Paul Frankel: My path from Democrat to Libertarian….. and: what was your path from D or R to Other?

The following is a biographical summary of IPR Contributing Editor Paulie Frankel’s path from major party supporter (in this case Democratic)  to 3rd party advocate (in this case Libertarian).

It is posted here with an invitation to each IPR reader who chooses to do so to provide a similar biographical summary, in the comments below, of their journeys from major parties into the realm of Independent/Third Party Political interest and activism with the intention that this sharing of our experiences might prove of interest or useful to IPR readers generally.

“Back in the Reagan and Bush Sr. years (1980 to 1992), I believed that when the baby boomer progressives got to the top of the power pyramid, they would bring US troops home from around the world, end the drug war and the militarized police-surveillance-prison industrial complex at home, and stop the interlocking partnership of politicians, bureaucrats and big corporations.

“Although the cold war ended, and the Democrats won control of the White House and (for a couple of years) both houses of Congress, the drug war only intensified. More people were arrested and imprisoned for drugs under Clinton than under Reagan or Bush Sr. Corporate-government collusion just kept growing. Iraq kept being bombed and embargoed to the point that hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps a million, (about half of them children) died from the effects. Madeleine Albright said it was “worth it.” A pharmaceutical factory in Sudan was bombed by Americans. The military-industrial complex was certainly not curtailed.

“Given these facts I could no longer in good conscience support the Democratic Party. I needed an alternative that supported ending the drug war, bringing home the troops, winding down the military-industrial complex, demilitarizing the domestic police forces, and at that time the only such choice on my ballot was the Libertarians.

“While I was ready to vote for them, I was not one yet and wanted to know more about them. At the time, as a new party inquiry I received “Libertarianism In One Lesson” by David Bergland and afterwards read through the books in the “for further reading…” section at the end.

(ED Note: Libertarianism in One Lesson is available as a free PDF HERE; for sale by Amazon HERE and a very brief biography of David Bergland is available HERE.)

“To my relief, Libertarians also turned out to be genuinely against government-corporate collusion as well as against the whole poisonous big government agenda of the “moral majority”/”Christian Coalition” social conservatives on sexual issues, freedom of expression, separation of religion and government, etc.

“I discovered that there were libertarian perspectives on a variety of progressive goals – Julian Simon’s (professor of business administration at the Universities of Illinois and Maryland, and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute) books and articles about environmental issues were a big help.

(ED NOTE: A collection of Julian Simon’s books can be found HERE.)

“I read that, far from educating poor children better, government schools were actually consciously promoted as means of socializing children into cannon fodder for the war machine and obedient workers for big corporations. This certainly made sense when compared with my actual experiences in schools.

“I read about ways in which, far from helping poor people, government poverty programs actually trapped poor people in poverty, while a slew of taxes and regulations prevented poor and blue collar “working class” people from starting small businesses . . . while empowering big corporations that are actually advantaged against small business competition due to their ability to mobilize teams of lawyers, lobbyists and accountants.

“I learned that government is itself the biggest polluter – the exact extent not being fully known due to military secrecy. I learned that in many cases government subsidizes pollution and/or insures/exempts polluters from legal consequences.

“I learned that libertarians did in fact offer answers to the problems that progressives want to use big government to solve, and through a process of reading and debate over a couple of years in the early 1990s those solutions began to make more and more sense to me.

“I realized that many of the same arguments that I was making as a drug peace activist – that something being bad did not mean it should be illegal, and that making it illegal often caused more problems than the original problem and/or made it worse – applied across the board, including to economic issues, educational issues, environmental issues, etc. The corollary that just because something was good did not mean it should be made mandatory also eventually made sense.

“I always had a natural strong dislike for authoritarianism, bureaucracy, government offices with their waiting lines and forms . . . yet for some years believed that they were necessary to protect the environment, educate children, insure fairness for employees and consumers, help the poor, sick and disabled, etc. However, due to the reading I did, I came to believe that, in fact, big government is actually actively detrimental to all these progressive goals.

