The Libertarian Party of Wisconsin is holding its state convention at Stone Harbor Resort in Sturgeon Bay May 3-5. Outgoing Chair Phillip Anderson of Madison said they are expecting 80 to 100 Libertarians from across the state to take part in electing new leadership to two-year terms and voting for bylaw and constitutional changes.
But he points out the convention is open to anyone interested in Libertarian views.
“The schedule is posted on our website [lpwi.org],” he said. “If you want to join, you can join the day of and vote. But you can just attend. We’re not exclusive. We want people to come and share their ideas with us.”
In addition to serving as party chair the past two years, Anderson has run for three political campaigns, beginning in 2014 when he challenged incumbent Democrat Robb Kahl for the 47th Assembly District seat, followed by his 2016 challenge to incumbent U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, and his 2018 run for governor, in which, with 1 percent of the vote, he placed third in a field of six candidates.
Anderson is passionate about the underlying principles of the Libertarian, but is also a realist in understanding that the American political climate is stacked against a third party that refuses to play what he calls the “emotionally driven identity politics” of the two main parties.
“People have been radicalized to emotional responses, and that’s to the benefit of Democrats and Republicans,” he said. “Emotions are a strong reason to vote – particularly emotions such as envy, hate, suspicion, that sort of thing. In a very utilitarian sense, I guess, Republicans and Democrats do whatever they need to do to drive their base to the polls. Simple agreement on issues is not enough. If you want people to go to the polls, then they should be afraid or nervous or suspicious or envious, and they will go. It’s difficult to campaign in that environment, but the options are to continue doing what we’re doing or find our own emotional appeal, and we don’t like doing that. The best thing we can do and that we consistently do is an example that: keep fighting, and be an organization that’s worthy of their membership.”
Anderson said the intense division between the two parties has actually been a good thing for the Libertarian Party.
“When polls are taken, there are more and more people that identify as Libertarians,” he said. “That doesn’t always translate one to one to new party members because a lot of people who identify as Libertarians don’t like any political organization at all. They’d rather opt out. But those of us who are committed to changing the political system and the environment we’re in, our ranks grow every year. And more and more young people are skewing toward Libetarian as well, according to polling data.”
Asked which issues are specifically attracting young voters to the party, Anderson said it runs the gamut from the non-sexy issue of government spending to marijuana legalization to ending America’s role – one too readily accepted by both major parties – as policeman of the world.
“They understand that we’re sincere, and we’re not in it for the money, and that they believe that even though we have a lower chance of winning elections, they believe in our sincerity and are willing to get behind us,” he said.
Generally, he said, people may discover the party because of one or two shared issues.
“Usually we find that people discover us based on some issues, and initially there are some issues from their previous beliefs that aren’t quite resolved yet, but the more people have contact with Libertarian, the more Libertarian they become because it’s a really simple, sound philosophy between human beings, the rights they have just by virtue of being human beings, and their consent to be governed, and then what that government does. That philosophy underlies all our positions on things, so it’s very beautiful and simple,” he said. “Oftentimes people come to the Liberatarin Party because they’re anti-war or pro-marijuana legalization or anti-tax or whatever it may be, and then go through this process of discovering the ramification of the beliefs and eventually become more Libertarian.”
The convention kicks off Friday night with trivia hosted by one of the keynote speakers, Robin Koerner, followed by a comedian.
Saturday morning is down to serious business with reports from committees, voting for bylaw and constitutional amendments and elections for officers and executive committee representatives.
That afternoon, there will be presentations from plant-freedom activist Joe Stauffacher, candidate recruitment specialist of the Libertarian National Committee Cara Schultz, Josh Dukelow of WHBY in Appleton, and Shanyeill McCloud, founder of Clean Slate Milwaukee, a program that gives a second chance by expunging records of young adults ages 17 to 25 who have misdemeanor and nonviolent felony convictions. She is also receiving an award from the Libertarian Party for her work.
“Shanyeill McCloud started the nonprofit and now is going statewide,” Anderson said. “Gov. Evers supports what she’s doing. I met her because I agree with her on the issues and reached out to her a couple years ago. Whatever I can do to support her, I’ll do it because that work of trying to get people who have been convicted – especially if it’s a nonviolent drug crime – back in the workforce, get hired, support a family, it’s huge and it’s not that hard to fix. It’s not expensive. It’s not time-consuming to expunge records. It’s just somebody having the political will to get it done. We salute her and will offer her an award for that.”