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The Libertarian Party Should Be Targeting Blacks
In 2002 I ran for the U.S. Senate in Virginia against Republican Senator John Warner. I ended up garnering 7.12 percent of the vote, which equated to 106,055 votes. Warner got 82.58 percent, or 1,229,894. A Lyndon Larouche candidate got 9.74 percent, or 145,102 votes. There was no Democrat candidate in the race.
Where did my 106,055 votes come from?
They darned sure didn’t come from Republicans. For one thing, Warner, who had been married to the actress Elizabeth Taylor, was one of the most popular political figures in the state. There is virtually no possibility that a Republican would vote for anyone but Warner.
More important, the campaign took place soon after the 9/11 attacks. I was openly and publicly pointing to U.S. foreign policy as the motivating cause of those attacks. I was also openly and publicly opposing the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
For Republicans, as well as for Democrats, those were heretical positions. Everyone was expected to buy into the fact that the terrorists had struck America because of their hatred for America’s “freedom and values.” Anyone who pointed to U.S. foreign policy as the motivating cause of the attacks was labeled a traitor and a defender of the terrorists. Moreover, most every Republican and Democrat, and even many libertarians, were supporting the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Even through there was no Democrat in the race, there is virtually no possibility that any Democrat went to the polls to vote for me. That is undoubtedly where the Larouchie got her votes. After all, I was running a campaign of pure libertarian principles, which included calling for the abolition of Social Security, Medicare, and all other welfare-state programs. No Democrat would ever take the time to go to the polls to vote for a libertarian taking those positions. He would instead choose to stay at home or vote for the Larouchie.
Of course, some of my votes came from libertarians. But I have no doubts that the vast majority of them came from blacks.
How do I know that?
My campaign manager and I deliberately targeted blacks with most of our campaign efforts. We went to all sorts of black events passing out my campaign brochure. There were black picnics, where we had extensive conversations with blacks. We also went to concerts that were largely attended by blacks, passing out campaign brochures as people were waiting in line to get into the venue. I went to black churches and met with black ministers.
Perhaps the biggest factor was a letter of endorsement I received from Pastor John O. Peterson, Sr., who was the pastor for the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia. Peterson was one of the most respected and renowned ministers in the country. He was also a member of the African-American Hall of Fame. Click here to read his bio, and you will see why I considered it to be such a huge honor to receive his endorsement.
Peterson knew that I couldn’t defeat Warner. Nonetheless, he gave me a written letter of endorsement. In his letter, he stated, “I am suggesting the following persons and am planning to call them to let them know of your candidacy and encourage them to do whatever they can.” He listed four black ministers in Bristol, Richmond, Norfolk, and Roanoke. He concluded his letter with, “I wish you well in your uphill candidacy for the United States Senate seat from Virginia.”
Let me emphasize that I was running a campaign of pure libertarian principle. Dismantle the entire welfare-warfare state. No welfare-warfare state reform measures. No compromises of libertarian principles. No watering down or concealing of libertarian principles.
What was I emphasizing that blacks would have found attractive? The deadly, destructive, immoral, evil, and racially bigoted war on drugs, which both Republicans and Democrats have been waging for decades. The adverse effects of this war have fallen disproportionately on blacks, and every black in the country, especially those at the bottom of the economic ladder, knows it. There is no doubt that it is the most racially bigoted government program since segregation (which both Republicans and Democrats supported), perhaps even more so. Every bigoted cop, DEA agent, and judge loves the war on drugs because it enables them to exercise their bigotry with arbitrary stops and searches, no-knock raids, asset forfeiture, criminal prosecutions, and extraordinarily long jail sentences against blacks — and even get praised for doing all this at their lovely cocktail parties attended by their elite, well-to-do white friends.
I had the same experience in my run for the 2020 Libertarian Party presidential nomination. The LP had earned the right to have a presidential primary in North Carolina. I wanted to win that primary. As the members of the Libertarian Party of North Carolina will attest, I spent lots of time in their state — but mostly campaigning among non-libertarians, especially blacks.
