Some of us “party insiders” have been saying for a while that Austin Petersen is not good for the Libertarian Party. I put “party insiders” in quotes as a bit of a joke, because anyone that actually involves themselves in what we do on a day-to-day basis understands that there pretty much are no “insiders” in our party.
In reality, all it takes to be an “insider” is run for the board of your state or county affiliate, which anyone can do as long as they are a registered Libertarian. Just know that if you disagree with Austin’s tactics, you would automatically be part of the “great conspiracy” to keep him out.
This article is not intended to be a hit piece on Austin Petersen. I don’t want Johnson supporters to share this just because it happens to attack Austin. Likewise, I don’t want Petersen supporters to assume that I’m taking a cheap shot at their guy. I care deeply about this party and this movement, and much of what I describe here is certainly not limited to Austin or his supporters.
That being said, Austin does have a role to play. Only he can decide if he wants to be remembered as a valuable piece in a much bigger puzzle, or as the troublemaker that only seemed to upset people and cause discord.
Libertarian in-fighting is an artifact of our ideology and will always be around, but if we can’t learn to disagree agreeably, then our ideas are not useful to anyone. That is why I’m writing this.
If I do nothing else here and you, beloved reader, take nothing else away from it, let it be successfully setting the record straight. I know many people personally that took a liking to Petersen, based on a few debate performances. But they usually drop their support, once they discover what he’s really been doing to the party.
It’s not like I don’t think he’s capable of being a genuine voice for Liberty if he wants to be. Clearly he can. He served as Outreach Director of the party, and was a creative force behind bringing a key Libertarian voice to television. He’s also very charming and likable when he wants to be. He’d done his homework, and knows the philosophy well. I don’t overlook any of this stuff.
But having said that, we cannot let the man off the hook. His terrible treatment of activists in the movement is disgusting, and the party is more divided than ever because of the enmity he creates.
To that end, I want to clear up a lot of misinformation surrounding this guy. And boy, there’s a lot go through. Everyday, he lies about something new.
Most recently, he lied about Gary Johnson’s campaign supposedly buying up all the hotel rooms for the National Convention, and that John McAfee’s campaign manager quit. Both of these claims are provably false, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you wish to support Austin Petersen at the end of this, be my guest. All I can do is report the facts, give you my personal opinion, and let you decide the rest.
This is important, because the message of Liberty applies to everyone, and it matters who we choose to communicate that message.
There will be millions of soon-to-be disenfranchised, non-Libertarian voters looking for another option, and what will they think if they turn to us and see that we nominated a 35 year old Trump?
He’s also made several disparaging remarks about our female activists. There are plenty to choose from, but this one was enough to be included in an article written by the same person:
In others, he refers to women as “butter face,” and suggests that breasts are helpful distractions for ugly women. I wish I was making this stuff up.
Those should give you a good idea of the sort of individual we’re dealing with, but here is one more. This one is a particular favorite of mine:
That is my favorite, because of all the figures that I would associate as “sleazy”, Kerbel is probably the last person I would think of.
Being that he’s from Colorado, I’ve spoken with Kerbel a number of times. He is one of the sharpest, nicest, most consistently Libertarian guys I know. I would not have been at all upset if he was our nominee. I still think Johnson is better because of experience and name-recognition and all that jazz, but Kerbel is one legit dude.
But if you’re Austin, who cares? Most of his supporters associate Colorado as that place that banned him from debating (a fact that he misinformed his supporters about, which I’ll discuss in a moment). So most of them probably believed that Kerbel really was sleazy, even though Austin offers absolutely no evidence for saying so (something he does repeatedly).
Again, this is not supposed to be a hit piece, but this stuff matters. Many smart, rational people are tentatively supporting him on the basis that he is a sharp, professional candidate that speaks our values well. I believe many will be aghast to learn that he is engaging in these things.
But we’re just getting started.
The truth, as if it needs to be stated, is that all of our candidates would be exceptional alternatives, but only one of them is an internet troll masquerading as a presidential candidate. And I wish I could take credit for being the first to point it out, but clearly I’m not.
Lately, he is starting to take some outlandish actions, and to call them “missteps” would reflect a misunderstanding of the very nature of the campaign he is running.
Many viewers watched the Stossel debate and took a liking to Austin. It’s not hard to see why. He seemed like a pretty ideologically consistent Libertarian that spoke well and genuinely seemed to love Liberty. His attack on Johnson’s position on anti-discrimination laws did not come off sounding like an adolescent sibling rivalry, but more like a real candidate with a legitimate point to make.
It shifted a lot of energy away from Johnson and onto him, too, which means it was an effective attack. It showed that he is capable of going on the offensive without resorting to ridicule, mockery, or outright lying.
But if you are one of those viewers that took a liking to Petersen because of his better-than-usual performance in that debate, let me try and paint a more complete picture of Austin Petersen (as if I haven’t already).
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Johnson supporter. I was also one of the board members in Colorado that voted to direct the Convention Committee not to extend an invite to Austin Petersen to attend our debate.
I can’t speak for the board, and I won’t go into any of the details of that decision. But I can tell you why I personally supported that decision.
