The State of the Free State

I just returned from the seventh annual Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster, N.H. (see the Daily Caller profile here). PorcFest is the annual summer event of the Free State Project (the New Hampshire Liberty Forum is the FSP’s winter event). Unlike the Liberty Forum, the emphasis at PorcFest is on community building and socializing rather than speakers and formal discussions, but there are a few speakers every year. This year, Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and founder of the Our America Initiative, was the concluding speaker. For the anti-political anarchists, there were also speakers like podcaster-author Stefan Molyneux and tax rebel Larken Rose. Radio host Ernie Hancock, who invented the “Ron Paul Revolution” logo, was also there.

PorcFest 2010 ComicThere’s a good bit of speculation around Gary Johnson as the possible “Ron Paul of 2012.” A libertarian-leaning Republican, Johnson vetoed 750 bills as governor (not counting line-item vetoes), never raised taxes, favors withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, and advocates the legalization of marijuana. Unfortunately, his name recognition in the general population is very low, and he hasn’t cultivated as many constituencies as Paul, such as the John Birch Society. However, he does not suffer from some of the drawbacks that Paul did, such as the quirky advocacy of the gold standard and the “blowback” theory of 9/11 that gave him such trouble in the debates. (For what it’s worth, I agree with both Paul’s position that the government should withdraw more or less entirely from currency and banking markets and the argument that U.S. foreign policy was one of the causes of bin Laden’s attacks on the U.S.) As a speaker, Johnson might not be considered “dynamic,” but he is more direct and to-the-point than Paul, who tends to wax philosophical (not that there’s anything wrong with that). His personality is easy-going and straightforward, unlike most politicians I’ve met, who as a class lean rather toward “blowhard.”

I also spoke with a reporter from The New Republic, who asked me mostly about Johnson’s fanbase in the libertarian campoutgroup and chances in New Hampshire should he decide to run in 2012. If Johnson were to run, I think he would enjoy near-unanimous support among Free Staters who engage the political process, just as Paul did. Now, Paul has been around a lot longer, and it’s difficult to imagine that Johnson would enjoy quite the sheer enthusiasm and cult following that Paul did – but with Ron Paul’s blessing and full-throated support, he should be able to do just as well in raising money. If, as I suspect, he also does better among mainstream Republicans, he could do pretty well in terms of vote share. He has two terms of executive experience, unlike Paul and many other potential candidates for the nomination, and the party should be in a relatively libertarian mood by then. Tea Party types are politically homeless right now; while they tend to support either Sarah Palin or Ron Paul, there’s also a consensus among conservatives that neither of these would be an effective candidate in the general election. Johnson could expect to receive vociferous attacks from neoconservatives and hawks in general, but my sense is that their standing in the Republican base has declined. By 2012, Afghanistan and Iraq will be firmly Obama’s wars, and if both wars are still ongoing then (a fairly good bet), then many more libertarians who initially supported Afghanistan (like myself), will turn quite a bit more skeptical.

Turning to the title of this post, I’ll mention a few things about the state of play in New Hampshire. By reports that I’ve gotten, 27 or 2821-28 Free Staters are running for state office this year, including the four who won last time. (By “Free Staters” I’m referring purely to people who have moved to New Hampshire from elsewhere; there are many more local allies in and seeking office.) Most of them are running as Republicans, but several as Democrats. The feeling among most political observers is that Republicans are favored to take back both houses of the legislature. The conservative Democratic governor, John Lynch, is also looking vulnerable for the first time since his election in 2004. Republican candidate Jack Kimball (one of several) gave a short speech at PorcFest; he seems to be a down-the-line conservative, but the issues he emphasized were 10th Amendment state sovereignty and strong support for the 2nd Amendment. Lynch has also been primaried by a very strongly liberal representative, Tim Robertson (several people of sober mind have characterized Robertson as “virtually a communist”), who is upset at Lynch’s veto of medical marijuana. Robertson has no chance in the primary, but his candidacy points up the cracks in the NH Dems’ base.

One interesting story cropped up on the newswires this past week that relates in more ways than one to the FSP. A husband and wife who are Houston Libertarian Party activists were harassed by police, in part because of a pill that dropped onto the seat (a prescription medication). In most states, you can be prosecuted for having any prescription medicine outside its original container unless a registered physician or nurse put it there (including those pill boxes!), and in some states it’s a felony. The linked story reports that the victims are considering moving to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project. It turns out that this plan of theirs would make sense for more reasons than one. Representative Joel Winters, who moved from Florida, authored a bill that removed such penalties in New Hampshire, and it was passed by the legislature and signed into law. Just one example among many of policy changes that have happened in New Hampshire due to the work of Free Staters…

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8 thoughts on “The State of the Free State

  1. Great report Jason. Nice “liberty in our lifetime” story there at the end. I’d really love to see the FSP succeed.

  2. Nice write up.
    I count 21 FSPers running.
    Grover it will work… (have you signed up yet)

    I think Gary J will learn a lot from the mistakes of the RP campaign and will do well (if he runs)

  3. Hm, isn’t 21 fewer than 2008? I thought surely it would be more, since more have become eligible since then.

  4. The folks tend to play with the numbers, often passing on something someone else said or what they saw on the internet. I think I speak with some knowledge, I’m certain considerably more folks are running this year than 2008

    Also, I had a an opportunity to speak to Johnson at length Sunday morning, and I believe if he spends the time in NH to get his message out he could do quite well.

    BTW, nice spending a bit of time with you and Mary in the North Country!

  5. Likewise Dave! & it certainly seems to me that there are more truly credible campaigns this year. It’s interesting to see that there are some multimember districts where as many as 3 Free Staters are running, all with a good chance of at least getting to the general.

  6. I have not signed up yet. I try to only make these types of commitments when I’m pretty certain I can keep them. At this point, I’d have to sacrifice my academic career to go there absent an opportunity in my field popping up in the area. If I were in another line of work, I’d certainly sign on.

    However, there might be a way to make it work and keep my job (though you might tell me if this will work within the law): I could live there during a sabbatical, achieve residency, and then live there during the summers with an intent to return when I retire. I might live there next summer anyway, in which case I hope to come to PorcFest.

    Would love to have a summer cabin on some land up there!

  7. I think we have a good chance of getting at least 10, perhaps more elected this Fall? Also, I know a couple Senatorial candidates who stand a good chance of election. Perhaps not FSP’ers in name, but in heart. That’s most important!

    Now is the time to get busy, and make it happen!

    Personal plug…Hey Cleveland…I’m a realtor if I can be of assistance!

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