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

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.

“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.” 

Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/27/2015 - 09:56 am.

    It’s not their ideas that are unpopular

    it’s their party that’s unpopular.

    • Submitted by Simon Templar on 04/27/2015 - 12:17 pm.

      Change requires doing something differently

      But the problem is better ideas are unlikely to be acted upon by the Republicans or Democrats. Both major parties are increasingly unpopular despite the stranglehold they have on the balloting, campaigning and debating forums to keep their power entrenched. The national debates, for instance are owned, and therefore controlled, by the two major parties.

      People fear “wasting their vote” by voting for a large third party like the Libertarians. If people want things to change in the direction of smaller, more accountable government, they simply will have to stop wasting their vote supporting the status quo of the Demopublicans and the Republicrats. The “differences” between them are mostly window dressing and I think most of us can see where that’s gotten us as a nation.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/27/2015 - 02:23 pm.

      What are you saying?

      Are you saying that gay marriage, legalization of pot, and staying out of foreign conflicts are popular positions with the majority of voters?

  2. Submitted by Ed Kohler on 04/27/2015 - 11:18 am.

    Oh really?

    Remember what happened when the MN GOP ran a Libertarian candidate for US Senate in 2012?

    • Submitted by S.T. Malleck on 04/27/2015 - 09:25 pm.

      Not really

      Umm, no. The MN GOP ran a Republican candidate for US Senate that year. Shocking, I know. In 2012, the Libertarians endorsed Tim Davis running under the Grassroots banner but a genuine Libertarian.

  3. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 04/27/2015 - 11:29 am.

    Libertarians

    It looks like the convention was mostly an avenue to sell books.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/27/2015 - 12:30 pm.

    Where is everyone?

    Trying to get on the Republican ticket. It would help if these folks actually had a coherent notion of liberty beyond: “your not the boss of me”. I borrowed that from someone else.

  5. Submitted by Cara Schulz on 04/27/2015 - 02:13 pm.

    Action packed and relevant

    Thank you for attending a bit of the morning conference. I love the different photos and comments from our organizers and attendees.

    The morning business session is attended by Party Delegates, and you’re correct that it is much smaller sub-portion of those who attend the conference throughout the day. These are people who are paid members of the party and are qualified to vote on official party business. The 60 number estimate sounds about right for delegates.

    The convention itself was well attended – with almost 3 times that number of attendees for the afternoon workshops, panels, and education sessions. This is a great turn out for an off year (no statewide or national elections)

    Overall, the mood was very upbeat and our attendees were energized. We heard from Libertarian Party members who are currently elected to public office in Minnesota and from groups we are allied with who are working on specific issues and making tremendous headway towards increasing and protecting civil liberties. These included Sen. Branden Petersen, Andrew Rothman with The Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance (GOCRA), James E. Whitfield with Ex-Offenders Resource Network Inc, Brandan Borgos with Sensible Minnesota, and Karl Eggers with Liberty Minnesota PAC.

    We also think the current political system is broken and we are a viable, and growing, alternative. In the last two years the LPMN has focused on getting local candidates elected to office and in this we’re finding success. In 2013, two LPMN members were elected to office. In 2014, two more were elected. In their first day in office, two of our elected officials on the City Council in Crystal voted to protect private property rights. We will help more LPMN members run in 2015.

    As for Cambria Suites of Maple Grove – yes, we had A/V problems which were resolved by the venue. But I strongly disagree how you characterized Cambria Suites as “dank.” Cambria Suites is a welcoming, modern, and bright venue and the staff are second to none. Our contact, Jordan, was especially gracious and accommodating. The catering for the evening meal was, as always, exceptional (BBQ chicken and ribs!) I can’t say enough good about this venue.

    If people want to learn more about the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, check us out on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/LPMINNESOTA ) or go to lpmn.org.

    Hope to see you at our event next year, Jim.

  6. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 04/27/2015 - 05:19 pm.

    Cameras are communist?

    “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.”

    With profound thinking like this, it’s a mystery as to why libertarianism hasn’t succeeded.

    • Submitted by Monica Millsap on 04/28/2015 - 08:48 am.

      Surveillance of citizens is an interesting topic that has evolved in American life. I suspect the person quoted was referring to a Stalinesque Communist Russia, though surveillance has been used by fascist societies as well. When George W Bush set up the Patriot Act, I don’t recall it as being particularly popular, especially amongst Democrats. However, it certainly seemed to have a more bipartisan support to continue its funding recently. While surveillance has uncovered some positive results, it is always interesting the number of people who faithfully accept that notion of “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to hide.” History tells us otherwise, especially when a public does not remain vigilant with thoughtful discussion.