“I no longer believe that the same entity which locks people who have not victimized anyone up in prisons and sends people to fight in imperialist wars overseas, bails out banks and big corporations, and so on, is the entity we should turn to achieve any such worthy goals. Nowadays it seems to me that it amounts to putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

“Nor do I believe any longer that it is the only way to keep big business from abusing people; I now tend to see big government and big business as intertwined entities that work in tandem against the common people, rather than balancing each other out as I once believed they did.

“I believe now that the “right people” will never fix the problems of our existing government, unless they are strong enough to voluntarily give up power, which rarely happens. I’ve learned that the incentive system that exists under any form of coercive monopoly always leads to the abuse of power.

“Today we can see another Democratic president once again continuing and worsening the abuses of his Republican predecessors against peace and civil liberties, and continuing the increasing intervention of government on behalf of big corporations.

“Under both Republican and Democratic presidents, and Republican and Democratic congresses, in every combination, over the last 20 years we have seen trillions of dollars taken from Americans and spent to kill millions of foreigners and thousands of Americans . . . massive bailouts of corporate criminals . . . millions of Americans locked up, and thousands killed every year in the drug war . . . an ever growing problem of domestic surveillance and militarized police . . . seizures of homes and small businesses for the benefit of corporate developers . . . and much more.

“Nor do I see a solution to these problems coming from the more extreme left either. Europe certainly has its slew of problems under democratic socialism, and the authoritarian “scientific” socialist nations, even far more so.

“I believe now that the stated goals of the left can best – indeed, only – be achieved by libertarian means.”

28 thoughts on “Paul Frankel: My path from Democrat to Libertarian….. and: what was your path from D or R to Other?

  1. Joseph Buchman Post author

    I was born a libertarian; at least my earliest memories of childhood playground and BSA incidents suggest that. By the age of 13 or so, I’d read almost all of Heinlein and dreamt of a real tangible future of living in a free, radical voluntaryist Star Trek/Sci-Fi, TINSTAAFL like society. I “discovered” the Libertarian Party through RAH and Ayn Rand, and then was propelled into libertarian activism (at least within my closest family and friendship circles (and, sadly, especially dating behavior) by the Ed Clark for POTUS CBS television advertising buys in 1979/1980.

    Today I’d consider myself a left-leaning Libertarian — most interested in peace, non-violence, racial, gender, sexual-orientation, religious, equality of opportunity.

    The only (slight) disagreement I have with Paulie above is that when he says:

    “Today we can see another Democratic president once again continuing and worsening the abuses of his Republican predecessors ”

    I see:

    “Today we can see another Democratic president once again continuing and worsening the abuses of his Republican and Democratic predecessors ”

    There has been zero, zip, nada difference for decades (at least). Additionally I’m not at all sure it is the “President” who does much of anything except act as the curtain behind which those in real power play out their utterly consistent (from election to election, or from administration to administration) policy and apparent inter-generational agenda.

    PS My (90+ year old, retried MD dad) is still a Roosevelt democrat. He benefitted from the GI Bill (or so it seems to him) and he doesn’t (yet) understand why I am not at all grateful for it/not at all sure I have benefitted from it overall (the damage from government involvement into free markets being less obvious than the repeatedly touted benefits). He also doesn’t get my appreciation for NASA (especially the Apollo program) while also calling for its privatization. My maternal grandmother was an avid, John Birch, “law and order” Republican and some of my most vivid childhood memories are debates between my dad and his MIL.

  2. paulie

    I don’t disagree with you on that at all. In context, what I think I was saying is that the Democrats are not the antidote to the Republicans on social/cultural issues, war and peace issues, or corporate-government collusion that I once hoped they could become, and that the evidence for this continues to accumulate (as if any more was needed).