At that point in time, Austin Petersen had already publicly expressed his disinterest in and repudiation of the Statement of Principles of the Libertarian Party. He also continues to ridicule anyone that uses the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) as a means to communicate, simply, what Libertarianism is all about.
If that was it, maybe there would have been less support for not inviting such a character to our debate. If someone has a rational argument to make for no longer using the NAP as a tool for communicating the ideas of Liberty because it over-simplifies things and infantilizes our ideology, then let’s hear it. Our membership will decide (unfavorably, I’d expect) whether it agrees or not.
I am not a Libertarian purist by any stretch of the imagination. My last post should have made that abundantly clear. So if that was the case, I would have loved to hear his argument.
But that was not the case. And the more Austin used social media as a mud-slinging device, the more I realized that he is not interested in rational discussion at all. In fact, he admits that he is not interested in this. He actually seems to enjoy being an agitator.
It was evident then in many ways, like the aforementioned demeaning of members who do prefer the NAP and use it often. He had taken a few swipes at his fellow candidates as well (referring to Gary Johnson as Gary “Flaccid” Johnson, for example), and they were enough to convince me that this man was not fit to run an outreach booth, much less lead the nation.
The most alarmingly unprofessional statement to me at the time was what he said in his interview (if you can call it that) with Cantwell, whom very few people in the Liberty movement can even stand. The interview is like watching two Donald Trumps argue with each other about who has the largest banana in their pocket.
More specifically, the part where Austin said this, in response to Cantwell saying he gets laid more often than people think:
“I’ll bet you do, you tubby piece of s***. You couldn’t even approach the pyramid pile of p**** that I swim in on a regular basis. And it’s because I have class, mother f*****!”
Yes, he said that.
It’s not that I think that these sorts of statements should always bar a Libertarian from ever getting to run for office. Most of us have said things like this at a time when we never thought we’d ever be running for office. Us regular citizens have that luxury. We don’t have to worry about the morality police combing through every recorded word we’ve ever said or written.
Having said that, though, it might be the only time I’ve ever heard a pro-life candidate talk about how he is swimming in p**** on a regular basis. Plus, none of these statements were friendly. He was not poking fun at Cantwell, he was viciously attacking him. Not that I’m a fan of Cantwell, but two wrongs don’t make a right.
In fact, this interview is probably the most honest depiction of Austin Petersen that actually exists on the internet. Again, I can’t speak for the board, but to me, this was actually the dealbreaker.
According to the bylaws of our party, his opposition to our Statement of Principles alone would have justified the decision we made. In fact, the National Party could technically dis-affiliate any state that chose to endorse a candidate that did so. Not that this was ever likely, but it is a fact.
Again, if a candidate wanted to persuade me that those rules are too strict, I would love to hear his case. But for me, I was not merely following rules. I actually think those particular rules exist for guys like Austin Petersen. They exist for anyone that wishes to use our party for cheap ballot access, and for those who wish to portray a very incorrect image of Libertarianism.
His dismissal of our most basic principles reflects a deeper problem that doesn’t just rub the purists in the wrong way. His behavior is also a bit of a subjective thing to measure, but when he begins to tell lies, it is no longer subjective. It is a problem that we all need to recognize.
The first time I actually observed his campaign’s willingness to spread lies was actually regarding our board decision. He told his followers that we excluded and banned him from attending, which was never true.
Once he reached out to us, it was settled that he was attending. There was no more debate on the matter on our end, because we never voted to exclude him. None of us freaked out, and there were no emergency meetings. We did not change our votes or backpedal. In fact, he was even offered a free meal by our Convention Committee Chair, which he arrived too late to receive.
In spite of all this, he sent out a mailer that said, “Petersen Campaign Triumphant After Attack From Party Establishment Insiders.”
There is simply too much fail in that headline to unpack.
He also told his followers that our board members were gagged because of a second vote we took regarding communications with Petersen’s campaign. A clear violation of free speech!
Well, this was not true either. Board members were always free to interact with Petersen and his campaign, just not in an official LPCO capacity. This was a reasonable expectation, given the willingness of Petersen’s campaign to spread misinformation.
You know, like telling them we were all gagged. Why would we vote to do that? It makes no sense at all, but Petersen’s supporters believed every word of it.
In any event, Petersen came, was warmly welcomed, and the debate occurred without incident. Taking a principled position to not formally invite him actually turned into positive publicity for Colorado and for the party. Many other Affiliates applauded us, as did many of our members.
Those members in Colorado that were angry with us were precisely those members that received the bad information I just referred to. When it became clear to our members that, not only was he not excluded but was expected to appear (and was even included on our marketing materials for the event), they largely agreed with our decision.
A big reason why this misinformation existed in the first place was a poorly-sourced article on alibertarianfuture.com, which contained much of these falsehoods. But Austin is not the sort of person that is going to follow up on it and verify if it’s true. It benefits him more to have a dragon to slay, and he raised quite a bit of money trying to slay LPCO.
