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Libertarians Welcome Kennedy and Ramaswamy – And Prepare for Trump

Surrogates and swipes at the Libertarian Party Convention.

Libertarians are at the center of the US presidential race this Memorial Day weekend as they gather for their national convention to nominate a presidential candidate. The headline news that thrust them into the spotlight was the decision to feature several non-Libertarian Party contenders to address the assembled. Party Chair Angela McArdle agreed to host Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Vivek Ramaswamy, and former President Donald Trump. The move is designed to increase party exposure, as well as to allow the candidates to chase down all available votes ahead of what may be a remarkably close election in November.

RFK Jr. was up first, speaking Friday afternoon, May 24, to a cavernous and half-empty room. His staff laid campaign buttons and stickers on all the chairs but were otherwise skeptical of engaging on the issues. Multiple campaign staffers refused to discuss how Kennedy’s views might appeal to delegates. It’s an odd juxtaposition, an outsider’s staff at a rival’s event. Fortunately for attendees, the candidate himself had no such hesitation.

Kennedy Pitches Libertarians

Mr. Kennedy sounded like a party regular from the stage, which featured an address that would be welcome to any small government champion. He attacked Trump and Biden with a pro-freedom brushback. He started with praise for George Mason, the Virginian whose efforts were primarily responsible for the inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. Kennedy said:

“The problem is the Bill of Rights is only a document. It doesn’t have any magical powers to force government officials to respect it, and I’m sorry to say that again and again throughout our history, our leaders have failed to respect it.

 

“Again and again, they have cited some pretext to suspend and violate our Constitutional rights. There’s always a reason why, right now, the rights are an inconvenience that we can’t afford.”

(Photo Credit: Liberty Nation)

(Photo Credit: Liberty Nation)

In the wake of COVID-19, he said there was no exception for pandemics in the Constitution and discussed the smallpox outbreak during the Revolutionary War. Our founders were not ignorant of massive public health crises, yet they included no federal authority for restricting rights in response to one. Mr. Kennedy criticized Trump and Biden, saying, “Neither of them upheld the Constitution when it really counted.” He praised Trump’s initial instincts but said the 45th president caved to the bureaucrats, “and many of our most fundamental rights disappeared practically overnight.”

He later concluded – to a vigorous and widespread standing ovation – that “We all agree that without the Bill of Rights, we have nothing in this country.”

Ramaswamy Plays to the Crowd

Mr. Ramaswamy got his own ovation Friday night. The former contender for the Republican presidential nomination delivered a stark rebuttal to RFK Jr. He laid into Kennedy, saying the Independent is no libertarian “in any meaningful sense of the word.” Ramaswamy attacked the member of America’s most famous political family for his stance on guns and his hostility to free speech. He complimented Kennedy for his stance on medical independence but derided him as an authoritarian on other topics:

“I’m glad he’s skeptical of the government narrative on vaccines, but he’s completely imbibing the government narrative on climate change.”

Shortly into his address, the former GOP candidate said he has voted for as many Libertarian candidates for president as he had Republicans. He concluded with a shot at Mr. Kennedy – “This isn’t new for tonight; this is what I’ve been saying for the last year across the presidential campaign trail” – and an appeal for the audience to vote for Trump in November. “I think we live in a 1776 moment right now,” Ramaswamy said. He continued:

“Let us move from words to action. Let us actually take the policies that you and I care about and turn them into reality and have a front seat to make sure we get it done …

“So do what is right for America, fight for our Constitution, make George Washington proud, make Mises proud, and make Ayn proud. That’s how we make America great again.”

Appeals to George Washington, Ludwig von Mises, and Ayn Rand showed Ramaswamy as a libertarian insider, even if he is not a “capital L” Libertarian. This reporter could find no rank-and-file party members who opposed the outsiders’ visits. National leaders had come to address Libertarians’ concerns; the conference attendees all seemed to agree that accrued to the advancement of libertarian ideals.

Mr. Trump will address the convention on Saturday.

Read More From Scott D. Cosenza, Esq.

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