By Spencer Kellogg | United States
Admittedly, I’m new. My first interaction with the Libertarian Party (outside of a passing glance in 2012) was through Bitcoin. To enter the poker world of post-Black Friday meant learning about digital assets. After consistently losing my Bitcoin over the course of a month – and watching the cryptocurrency begin to take off in value – I decided it might make more sense to hold the digital currency instead.
It was the summer of 2016 and Bitcoin was worth less than $500 dollars then. There wasn’t much hype around it and the only place where I found a consistent political discussion about the future potential of the currency was in libertarian subgroups. These new friends would inevitably lead me down the rabbit hole of Friedman, the Federal Reserve and our blighted global monetary policies of the mid to late 20th century.
Before I knew it, I was watching videos about the history of currency, reading the work of Konkin & calling Wes Benedict at the national office. My path since then, I assume, resembles many who have come to call The Libertarian Party home. It has been weird, frustrating, and mostly, a true blue chaotic mess.
Except for Larry Sharpe.
Larry Sharpe isn’t a mess. Nor is he frustrating. He’s not weird either. If I had to think of one word to associate with Larry Sharpe and his so-far brilliant campaign for Governor of New York, it would be steadfast. While other libertarian candidates have stooped to sensationalist measures to grab headlines, Sharpe has been busy pitching libertarianism in a way that is accessible to the common voter.
In the face of such lopsided odds, Sharpe has maintained a well-funded campaign and showed strongly for the Libertarian Party on his numerous radio and TV spots. In the face of an increasingly shaky Libertarian Party, Sharpe is providing a consistent message and showing every day Americans that libertarians aren’t so different after all.
His interview on WHMT in February is one of the most cogent and assured arguments for gun rights that I’ve heard from a libertarian candidate. His fresh take on sensible leadership is a triumph for the modern libertarianism movement:
In the interview, Sharpe comes off as a strong, smart, good-looking entryway for the large portion of our population that still sits on the sidelines come election season. On the question of gun reform, Sharpe refuted the interviewer’s misleading suggestion that gun control in New York has curbed gun violence. Discussing the NY Safe Act, which Governor Cuomo and Republican legislators passed in the wake of Sandy Hook, Sharpe was adamant in his assertion that the gun reform legislation has criminalized basic civil rights without making the society at large safer:
The Safe Act made no one safer in New York. It made a bunch of people who were legal gun owners criminals overnight. The Safe Act creates more victims. If you have your weapon in a bag with your ammunition in the same bag – you get arrested. The weapon’s not loaded. This is how New York state works. That is backward. Every time you try to create 0 tolerance, you make things worse. No one is safer.
If that kid [Nikolas Cruz] wanted to kill people in New York, he would have. The people who are criminals are still criminals. This is a band-aid. Here’s the bigger problem: the problem is that we have unhappy people. Unhappy people are the problem. If you take away his gun, he uses something else.
Sharpe is new to the party. A former marine who burst onto the scene with his staggering fundraising ability, Sharpe originally drifted from Republican to Democrat over the course of several decades. He flirted with the Green Party and supported Ralph Nader before finally attending his first actual political meeting – a libertarian one in his hometown of NYC.
Adopted as child, he witnessed his mother struggle through drug addiction and the misery that a felony conviction wrought on her life. The tale of his mother’s battle with addiction and the legal fallout is a story echoed by many Americans throughout the country.
The drug war allows the FDA and the government to decide what drug is good and what drug is bad even though the more dangerous drug is clearly the FDA drug. Most of our addiction today comes from FDA approved drugs.
My father was a cop. When he was dying of cancer, his friends, who were also cops, took him out in the squad car and let him smoke marijuana that they had actually siezed. That makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. These were cops. My father was a cop. Cops were giving him marijuana. It was illegal. They were arresting people and putting them in jail for marijuana.
The war on drugs hurts people. It makes them liable for things they shouldn’t be and it makes people not want to give others a second chance. The war on drugs creates that. It ensures that we don’t have a nation of second chances and we’re supposed to be that.
We were a nation of the amatuer. We were the nation of the guy or gal who failed and tried two or three times. We were the nation of the second son who couldn’t survive in Europe. We lose that with the “war on drugs.”
At the 2015 convention, Sharpe almost beat out Bill Weld to be Gary Johnson’s Vice President on the 2016 ticket. In a race that came down to less than 50 votes, Weld bested Sharpe as the convention fell into ideological disarray. As Reason notes, the radical and anarchist contingencies of the party grouped behind Sharpe even though they don’t claim him as one of their own.
That last bit is my evidence for Sharpe’s effectiveness. Sharpe isn’t an anarchist or a voluntarist. He’s not a minarchist or a paleoconservative. As far as I know he’s not any of the tiny, powerless factions that make up the post-Johnson era of LP politics. He’s a big tent Libertarian and he fights for us all.
One thing that separates Mr. Sharpe’s campaign from others is his stated will to win. When asked if his campaign can net the required 50,000 votes to secure ballot access in New York for the future, Sharpe was quick to dismiss the number as low.
My base right now is the Gary Johnson/Bill Weld voters in New York state. It’s about 175,000 voters, give or take. Those are people who said ‘I’m done with the old parties.’ I already have endorsements from Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. 50,000 is in my rear view mirror. If I can just triple that in the next 10 months, just that, will give me over 10% of the vote. Maybe only 4 million are actually going to vote. If I break 10%, I have affected the election. Right now, the scandal’s around Cuomo… if any of them hit, I’m the governor.
Sharpe has been principled in his approach to leadership in the LP. He has brought a sense of pragmatism not through his ideology but through his governance. In a party best known for its tin foil characters and extremists, Sharpe has been a consistent bearer of truth and idealism throughout his time in the party. In February, Sharpe resigned his post on the LNC after Arvin Vohra’s numerous controversial outbursts went unpunished. Sharpe was right too as this past weekend, Vorha made another ridiculous statement that has led to more upheaval in the membership.
While working with a membership that has been likened to herding cats, Sharpe’s principled approach is respected by those that sit on the either side of the increasingly fractured pedagogical aisle. His ability to appeal to mainstream voters while aligning support within a divided membership is suggestive that Sharpe is not only the standard bearer for the Libertarian movement but could prove a reliable and forceful pick for the libertarian presidential nominee in 2020.
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