Christine Smith wanted to be the first female president of the United States, the first Coloradan and the first Libertarian in the Oval Office. And the 41-year-old Golden woman, who ran a principled if underdog-style campaign, thought she had a good chance of winning her party’s nomination at its national convention in Denver in May.
But the delegates nominated former Republican Congressman Bob Barr as their presidential candidate instead -- and now Smith isn’t even a Libertarian.
Still wincing from what she sees as the party’s complete abandonment of its principles in selecting Barr on May 25, Smith posted a scathing article on her website, www.libertarianforpresident.com, and announced that she is leaving the party.
“What I saw at the Libertarian Party convention disgusted me,” she wrote. “I thought Libertarians actually believed in libertarian principle and that would always be their highest priority. I was wrong…Obviously, the majority of Libertarian delegates cared nothing about libertarian principle when they chose Barr…Sunday was a tragedy as we lost the political party I, and others nationwide, had hope in.”
Smith is firm believer in the libertarian views that government should stay out of people’s private lives and out of the lives of people in other countries – that people should be allowed to live their lives as they choose, as long as they aren’t hurting others in the process. The first thing she would have done in office would have been to withdraw all troops from Iraq, pardon everyone in the United States jailed for non-violent marijuana offenses, and abolish just about every federal agency she could get her hands on.
Barr, who announced his candidacy just ten days before the Libertarian convention, made his political career doing the opposite.
Swept into office in 1995 with Newt Gingrich and 95 other lock-stepping, Contract-With-America conservatives, Barr was best-known for leading the effort to impeach President Bill Clinton. But the former Georgia Congressman also fought for laws against abortion rights, legalized medical marijuana and same-sex marriage; and supported the Patriot Act, stricter immigration policies and an anti-flag burning initiative.
He later withdrew his support of the Patriot Act and changed his stance on some other issues, but Smith says it was too little, too late. “He would have much to prove, over time, before a libertarian such as myself would trust him enough to support him to hold any LP office,” Smith wrote. “As I told CSPAN during an interview after my initial remarks, I think Barr is a wolf in sheep's clothing.”
The Libertarian Party was founded in Colorado in 1971 by a group of people looking for an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. This year, Barr was one of fifteen candidates for the Libertarian presidential nomination, on an eclectic list that included Smith, former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska, and Wayne Allyn Root, a Las Vegas businessman who will be Barr’s running mate. Former Libertarian Ron Paul, who ran for the GOP nomination this year, turned down repeated requests from his former party mates to rejoin them.
Smith herself joined the Libertarian Party in 2006, when she realized that its ideals matched her own. She decided to run for president the same year after concluding that the party was being taken over by people who didn’t really espouse libertarian values.
A freelance writer who specializes – under a pseudonym she declines to reveal -- in spirituality, technology law and the arts, Smith is also the author of 2001’s A Mountain in the Wind -- An Exploration of the Spirituality of John Denver. “John Denver was very political. I learned a lot from him about political activism and the desire to make a difference. He was also a peace activist and I believe in peace,” Smith says.
But Smith, who is single, is also a singer, speaker, model and avid marksman who owns a 40-caliber semi-automatic handgun. She has lent herself to various humanitarian causes and is an avid reader, counting Ayn Rand and Gore Vidal among her many influences. She also plays chess, lifts weights, cooks and is partial to whiskey.
And after the convention, she could probably use a drink.
“I think the party is a waste of time and resources for anyone who actually wishes to join with others whose priority is freedom,” she wrote on her website, preferring to let her letter do the talking than grant another interview request. “Though some true libertarians will choose to remain in the LP, from the emails and phone calls I have received, I believe many will leave. Each true libertarian must make the choice that is right for him or her; my choice is to fight the battle for liberty in other ways.”
And that doesn’t mean settling for what she calls “the lesser of two evils” when it comes to the Presidential election this fall. McCain? No. Hillary or Obama? No. Bob Barr. Of course not! “I’ve got a lot of thinking to do between now and then,” she says. “But I’ve got some time to do it.” -- Jonathan Shikes
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.