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Glenn Tells Head of Libertarian Party What Floored Him About Gary Johnson

Nicholas Sarwark, chairman of the Libertarian Party joined Glenn in studio Thursday to discuss the contentious 2016 election and the future of his party. Does Sarwark see 2016 as a missed opportunity for the Libertarian Party?

"Absolutely not," Sarwark said.

"You don't?" Glenn responded in surprise.

Glenn and Sarwark continued a lively discussion about the 2016 candidates, Gary Johnson's distrust of religion more than government, and how Libertarians can shape their message of individual freedom to appeal to a larger swath of voters.

"He made a point every time he came on this program to mention that he distrusted religion more than he distrusted the United States government, and we were floored by that," Glenn said. "Now, I have a healthy distrust of religion as well. Religion gets us into problems just like government does. It depends on who is running those things."

Enjoy the complimentary clip or read the transcript for details.

GLENN: We've invited the chairman of the Libertarian Party on, Nicholas Sarwark. He's 37 years old. He took over the head of the Libertarian Party when he was 34. He's a former public defender and -- and wants to grow the Libertarian Party. Welcome to the program. How are you?

NICHOLAS: I'm fabulous. Thank you so much for having me on, Glenn.

GLENN: You bet. When you look back at 2016, do you see that as a missed opportunity for the Libertarian Party?

NICHOLAS: Absolutely not.

GLENN: You don't?

NICHOLAS: We -- we took advantage of the opportunities that were given.

We had been doing work -- as you probably know, the Libertarian Party has been around for 45 years now, and it's been small, and it's been growing slowly and steadily over time. 2016 was a huge opportunity. The old parties decided they wanted to nominate the worst people they could find, and they did.

GLENN: Right. Right.

ROBERT: We nominated two very experienced former governors who were very popular Republican governors in Democratic states. So we had kind of the perfect storm.

GLENN: But were they? And I hate this test because no one ever passes the Libertarian test. You can talk to any Libertarian, and they will convince you that you're not Libertarian enough. So it doesn't -- so I hate this test. But these guys were for a lot of big government policies, when they were government -- when they were in government. And they also, you know, didn't meet basic fundamental principles of freedom of religion, et cetera, et cetera.

And we felt at least -- and, you know, I don't know who the Libertarian Party is trying to appeal to. But we felt at least -- and still do -- we belong in the Libertarian Party because we're strict constitutionalists.

NICHOLAS: Right.

GLENN: But we don't feel welcome there. And we certainly didn't feel welcome with Gary Johnson.

NICHOLAS: Really? And who made you feel unwelcome, Glenn?

STU: You. It was you.

GLENN: Gary Johnson.

NICHOLAS: It's usually me.

GLENN: No, it was Gary Johnson.

NICHOLAS: Really?

GLENN: Yeah, he was on our show a couple of times.

STU: And we liked him.

GLENN: And we liked him.

STU: We had good conversation with him.

NICHOLAS: Okay.

STU: But, for example -- quick example to back this up, he mentioned a lot to a lot of different media sources the percentage of issues he agreed with Bernie Sanders on. That was a big talking point for him, and I think to a lot of people in this audience, even though I can't imagine the percentage he was quoting, which was like 80 percent or something like that, was actually true, because he was using that as such a kind of an outward talking point, to many media sources and mentioned it even here on the show, I think that that scared a lot of the audience away.

NICHOLAS: Right.

GLENN: Also, he made a point every time he came on this program to mention that he distrusted religion more than he distrusted the United States -- the government. And we.

NICHOLAS: That's --

GLENN: And we were floored by that. Now, I have a healthy distrust of religion as well. Religion gets us into problems just like government does.

NICHOLAS: Right.

GLENN: It depends on who is running those things.

So we just -- we just felt like -- and this is why I wanted to have you on.

JEFFY: Yeah.

GLENN: Like Austin Petersen, we loved. We loved.

NICHOLAS: Okay.

GLENN: Where are you guys headed -- because I know America, especially the youth, is headed towards this -- you know, this idea of a new kind of Marxism. And big government. Are you guys constitutionalists, or a hybrid of things? What is it?

STU: Wow. That was a long question.

NICHOLAS: Yeah, that's a huge question. It's double-teaming, which is perfectly fair.

I'm used to it.

So starting with the Sanders thing, yeah, Gary Johnson agreed with Bernie Sanders 80 percent of the things.

GLENN: May I just say, you're not in a hostile room.

NICHOLAS: I don't feel like I'm in a hostile room. I feel like I'm in a friendly room. I'm smiling.

GLENN: All right.

NICHOLAS: He agreed with Bernie Sanders on a lot of stuff. I agree with Bernie Sanders on a lot of stuff.

GLENN: I agree with Bernie Sanders on the problems, not necessarily the solutions.

NICHOLAS: I agree with a lot of conservatives on a lot of stuff. Libertarianism is something fundamentally different, and there are a lot of conservatives who feel not welcome, as you feel. That's a -- that's a normal feeling. There are a lot of liberals who feel not welcome.

GLENN: Right.