  3. Jed Ziggler

    I grew up in an ultra-conservative family, my parents worshiped at the altar of Rush Limbaugh. I was raised a fiscal conservative, and my first time voting I voted straight Republican as I was taught that was the thing to do, to vote otherwise was basically to vote for Satan himself. Then I began to investigate the people I had voted for, and the one who stood out was Rick Santorum, who said things about gay people that just completely shocked and offended me. I wasn’t yet out as a gay man and was struggling to admit it to myself, but I knew that wasn’t what I stood for, and I was ashamed of being so stupid as to vote for people based solely on whether they had an R or a D beside their name. I began to look for a party that fit my views, and that’s when I found the Libertarian Party. Over the years my beliefs have moved more and more leftward, to the point now where I am still a libertarian, but I have far more in common with progressives than I do conservatives.

  4. Matt Cholko

    I think my views moved from fiscally conservative, socially moderate in 1998 or so, to fiscally conservative, socially I don’t give a damn about what you do by about 2010. As for voting, I felt that Republicans most closely mirrored my beliefs. And, I think that as far as what they say, that was mostly correct. But, as I realized that they don’t actually do the things they talk about, and as it became clear to me that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were utter disasters, and we never should have gotten involved over there, my interest in the GOP waned. Then, in 2007, Mike Kane introduced me to Ron Paul. I had heard of him before, but didn’t think much about him until Kane pushed me to take a closer look. I quickly realized that his views were very close to mine. I then learned that he had been involved with the LP, so I proceeded to investigate the LP further. Once I did that, I very quickly realized that the LP was the place for me. I joined in early 2008, I believe.

    Finding libertarianism and the LP really helped me connect the dots and fill in the holes in my political and philosophical belief system. It’s been a very liberating experience, frankly. It ranks among the best and most important things that have happened in my life.

  5. Matt Cholko

    By the way, my views have continued to evolve. I still use the “fiscally conservative” label sometimes, because its easy for people to understand. But, really, all of my positions can be summed up pretty neatly as “government sucks.” Or, though I’m not really a fan of Ernie Hancock, I very much like the sound of “Freedom is the answer. What’s the question?”

  6. NewFederalist

    I grew up in a rural Michigan family that were Democrats because they felt that Republicans were the party of the wealthy and they didn’t view themselves as wealthy. As it turned out the only thing that made them Democrats was perception. I began following politics when I was ten. I stayed up all night with my Dad to watch the election returns from the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon race. By 1964 I was voting my great-grandmother’s absentee ballot since she could care less about politics. In 1968 I was voting my grandmother’s absentee ballot because although I was 18 the law had not yet changed to allow me to vote my own ballot. Although my family maintained that they were Democrats they were not happy with the sort of Democrats that were embodied by Hubert Humphrey, Ted Kennedy or William Fulbright. They became “Reagan Democrats” and even voted for Ed Clark in 1980. I never considered myself a Democrat nor a Republican. In 1963 I joined the Prohibition Party (I was 13 so what the hell, booze was not an issue for me) and maintained my membership until 1968. In 1967 I affiliated with an organization headquartered in Houston called the Constitution Parties of the United States. They were backing George Wallace for president and basically merged into the American Independent Party when he declined their nomination. After the 1968 election I became concerned about the populist economic views of the AIP as well as the racial views of many members. Already a member of the YAF I went looking for another alternative. By 1972 I was very confused whether to vote for John G. Schmitz or E. Harold Munn since I could not stand Nixon and I feared McGovern’s economic views. Frankly, at the time I was just beginning my career in the Navy so I was less than enthusiastic about his views on the war in Viet Nam which I later came to regret. I was introduced to the Libertarian Party in 1974 and still have a membership card around here somewhere that is signed by Ed Crane. I have voted for the LP national ticket every year since 1976 with the exception of 1984 when Bergland was not on the ballot in Texas and write-ins would not be counted. I would NOT have voted for Barr in 2008 if Baldwin had been a choice on the Pennsylvania ballot but other than that I have been a fairly loyal Libertarian voter.

  7. Matt Cholko

    I should add that a book I read in 2005 entitled “In Defense of Global Capitalism” by Johan Norberg really helped me get down the road to libertarianism. I recommend it to everyone.