I spent countless hours passing out brochures at the local bus station in Raleigh, when thousands of blacks were coming and going from work. That was one fascinating experience. Most of them were very poor but they had a better handle on what was going on in America than white middle-class and white well-to-do Americans do. They expressed to me how the entire political system was crooked and corrupt. They had an excellent understanding of how U.S. foreign policy was nothing more than a crooked and corrupt, deadly and destructive racket. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, those are not the views of middle-class whites and well-to-do whites, who are mostly “good little citizens” who believe in the welfare-warfare state system and blindly defer to the authority of the national-security establishment.
Thanks to members of the North Carolina Libertarian Party, we organized a door-to-door campaign in a very poor black neighborhood in Wilmington. We invited all other L.P. presidential candidates to join us. Not one did. The only national L.P. candidate who joined us was Spike Cohen, who was running as Vermin Supreme’s vice-presidential candidate. You can ask him about what happened or you can ask any N.C. L.P. member who was there about it. I guarantee you that they will attest that the response we received was unbelievably positive and enthusiastic. When those impoverished blacks would hear my pitch about the drug war, it was clear I was hitting a big chord within them. Some of them were coming up to me and saying, “Mr. Hornberger, not only am I going to vote for you, but I’m going to get my friends to vote for you as well.”
Additionally, during my campaign to win the North Carolina primary. I visited a number of black radio stations, black newspapers, and black churches and established a good rapport with all of them.
I ended up winning the North Carolina Libertarian Party presidential election (as well as six other Libertarian Party presidential primaries). I don’t know if blacks played a role in my win, but one of my biggest disappointments in losing the 2020 L.P. presidential nomination was not having the opportunity to build on what we had started in North Carolina. The candidate who won the presidential nomination, Jo Jorgensen, went on a bus tour across the country talking to Libertarian groups. I would have done something completely different. I wouldn’t have campaigned among Libertarians because I figured I already had their votes. I would have gone into North Carolina and concentrated our limited resources on going back to those black radio stations, newspapers, and neighborhoods and trying to get endorsements from black ministers, all with the aim of achieving a breakthrough in the polls in that one state — say, to 7-10 percent, which could then have been used as a springboard for other states.
This is what I meant throughout my campaign for the 2020 L.P. presidential nomination when I kept saying that I wanted to run a different type of presidential campaign — a bold campaign that was totally different from the standard L.P. presidential campaign. I continually maintained that doing something different and bold was the only way to break out of the standard 1-3 percent vote range and into the 7-10 percent vote range.
Pragmatist and reform-oriented Libertarians, however, kept insisting that if I were to win the L.P. presidential nomination, my brand of principled libertarianism would inevitably “take us back to 1 percent," which they said would be a disaster. Ironically, Jorgensen ended up garnering 1.2 percent, which reform-oriented libertarians, somewhat humorously, decided was a tremendous success after all.
At The Future of Freedom Foundation, an educational foundation whose mission is to present the principled, uncompromising case for the libertarian philosophy, which I founded and where I serve as president, we had the same type of experience with blacks. Several years ago, we reached out and found students and sponsors at several Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBCU) and asked them about hosting conferences on campus on the drug war, mass incarceration, and civil liberties. No other libertarian think tank or educational foundation had ever done that. I cannot begin to describe the appreciation and excitement that those students demonstrated in organizing and hosting us and then attending our conferences. The response was phenomenally positive.
Why didn’t other L.P. presidential candidates show up with us in North Carolina and go door to door with us in that poor black neighborhood? Most likely because it’s just not the thing that L.P. candidates do. Take a look at the standard L.P. state convention. You’ll see it’s largely composed of middle-class whites and well-to-do whites. Thus, it’s natural that L.P. members would be targeting middle-class whites and well-to-do whites for votes, especially since the Republican Party is the main targeted audience for pragmatists, reform-oriented Libertarians, and Republican-Lites. (See my article “Pragmatism and Republican-Lite Are Both Losing Political Strategies.”)
