Libertarian presidential hopefuls: Now there are 2 … or 3?

Both Adam Kokesh and Gov. Bill Weld have been appearing at numerous state Libertarian Party conventions this year, and now both have attended the party’s biennial national convention, which ran through July 3 at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans. Kokesh has announced he will seek the Libertarian Party nomination for president. Although Weld has so far not stated an interest in running, his attendance at so many state conventions signals a probable candidacy. Recent Libertarian National Committee Vice Chair Arvin Vohra added his name to the mix after losing his bid to be reelected to his party office, announcing his own candidacy for the Libertarian presidential nomination.

Adam Kokesh speaking at a mic wearing dark blazer, open-collar shirt (color photo)

Adam Kokesh, veterans’ advocate and candidate for the 2020 Libertarian presidential nomination

Kokesh came to national attention as a leader in Iraq Veterans Against the War after returning from Fallujah, Iraq, where he had volunteered to serve with a Marine Corps Civil Affairs team. According to his website, Kokesh ”has been arrested over three dozen times for protesting, smoking cannabis, not smoking cannabis, cursing, filming on the sidewalk, and even dancing.” He is author of the 2015 book Freedom! While in New Orleans, he led the March to End the Epidemic of Veteran Suicides in a route extending from the New Orleans Veterans Medical Center to the Libertarian convention venue.

“Veterans support the Libertarian Party,” said Kokesh, “because Republicans and Democrats don’t seem to care about 20 veteran suicides a day. End the drug war; free the V.A.! We march on the Libertarian National Convention in solidarity with our fallen brothers and sisters, because it is only the Libertarian Party that has a real solution to this horrific epidemic of Veteran suicides.” Kokesh said he wants to “maximize freedom for everyone I can, by localizing government so everyone gets what they want out of it. I’m running for president to turn the election into a referendum to end the federal government and become its bankruptcy trustee.”

Weld is a former Republican governor of Massachusetts with a libertarian-leaning record of social tolerance and fiscal prudence. He joined the Libertarian Party after former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson asked him to seek its vice-presidential nomination for the 2016 campaign, and he served as Johnson’s running mate that year.

Bill Weld

Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts, the 2016 Libertarian vice-presidential nominee

In his Libertarian National Convention address at a $100-per-plate luncheon, Weld explained his views that many government functions need to be privatized, using social service deliveries as an example. He called for wide-reaching criminal justice reform, cited racial disparity in the enforcement of drug laws, and called for a public health response to drug addiction rather than our current criminal justice disaster. He spoke strongly against gun control, citing the historical precedent of numerous tyrannical governments having banned guns before drastically curtailing their citizens’ liberty, or worse.

Weld also said that has come to terms with Steve Forbes’s idea for a 20 percent flat tax to replace the income tax, although it should be noted that the 2018 Libertarian Party platform says, “We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service,” and “We support any initiative to reduce or abolish any tax, and oppose any increase on any taxes for any reason.”

Weld said that troops should come home from Afghanistan now or they never will. He repudiated U.S. attempts to foment “regime change” abroad. He posited that the Libertarian Party could be a force in 2020 presidential politics, and that significant political change can come from unexpected places, citing President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron as candidates who came out of nowhere and won. When asked about his own presidential ambitions, he said that there are many good Libertarians, including Adam Kokesh, who could fill that role, and emphasized, “I want to shatter the Democratic–Republican duopoly in politics, and I want to help Libertarians do it.”

Arvin Vohra in suit tie speaking at lectern labeld with Libertarian national convention'

Arvin Vohra, the 2018 Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland, a candidate for the 2020 Libertarian presidential nomination, and former LNC vice chair

Vohra, who announced his presidential candidacy on July 3, has long been adamant that the Libertarian Party should never compromise on any of its more controversial proposals. Libertarian Party opposition to the drug war dates back as the 1970s, and Vohra cites this as being correct but unpopular then, as well as a pioneering effort to make drug legalization a popular political reality today. He drew criticism last year for repeated calls to abolish all public schools, but contends that those who do not use public schools should not have to pay for them and calls public education ”welfare for the middle class.”

Vohra pledges to, if elected, work to shut down foreign military bases, end U.S. involvement in foreign civil wars, bring the troops home, eliminate the Department of Education and the Food and Drug Administration, massively downsize our 17 redundant spy agencies, defund the NSA mass surveillance program, abolish the Patriot Act, end the war on drugs, end all crop subsidies, cut all spending to 1992 levels, and abolish the federal income tax.

More than 1,000 Libertarians are paving the way in 2018 by running for local, state, and federal office this year. The 2018 Libertarian National Convention is the largest convention outside a presidential nominating year in 14 years. An esof activists have attended the convention, participating activist workshops and taking care of convention business such as electing officers for the next term.