  8. langa

    I have been a libertarian (albeit not always a consistent one) for as long as I can remember. In fact, even before I was old enough to really care about politics, I remember when adults would say things like, “Live and let live”, or “People should mind their own business”, and I was always struck by the wisdom of that sort of approach to life.

    By the time I was 12 years old, I can remember my 6th grade teacher (a left-wing Democrat who worshipped JFK and absolutely despised Reagan) kicking me out of class for insisting that Abe Lincoln didn’t care about slavery, and was only interested in maintaining his own power.

    Meanwhile, around this same time, I began to consider myself a conservative, as I had never heard of libertarianism, and so assumed that you had to be either a conservative or a liberal. So, I became a conservative, in part because most of the people in my family considered themselves conservatives, but more so because they used the kind of anti-government rhetoric that strongly resonated with me. Even though I soon discovered that they didn’t practice what they preached, I still figured they were better than the left-wingers, who were openly hostile to the idea of small government. My allegiance to them was further tested a couple of years later, when the Persian Gulf War was, to my dismay, supported by virtually every leading figure on the right. In fact, if I had been old enough to vote in the ’92 GOP primary, I would have voted for Pat Buchanan, as he was the only conservative who had dared to oppose the war.

    Fortunately, a couple of years later, I discovered libertarianism, took the Quiz (scoring an 80 on personal issues and a 90 on economic issues, IIRC), and immediately joined the LP. Thus, I was able to escape the GOP without ever casting a ballot for them. However, I did not come away entirely unscathed, as the influence of guys like Buchanan had made me an opponent of immigration and a skeptic of free trade. However, I eventually rejected such nonsensical views.

    Anyway, after being exposed to libertarian thinkers, I quickly went from being a typical “small government” type to being a true minarchist. After that, my views essentially stabilized, but I did continue to become gradually more and more radical, and eventually, after about ten years of finding it increasingly difficult to defend any sort of state action whatsoever, I “came out” as an anarchist. That was almost a decade ago, and in that time, my political views have changed very little.

  9. Robert Capozzi

    Basically L always. Used the word conservative; liked Buckley and Goldwater, but was anti-Vietnam, pro-choice, in HS and early college. Became a Randroid in college, and then quickly stumbled onto the LM. Exited college Rothbardian. Got job in LM in DC, became more moderate in part revulsed by excesses of NAPsolutism.

    Left LM employment, increasingly lost interest in politics as futile. In recent years, re-read Tao, met some Georgists and other free-thinkers, and roughed-out the proto-political philosophy of theoretical asymptotic anarchist/applied lessarchist. Especially from the Tao, more interested in peace than liberty, although in theory they work hand in hand. It’s still futile, but the conversation is interesting.

  10. Mark Axinn

    Not big-L LIbertarian forever; more of an indidualist forever. Joined the LP about 23 years ago.

    I grew up in liberal suburbs of the country’s largerst liberal city, and became politically aware in my teens around 1970. Too young to vote for McGovern in 1972, but like many did everything I could to oppose Nixon. I voted only one time for the Democratic candidate (Carter ’76) who seemed to have a lot more promise than tired old Ford. (And I was in college in Manhattan then when everyone remembered “Ford to New York: Drop Dead”.)

    By 1980, I knew enough to vote other than Democrat or Republican (proud to say I never voted Republican), but did not know about the LP so like many other independents, I voted for John Anderson that year.

    Voted Bergland ’84, Paul, ’88 and joined the LP around the time of the Marrou ’92 campaign. Haven’t regretted one vote after 1976.

  11. Jill Pyeatt

    It seems that my road to libertarianism was a bit more meandering than others’ were. I met a well-known Libertarian on a ski lift in Mammoth on New Years Day in 1988 (although it may have been the day before). I had never heard of the Libertarian party, but I hadn’t been political at that time in my life. I spent some time with this new friend for a few months. I met my child’s father through him, and became friends with some local Libertarians, Ted and Laura Brown. The Browns’ daughter and my son were born within a few months of each other, so that was a good way to remain friends, helping each other out with our children. They invited me to a Christmas party in 1997, and I met the man who would become my husband (although the marriage didn’t happen for quite a few years).

