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Recruiting the next generation of political leaders

Published: February 20, 2014, 2:18 am ET
Assistant Opinions Editor

This Wednesday I stumbled upon an article in Richmond’s Style Weekly magazine covering the Feb. 8 convention of the Libertarian Party of Virginia. According to the article’s author Tom Nash, this convention was the biggest and most important for Virginia Libertarians for quite some while. Given the recent relative success of the party’s gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis (who made his mark by running a seemingly honest, intellectual campaign and winning 6.5 percent of the vote), Nash contends that the party hopes to maintain this momentum by having as many Libertarians as possible on the upcoming ballots.

Apparently, the tactic to achieve this involves inviting everyone on the party’s email list to run for office, even if they have no chance of winning. One person who received this invitation was a high school student from the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies. The student told Nash that he would consider running for office after finishing college.

Anyone who knows me also knows that my politics tend to fall so far left that they occasionally slip off the scale into an alternate universe where the gender binary has been all but eradicated, socialism reigns and everyone is free to sip tea and play with their cats in a borderless world of total equality.

Needless to say, libertarianism is not always consistent with these ideals. I do, however, hold a soft spot in my heart for the well-intentioned rationality of the party, so Nash’s article made me wonder how many capable, up-and-coming young people might be drawn into politics by what is essentially a power vacuum in the Libertarian party.

One member of the University of Richmond’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, Kelly Farley, WC’17, said she planned on pursuing business as a career, but could easily see herself in politics: “Libertarians are the party of the individual, liberty and, in my opinion, self-responsibility. I would be honored and proud to represent the libertarian opinion some day.”

Another UR student, Martha Ashe, WC’15, said that although she identified with the Libertarian party philosophically, she chooses to vote Republican because she is fiscally conservative and the party has more traction. She said, “While I don’t think I would ever run for politics, if I did, it would be hard for me to run as a Libertarian because I don’t think the party has as much traction at this time.” Ashe added, however, that she is confident we are trending toward a greater support of libertarianism: “I do believe that most young people in my generation are Libertarian, whether they realize it or not, and that as my generation matures, the libertarian party will start to gain popularity.”

While the upper levels of the two dominant parties in this country can seem like private clubs that require 80 percent networking and 20 percent underhanded dealing to gain entry, it might be that all it takes in Virginia’s Libertarian party right now is to show up.

Since the platform tends to attract a mixture of young people who are intelligent, ambitious or radical (and occasionally all three), I can happily picture a future where the party is dominated not by gun- and flag-toting old men, but by recent college graduates with clear plans for a more free country. Whether or not I support the whole ideology, I would rather have a relevant faction of young, educated people than not.

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