OZY: Doug Craig – The Man in the Freedom T-Shirt

Doug Craig

Why you should care

Whether it’s a moment or a bonafide movement, libertarianism is on the rise. That’s thanks to people like Doug Craig, chair of the Libertarian Party of Georgia.

Enter Doug Craig’s office.

Or rather, his warehouse. This sheet-metal manufacturing plant in Atlanta’s poor, urban Southside might seem like a strange place to find the architect of a third-party uprising, a spoiler of potentially national proportions. Yet here is Craig, wearing a black “Freedom” T-shirt hastily tucked into cargo shorts, warning me to avoid the close-by glass shards from a shattered television.

“I didn’t think of dressing up,” he says against the backdrop of whirrs and clangs and booms. “I’ve never been the type of politician to wear a suit and tie anyway.”

As the first-year chairman of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, Craig is understated: a portly man with an easy air and a large goatee. But he shouldn’t be underestimated. This year he’s anointed two candidates who stand a fair chance of spoiling two high-profile races and turning Georgia into a high-stakes battleground. Now, no one expects Andrew Hunt to become Georgia’s next governor, or Amanda Swafford to make it to the U.S. Senate. But should they live up to their poll numbers — between five and seven percent , regularly — they’ll likely force runoffs. (In Georgia, statewide races go into overtime if one candidate doesn’t capture 50 percent of the vote.)

And if the Senate race heads to a runoff, expect the millions of dollars Democrats and Republicans are pouring into the Peach State to increase. “[W]e might not know who controls the majority of the Senate until January,” says Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political scientist. “In the case where that happens, Georgia will be ground zero for national politics for months.”

We’re a regional incubator of libertarian ideas. Without us, you wouldn’t have the Ron Pauls and Rand Pauls.

Behind this success of sorts is the man in the “Freedom” T-shirt: Doug Craig. He got into politics, but reluctantly, he says. Yet he’s managed to tap into a growing libertarian sentiment. It’s not just in Georgia. Coast-to-coast support for long-held libertarian tenets such as same-sex marriage , marijuana legalization and noninterventionism is higher than ever before. Meanwhile, races around the country are marked by voter disenchantment with the two-party system. From a North Carolina pizza delivery man to a Kentucky police officer, third-party candidates are polling well all over.

Whether it’s a libertarian moment or a bona fide movement, it’s state soldiers like Craig who’ve done the grass-roots work of building a viable party from very little. “We’re a regional incubator of libertarian ideas,” says Craig. “Without us, you wouldn’t have the Ron Pauls and Rand Pauls.” Grass-roots work, it turns out, is the scut work: sending press releases, badgering reporters, forging relationships with donors and raising money for only the third television ad in the state party’s history. The candidates get the glamour. Craig gets his sheet-metal plant.

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