Election 2020

Libertarian Party Opposing 'Stupid' Travel Ban as They Craft 2018 Strategy

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaks during a rally Oct. 3, 2016, in Parker, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

WASHINGTON – Libertarian National Committee Chairman Nicholas Sarwark on Monday appealed to all groups “oppressed by the American government,” calling President Trump’s travel ban against Muslims ridiculous and un-American.

The Supreme Court on Monday permitted a limited version of Trump’s executive order to be implemented, while announcing oral arguments scheduled for this fall. The high court ordered that travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries will need to show ties to a person or entity in the United States – including relatives, employers and schools – to enter the country. Separate rules would apply to refugees who can provide evidence that they cannot return to their country of origin due to hardship or unrest.

Sarwark during a conference call on Monday evening said that Libertarians have stood up against the “stupid” Muslim ban.

“That’s the most ridiculous, un-American thing I’ve ever seen, and it violates the clear letter of the statute,” he said. “I hope the Supreme Court gets it right, but even if they don’t, we need to be standing up there and saying, ‘This is something wrong. This is something we shouldn’t do as Americans. We shouldn’t limit the ability of peaceful people to come to this country based on their religion or based on their country of origin. That’s not how the country became as good as it is. It’s not how it can become great again.”

The purpose of the call was to preview the party’s strategy leading up to the 2020 presidential election. Sarwark said that the party’s stance is a tough position to take, explaining that it requires “political bravery” in standing up for unpopular sects. He added that Libertarians represent a party of principle, not of easy solutions.

Sarwark was asked during the call how Libertarians ultimately plan to prove that they are a legitimate party, not just a group of “capitalist hippies.” According to the Cato Institute, about 25 to 44 percent of Americans identify with Libertarian values but only 2 to 5 percent of Americans vote for the party. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has won the nomination the past two presidential elections, winning .99 percent of the popular vote in 2012 and 3.27 percent in 2016, setting party records both times.

Sarwark said the best strategy is to listen to people’s needs while describing the Libertarian platform on a very basic level: You shouldn’t hurt people, and you shouldn’t take their stuff. The party also attracts individuals looking for recourse after bad experiences with the criminal justice system, the school system and people who are fed up with paying high taxes, Sarwark said, adding that it’s the party’s mission to show Americans there’s a political alternative.

“Both Republicans and Democrats like to refer to themselves as Libertarian-leaning or part of a broader liberty movement,” he said. “All of these are ways to try to steal our grant and the good will that we’ve developed and get those 25 to 44 percent of the American voters. We need to make sure we come out and show the places where we’re different” from the two major parties.

Sarwark participated in the call from New Hampshire, where the party is welcoming a second state legislator who recently joined the party after winning his seat on a Republican or Democratic platform. Republican Caleb Dyer joined the Libertarians in February, and Democrat Joseph Stallcop announced his switch in May.

“I am a firm opponent of Republicans on a great many social issues,” Dyer wrote in February, while fielding questions for an “Ask Me Anything” forum on the social media website Reddit. “I support the decriminalization of sex work with Rep. Elizabeth Edwards (D-Manchester). I am a co-sponsor on HB656, the primary bill for the legalization of recreational cannabis. I am also fervently against the death penalty.”

Sarwark said the party needs to continue building momentum with lawmakers like Dyer and Stallcop. He described 2018 as a great opportunity for Libertarians to seize on voter displeasure with the two major political parties. The party’s national convention is tentatively scheduled for July in New Orleans, and the site of their 2020 convention is expected to be announced later this year or early next year, he said.