    My family and the company I work for tended to be very Republican, so that’s how I registered when I started voting. I was always very anti-war, however, and was quite liberal always on some social issues. As time went on, I heard more about the Libertarian Party from the Browns, and started acting like one. I finally made the leap to the LP in 2000, after Dubya’s term in office started and I could see the direction he was going in.

    I was always opinionated, but really not political until around 2000. However, it’s possible that I followed that route because of genetics. My paternal grandfather, whom I never met, couldn’t keep a job because he was always out demonstrating and was so involved in trying to spread socialism. (Ack!) I didn’t make that connection until about a year ago.

    I’d also like to thank my ski slope friend. If I hadn’t met him, I wouldn’t have the husband and child that I have!

  12. Mark Axinn

    These comments are great.

    Sort of a cross between “True Confessions” and “My First Time”!

  13. Darcy G Richardson

    There’s nothing more inspiring than a non-voting age teenager casting his great-grandmother’s absentee ballot — particularly a young teen who was already predisposed to alternative voices and the idea of voting for one of those “other” names on the ballot, That is so cool!

    What a great story.

    It reminds me of the World Almanac my maternal grandfather gave me when I was about twelve or so and spending part of the summer with my mother’s parents in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. It was in the late sixties. I was one of the ten kids and we had just returned from Germany the previous summer at the conclusion of my father’s third, three-year tour in that country.

    In any case, my grandfather — he worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad (that was back when working-class Americans actually had livelihoods) — and I would listen to Bob Prince and Nellie King broadcasting the Pirates’ games on Pittsburgh’s KDKA every evening and then, as the hours drifted into the early morning, I would turn the pages of that fascinating Almanac, looking at every subject imaginable, but always returning to the particularly intriguing section on U.S. presidential elections, before finally drifting asleep.

    I remember waiting up until he got home on the days when he worked the nightshift and then asking “Grand Pap” about some of the more obscure names in the Almanac, but he didn’t know who they were. He did eventually tell me he was sorely tempted to vote for Norman Thomas in 1932 and for Henry Wallace in 1948. He definitely recognized those names. (I usually waited for him to have a beer or two — when he was in a more talkative mood — before asking him any questions. Then the conversation would last for hours. My grandmother was long asleep by then, but he could tell you about anything and everything, especially about the Great Depression when he had a great job in the WPA courtesy of Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence, who later became governor of Pennsylvania.)

    As it turned out, the only vote my grandfather ever cast for a third-party candidate for the presidency was for George C. Wallace in 1968. My uncle voted for him, too. Millions of white working-class Democrats — those who still clung to the idealism of FDR’s New Deal — voted for Wallace that year. They never would have considered voting for Nixon…it was, as New Federalist said of his own parents, the party of the wealthy.

    In the meantime, I desperately wanted to know who those other people were; Munn, Hass, Hamblen, Dobbs, etc. It wasn’t until several years later that I finally discovered who they were. I had to spend hours and hours in the local library to track some of them down. There was no virtual world back then and the daily newspapers almost never told their stories…

    I still have that tattered and worn Almanac.

    New Federalist has always been one my favorites…

  14. NewFederalist

    Wow! Darcy you and I seem much alike. I bought a World Almanac (or Information Please almanac) every year from 1960 until the digital age made them less attractive. I, too, would read and re-read the election section endlessly. I read everything I could find on alternative parties and finally much later in life I hit the mother load! I found a series of books entitled “Others”. What a rush! Thanks!

  15. Andy

    “Jill Pyeatt

    February 23, 2015 at 1:19 am

    Good guess, but, no, not Kubby. He’s younger than that.”

    Jill, you have mentioned who it was on this site before. The person is not exactly a celebrity, as they would only be known to people who follow the inter-workings of the Libertarian Party, which is really not that many people.