  7. Submitted by S.T. Malleck on 04/27/2015 - 09:18 pm.

    The convention was a blast!

    I hope this reporter didn’t get lost in the basement or something. Dank? The Cambria is a modern hotel just built in the last few years or so.

    Well, if he came early in the morning when people were still arriving, then yeah, there weren’t too many at first. It’s a shame he didn’t stick around long enough for all the afternoon speakers and workshops, and for the afterparties that went from the evening till 1 am. From what I heard, everyone who came really enjoyed themselves. Like last year, the convention ended up with a great turnout and those who decided to come check out a Libertarian event for themselves despite all the misconceptions found themselves pleasantly surprised and very welcomed. Those who stayed away really missed out!

    Newcomers find they’re among friends at LPMN Convention
    https://www.lpmn.org/newcomers-find-theyre-among-friends-at-lpmn-convention/

  8. Submitted by Heather Johnson on 04/27/2015 - 11:08 pm.

    Journalism

    This guy is a journalist? I suppose if journalism is slant and bias with carefully crafted rephrasing of quotes, then I guess you could call him a journalist.

    I call it opinion, similar to what anyone could write into a newspaper, “letters to the editor” section.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/28/2015 - 08:28 am.

    The systems broken?

    Ya know, the problem I’ve always run into with Libertarian’s is they’ve never taken the time to learn how the system actually works. They look around at stuff they don’t like and just declare that the system is “broken” because they have to pay taxes, or follow some laws they don’t agree with.

    Meanwhile they vote for republicans and try to get republican nominations. They promote legislative gridlock and then complain about the broken system and never connect the dots.

    I have complaints as well but being more like Somalia isn’t a solution of any kind.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/28/2015 - 09:27 am.

      You make a good point, Paul.

      In the 60’s, while most leftists were shaking their fists at “the Man”, members of the Communist New Left were busy taking notes, learning, preparing their infiltration and takeover of the government.

      As we see today, their careful work is paying off. Now it is the right shaking their fists.

      By the way, Somalia is learning from the left, not the right.

  10. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 04/28/2015 - 08:49 am.

    “I’m not super into it”

    I have to admit that this quotation is the best:
    “I’m here to support him,” said Olson. “I’m more for independent parties, but I’m not super into it.”

    While that comment isn’t particularly flattering and pretty much the opposite of what everyone else attending the Libertarian conference is about, it does reflect the shallowness of thought common to a lot of people who ARE into the Libertarian message. I can get behind the notion of “live and let live”, but as an adult, I realize that that’s just not the way humans work. In any case, there’s a real problem of comprehension about what laws do and what the Constitution says. That is, they’re completely ignorant of the constraints placed on their “live and let live” motto by the supreme law of the land–the one that makes this the United States of America and not some other place. They want strong property rights, but they don’t want government–so who enforces it? What are the consequences of libertarianism? I doubt they care because it’s a political PARTY and not a serious movement. Ron and Rand Paul might espouse some of the libertarian concepts, but they’re mostly just salesmen hoping to get the attention of the tuned out because there are certainly a lot of the tuned out in this country, and that could possibly get one of them elected to President. I highly doubt that either of them actually give two hoots about the grass roots folks that they say they care about. Even if they didn’t come off as smarmy so-and-so’s (especially Rand), there’s more at stake at the level of President than your ability to have a joint or fireworks.

    As for fixing the economy–oh wow. The entire concept of libertarianism is the opposite of caring whether or not the economy works for anyone other than the individual. That being said, if the Democratic party is pretty much herding cats, the Libertarian party is cats herding carrots. On one side, you have libertarians who want a completely free market (a scheme guaranteed to result in live and let die) and on the other side, you have libertarian socialists, who want to socialize all property (kind of like the guy the other day saying he’d abolish intellectual property laws).

  11. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 04/28/2015 - 06:17 pm.

    Libertarians and the Surveillance Society

    1) No prominent libertarian voices fought against the passage of the original Patriot Act, nor condemned it early on. On the contrary, many supported it (and still do). The 2008 presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, Bob Parr, voted in favor of the Patriot Act in 2001 while in Congress.

