Politics /

EXCLUSIVE: As Black Voter Support For Democrats Fades, Libertarians Make Their Pitch

Maj Touré is leading a multi-city tour to recruit urban black Americans into the Libertarian Party

A high-profile community activist has a message for black Americans in urban areas: ditch the Democratic Party and give the Libertarian movement a chance.

“People that are liberty-based, we have an opportunity with the Libertarian Party, whether that’s on the state level or on the national level, to direct and remove some of the stranglehold that extreme leftist propaganda or Democratic policies have in urban America,” Maj Touré, founder of the educational organization Black Guns Matter, told Timcast News in an exclusive interview.

Black voters have typically voted for candidates registered to the Democratic Party by at least a 90 percent margin over the past five decades. But, headed into the 2024 election cycle, Democratic strategists — citing a surge in crime, the decimation of manufacturing jobs, and criminal justice issues — are worried that black Americans are finally moving away from Democrats in greater numbers, the Washington Post reported last week.

Brittany Smith, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Black Leadership PAC (BLP) which works to turn out black voters, told the Post that the manner in which black people respond to her efforts has shifted in recent years. Previously, she just needed to remind people of where and when to vote. But now, deep cynicism about politics has taken root, requiring a greater level of persuasion.

“There’s not a night I don’t go to sleep thinking about what turnout will look like in 2024,” Smith said.

‘Education Trumps Legislation’

Touré, a resident of Philadelphia, is embarking on a nationwide tour to urban areas reassuring black voters that their voices can be heard, and that change can happen outside of the mainstream political system that is designed to insulate both Democrats and Republicans from competition.

“The Republicans and Democrats are not going to ruthlessly target rogue agencies,” he explained. “The Democratic and Republican party are not going to stop all of this unnecessary military spending and proxy wars. They’re not gonna do it.”

He added that the Libertarian Party is better positioned to address an issue on a more practical level for individuals living in urban communities: the war on drugs.

Photo courtesy of Robin Taylor

“We don’t think that legislation is the way to educate people about being safe and healthy,” he said. Ending the war on drugs and re-allocating its funding to community-based organizations educating people about drugs before they try them and form an addiction, he believes, would be a more effective strategy.

If you embrace substance abuse education in the right way, he says, there’s less chance of a person being incarcerated over a charge like simple possession.

Touré explained that libertarians believe that legislation is often used to perpetuate the financing of proxy wars, creating backdoors that allow the U.S. government to continue funding and supporting rogue regimes at the expense of Americans.

“They say [there are] all these horrible cartels in Mexico, but Operation Fast and Furious was giving them arms, you know?” he asked rhetorically, referencing the Obama-era program where the federal government provided a large number of weapons to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Hundreds of people were later killed with those firearms, and a federal official testified before a congressional committee that the “Sinaloa cartel may have received almost as many guns [as] are needed to arm the entire [U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger] regiment.”

On its website, the national Libertarian Party says it opposes “any government interference in your personal, family, and business decisions” — a principle Touré says has had a measurable impact in the past.

“You know, in the 90s when we had issues with teen pregnancy, conservative government or Democrat government didn’t say we’re gonna make teen pregnancy illegal,” he explained. “What they just did was put more money and resources into educating teenage people about sex education. And then teen pregnancy plummeted.”

A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that overall, between 1991 and 2014, the birth rate among teens aged 15 to 19 dropped 61 percent. Specifically, among black teens, from 2006 to 2014, the birth rate fell 44 percent.

“So education trumps legislation and having a conversation about ending the war on drugs not only stops people from being charged with simple possession of mostly non-violent crimes, but [also] the huge gaps in sentencing,” he added.

Different Approaches to Messaging About Liberty

High-visibility political actors aren’t without controversy, and Touré is no exception. He recently found himself embroiled in a public spat with the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire (LPNH) over statements made by the page’s moderators, who posted a comment decried by many as racist.

On July 18, left-wing activist Nina Turner posted to social media site X, writing, “Insulin should be free. Medicine should be free.”

The official account for LPNH replied with a “quote post” (where the reply is featured above the original post, rather than below) stating, “Nina Turner picking crops should be free.”

Turner replied in a post the following day, writing, “This is racist and anti-Black. Period. In no way is advocating for free insulin comparable to chattel slavery. Shameful & uneducated.” In a separate post, she reiterated that responding to a black woman telling her she “should pick crops for free” is racist.

