is hurting me, especially in times such as this one. Meanwhile, safety regulations – which are costly and pointless in my case – are trying to put me on a downside. But we are surviving and with the profits I make, I invested to make a private dancing class as well as a charity organizations to take care of local cancer patients. And surely enough, I have a front seat as a witness of how excessive regulation and taxation are destroying not only our economy, but also the global market on a long-term perspective. This is why I believe it is important to have had a past in the private community to truly understand the situation in the competitive market. Life-long politicians do not even seem to understand the core problems of corporate welfare and public-private partnerships, as very often the so-called “champions of liberty” in Congress are the biggest earmark distributors in the legislature.

Evans:
First, thank you for your charity and generosity within the community.
When you say that Congress fails to understand “corporate welfare” and “public-private partnerships”, I envision images of the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements.
Do you believe the Tea Party and Occupy movements are a positive step towards addressing some of those problems? Furthermore, why do you believe the politicians’ fail to understand those same problems and, in your personal opinion, do you see that failure as deliberate or ignorant?

Briscoe:
Of course they are. Any sort of movement challenging the Establishment and asking for radical changes in society is a sign that people are awakening in the face of an ever-increasing government. Now, both the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement have certain groups within that do not prescribe the correct solutions to our problems, but their diagnosis is right most of the time: our lives are over-regulated, government is too coercive, and corruption has become an inherent part of central authorities.
But does this mean all politicians are bad? I’d like to believe not so. While there might be a few people that get into power just because of special interests or for the love of power, most politicians are caring members of society that want to change the system their own way. The problem, though, is that they do not understand that individuals are too different and too genuine for uniform policies to be applied to every one of them. And this is the root of most problems in our world.

Evans:
How much longer do you see these movements lasting? Will they eventually be absorbed into a mainstream party or will they simply expire?
Switching over to the topic of political parties, why run on the Boston Tea Party ticket? It’s clear that the rights of the individual are extremely important to you, so why that one over all of the other different parties that claim to represent them?

Briscoe:
Well, there is a clear threat represented by mainstream politicians trying to use populist movements at their advantage. And I do believe the Establishment will be able to shut these specific voices down on the short-term. However, their ideas won’t fade away, for the ideas of freedom have never failed humanity. The Boston Tea Party is one of those parties that envision a liberalized America, with freedom as core principle. Of course, other similar groups include the Constitution Party or the Libertarian Party, but both of these have recently been moving to the Right of the political spectrum, with one supporting conservative ideals and the other adopting tax reform policies such as the FairTax in their ideology. The [Boston Tea Party] is the last true individualist political party in the United States, and I am more than proud to have received its nomination, which I believe confirms that it will not compromise on libertarian principles.

Evans:
Other than its ideological purity, the Boston Tea Party is also known for it’s on-line nomination process. From conducting debates to nominating a national ticket for the Presidency, the [Boston Tea Party] is definitely innovative. Could you describe your experience with running in such an unconventional process? Are you prepared to jump from digital to physical?

Briscoe:
The Internet is the new branch of society that is free of government interference. So it is interesting to find most of the Boston Tea Party’s base online. This is not only unconventional, it also revolutionary. For the first time in history, a political party is open to anybody with Internet access. Now, my campaign had a lot to do with the nominating process. We came up with the idea of the debate, and pulled up first political ads during the convention. At the end, I was chosen with some 65% of the votes as the party’s nominee for the 2012 election cycle.

This has helped me get some media attention. But clearly not enough, which is to be expected as the elections are just beginning. I’ll be going to Florida very soon, where I will officially kick-start the campaign at my campaign headquarters. From there, we will work heavily with people from Vermont, Colorado, Tennessee, and these other states wherein we will be present on the ballot. I had previously worked on several local campaigns in Maryland, so I know it’s not going to be easy. But success is possible. And to tell the truth, I am much more comfortable campaigning on land than online. I’ll let my supporters take care of the Internet front.

Evans:
That’s a very confident margin of victory. Meanwhile, your running-mate, Ms. Kimberly Barrick, required two rounds of voting before she was nominated. Are you content with the outcome and is your relationship with her a strong one, and for that matter, your relationships with all of your former fellow [Boston Tea Party] Presidential contenders?

Briscoe:
This victory was a clear sign that the Boston Tea Party is set to remain the most active proponent of small government principles in today’s political field. And the same can be said about the nomination of Mrs. Barrick as my running mate. She is a very intelligent, principled, active, and charismatic woman that understands the importance of campaigning and what her major role is in this bid for the highest offices in the land. I had already endorsed her during the convention and now, our campaigns have merged for a closer collaboration. Now, I also believe that our ticket can unify the small government circles of the United States, as I am an East-Coast libertarian and she is a Southwestern constitutionalist.