As I have been emphasized in my entire Substack series, that strategy will never work. It is inherently defective. Even if every single L.P member at the national convention wears a suit and conducts himself in a professional manner and C-SPAN covers the entire proceedings, middle-class Republican whites and well-to-do Republican whites will never vote for Libertarians.
As I pointed out in ”Pragmatism and Republican-Lite Are Both Losing Political Strategies,” the primary reason is party loyalty. But there is another reason: Middle-class whites and well-to-do whites are comfortable with the welfare-warfare state. Oh, sure, they’ll complain about higher gas prices or healthcare prices or about getting a speeding ticket, but they are able to quickly adjust. They aren’t going to take a chance on voting for a radical Libertarian candidate, which is precisely why pragmatists, Republican-Lites, and reform-oriented Libertarians have been so intent on watering down Libertarian principles and positions or concealing them in the hopes of garnering votes from that sector of the electorate.
Not so with blacks and others at the bottom of the economic ladder. They are the ones who are getting totally screwed by the system, and they know it. They are the ones who pay the biggest price for the welfare-warfare state. They are the ones who are getting squeezed by inflation. They are the ones who are hit the hardest with regressive taxes. Black teenagers get locked out of the labor market with minimum-wage laws. The drug war tempts poor blacks to go into the drug trade, where they are busted and sent to the penitentiary for many years or even for life. It also enables bigoted cops to initiate deadly no-knock raids on blacks in the middle of the night. Asset forfeiture enables bigoted cops to steal money from blacks driving down the highway. The welfare state locks many blacks into an existence of permanent poverty and dependency. The Pentagon’s and the CIA’s foreign wars kill a disproportionately high number of blacks who have joined the military as a way to survive. Since whites live longer than blacks, Social Security and Medicare are socialist rackets that transfer money from blacks to whites. Inner-city public schools are cesspools of violence, drugs, and mental destruction for the children of inner-city black families.
The list goes on and on. As the black libertarian economist Walter Williams titled one of his books, it’s “The State Against Blacks.”
What about the old Republican shibboleth that blacks just want to go on welfare? Blacks are just as rational as whites. When the government is offering free money, blacks are likely to take it, just as whites are willing to take Social Security, Medicare, stimulus checks, educational grants, and corporate subsidies. But many blacks are increasingly doing their best to resist the welfare trap, especially because many black leaders over the decades have warned against becoming dependent victims of the welfare trap and have instead advocated a life of financial independence and freedom.
Libertarians need to be targeting blacks for votes. And no, I’m not saying simply running black Libertarian candidates. That’s not enough, especially since some black L.P. candidates themselves fall into the category of pragmatism, Republican-Lite, or reform-oriented.
What I’m saying is that we need to change the entire vision of the Libertarian Party — from one of reform, pragmatism, and Republican-Lite to one of pure Libertarian principle. Yes, restore the Libertarian Party as the “Party of Principle” is what I am saying. Radical libertarianism, which attacks the entire welfare-warfare state system that blacks know is so crooked and corrupt.
In other words, forget about targeting Republicans. Forget about targeting middle-class whites and well-to-do whites. Forget about endorsing, attaboying, and praising Republican candidates, including “libertarian-leaning” Republican candidates like Blake Masters, who state such bigoted inanities as blacks are the cause of gun violence. (See my Substack article “Marc Victor’s Surrender to the Republicans.”) That type of thing is the kiss of death insofar as getting blacks to vote for Libertarian Party candidates.
In other words, to break out of the standard 1-3 percent and break into the 7-10 (or higher) range, the Libertarian Party needs to do something different, something bold. Doing the same thing over and over again will only produce the same result. Above all, the Libertarian Party needs to restore its brand of principled libertarianism, which will enable it to be, once again, the “Party of Principle” in the political arena. Finally, the Libertarian Party needs to target an entirely different group of people for votes, especially blacks.
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