NICHOLAS: And the reason is the same: We kind of deny the validity of the paradigm of left and right. Left and right is not important. What is important is freedom and government control. So if you're pro-freedom on an issue, you're for empowering individuals over empowering government, we're with you, whether the issue with you on is from the left or from the right. And the thing that makes people feel uncomfortable is, if you've been in this left/right paradigm, hearing somebody say nice things about a freedom issue that's on the left makes your skin kind of crawl. And if you talk to liberals, it's the same thing. If I say something nice about what a conservative did because it was pro-freedom on that issue, but it's from the right, they're like, "Well, you guys are just bad Republicans."

STU: Right.

GLENN: I would agree with you in most cases. With this audience -- not all of this audience, but a large share of this audience, we are -- here's the problem with Gary Johnson. Gary Johnson came in and he said -- or was on, and he said twice -- and then the running mate Weld said the same thing that -- we said, "How can you have a law that a photographer has to take a picture or wedding cake -- it doesn't make any sense. You can't be for ultimate freedom and maximum personal responsibility and also say, "Oh, and the government should regulate that." As Penn Jillette and I talked about --

NICHOLAS: Right.

GLENN: -- you know, you should be able to have your business do anything that you want, and I have a reason to go, "I'm never going to go there."

NICHOLAS: I love Penn Jillette. So this is going to be hard for him to watch or listen to.

That's right to a point. There's a -- I can get into a long discussion of Anglo-American contract law and stuff like that. But that's probably boring for your listeners. The point is that there's this tradition of something being open to the public. A movie theater is open to the public. A drugstore is open to the public. And open to the public means if you're a person who is not belligerent and you come in, I sell you the stuff off of my shelves.

I don't get to say, "Hey, you can't buy the candy bar because you're white. Sorry. Leave." That runs through our legal history. There's also a long tradition, in America, which is really different, of a strong and vibrant First Amendment, both the free exercise clause and the free speech clauses, that say, I get to say whatever I want. The government can't stop me. Other people can disagree. And I get to exercise my religion, as I choose, as long as I don't violate laws of general applicability. And there can be no compelled speech. That's big. You can't make me say something I don't want to say, as the government.

The tension comes when you get in the middle. Because what are we talking about when we talk about cakes? Because it's a cake issue. And it's a hypothetical. And it's weird. But up in the northwest, it's not hypothetical. Are we talking about, hey, it's a Costco sheet cake. I just want to buy a cake? In which case, yeah, you have to sell that cake to everybody.

GLENN: It's off a shelf.

NICHOLAS: If it's, I want you to write, I want you to express, I want you to put words on to the cake, then it's different. And then photography gets into a weird spot because it's --

GLENN: It's art.

NICHOLAS: Some of it is art. Some of it is documentary. You know, is the artist's message in there? These are hard issues. There isn't one right answer. It's not black and white. A lot of life isn't black and white. And what I've been trying to do is get Libertarians to focus on how many areas do we agree on?

GLENN: It's amazing. Yeah. A lot.

NICHOLAS: If this is a point of contention, where you are a little farther on the free speech side than the Costco sheet side, that's okay. Because we agree on so much else.

GLENN: I agree.

NICHOLAS: Let's have a beer and talk about this. But let's work together on all the other stuff.

GLENN: I agree with you. It just, to me, it seems like a very -- a very easy call, I have -- for instance, you don't have a right to come in -- to me, to come in and say, "Oh, well, I'm just not serving your kind. So you get out." I got to serve you everything. But if you're asking me to do something that is part of a religious ceremony or something that I feel is religious, then that's an easy call.

NICHOLAS: Right. It's coerced expression.

GLENN: Yeah. And it's just so easy, black and white.

STU: It did not seem to be Gary's position, what you're articulating here. I'm totally comfortable. In fact, I agree with you, on what you just articulated. It's just, that's not what he articulated.

NICHOLAS: I got that. And no candidate is perfect. No person is perfect. I love Gary Johnson. He's strong in some areas. He's weak in others.

STU: As we all are.

NICHOLAS: Austin Peterson is strong in some areas, weak in others. And the delegates make those choices.

GLENN: Right.

NICHOLAS: You know, we're -- you want to talk about big differences between the Libertarian Party and the old parties, we had a convention in Orlando, where 1,000 delegates from across the country selected by state Libertarian parties came into a room. Our bylaws explicitly prohibit bound delegates. Every one of those people was totally free to vote for any presidential nominee. They got to meet them. They got to shake their hands. They got to see them in debates. And those delegates in that room made a choice about who they thought would best represent the Libertarian Party. My job as chairman is to empower the choice of those delegates. So I would get these calls where people would say, "Well, what are you going to do about Weld, or what are you going to do about Johnson?" The delegates decide. I don't decide that.

GLENN: No, I agree with that. It's not you. It's not the party. Now, the question is, how does -- because to me, this looks like such an easy place to go and unite the country. Because I -- I really believe -- I can live next to Ben & Jerry for the rest of my life. And they can --

NICHOLAS: They live here? I thought they were up in Vermont.

GLENN: Yeah. But I could live next to them for the rest of my life and we'd never -- we'd be perfectly fine neighbors.

NICHOLAS: Right.