  16. paulie

    I’ve also mentioned this before on other threads, but I also voted when I was 16, using my mom’s absentee ballot. Unfortunately, it was for the Democrats, in 1988. The only other presidential elections that I voted in the general election were in 1992 and 1996, when I voted Libertarian. I voted in the primaries in 1988 (D, Gary Hart, and worked on the campaign), 1992 (D, Jerry Brown, also worked on the campaign), 1996 (believe it or not, Keyes – I was impressed by his stunt getting arrested at a debate he was kept out of and a few libertarianish stands he took on some select issues…I think that was 1996, but it could have been 2000). I think that was it. Since 2000 I voted in LP conventions (Browne for P nom, Kubby for VP in 2000; Russo and Millay in 2004; Kubby and then Ruwart for P, Kubby for VP in 2008; Johnson for P, Wrights for VP in 2012, which was the only one I went in undecided to).

    In the general election, I missed voting in 2000 because I was moving so much that I didn’t even know where to send the absentee ballot. However, my dad, who is not libertarian-leaning at all, told me he voted for Browne on my behalf that year. Ironically, I probably could have voted, because I later found out that the bottom stub of a voter reg form was all the proof of registration that CA needed, and I was working outside a polling place on a petition and had plenty of VR forms on hand that day (not that I needed them that day but I still had them). Since 2004, I haven’t personally voted in government elections due to a combination of felony, moving around, and expired ID issues, but of course have remained very involved in the electoral process.

    Had I voted in the general presidential elections, it would have been for the LP candidates in all those elections, although I’m not sure about Barr, but in the end it is most likely that I would have probably voted for him as the “lesser evil” despite any misgivings I had. I did briefly consider supporting Cynthia McKinney, but I was not very impressed with her when I met her.

  17. Thane "Goldie" Eichenauer

    When I first turned 18 I was attending Arizona State University pursuing an Electrical Engineering degree via an Arizona Regents tuition scholarship. One day I was walking across the Tempe, AZ campus when I encountered a person registering students to vote. I felt an urge to register and completed the fields on the form until I came to the end of the form which asked me to select a political party preference. Having no particular preference at that time I asked the guy working the booth for a suggestion or recommendation. He told me that I could put any word in that box that I wanted. He said that some people put Democrat, some people put Republican, some Independent but that any word I felt like entering would be accepted. He paused a second and then added that he was a Libertarian and that he was happy with his choice but that I was free to enter any choice I wished. I told him that I was familiar with the Democrat Party but that it failed to impress me. I told him that I was familiar with the Republican Party but that it also failed to impress me. Having not heard about the Libertarian Party I had no particular opinion about it one way or the other but given that I could change my political party preference that Libertarian Party sounded OK for now. While I have dabbled being a Democrat and Republican for a given political season I have returned to the Libertarian Party and have run for office as a Libertarian Party candidate at every opportunity since 2008 somewhere here in the great state of Arizona.

  18. NewFederalist

    “I did briefly consider supporting Cynthia McKinney, but I was not very impressed with her when I met her.”

    I don’t remember if she was on the PA ballot in 2008 or not but I don’t think she was. I really regret voting for Barr but I don’t recall if there was any other alternative choices. I really preferred Baldwin to Barr. Although a Baptist pastor and a Constitutionalist he was far more libertarian in my view than Barr.

  19. Jed Ziggler

    “I don’t remember if she was on the PA ballot in 2008 or not but I don’t think she was. I really regret voting for Barr but I don’t recall if there was any other alternative choices.”

    The alt. choices in PA in ’08 were Nader & Barr. I remember because it was my first time voting for president. I voted for Nader.

  20. NewFederalist

    You are right, Jed. I just looked it up on Dave Leip’s site. I don’t know why I chose Barr over Nader. The best bet for a vote against the two party monopoly would have been Nader.

  21. paulie

    Just checked – McKinney would not have been on my ballot anyway. She got two recorded write-in votes in Alabama. Barr, Baldwin and Nader were all on the ballot. I should have remembered who was on the ballot and who wasn’t, since I had quite a bit to do with it 🙂

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