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‘The best collection of misfits you’ll ever want to hang out with’: scenes from the Libertarian Party of Minnesota’s convention

What the conference lacked in cohesive passion it made up for in the evergreen notion that real change can happen when individuals seek something more, and something to belong to.

The ultimate freedom movement was moving a little slow Saturday at the Cambria Suites in Maple Grove. On a glorious sunny spring weekend, about 60 people attended the 2015 Libertarian Party of Minnesota State Convention, which took place in a couple of dank motel rooms and a conference room where motions were heard, issues discussed, and representatives elected via a microphone that cut out early and often.

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“Andy, where is everybody?” one unimpressed first-time volunteer whined early Saturday afternoon to LPMN executive director Andy Burns, who shrugged happily and kept his eye on the revolution ball, all the while encouraging the scattered dozens to check out workshops of the day on the likes of “Start Your Agorist Business Now!,” “Taking A Bite Out Of The Surveillance State,” and “Turn On Tune In Drop Out.”

Carl Bernstein wasn’t kidding when he recently told a Minneapolis audience that the political system in America is broken, but from the looks of things Saturday, the alternative the Libertarians offer hasn’t gained much traction since the party’s inception in 1972. Still, what the conference lacked in cohesive passion it made up for in the evergreen notion that real change can happen when individuals seek something more, and something to belong to.

“It’s a good group of people and the best collection of misfits you’ll ever want to hang out with,” said attendee Robert Stewart. Some snapshots:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Edmund Contoski: “I am one of the co-founders of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota way back when it started in 1972, and I was its first state chair. The Libertarian Party was formed on the basis that the two major parties aren’t getting us anywhere; they’re Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Libertarians believe in political freedom, which is not the freedom to oppress others through government. It seems sort of futile to try to elect just a few people; they aren’t going to be able to change things, the whole system has to change, and I talk about that in at least two of my books. I think ultimately that the only solution is going to be to call another Constitutional convention, and many of the states are already in agreement on this.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Mary O’Connor: “I’ve been the treasurer for the Libertarian Party of Minnesota for about 12 years. I believe Gary Johnson will run for president [as the Libertarian candidate], so I’ll be behind him. We’re hoping he can get in the debates with the Democrat and Republican candidate so people can hear what he has to say. He likes freedom and liberty and he doesn’t want government telling us what to do and he wants to get us out of foreign wars and give us our freedom to make our own decisions.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Nick Hechtman: “As a citizen the Patriot Act kind of concerns me, so that’s my main reason for being here. I know the Libertarian Party wants to repeal the Patriot Act, and I think that’s a good idea. I think the government should go back to the Constitutional way of life and be more set on that; I think it’s time to shrink the size of government. There’s cameras everywhere you go, and the privacy is just not there anymore like it used to be, and I think it’s way out of hand, almost to the point where it’s a mixture of socialism and communism. Spying on innocent Americans is not a good idea.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Andy Burns, executive director of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota: “We’re fiscally responsible and socially accepting and we don’t believe we should be getting into all these foreign wars, where we keep aggravating these situations. We’ve stood on the side of legalizing marijuana and gay marriage since 1971, when the party started. People have a lot of Libertarian Party tendencies, even if they don’t know it. They do understand that government doesn’t actually know best. The Libertarian Party actually offers solutions.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Cara Schulz, LPMN board member and chair of the convention planning committee: “We have workshops today on food freedom, because there are so many ways that the act of feeding yourself has been criminalized. Or the act of feeding others. If you want to give a sandwich to a person on the street who’s hungry, in most areas of Minnesota, that’s actually illegal and you’d be fined because you didn’t prepare that in a proper kitchen. Also, we have the panel on alternatives to Obamacare: How can you care for yourself and how can you be a healthier person while still operating outside of the Obamacare mandates? People should have more choices in their medical care, not less. We are looking for people to step up and run in 2015, and we’re looking for local candidates, and we’re having success with that.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Justin Lundquist and Mallory Olson: “I’m doing a presentation today on protest safety,” said Lundquist. “The Libertarian Party is good because it’s a little more middle of the road. It’s the ‘leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone’ kind of deal that is never a bad thing. Trying to break away from the two-party system is always a good thing, because the more options you have the more likely you are to actually find a candidate that you agree with more, rather than just not that you don’t like the other person.” 

“I’m here to support him,” said Olson. “I’m more for independent parties, but I’m not super into it.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Heather Biedermann: “I’m an independent, but I agree with a lot of what the Libertarian Party has to offer. I believe in small government and I’m an anarchist librarian. For me, I’m very interested in free information and I don’t want a society where the news covers things up. The two-party system feels very corrupt to me and I like having options and I like having groups who call out the parties when they’re doing wrong. It seems like the Libertarian Party is going on the right path and it speaks to me.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Olga Parsons and Alicia Ascheman: “I believe in the principals of individual liberty,” said Ascheman. “I think with legalization of marijuana, both [major] parties are talking about it, but neither have taken a strong stance. But the Libertarian Party has. They’re also not addressing the police state that we’re creating, which can prove to be very dangerous, as we’ve seen throughout history. Legalization of Sunday liquor sales and fireworks and allowing people to live as they see fit is important.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Justine Peters: “I’m 18, so this will be my first year voting. I’ll definitely be voting for Rand Paul because we definitely need to do something new with our government because it’s not working. I find it really annoying that the government has a lot of spending that’s unneeded. I feel like a lot of people are getting left out, and I feel like along the Libertarian lines, we can fix our government and fix the economy.”