    2) Certain prominent libertarians enrich themselves by helping build the Surveillance Society:
    “A document leaked to TechCrunch revealed that Palantir’s clients as of 2013 included at least twelve groups within the US government, including the CIA, DHS, NSA, FBI, CDC, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, Special Operations Command, West Point, the Joint IED-defeat organization and Allies, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. However, at the time the US Army continued to use its own data analysis tool. Also, according to TechCrunch, the US spy agencies such as the CIA and FBI were linked for the first time with Palantir software, as their databases had previously been ‘siloed.'”

    3) The primary owner of Palantir is billionaire libertarian Peter Thiel. Through direct contributions and PAC money, he has spent millions supporting libertarian Ron Paul and the broader Republican party.

    4) Ron Paul’s top 10 donors over his career. They are all military, the postal service, big tech, and defense contractors:
    US Army
    US Navy
    US Air Force
    Google Inc
    Microsoft Corp
    US Dept of Defense
    Boeing Co
    US Postal Service
    Lockheed Martin
    IBM Corp

    Sources:
    http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2001/roll398.xml
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palantir_Technologies#2013
    https://www.opensecrets.org/indivs/search.php?sort=A&name=peter%2Bthiel&state=&zip=&employ=&cand=&soft=&cycle=All
    https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=Career&cid=N00005906&type=I

    • Submitted by S.T. Malleck on 04/30/2015 - 10:24 pm.

      Incorrect on all points

      1) Libertarians have been very vocal opponents the Patriot Act, when it was first passed and ever since. Here are some links by Libertarians opposing the Patriot Act:

      National LP statement
      http://www.lp.org/news/press-releases/libertarians-say-restore-freedom-repeal-patriot-act

      2008 LP Vice Presidential candidate Judge Jim Gray
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnQfUWgIfMM

      Ron Paul speaking about the Patriot Act
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwu8lFkDokU

      Unfortunately yes, as a Republican in Congress, Bob Barr had voted for the Patriot Act. Before seeking the Libertarian Party nomination in 2008, he renounced that vote. However, many Libertarian delegates remained unconvinced and he won the Libertarian presidential nomination with the smallest majority of any LP nominee in the last 20 years, obtaining just 52% of the vote. Here’s his quote renouncing the Patriot Act in the “Privacy” section of this page:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_Bob_Barr#Civil_liberties

      2 & 3) You said “Certain prominent libertarians enrich themselves by helping build the Surveillance Society”.

      Is that so? Please name ONE.

      You further posted this link (https://www.opensecrets.org/indivs/search.php?sort=A&name=peter%2Bthiel&state=&zip=&employ=&cand=&soft=&cycle=All) apparently attempting to show that Dr Ron Paul received support from Peter Theil. But your link contains nothing at all about Ron Paul receiving Theil’s support.

      4) Ron Paul has been a vocal opponent of foreign wars and military spending. But you posted this link (https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=Career&cid=N00005906&type=I) apparently trying to show the opposite.

      You would’ve been wise to thoroughly read your own link before offering it as evidence. Here’s the statement at the bottom: “The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organizations’ PACs, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families.” As a strong advocate of ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with many soldiers being called back for multiple tours of duty in those countries, Ron Paul is well-known to have received the most donations of ANY presidential candidate by enlisted persons in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

      Libertarians are strong opponents of the Patriot Act, the surveillance state, and continued military intervention in foreign wars. If you’re looking to prove otherwise, you’d better find some different links. And by the way, you won’t find them.

      • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 05/05/2015 - 04:05 pm.

        Your retort holds no water

        “Libertarians have been very vocal opponents the Patriot Act, when it was first passed and ever since. Here are some links by Libertarians opposing the Patriot Act”

        The links show positions of the party as of 2011 or later. You did not provide contemporaneous (c. 2001) evidence to support your assertion. Your own 2008 candidate voted for it, whether he backtracked on it or not. Ergo, libertarians were not following their supposed principles when it actually mattered.

        “Is that so? Please name ONE.”

        The one named was Mr. Thiel, abundantly documented. Do you deny that Palantir doesn’t make huge profits from the Surveillance Society you decry? Or that Mr. Thiel isn’t the far-and-away largest individual financial supporter of Ron Paul?

        “Ron Paul has been a vocal opponent of foreign wars and military spending”

        Hence the hypocrisy of his biggest individual donation base being from people who profit most from foreign wars and military spending.

        “Libertarians are strong opponents of the Patriot Act, the surveillance state, and continued military intervention in foreign wars.”

        No, that’s what they say. What they do, as demonstrated clearly, does not align with those supposed beliefs.

        Talk is cheap.

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