GLENN: It's only when I try to affect them or their business or what they believe, or they try to do it to me --

NICHOLAS: Right.

GLENN: -- coercively through government. So -- and I think that's where a vast majority of America is. I could be wrong.

How do you shape that message to cut through and -- and appeal to -- to more people? Because I think that's where people are.

NICHOLAS: I think you start by changing people's premises. The veterans of the culture wars, like many veterans, bear scars from that. Because these were fights that we had during the '90s and the 2000s, between the right and the left, over who gets to have government tell you how to live your life. That's what made them so bitter. That's what made them so angry. Because the stakes of losing were so high.

GLENN: Correct.

NICHOLAS: In a Libertarian society, what we change -- what the party is trying to do in changing America is take that option off the table. No matter how much we disagree --

GLENN: Amen.

NICHOLAS: -- about how you live your life or I live my life, which we may, probably have some disagreements, we agree as a premise that I won't try to use the government to try and control you and you won't use it to try and control me.

GLENN: This is so easy.

NICHOLAS: And it makes -- it makes for better debates and discussions and dialogues because we can get heated and we can get angry. And we can shout or yell or cry or whatever, but we know at the end of the day, it's safe. Because we're exchanging ideas, not fists or guns. That's what we're trying to -- to change about the culture of politics in this country. Libertarian politics is basically -- it's anti-politics. Politics, political economy generally is different groups of people arguing over which one of them gets to take your tax money and give it to their corporate cronies. Theirs. Because theirs are the good ones. Not the other guys. The other guys -- you don't want to give any money to him, but the developer that I know, oh, yeah. No, that's the guy that should get your tax dollars.

GLENN: We're seeing this with Donald Trump.

NICHOLAS: Right.

GLENN: The right was against the stimulus package.

NICHOLAS: Until he did it.

GLENN: Until he's got a bigger stimulus package, and they're for it.

NICHOLAS: Right. We're fundamentally different because we're the only political party in the country that's dedicated to the idea that you have a right to pursue happiness any way you choose, as long as you don't hurt other people and you don't take their stuff.

We're fighting to make it so that government stops taking stuff away from you and stops controlling your life.

GLENN: Okay. So let's get into that. When we come back --

NICHOLAS: Sure.

GLENN: And you're going to be with me on TheBlaze, so we'll maybe spend another ten minutes. And then tonight, at 5 o'clock, we'll spend a full hour. And I really want to concentrate on that. Because there's a new study out -- and this is of conservatives -- conservative millennials. Forty -- 51 percent say that the government -- that the First Amendment is sacrosanct, that you have a right to speech and a right to free press. 49 percent say that is sacrosanct. But the government has to decide what speech is okay. I mean, it's crazy. And it's conservatives that are saying that. How do we change that?

[break]

GLENN: Talking to Nicholas Sarwark. He is the chairman of the Libertarian Party. We have to get to this here in a couple of minutes, and we'll probably spend more time on it tonight. Can you just go over -- because I only have two minutes here. Can you just go over and then just tease for tonight to explain this, what you just said to me during the break?

NICHOLAS: Sure. Oh. Oh. You had asked earlier whether or not the Libertarian Party is constitutionalist. But it's not anti-constitutionalist. The Constitution, as written, has good things in it -- free speech, Fourth Amendment, stuff like that -- and it has bad things in it, three-fifths of a person, some anti-Democratic stuff.

We support freedom. Every issue. Every time. If the Constitution supports freedom, we're behind the Constitution. If the Constitution takes away freedom, we're against the Constitution. Our North Star is individual liberty, not a particular document written by a particular set of people in a particular place in time.

Legally, we're bound by the Constitution, but our goals --

GLENN: Is there a better document than the Constitution?

NICHOLAS: Oh, no. It's very much the Churchillian line. It's the worst system, except for all the other ones.

GLENN: Yeah. I'll give you that. I mean, we've had this argument -- I had a progressive on the other day, and we were talking about it.

And I said, "You know, let's just agree on the top ten. The first ten amendments." And I said, "Except for the 13th Amendment and Prohibition, the Constitution, all the other amendments are just like, hey, dummy, this is what we were saying in the first ten."

NICHOLAS: Oh, yeah.

GLENN: And that's really where we have to get to.

NICHOLAS: Bill of Rights is solid. Bill of Rights is solid. We're totally behind the Bill of Rights.

GLENN: Rock solid. Yeah.

NICHOLAS: Other parts of the Constitution get a little bit muddy.

GLENN: Yeah. But the Bill of Rights -- I think when people talk about the Constitution, I think, you know, they're not talking necessarily about all the inner workings of how the government works and the three-fifths clause, which was in there for a reason that nobody even knows about anymore. But looking at that Bill of Rights, there is a huge connection across all categories.

NICHOLAS: Absolutely.

GLENN: All categories.

I'm really looking forward to our conversation later today. 5 o'clock on TheBlaze.com. The Libertarian Party.

What is it? What do they believe? And where are they going in 2018 and 2020? You want to be a part of change? Join us tonight. 5 o'clock. Only on TheBlaze TV. TheBlaze.com/TV. Join us tonight at 5:00.

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