Touré responded to Turner’s reply calling the LPNH’s original post “DUMB,” adding, “This NH page is a HORRIBLE ‘representation’ of what libertarian ideals/approach/outreach is.”

Over the next week and a half, harsh words between Touré and LPNH were exchanged, including on X’s audio conferencing feature called Spaces, which allows anyone on the platform to participate in a live call.

Touré says the comments by LPNH are indicative of strategy differences between grassroots activists spreading the message of libertarianism and the New Hampshire state party.

“What went down between myself and the state chapter was, there’s a difference in tactics,” he said. “I believe that libertarian outreach should be inclusive. And going into urban demographics and doing that outreach, certain state chapters do not feel like they want to be the medium fish in the big pond. And they don’t want anything to challenge their very limited worldview.”

Touré continued:

I think that the libertarian movement could benefit from some of the grit that’s associated with urban America. They don’t. And that’s, in essence, the big difference. And it’s turned into more of like, these guys are upset because we’re being successful in getting more and more urban Americans on board. And those guys wanna go back and forth telling prominent ex-politicians like Nina Turner that she should pick crops for free, and, you know, dog whistles and things like that.

Now they’re welcome to do that. They run a Twitter page and they are not indicative of the vast majority of libertarians in the state of New Hampshire. They’re just a few guys that control the Twitter page. And they’re welcome to express themselves whatever way they do. But the question that we have to ask is: “Is this actually gonna be good for liberty?” And all of the metrics that I’m looking at, it has not been for them.

LPNH rebuffed Touré’s comments in a written statement to Timcast News.

“We have no problem with Maj’s work, as we said here,” LPNH explained, referencing a reply with other social media users about the group’s recent posts.

“All we’d like is for Maj to stop defaming us and lying about us,” LPNH added. “Attacking someone for being ‘racist’, especially when it comes from a black man, is one of the most powerful attacks that can be made today. To make false claims of racism, then refuse to elaborate or engage, is contemptible.”

Touré says he did not call LPNH’s statement racist. “I said it was dumb. It was bad tactics that do not help outreach.” He continued by referencing a post he published in response, stating, “I don’t know or care if they’re racist or not. That doesn’t matter. The goal is: ‘Does this tactic in urban America improve outreach?’ And if the answer is no, then it’s stupid.”

LPNH added:

Maj has claimed that LPNH is racist or bigoted, which is ludicrous. He’s claimed LPNH is a marginal group, when we’re the largest affiliate on social media or by per capita membership, as well as the most politically successful. Maj has refused to have any kind of discussion or debate and instead simply threatened violence, like a thug version of Peter Hotez.

According to Touré, an underlying cause of the conflict stems from different approaches used by his organization Black Guns Matter — which he says has helped fuel the 58 percent increase in gun ownership among black Americans — versus strategies used by LPNH that have produced fewer results.

“We went into those same areas, respected the community, had direct talk and given information, and we’ve increased gun ownership in those demographics year-after-year. So clearly, the approaches are different and I think that a lot of times when people get frustrated that they’re not getting the attention that they want, they go do outrage marketing so they can get some attention,” Touré explained.

“But unfortunately, attention does not turn into leadership or membership. And that’s kind of like the back and forth with those guys, but they’re a small, small, like almost insignificant, section of the overall liberty movement,” he added. “The vast majority of libertarian state chairs and just rank-and-file libertarians that I speak to from New Hampshire, and even outside of all across the country, they don’t really rock with those guys and rightfully so.”

Touré said, “They’re not speaking for the vast majority of libertarians in their own state, definitely not across the country.”

Angela McArdle, Chair of the national Libertarian Party, described the public exchange as “pretty embarrassing,” and says that the incident has “definitely strained” the relationship between LPNH and the national party.

Angela McArdle, Libertarian Party Chair, Speaking at the Party’s 2022 National Convention (Photo courtesy of Dan Smotz)

“You know, it’s really unfortunate to see that sort of thing happen,” she told Timcast News during an interview.

“And my role in that is I’ve really just gotta outshine that kind of drama and ugliness and make sure that people know that the majority of libertarians are really excited, and welcoming about having the black community potentially join us, and that there’s a lot more of us who are excited about it than there are who are gonna be negative, critical or insulting,” she said.

Removing the Red Tape

There is some data showing that libertarianism is diverse and has a broader appeal than some might suspect. In 2015, a poll conducted by Cato and YouGov found that 71 percent of self-identified libertarians were white, 14 percent were Hispanic, five percent were black, and eight percent identified as a different race, while four percent chose not to answer.

