Our America Initiative, a nonprofit advocacy group, is suing the Federal Debate Commision for the inclusion of the Libertarian and Green Party nominees in the nationally- televised presidential debates that will follow the nomination of the Republican and Democratic nominees.
In hopeful preparation for this inclusion, 11 Libertarian candidates traveled to Biloxi’s Beau Rivage Casino & Resort in order to participate in 2016’s first Libertarian presidential primary debate.
The debate took place in the Beau Rivage Magnolia Ballroom over the course of than two hours, during which the candidates addressed economic issues, conflicts in the Middle East, marijuana laws and immigration reform. The debate was filmed before a live audience and is now available online.
The 11 candidates, much like their supporters, come from varied backgrounds. Like with Democrats and Republicans, the meaning and values of libertarianism varied between individuals.
“Very simply, I think, if you wikipedia ‘classic liberal,’ that would be libertarianism: fiscally responsible and socially live and let live,” said Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico. “Let people enjoy their own personal freedoms and liberties, and as long as those personal liberties and freedoms don’t infringe or do harm to others, so be it.”
Candidate Cecil Ince, who joined the Libertarian party in 2000, said libertarianism is a political philosophy
advocating personal liberty and responsible government.”
“The role of government is limited to protecting and preserving life, liberty and property,” Ince said.
Candidate and anesthesiologist Marc Feldman said that, to him, the Libertarian party is almost like a family.
“I have a different perspective. I look at the Libertarian party not as a group of principles, but a group of people with shared values,” he said.
Opening statements from all of the candidates including variations on a theme, with repeated phrases including “smaller government,” “simpler tax plan” and “no taxes.”
Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark shared his his opinion of the candidate pool.
“I think we have an awesome field of candidates,” Sarwark. “We have candidates from across the libertarian spectrum, there is a spectrum within the libertarian party.”
Five winners went on to a lightning round to end the debate: Johnson, Petersen, McAfee, Darryl Perry and Feldman.
Johnson, a previous presidential candidate, was nominated by the Libertarian party to run against Mitt Romney and sitting President Barack Obama in 2012. Johnson seeks the nomination again this cycle, hoping to take the Libertarian party to a national audience.
Petersen, who began his direct involvement with the party in 2008, is a former producer for Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano and owner of a popular magazine supporting the party, Libertarian Republic. McAfee, the antivirus software McAfee pioneer and once international fugitive, shifted his presidential campaign toward the Libertarian Party in December, according to USA Today. He recently showed his support on the record publically on the side of Apple in the Apple-FBI case.
Perry, a self-described peace advocate according to his Facebook page, is the co- founder of the New Hampshire Liberty Party as well as an award-winning author.
Feldman, who practices medicine in Ohio, previously ran for Attorney General and hopes to appeal to the non-voter base.
The debate began with a rousing speech from Danny Bedwell, author and columnist for the website “Business Always Matters,” who introduced the candidates.
John Moore, a Nevada state legislator is the highest serving libertarian in the country, explained the purpose of the debate.
“I think we’re trying to show folks who’s the serious candidates and who, perhaps, might not be as serious, as well as present viable candidates who actually have a chance at making a good showing in the upcoming presidential election,” Moore said.
The debate can be seen online in its entirety on the Libertarian YouTube page, and more information can be found at the Libertarian Party for Mississippi’s website. The next Libertarian debate event will be held in Virginia.
Information on the court case can be found on the Our America Initiative website.