It also bears noting that, although he attempted to involve himself in the affairs of an affiliate by urging all of his supporters to vote LPCO’s entire board out of office, none of that came to pass. All of the board members that sought re-election at our Convention were re-elected without objection. There was not a single member of our delegation that even mentioned our decision, or any other issue, as being cause for concern for the board’s integrity. You would think that Austin’s sabre-rattling would have led to at least one member voicing dissent.
If I could go back and do anything differently, the only thing I would have changed is that I would have suggested the disinviting to include ALL candidates that have repudiated our party’s principles.
It would have changed nothing in reality because Austin was and still is the only one who has, but it would have driven home the point a bit more clearly that we are not just picking on Austin. Austin is doing it to himself. If you don’t support our party’s principles, fine. But find another party.
That’s the real point here. Austin oscillates between proud agitator and victimized outsider, and people are calling him out on it.
Gary Johnson called him out on it in Texas, and for the first time, everyone got to see it. He had the gall to say that Gary Johnson — a successful businessman, two-term Governor, and plaintiff in a suit against the Debate Commission — was a defeatist. The nazi cakes was one thing, but this is just silly. It was the height of hubris. (watch video here; exchange begins at 1:28:30)
He is treating this race like a personal vendetta, but against whom we can never be entirely sure. His narcissism has gone beyond even Trump, because at least Trump doesn’t act like he speaks for the party or for any movement.
Austin has repeated the famous Isaac Newton quote, “If I can see farther, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” But does he actually believe this? His actions seem to suggest otherwise.
He is not above throwing heavy-lifting advocates of Liberty under the bus whenever it suits him. He picks fights with them instead, which is the least Libertarian thing you can do.
One of the best examples of him picking a fight with the strangest of enemies is the time he whined about losing to “Uncommitted” in Missouri.
Because of a technicality, Gary Johnson was not on the ballot in this state, which holds a Primary instead of the more traditional (for a third party, anyway) Caucus. As a result, Gary Johnson supporters chose “Uncommitted” instead. But when the LP National’s Facebook page reported (factually) that Austin Petersen came in second behind “Uncommitted” and he felt snubbed, how did Austin choose to respond?
By accusing the LP National Facebook page of shady practices (with zero evidence), and by posting the cell phone number of Nick Sarwark, the LNC Chair, and encouraging his supporters to go and harass him.
Now I know Nick personally, too, because he’s also from Colorado. He’s a big boy, and he can handle this sort of treatment. He’s been dealing with it since day one, in fact. But who else gives out the cell phone number of people he doesn’t like, and encourages his followers to harass them?
That’s right. Donald Trump.
Austin has a massive messiah complex. He thinks he’s white-knighting for Liberty, and that means he’s never wrong. Many of his supporters would rather quibble over details than admit that this is not healthy, presidential behavior. It certainly doesn’t help the movement.
He says things like, “a prophet is never welcomed in his own land.” He says that because he thinks he’s the Libertarian savior coming to rescue us from ourselves. Have you ever heard of a more anti-Libertarian ethos than that?
Libertarians do not need saving, least of all from an insecure self-promoter like him. When he speaks, it is not the suffering of a man that spent three days in the belly of a whale, but the jilted bitterness of a troll that spent three minutes in a chat room.
Any criticism is simply perceived as persecution by Austin, even when he is the one throwing the sharpest objects and seeing what does the most damage.
But here’s the good news.
The more sharp objects that Austin Petersen throws, the sloppier he’s going to get. His attack of Gary in Texas is evidence of that. He has gotten so sloppy that even his own supporters are starting to turn on him. One of his supporters just posted this on the very website that Austin Petersen founded:
“To be clear, I like Petersen. But his personal behavior and his attacks against the other Libertarian presidential candidates have made me switch my support. I liked his willingness to criticize Johnson. But the attacks have gone too far.”
This actually gives me hope for the party.
It means that its members are smart enough to spot a charlatan when they see one. They know that he doesn’t care if the Libertarian Party grows, especially when he’s posting stuff like this:
This time, it’s not about Libertarian purity, it’s about something else.
If Austin wants to step up and be the better man for a change, he might actually get my vote. I want to see more of that side of Austin that many already respect and admire. I don’t think his young age has to count against him, on that I agree with him. I want to see the best Austin Petersen that he can be.
And if you remain an advocate of this man, feel free to persuade me.
I’m not kidding. I will listen.
I will gladly change my opinion if Austin changes his attitude and his behavior. I had hoped he was willing to do this, based on the professionalism he displayed at our debate in Colorado. It’s proof that he CAN do it if he wants to, but he’s choosing not to.
But whether he wises up to any of this, I cannot predict. Regardless, we can all learn from it. The great thing about our community is that we do not put up with this sort of thing for very long. It’s not what we’re about.
We’re about respecting each other, and building each other up through voluntary exchange. Criticism and competition are wonderful things, because they help us arrive at the best solution. But if we cannot show the world how to do this in a healthy way, then we are wasting our time.
Convince me that his divisive rhetoric and negative campaigning is good for the party and for the movement. I don’t think you can, because cutting people down for your own benefit is in the nature of behavior that runs counter to the NAP. I would criticize anyone who thinks likewise.
But then again, Austin is not a believer in the NAP anyway.