The numbers become more diverse among younger voters. Considering millennials alone, 56 percent identify as white, 21 percent Hispanic, 14 percent black, eight percent Asian, and one percent identify as another race.

When looking at policy, libertarians have shared values with people in urban communities, which could easily make them natural allies, McArdle believes.

One area would be the issue of deregulation and rolling back the “regulatory mazes and schemes, even at the local level,” that make life unnecessarily difficult, she said.

As McArdle explained, numerous states have onerous licensing requirements for jobs like hair stylists, catering, or jobs a person can run out of their home. “I’d love to see a lot of that stuff eliminated,” she said. “There are usually a whole litany of local, or sometimes state level laws that get in the way and just make it harder for you to support yourself, and to be independently-minded and an entrepreneur.”

She added, “We’re all about getting that red tape out of your way, so that you can control your own life and make your own way.”

McArdle is planning to work with Touré on a multi-city outreach effort. A key part of that engagement will be educating communities on Second Amendment rights, self-defense, and de-escalation.

“I think those concepts all really go hand-in-hand,” she explained. “It’s really about self-sufficiency in a very empowering way.”

Recently, Touré found himself entangled with local authorities in a case involving Second Amendment rights, after he had a run-in with Philadelphia’s law enforcement over a weapons charge he says is a clear violation of state law and the U.S. Constitution.

While recording an interview on a street corner in Philadelphia, Touré was approached by officers who suspected he was in possession of a concealed weapon without a permit.

He was immediately arrested and taken into custody.

Section 21 of Pennsylvania’s state constitution affirms citizens’ rights to carry firearms, with the text: “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.” The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which was recently strengthened by last year’s Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, also enshrines an individual’s right to bear arms.

Per the words of the state constitution, Touré argues, state residents’ rights to carry firearms should not be revoked. He reiterated his belief that gun control laws imposed by city officials are in direct violation of both state law and the U.S. Constitution.

“You can’t make a lower level, a city law that supersedes state law. Just like a state cannot make a law that’s been enumerated in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution,” he explained. “It’s already been enumerated. That’s what the whole Ninth Amendment is about.”

Both Touré and McArdle say that expanding the libertarian movement to urban areas will help redress issues that have burdened those communities for decades, filling a gap that can’t be adequately addressed by other political groups competing against Democrats: chief among them, Republicans.

“We want to put out a message of self-sufficiency, and respect, and awareness, and that we’re genuinely open to hearing what the black community’s interested in,” McArdle said.

“One of my criticisms of conservatives when it comes to the black community is I feel like a lot of the comments they make are really disparaging. They want to talk down to black people,” she added, specifically referencing the oft-used and debunked right-wing talking point that 70 percent of black children are fatherless, as well as what she termed “insulting comments about low graduation rates.”

Touré agrees that Republicans and conservatives have often relied heavily on messaging that is ineffective in swaying urban and black voters toward their movements.

“Conservatives have been sort of urging black and urban populations to reach out and consider the Republican party, but they really haven’t, they don’t do any outreach at all,” he explained.

He also added that even Republicans, who espouse small government principles, violate the concept of limited government by using the power of the state to police morality.

“Their belief is they allow their moral beliefs to say that they should think the government should step in to stop people from doing things morally that they individually choose to do,” he said. “And that’s not limited government, that’s using the might of the state when it’s convenient and in alignment with your morals. Again, that’s not really conservative.”

Between 2008 and 2018, the number of voters who registered as libertarian increased 92 percent. But, efforts to grow the party are obstructed by a bevy of state laws designed to keep libertarians off the ballot for most major races, largely out of fear they will siphon votes away from the two major political parties.

Yet, according to new polling from NBC News, as of June 2023, 44 percent of registered voters say they are willing to consider a third-party candidate, opening new possibilities for libertarians to grow their base.

Touré is, thus far, favoring the leadership of the national party for its commitment to working more with state chapters. He says that strategy is “what the movement needed the whole time” and will help create a more cohesive organization across urban, suburban, and rural communities.

For urban areas throughout America, his message is simple: “If you’re in urban America, you should look into libertarianism. You ain’t even gotta look into the party initially. Just look into the concept.”

The cities for the tour will be announced roughly a week in advance, with both smaller and larger events included. Anyone interested in attending can find information in the links in the bio section of Touré’s and Black Guns Matter’s social media accounts.

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