When it comes to my fellow [Boston Tea Party] friends that did not receive the party’s nomination back in December, I am happy to say that there is no grave conflict between us. One individual, Bob Milnes, decided to run against my platform but this time as a candidate for the Libertarian Party’s nomination, and this is not going to be anyhow relevant as we move on in this election cycle. The others have been cordial with me as I have shown due respect. The Boston Tea Party is now mainly unified behind a strong presidential ticket.

Evans:
I would say some of your opponents in November might wish their parties were as united as the [Boston Tea Party] is, furthermore, you can get right to focusing on November.
In keeping with looking forward though, what plans do you have? Are there any strategies you can share and what States do you plan on obtaining ballot access in?

Briscoe:
Indeed, the advantage of an early nomination is that we can focus on the general election sooner. We already know it’s not going to be an easy run. There are many well-funded candidates from the Establishment that already have the mainstream media’s support. This is why we are focusing on getting our message across as effectively as possible. Alternative media, such as the Internet, will be more than useful. In fact, we do have a campaign strategy focused on the weaknesses of the other candidacies when it comes to libertarian messages. By November, we will be in as much as 14 to 15 states, including Colorado, Louisiana, Vermont, and others.

For the SOPA and PIPA affair, I am simply shocked. Under the name of protecting the artificial notion of intellectual property, the government wants to start regulating the Internet in a manner that would restrict free expression. This is the State at its worst. We cannot seem to find the sources of these proposals, as intellectual property is neither a conservative nor a liberal principle, while copyright-owners do not have a large lobby in Washington. SOPA and PIPA are the government’s means to destroy free speech. So I do understand why so many websites have been blacking out. It’s none of my business to tell them how they should react, but I do realize the gravity of the situation.

Evans:
Switching gears again, I want to go over your platform.
Can you describe a summary of your platform? I know you’re a libertarian and for individual liberties, but what does that mean for someone who doesn’t know? Where do you stand on the usual issues that people tend to focus on first?

Briscoe:
My platform is based on reason and the Constitution. I have heard from many that my plan was a radical platform based on libertarianism, so I’d like to say so. In short, it is about empowering the individual, lowering the scope of the federal government, and promoting prosperity abroad. We have been over-regulated, over-legislated, and over-controlled by politicians that are wasting our and our children’s money, which is simply unacceptable. Now, I believe all the issues are very important because they all represent government action -or inaction- but it is clear that to the American people, what matters the most is an economy that is heading to crisis. My principled view is that the economy is too complex and important to be led or influenced by the government: more liberty can only do good.

Evans:
I’d like to run two scenarios by with you.
Worst case scenario. You lose in November. Who would you be the most comfortable with having in the White House? Who would be the least?
Best case scenario. You win in November. Is there any elected official, former or current and from any level of Government, who you would consider for any cabinet position?

Briscoe:
If I lose in November, there aren’t many individuals that I will trust to carry on common sense and constitutionalism to the White House. But I guarantee you than anybody can do a better job that Barack Obama. The truth is that among the two major parties’ front-runners, I can’t find anyone with true classical liberal principles of limited government and individual liberty. Now, many of our supporters have come from the Gary Johnson or Ron Paul crowds, which is interesting. Now, if I am elected in November, there might be some government officials that will deserve recognition. Congressmen Connie Mack and Dennis Kucinich are very good examples of elected officials that have fought for individual freedom in the past. But at the end of the day, it is very hard to find principled members of the government in this Establishment.

Evans:
Those are very interesting choices. I understand they may not reflect everything you believe in, but what qualities do they demonstrate that you appreciate?
I appreciate the time you’ve given me to ask you these questions and I’d like to give you the chance to get the last word. Is there anything you’d like to ask me, add, or say that I might not have given you the opportunity to?

Briscoe:
Of course, the examples I have given are far from being genuine. Across the country, there are dozens of individuals working in government, whether federal, state or local, to promote the American principles of peace, prosperity, and freedom. They fight on a daily basis against the Establishment and make decisions above party politics. I remember when Connie Mack was one of the few Republicans that voted against the Patriot Act, for instance.

But to finish up, I’d like to say this. Whatever the outcome of these elections will be, nobody should give up hope. Freedom is a natural part of life that society will obtain sooner or later. In many aspects, we are more free now than fifty years ago, a hundred years ago, two centuries ago. Freedom is powerful and no standing army, nor any monetary influence will be able to destroy it any time soon.