Nebraska Libertarian Party Growing in 2016
September 13th, 2016
Mike Knebel is the District 1 coordinator for Nebraska’s Libertarian Party, but that hasn’t always been the case.
He officially became a Libertarian in 2010, when the Libertarian Party recived ballot access in Nebraska.
“Before that, I guess I would have been considered a libertarian probably a few years prior to it, but I’ve really been active since 2010,” Knebel said. “I saw that they got ballot access and I realized I wasn’t a democrat or republican, so I sought out more information and ever since then [I’ve] been involved and working to spread the message.”
Knebel said that message, in a nutshell, is that government should stay out of Americans’ wallet, bedroom, and business. Libertarians also want to end the war on drugs, and for the most part stay out of wars and conflicts around the globe. Knebel said that message should resonate with most Americans.
“No one’s really happy about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump,” Knebel said. “You can see the way that both parties are really trying to rally behind them. You look at the way the Democrats handled Bernie Sanders, the Republicans [handled] Ron Paul and Rand Paul and some of these other individuals. The extremes are what are getting their voices heard on both the Democrats and Republicans, and the majority of Americans don’t fall into those camps. They really just want a government that’s going to be out of their wallet as much as possible, out of their bedroom decisions as much as possible, and the Libertarians offer that common sense approach to politics.”
To be fair, the Libertarian party also has its share of extreme voices. A man in New Hampshire, who calls himself Vermin Supreme, has run on the Libertarian ticket in multiple elections..including the presidency. Vermin Supreme’s platform included zombie apocalypse awareness and time travel research.
But Knebel said you can find that type of fringe behavior in any political camp.
“For the most part, we’re a big tent organization. As long as what you’re working towards is more personal freedom, more personal responsibility, more economic freedom, then you’re going to find a home [in the Libertarian Party],” Knebel said. “There are some that are considered to be purists, but that’s with any political party, any ideology there is going to be someone who is not going to accept any form of compromise or gradual working towards a goal.”
Knebel said in the last few years, many Nebraskans were surprised Libertarians had ballot access. But over the last few months, the Nebraska Libertarian party has seen some fairly impressive growth.
Knebel said, “Since Senator Laura Ebke came over in June, we’ve seen a couple of thousand new members. Over the course of the year, we were averaging about six percent growth per month where the Democrats were losing people each month and the Republicans were staying steady at maybe about half a percent or less in growth. Independents were also seeing a large number of registrations as well. We just hit about 8500 in the state, so our next goal is to get 10,000 registered Libertarians by the end of the year.”
Nationally, Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson is still polling under 15 percent, and it isn’t clear whether he’ll be included in the upcoming presidential debates. Knebel said he’s confident his candidate will make it to the debate stage. But if Johnson is left out of the debates, his presidential bid would be all but over.
Knebel said if Johnson and the Libertarian Party are defeated in November, at least the Party’s message is getting out now, which could impact other elections down the road.
“What we’re looking for is obviously for Gary Johnson to win. If he doesn’t do that, we move the needle forward and it’s more acceptable for people to say ‘I’m Libertarian’,” Knebel said.
He continued, “Since Senator Ebke came over, we’ve had a lot more people that have said ‘I’ve identified as this, but I see now it’s not this fringe idea I thought it once was.’ There are business owners, there are CEO’s of massive corporations that have come out and said ‘I’m Libertarian.’ It’s acceptable to be a third party.”
Knebel said another goal of the Nebraska Libertarian Party is to get more of its candidates on the down ballot races. Knebel said the Party will have candidates running in various city and county races across the state. So come November of 2018, Knebel said Nebraskans will have a viable third option when in the voting booth.
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