“It's been a very good year.”
Jay North, the state chairman of the Libertarian Party, is being modest. According to the latest voter-registration statistics, the number of registered Libertarians in Colorado grew over 26 percent since January. Republicans added about 4 percent, Democrats about 7 percent.
We spoke to North about the increasing interest in the Libertarian Party, the foibles of the party's candidate and the party's future.
Westword: To what do you attribute the rising interest in the Libertarian Party?
Jay North: We're attributing it to, the [Democrats and Republicans] have the two worst candidates running for president. People are looking for other options. They're jumping ship and looking for the parties that can fit their principles. And the Libertarian Party's principles are pretty across the board where people just fit in.
Gary Johnson, the party's candidate for president, has had some high-profile blunders in the press [Johnson admitted he didn't know what Aleppo, a city in Syria — see editor's note below — was and later said he couldn't name a world leader]. Why would someone vote for him over the major party candidates?
I look at it this way: Would you rather have someone who doesn't know what a city is, or would you rather have someone who would probably blow up the city? The same thing with world leaders: Would you rather have someone who knows all the world leaders and gets donations from them, or have someone who doesn't know them but doesn't care and still wants to trade with other countries?
Critics of third parties allege you all are present during presidential years but not so much during congressional and city council races.
We actually have quite a few candidates in those races. We don't fill out the ticket, obviously, but we have about thirty people running this year out of fifty races. We like to fill a ticket, but the Libertarian Party is really about the message. Can we shift the window to a more liberty-oriented message or society than we are now?
What do you see as the future of the Libertarian Party?
It's either going to be the same as it was last year, or it's going to be growing more than what it is now. It's kind of hard to tell. This happened before, with Ron Paul in 2008. When he was running, the Libertarian Party had a huge uptick in participation. Then it didn't really fizzle, but it didn't keep growing. So we have another huge uptick where we're working as hard as we can to keep those people in and get them busy doing stuff, like volunteering and spreading our message. We're basically like any business. They want to have their logo or their products or services among the general knowledge of people.
A lot of Coloradans don't want to be told what to do. That's how the marijuana law got passed. It wasn't because Democrats rolled over or Republicans gave up. It's because, since 1972, the Libertarian Party has been pushing that issue. It's taken us forty years to get there, but we got there. Same thing with gay marriage. The Libertarian Party was pushing that issue since 1972. I think Colorado is just one of those states where most of the people, they want liberty.
Editor's note: The original version of this post mistakenly referred to Aleppo as the capital of Syria. Syria's capital is Damascus. The reference has been corrected in the text above. We regret the error.
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