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Presenting the pro-life case to libertarians, and the libertarian case to pro-lifers

Reflections on the 2024 National Libertarian Convention and the Chase Oliver Presidential Nomination

The 2024 National Libertarian Party (LP) Convention will go down in history as one of the wildest in part because of the resulting contradictions including: 1) Show-casing Trump and Kennedy as prime attractions rather than its own LP candidate for President; 2) “Right” Libertarians elected to Party leadership while “Left” Libertarians getting their Presidential ticket choice; and 3) An LP ticket chosen by the most anti-Trump and socially progressive LP elements but most likely to realize Trump’s objectives by drawing Biden voters and discouraging right-leaners to vote LP. The implications for socially conservative, pro-life, and faith-affirming libertarians are both complex and puzzling.

For a bit of background, the 2022 LP Convention, known as the Reno Reset, saw a clean leadership sweep by the Mises Caucus and its candidates. Whereas the messaging of the pre-Reno Reset leadership was socially liberal and “woke” on many issues, the Mises Caucus consciously embraced messaging that rejected socially progressive themes. As part of its takeover of the Libertarian Party, the Mises Caucus along with the Pro-Life Libertarian Caucus (PLLC) successfully deleted the Abortion Plank from the LP Platform for the first time in LP history (For analysis and background, see https://libertyprolife.org/aapac-focus/). Since then, the influence of pro-lifers has grown within party ranks as some PLLC members were appointed to the National Platform Committee and most of the serious presidential candidates professed to be pro-life (Rectenwald, Smith, TerMaat, and Hornberger).

Amidst this backdrop, the 2024 LP Convention saw a reduced influence of the Mises Caucus which managed to have a strong plurality of the delegates, unlike the overwhelming majority in 2022. This plurality along with the support of some “friendlies” enabled the Mises Caucus to retain control over the Party by capturing 19 of 22 officer positions in the Party.

Logic would dictate that Mises’ capture of the Party leadership yet again would also entail obtaining the nomination of its preferred presidential candidate, Dr. Michael Rectenwald. However, nothing logical came out of this Convention.

Things took a downward turn after the Mises sweep of Party officer positions and the Trump event on Saturday, May 25. Rectenwald, the designated Mises presidential candidate, suffered a personal and political meltdown by acting strange and declining to participate in the post-Trump press conference even though he was specifically chosen through a straw poll to do so, letting down many of his supporters and sowing doubts in the minds of many others. Rectenwald later revealed that he was high on THC gummies, which put his judgment into question. Nevertheless, the next day, Rectenwald maintained his presidential lead for 5 straight voting rounds but the die was cast because only his

hardcore supporters were willing to tough it out—“friendlies” and others who had considered him second choice material abandoned him for others such as Mike TerMaat. Joshua Smith voters attracted to Smith’s uncompromising positions on abortion (the nominating speech touted his commitment to protection of life from the “womb to the tomb”) and other issues would naturally have gravitated towards Rectenwald before the latter’s meltdown. Of note, Chase Oliver began the presidential balloting with only about 20% of the votes, but his margins grew consistently.

By round 5, with Rectenwald still in the lead, Mike TerMaat threw his support to Chase Oliver which surprised everyone because it was assumed that TerMaat was more right-leaning and had more in common with Rectenwald. A deal was cut for TerMaat to be Chase Oliver’s VP and round 6 saw Rectenwald eliminated but Oliver not obtaining a majority. Round 7 was a runoff between Oliver and NOTA with NOTA actually obtaining 36.59% of the votes, highlighting the level of dissatisfaction with the presidential nominee. So, what made Chase Oliver so controversial and attract so much opposition?

Chase Oliver is seen by many as the socially progressive candidate with “woke” messaging. On two issues of importance to more socially conservative libertarians, transgenderism and abortion, he had the most extreme views of any of the other LP presidential contenders. Oliver has publicly advocated for Federal codification of Roe v. Wade, thus forcing the States to permit the killing of unborn babies. He stated, “If I were in the United States Senate, I would be supporting the codification of Roe and Casey to make it federal law.” https://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/libertarian-candidate-senate-race-chase-oliver

None of the other LP presidential contenders, even those who were pro-choice, supported Federal codification of Roe. The other issue none of the other contenders agreed with Chase on was his advocacy of transgender procedures for minors. Below is an exchange Chase had on Twitter regarding this issue.

These two issues are obviously red lines for delegates who view abortion as unlawful killing violating the non-aggression principle and transgender procedures for minors as child abuse. However, even for those libertarians not interested in these hot-button social issues, Chase Oliver appeared weak on basic libertarian principles such as the economy and war. He apparently favors indexing the Federal minimum wage to inflation as shown below.

Chase Oliver also apparently favors special benefits to people with student loans, refers to some nations as “enemies”, and wants to “’Utilize trade as a bargaining chip to foment peace with our neighbors.’” This sounds like a rehash of Democratic and Republican presidents over the last few decades using sanctions and tariffs to influence and punish other nations, not the free trade with all approach commonly expected from Libertarian Party candidates.” https://ronpaulinstitute.org/chase-olivers-war-and-peace-platform-plank/

What appears clear is that Chase Oliver trends Left on many issues and is therefore much more likely to take votes away from President Biden and few right-leaning voters will be incentivized to leave the GOP for the LP during this presidential cycle. This nomination combined with Trump’s speech to the LP may have been the biggest gift the LP could ever give to the former President.

I have been a loyal Libertarian since 2016, serving as delegate at the past three LP National Conventions, on the National Platform Committee in 2023-24, and voting for the Johnson/Weld 2016 and Jorgensen/Cohen 2020 tickets. This year, however, I am frankly in a quandary. As a Christian and pro-lifer who was instrumental in the effort to abolish the LP Abortion Plank, I cannot in good conscience support a candidate who would forcibly reimpose abortion upon the States and would allow for child transgenderism. Also, on other issues such as the minimum wage or trade, are Chase Oliver’s libertarian bona fides evident enough to distinguish him from a progressive Democrat? Should our Party loyalty to the LP transcend our deeply-held values? Or is it acceptable to cynically advocate for the Oliver/TerMaat ticket regardless of our plans to vote for it to draw Democrat votes away from Joe Biden? These are all questions that pro-lifers, other values voters, and normal libertarians will have to wrestle with in this strange, puzzling, and illogical election season.

ABOUT AUTHOR
Albert Veldhuyzen
Colonel (retired) Albert R. Veldhuyzen obtained a Juris Doctor from the Scalia School of Law at George Mason University and also graduated from the U.S. Army War College with a Masters in Strategic Studies. He served for 30 years in the U.S. Army in active and reserve positions of increasing responsibility culminating in his last 5 assignments as the chief lawyer (Staff Judge Advocate) of major commands. For 14 years, he also worked as an election lawyer at the Federal Election Commission and for 6 years as the civilian Chief of Administrative Law for the Fort Belvoir military installation. As a Libertarian since 2016, he has served as a delegate to three LP National Conventions and was instrumental in the effort to abolish the Abortion Plank from the National Platform. In 2023-24, he served on the LP National Platform Committee and is currently the Secretary of the Pro-Life Libertarian Caucus.