This is not my post-mortem on the Jorgensen campaign. That will come after election day, and after the winner of this election has finally been decided. No, this post is about addressing one of the most persistent criticisms of Jorgensen, usually from the more socially conservative wings of the libertarian movement and/or Republicans on the fence, namely that she’s been coopted by Black Lives Matter and antifa, and that she’s somehow a secret commie, a collectivist, diluting the message, or Not A Real Libertarian.
Let’s put aside that she was Harry Browne’s first running mate for a minute and as such has almost 30 years of party activism under her belt.
Instead, let me tell you a story, about me. I got involved in Libertarian Party politics in the very late 90s. At the time we were talking about many things-war, corporate welfare, taxes, censorship (oh, the days of the Communications Decency Act)…oh, and the drug war and police murdering people.
The drug war, to the extent that it was mainstream, was wildly popular. The idea of police killing people for no reason was farcical to most people that weren’t black. And yet here were the libertarians, saying over and over that the drug war was a bad idea, that it was contrary to human liberty, that it led to mass incarceration and the rise of gangsters a la alcohol prohibition, that it had destroyed minority communities, and especially in the case of marijuana prohibition had denied countless people access to real and effective medical treatment for a whole host of ailments-not to mention all of the industrial products that could be made from hemp.
Standard libertarian stuff so far, right?
The libertarians were also the only ones (barring of course a few commies and conspiracy theorists, although I didn’t really know much about them at the time) screaming about the state killing people without any due process. Read through just about any Vin Suprynowicz article from the time, for example. The names and events that rang out the most for us were Amadou Diallo, Don Scott, Peter McWilliams, Ruby Ridge, and Waco. Regardless of whether any of the folks killed were personally likable or not, all of them were brutally murdered by agents of the state, and the entire gamut of libertarian thought at the time, from Cato to Lew Rockwell to anti-state.com (RIP), was uniform in condemning them.
And let’s look back further. As a movement and a philosophy we look to many places that explicitly sanction the right of rebellion, and vigorously protest the brutalization of the individual by the state, such as the radical abolitionists and Thomas Jefferson (I know, it can be odd to see the two mentioned in the same sentence. But they’re both part of our tradition). We count William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman as some of our heroes. We’ve been against police brutality since before there was a Libertarian Party. And all of this is before we start on the brutalization of the individual that is war, which libertarians have an even longer and prouder history of opposing.
Hopefully all of this sounds familiar to anyone who’s been in the libertarian movement for more than five minutes.
Which brings us to the present day.
Over the last few years there have been a number of high profile shootings and killings of black individuals by police-Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, George Floyd, Botham Jean, Michael Brown, and many others-along with some white folks that were also brutally killed by police, such as Kelly Thomas, Duncan Lemp, and Ryan Whitaker. The (accurate or perceived-it’s actually not really relevant here) feeling that many-even most-black people have had for decades about being under siege from police, and facing a real risk of police harassment or violence every time they leave the house, and even moreso if they go into the wrong neighborhood-is finally mainstream. The chant of “Black Lives Matter!” has rung out now for months in response to the fear, the anger, and the frustration of real people. While I think that the best solution-that of repealing terrible laws-has gotten lost in favor of addressing the immediate problem of Not Being Killed, the fact is they’re voicing the same concerns that the libertarian movement has been shouting to the rooftops since its inception, and before. Sure, some of the people angered by this are professed Marxists. So? When did libertarians get a monopoly on being offended by murder?
One of our biggest issues is finally mainstream. The violence of the state is laid bare for all to see.
And along comes Jo Jorgensen, longtime Libertarian activist, and Spike Cohen, a slightly less longtime activist. Jorgensen is at a Black Lives Matter rally within a day or two of George Floyd’s murder, and she eventually went on to also visit the site of the Tulsa massacre. Spike Cohen has been to several Black Lives Matter events on the campaign trail, including the Get The Strap rally with Black Lives Matter 757. They’ve called repeatedly for ending the drug war, pardoning and exonerating its victims, ending qualified immunity, ending civil asset forfeiture, and ending the war on guns.
And somehow this makes them communists? Panderers? Secret collectivists? Democratic plants? All charges I’ve seen in various threads, believe it or not. Nevermind, of course, that the commies have been the ones getting their asses kicked fighting the state… No, Harry Browne’s running mate is the sellout somehow.
Not on your life.
The only difference between what Jorgensen and Cohen have done vs. any other Libertarian candidate is they’ve actually gone to the people affected and heard them out. Libertarians, as I’ve said in this entire essay, have been saying “The state murders people, and that’s a Bad Thing” for as long as there have been libertarians. Our presidential ticket has now had the audacity to say “The state murders people, and that’s a Bad Thing” to people who are saying “The state is murdering us, and that’s a Bad Thing”.
That’s not pandering. That’s consistency. And for whatever else they’ve done as candidates, Jorgensen and Cohen were both completely right to do so. They are right for themselves, for the outreach to communities where Libertarians have traditionally been absent or perceived negatively, and they’re right as a part of a continuation of one of the proudest parts of our tradition.
Liberty in our lifetimes.
Black lives matter.